Total Confusion 2017 – This one goes to 11

There’s a peculiar thing about this particular convention – every single one I’ve attended has been the best one yet. That’s not bad, by any means – in fact, it’s great! Turns out Total Confusion 31 continues this streak with some new faces, some new friends and a hell of a lot of gaming. For that reason, this is going to be a long post!

I’ll take a look at this convention day to day, but first let’s look at the basics. Total Confusion bills itself as “New England’s Largest Gaming Convention” and they’re not wrong. While other conventions may draw many more attendees, Total Con is the largest convention dedicated entirely to the art and science of playing games. When I first stepped into the new location on Wednesday afternoon, there were already 20-30 people scattered about gaming. Now the convention doesn’t officially start until Thursday morning but I know folks showed up on Tuesday evening with the intention of getting in a full day of gaming before getting in a 4 day weekend of gaming. That’s awesome.

This is just the Board Game room. There’s a lot more to this con!

What’s always awesome

Have you ever gone to Gen Con and off in the distance seen someone like Tim Kask or Mike Pondsmith – maybe attended a talk they’ve given or an event they’ve hosted? Here at Total Con, you’ll just bump into them in the hallway, or in the game room – or jump into one of the games that they are running! The guest list for this convention never ceases to amaze me. Some the highlights? John Wick, Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, Cody Pondsmith and many, many more! Your chances of just bumping into someone amazing are great! This year we also had a few folks just drop in – like Stefan Pokorny of Dwarven Forge and author R.A. Salvatore. You really never know who you may be talking to – or better yet, gaming with! For a New England con, I think this alone makes Total Con a unique experience. And that’s not counting the huge number of gamers like you and me who are always willing and ready to have a great time.

So many awesome people!
Tim Kask, Stefan Pokorny and two con attendees play Ticket to Ride

What was new

This year, Total Con moved venues for the first time in well over a decade. The Best Western Royal Plaza Marlborough, MA. It’s not the first time Total Con was at this location but it’s been a while. The change in venue offered two very important differences over the last hotel. There was more than adequate parking and there was a more than adequate number of rooms. These two things made for a huge difference from the last few years where attendees who both wanted to stay on site or drop in for a day had the easy ability to do so.

Wednesday Evening

The new venue also offered a much different layout, with board games, mini’s, the computer games room and the young player’s area being on one side of the hotel and RPGs being in another. This did result in a little bit less mingling, but also a lot less crowding. On the whole, I think it was a good thing. In fact, a day or so after the con wrapped up, even though official numbers aren’t out yet, the TC Facebook page posted:

TotalCon 31 is officially in the record books!!! With all the big changes going on, we expected a bit of a drop, instead the convention grew again!!! The convention surpassed every bench mark it set as a goal. That credit goes out to every volunteer, industry guest, game master, performer, vendor, exhibitor, and podcaster that was in attendance. The TotalCon team may provide the framework but the passion, creativity, and heart you bring to the table is what gets folks excited and what keeps bringing them back year after year. And now to see folks jazzed about creating new events for 2018 is AWESOME!!

Wednesday

Since my wife is on staff for the convention – and Total Con didn’t officially kick off until Thursday morning, Wednesday is always an interesting time. Generally my wife and I go into the airport a few times to pick up several industry guests being flown in from the mid-west or west coast. Generally for us this is a day of greetings, getting folks settled into the hotel and whatnot. We ended up in the hotel bar that evening, as we so often do. It’s our chance to see convention staff members we don’t get to see all that often, greet incoming guests and psyche ourselves up for a lot of uptime and not a lot of sleep.

Thursday

My Thursday started with being interviewed for And Now A Word From a Gamer – a new documentary that was filmed almost entirely at Total Confusion. Hopefully we’ll all be able to see the final film at Total Con 32 (and also everywhere else!)

From there I went to the first game I was running all convention – Above and Below. I love Red Raven games and Above and Below may be my favorite (with Islebound a close second). It was fun to teach three other folks the joys of cave exploration.

After that I did what I’ve done every year for the past three years. Help set up, move crowds through and then take down Sal’s Traveling Flea Market! This is a pretty sweet event where over 800 games and game related products were brought in. A whole bunch of ’em sold too.

Finally, after the flea wrapped up around 11, I found myself with my wife and the head of con security in the board game room with a quick game of Splendor.

Friday

This was my big day. I was running games in all but 2 slots, which worked out to roughly 11 hours of planned gaming (and in reality about 15 hours of actual gaming).

The morning started off with an event I called Territorial Disputes. I brought a number of small, area control games and had fun playing them with three folks I’d never met before. I brought Age of War, Eight Minute Empire:Legends, Guilds of Cadwallon and Tiny Epic Galaxies. We ended up playing War several times and Guilds once but didn’t have time to make it to the other two games.

From there I got to introduce six folks to Cutthroat Caverns – my all time favorite take-that style game. While I had originally intended to play as well, I had a grand time running the game (as it was entirely full with no space for me)!

Then on to the first big event of the day for me. Scythe. Taking two slots from 3pm to 7pm, it had sold out in pre-reg. Strangely, only 2 of the pre-registered folks showed up to play. That was fine though as three more players materialized seemingly out of thin air. One had to leave mid-game, which gave me the opportunity to allow a 6th person to jump in whom I taught on the fly. I. Love. This. Game.

I had a 2 hour break for dinner, roughly 20 minutes of which I spent in my room relaxing with my wife. Then it was down to the bar/restaurant where I secured two tables for dinner and for my next event. Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. I’d call this game a stunning success. It helped greatly that a pub game event had just ended and we attracted a few of those folks to our table (along with their pub games). I have never, ever laughed so hard during a gaming event. We played a six player version of Loopin’ Chewie (that I modified with 3D printed parts), Villa Paletti, Pairs, Animal upon Animal, Skull, and finally several rounds of a terrible game (which I loved) called Midnight Party with Hugo the person eating ghost. We literally closed the bar down with this event – they turned out the lights on us. It was amazing.

 

I will certainly be running this event next year – in fact I’m hoping to team up with Mat who ran the pub games event so we can have one epic night in the bar gaming our little hearts out.

Saturday

This was my lighter day. I’d purposely not scheduled any games as Luca was going to join us for the day. After touring the con a bit, we settled on a copy of Ice Cool from the Vendor’s room (the awesome folks at Crossroads Games). It’s a fairly simple, dexterity/flicking game where you attempt to get penguins through different doors to capture fish tokens while one player is trying to get your little penguin school ID card. Players switch off as the penguin attempting to capture the others. The physical (and graphical) design is amazing, and the physics of the game are a lot of fun too. I’d play this one just about any time. We played it at various times during the day with various people.

Then we bumped into our buddy David (who’d entertained us at the Granite Games Summit) and he introduced us to a bunch of cool, smaller games. We played Stack, Kingdomino (a surprisingly fun filler), and Mint Works – a tiny little worker placement game in a mint tin. Lots of fun!

From there we went to the all-con-long Paint and Take event. You paint a mini and then you take it. This has been a favorite of Luca’s in the past years and this time I joined her. Loved it!

Luca and I also got to demo her game Candy Crash and got some great feedback!

From there I got to relax a bit, grab dinner with my wife and some other convention staffers and then headed into the board game room to see what was what. I played a pick up game of Tiny Epic Galaxies, Played several rounds of Spyfall (finally!) I had a fun time also teaching Guilds of Cadwallon whilst playing Tiny Epic Galaxies. Something I’ve not done before. It must have been okay because I won TEG by a decent margin.

Later that evening I had the privilage (as I have for the past 6 cons) to attend an industry guest party. It was, as always, an amazing time filled with amazing people who I never would have met were it not for Total Confusion. I also found out that John Wick has a much, much better angry face than I.

Sunday

Ah Sunday… a day of winding down and doing nothing. NOPE! Not at this con! Sunday morning I ran my Prototype Workshop. This Sunday we had five prototypes to go over and it was a lot of fun seeing a ton of creativity and good games before they make it to publication. I fully expect to see at least a few of them in game stores in a year or three!

From there I was going to run a Bohnanza game but didn’t have enough folks to do it. So I wandered back into the vendor hall, bought a few things, wandered back into the board game room and was almost immediately scooped up for a game of Vast: Crystal Caverns. This is a very cool, very asymmetric game in which players take on the rolls of the Knight, the Goblins, the Dragon, the Thief and the Cavern itself. I played the Cavern. Very interesting game! I was a bit burnt out at this point (it’s 2pm on Sunday after all) and didn’t play at my best but still very much enjoyed the experience.

Remember how folks were at the hotel a full day early to game? Well here’s the board game room at about 4:15pm on Sunday. Still stuff going on!

From that point on I was pretty much toast. I’m lucky not only to be invited as a guest but that my wife is on staff which means I get to see the after party (full of pizza) and hear how all of the staff experienced the convention. From there it was a quick ride home and a short dive back into reality.

In Conclusion

I had a fine time. Total Confusion remains one of my favorite times of the entire year. As always, a huge thanks to the fine folks who make Total Confusion the best. The amazing staff and volunteers, the awesome guests and everyone who comes out to play! If you are anywhere near the area next February, I cannot encourage you enough to get out – even for a day – and play with us!

I played a bunch of fantastic games, ran some fun events, met a ton of great people and loved every minute of it! Special thanks to those who brought their prototypes to the workshop – some very interesting ideas! And to my friends at the con – those I met six years ago to those I met this weekend, you are the best part of this whole experience!

Here’s a semi-annotated gallery of most of the pictures I took at the convention – not all of which made it into the posts above. They may be a little out of order. Enjoy!

Total Confusion kicks off Feb. 23rd! Here’s my official schedule and more about the convention

Every year in February, I have cause to celebrate! My favorite convention, Total Confusion kicks off and this year is no different! I’ll be in attendance all convention long, from Thursday the 23 through Sunday the 26th.

If you’re in or going to be in the area this February, you definitely want to check Total Confusion out. I’ll get to my tentative schedule in a moment but first I can give you a few other reasons to join us. How’d you like to play games with Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, John Wick,  Michael Curtis, Jay Libby, Peter Bryant, James Carpio, the Dark Phoenix folks, the Iron GM folks and more?! Oh, and I’ll be there too.

For the last while, Total Confusion was in Mansfield, MA. This coming year they’re moving to the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA. I’m bringing a bag full of games to play and I’ll also have some copies of Swamped and Ninja – Silent but Deadly with me as well.

Thursday

10am -1pm – Being interviewed, lunch, hanging at the flea setup, etc.

1pm-3pmAbove and Below.  Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. tcaboveandbelowIn the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they’ve been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers?

3pm-11pmFlea Market. I’m once again volunteering to help run the Total Confusion Flea Market. I’ll be setting up and then guiding excited guests through the maze of board game and RPG deals.

Friday

10am 12pmTerritorial Disputes – Eight Minute Empires, Ages of War, Guilds of Cadwallon and more. If you’re feeling like controlling some area in a few tiny games, this is the event for you. Explore some fun, fairly fast and not terribly large area-control games.

1pm – 3pm  – Cutthroat Caverns“Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.” I like to call this one Munchkin but for adults. It’s a semi-tccutthroatcooperating dungeon romp where you’ve already done the hard work, and gotten the magical gew-gaw! Now all you have to do is get back out. Easy, right? Right?! In Cutthroat Caverns, it’s every player for themselves, except  you need the other players to make it out! At least, most of the way out. 

3pm-7pm –  Scythe – Scythe is a 4X board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and tcscythevalor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europa who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. If you’re looking for strategic game play, beautiful artwork and resource tokens that will amaze, join us!

9pm-11pm – Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. What? Kids games? Where? At the bar. Why? If you have to ask, this event isn’t for you.

Saturday

I’ll be hanging out with friends, my daughter, my wife and playin’ games!

Sunday

10am – 12pm – Prototype Workshop. Join me with other industry insiders as we look at you board and card game ideas. Spend 10-15 minutes explaining your game and showing off your prototype. Receive 10-15 minutes of feedback from us!

1pm-3pm – Bohnanza – It’s Sunday, the convention is winding down and you’ve come to realize you have not yet fulfilled one of your bucket list items. To become a successful bean tcbeansfarmer. In the classic Bohnanza, players have a gas wheeling and dealing, making and breaking alliances and of course, planting lots of beans. This fairly casual card game could be the perfect way blow out the con.

And that’s my convention so far. I’m running a fair number of events and am reserving some time on Saturday for myself. I may participate in a panel, I hope to get in a game or two (maybe even *gasp* an RPG!) I’ll have my personal copy of Swamped and Ninja on me and I can easily teach either of these in a fairly short amount of time, so if you see me wandering around or stationary for a short time, feel free to come up, say hi and ask!

Total Confusion 31 – This February 23-26 in Marlborough MA

totalbanner940med

Every year in February, I have cause to celebrate! My favorite convention, Total Confusion kicks off and this year is no different! I’ll be in attendance all convention long, from Thursday the 23 through Sunday the 26th. I know it seems a bit early to be talking about this but first, I’m terribly excited about it and second, they’ve already opened up event registration.

If you’re in or going to be in the area this February, you definitely want to check Total Confusion out. Also consider running a few games! Because I’m excited, I’ve already gotten most of my events in! I’ll get to my tentative schedule in a moment but first I can give you a few other reasons to join us. How’d you like to play games with Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, Michael Curtis, Jay Libby, Peter Bryant, James Carpio, the Dark Phoenix folks, the Iron GM folks and more?! Oh, and I’ll be there too.

For the last while, Total Confusion was in Mansfield, MA. This coming year they’re moving to the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA.

So, I’m bringing a bag full of games to play and I’ll also have some copies of Swamped and Ninja – Silent but Deadly with me as well. This schedule is at the moment tentative, as events are still rolling in and the folks who volunteer their time to make this convention happen are still way early in the process of, well, making it all happen. So it is subject to change at their or my will.

10am -1pm – Being interviewed, lunch, hanging at the flea setup, etc.

1pm-3pmAbove and Below.  Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. tcaboveandbelowIn the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they’ve been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers?

3pm-11pmFlea Market. I’m once again volunteering to help run the Total Confusion Flea Market. I’ll be setting up and then guiding excited guests through the maze of board game and RPG deals.

Friday

10am 12pmTerritorial Disputes – Eight Minute Empires, Ages of War, Guilds of Cadwallon and more. If you’re feeling like controlling some area in a few tiny games, this is the event for you. Explore some fun, fairly fast and not terribly large area-control games.

1pm – 3pm  – Cutthroat Caverns“Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.” I like to call this one Munchkin but for adults. It’s a semi-tccutthroatcooperating dungeon romp where you’ve already done the hard work, and gotten the magical gew-gaw! Now all you have to do is get back out. Easy, right? Right?! In Cutthroat Caverns, it’s every player for themselves, except  you need the other players to make it out! At least, most of the way out. 

3pm-7pm –  Scythe – Scythe is a 4X board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and tcscythevalor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europa who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. If you’re looking for strategic game play, beautiful artwork and resource tokens that will amaze, join us!

9pm-11pm – Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. What? Kids games? Where? At the bar. Why? If you have to ask, this event isn’t for you.

Saturday

TBD

Sunday

10am – 12pm – Prototype Workshop. Join me with other industry insiders as we look at you board and card game ideas. Spend 10-15 minutes explaining your game and showing off your prototype. Receive 10-15 minutes of feedback from us!

1pm-3pm – Bohnanza – It’s Sunday, the convention is winding down and you’ve come to realize you have not yet fulfilled one of your bucket list items. To become a successful bean tcbeansfarmer. In the classic Bohnanza, players have a gas wheeling and dealing, making and breaking alliances and of course, planting lots of beans. This fairly casual card game could be the perfect way blow out the con.

And that’s my convention so far. I’m running a fair number of events and am reserving some time on Saturday for myself. I may participate in a panel, I hope to get in a game or two (maybe even *gasp* an RPG!) I’ll have my personal copy of Swamped and Ninja on me and I can easily teach either of these in a fairly short amount of time, so if you see me wandering around or stationary for a short time, feel free to come up, say hi and ask!

Con Report: Total Confusion 30!

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From Wednesday, February 17th through Sunday February 21 I found myself and the Mansfield MA Holiday Inn for Total Confusion 30! Total Confusion is New England’s largest convention dedicated to tabletop gaming. I don’t have the numbers yet but I can tell you that it was a busy convention with a ton going on! Total Confusion is without a doubt my favorite convention. If your goal is to play games, meet some terribly interesting people, have a great time and then play more games it’s should certainly be on your radar too. Here’s my convention report.

Wednesday

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The afternoon saw my wife and I heading into Boston to pick up industry guest Tim Kask from the airport. Tim is someone we’ve gotten to know over the last few conventions and we always enjoy doing the airport runs to bring him out to Mansfield. Once back at the hotel, Tim and my wife went off for some genuine Casey’s hot dogs while I hung about.The hotel is eerily quiet on Wednesday afternoon but we still saw gaming going on! After a few missed connections I finally ran into Michael Curtis at the bar and we chatted over soda about ongoing projects and how the last year had treated us.

Shortly after relaxing with Michael, my wife arrived back at the hotel and it was time for our 7pm game – and the only real RPGing I was going to get in this weekend. Dark Phoenix Events had a room dedicated to their GM’s and game all weekend long (and it was packed!). Founder Scott Legault was kind enough to run a Call of Cthulhu game for us which we along with three other attendees thoroughly enjoyed – and all managed to stay (barely) sane throughout!

After our game we hung out a bit with Scott and then retired.

Thursday 

frankWe started the day off with a hearty breakfast. Then relaxed for a bit with some friends. Frank Mentzer got me excited again about the people who make and play games. Tim Kask, Frank and I talked small games for a while too.

Shortly after that Stephen Wollett of Nerd Rage News arrived and got me and most of the TC staff and industry guests to behave in a Socially Unacceptable way. The game was played with tags on our lanyards identifying us as actually playing. From there a series of cards were handed out that required you to do, well, socially unacceptable things to other players. Steal their food, look them in the eye and proclaim your undying love, etc. It went on all con long and was a blast!socially

swampedsmallI played a bunch of Swamped and got to tell Dennis at Bellwether Games that I was nearly out of the game . Then I did finish off all my copies! Thankfully a few more appeared before the end of the convention but on the whole I believe I sold or gave away 14 copies of Swamped. If you’re near me physically I still have a few copies left – otherwise pick them up at your FLGS, Amazon or from Bellwether directly. 

I had a great game of Seasons with my wife and two others. We ran into Peter Bryant and Mike Kafes from the Mythwits and also got to say hello to the folks from our favorite vendor, Crossroad Games.  I also learned that Jason Tagmire’s mail ninja reached him safely and then caused him to lose.
For the second year in a row, Sal’s Traveling Market (a giant game flea market) took place and we helped with traffic control while my wife and Scott managed the register. Last year there were about 300 items for sale, this year we topped out around 600 and lots of folks walked away with a ton of treasures, new and old. We’ll definitely be helping with this again next year.
Then to wrap things up, my wife and I chatted with Mike and Cody Pondsmith about new things coming down the line, old games revisited and upside down fake mummies.

Friday

My goodness, is it only Friday? Friday morning my dexterity game challenge took off at 10am with games like Ugg-Tect, Rhino Hero, Villa Palletti and of course, Loopin’ Chewie!
20160219_113153 20160219_105603 20160219_105446 20160219_104750
That was a fun two hours and a great way to start off my Friday morning. From there the 1-3pm slot saw us playing a bunch of different small game titles – some mine, others brought by my buddy Jeremy who just happened to have been there with a whole mess of games. We were pitted against one particularly crafty 13 year old girl who handily won several of the games.
20160219_135258
Some more Swamped was played, along with a game of DC Deck Builder as we waited for the vendor hall to close and then we broke out my newly acquired Code Names with Brendan and Dave from Crossroads and also took Funemployed for a test run! What a great bunch of party games! We were able to round up enough folks to easily play both and did so until just about midnight.
20160219_225045 20160219_214525

Saturday

Saturday was a relatively free day for me – I’d left it intentionally so because my two daughters were spending the day at the convention and my wife, who’s on the staff, was pretty solidly booked. The 501st had a few members arrive, which is always cool!
girls n 501st
Both girls took part in the Paint and Take mini event and did a splendid job. My oldest won in the 16 and under category for the 2nd year in a row! We played a few games but then my youngest came down with some kind of awful sickness so a good bulk of the rest of Saturday was spent with either myself or my wife in the room with the girls. I had to cancel my annual Talisman event but did loan out my game to a few friends to play.
dgbgpic
Once the girls were settled down and most of the sickness was gone, we did manage to sneak out to the Dilly Green Bean Games annual shindig for a bit of hanging out and our ever growing yearly picture. In that picture above are a ton of amazing people – industry leaders and veterans, amazing staff from the convention, artists, friends, podcasters – you name it, they were there!

Sunday

proto
With my youngest feeling better I was able to meet up with Glenn from Games By Play Date for our yearly Prototype Workshop. This year it was a very sedate workshop – one gentleman stopped by with two prototypes. As always though I was thoroughly surprised by a new idea. One of the games was a unique type of dexterity game that I’d not seen anything like before. Glenn and I encouraged him to pursue it after making some suggestions. flatiypus
From there I wandered into the board game room where Emerson Mastuuchi was just about to demo his newest title, Caravan, coming from Z-Man Games. Not only did I get to play the game, but Emerson signed my copy of Specter Ops and asked me to sign his copy of Swamped. That was an entirely new experience for me!
caravan 20160221_115821 20160221_114557
Caravan is a wonderful resource management, engine building game which (as you can see from the first picture) will be released with two distinct themes. The game will remain the same but the artwork featured will be different between the two editions. The game play with four of us took just about an hour and was a little brain-burny perhaps for a Sunday afternoon at the convention but still a lot of fun and certainly a game I’ll be playing again once it’s available.
At this point I started to notice the one real downside that can come along with any convention. Con Crud. I was feeling a bit lousy so rather than stick around for the close-of-convention meeting with the Total Con Staff we bugged out so I could give my bed a nice, big hello.

In Conclusion

I have to hand it to the staff and volunteers at Total Confusion. This was their 30th anniversary and they did a bang up job. Every day something new and neat was being given out at Registration (buttons being one of my favorites!).  They were always friendly and courteous, always smiling despite the long hours and the essentially sold out the convention. I know that for at least several days there wasn’t an open table to be had for roleplaying and that the overflow open gaming area was being well used and often full as well. There was a very nice, glossy book printed up for the convention which was something new for the 30th as well. We had ours signed by all of our friends (new and old) yearbook style!
Even at it’s busiest on Saturday, I was constantly meeting folks I hadn’t seen since last year, exchanging hellos and also meeting a bunch of new folks who either hadn’t been to Total Con before or who just hadn’t crossed paths with me prior to this year. It was great! The vendor area, while not huge, did have a great selection of games and merchandise and was always busy. Just about every surface area was being utilized for gaming as well and that’s a lovely site to see.
If you’re going to be in the New England area next February and love table top gaming, I’d highly suggest making plans to visit Total Confusion 31 – it’s always one of the major highlights of my year for both the people and the gaming.
All of the pictures I or my wife took during Total Con 30 can be found right here:

proto girls n 501st frank dgbgpic 20160221_174521 20160221_115821 20160221_114557 20160220_124750 20160220_103846 20160219_225045 20160219_214525 20160219_174614 20160219_155310 20160219_135258 20160219_113153 20160219_105603 20160219_105446 20160219_104750 20160219_103407 20160218_175447 20160218_131624 20160218_120420 20160218_115006 20160218_113920 20160218_110614 20160217_162315 20160217_153135 20160217_150201 swampedsmall socially

New Year, New Me. Also: Swamped update, Ninja update and Total Confusion 30 Update!

 

Ninja - coming soon!
Ninja – coming soon!

Here we are in 2016! This is looking to be a good year for me games-wise and will be starting off with a bang! First though, I have to comment on the lack of activity here on Troll. You see, I’m a new man. Literally.

About a week before Christmas I had surgery to repair my right shoulder. Since then I’ve been confined to a giant, sling-contraption that severely limits the mobility of my right arm. I eat with this thing on, sleep with this thing on and do everything with this thing on – I’ve come to thoroughly loathe it. The good news is that as of this week I’ve been cleared by my surgeon to do computer stuff (i.e. typing).

Another reason why the content from me has slowed considerably on this site and why the Indie Talks podcast has vanished is simply time. With a full time job, a lengthy commute, a wife and two children, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to devote to everything I really want to do. One of the things I really, really, REALLY want to do is design games. I’ve chosen to give that priority over blogging and podcasting. That doesn’t mean I’m gone from this site completely – though I wouldn’t expect Indie Talks to return any time soon. I’ll be here periodically updated, reviewing other games and whatnot. Now on to the cool things coming in 2016!

Swamped

As of yesterday, Bellwether Games have confirmed that Swamped is shipping to Kickstarter backers and off to retail distribution as well. Dennis from Bellwether produced a wonderful How To Play video for the game and it should be available for order from their site in the very near future for those who didn’t Kickstart the game. Also check out your friendly local game stores for copies!

 

You just lost!
You just lost!

Ninja – Silent but Deadly

I’m very happy to say that Button Shy Games have picked up my game Ninja and will be bringing it to Kickstarter this year. There are no firm dates or details available yet other than the image at the top of this post but I can tell you that I had several offers on this game. I went with Button Shy because I’m really interested in what they’re doing in the small games space and they wanted to do Ninja the way I had done Ninja.

Button Shy are experts at producing small games that play well, are super portable and most importantly fun! Please do check them out.

Total Confusion 30

 

My local gaming convention – and my favorite convention to attend, Total Confusion is going off again this year from tc30February 18-21 in Mansfield, MA. This is their 30th year running and it’s going to be fantastic! I’ll be there as an industry guest, with a few copies of Swamped on me and running a few other events as well. If you’re planning on attending for a day or for the weekend, please don’t hesitate to let me know and stop me to say hello! I’ve included my schedule at the end of this post. Last year TC hosted a flea market on Thursday evening which was a huge success. This year I’ll be helping to organize and run it so that’s your best chance to bump into me in a psuedo-random fashion. My Saturday is also fairly free as I’ve left some time for me to get some games in.

The Rest of 2016

So that takes us through February. Hopefully I’ll have more exciting table top related things to talk about for the rest of the year! Regardless, 2016 is starting off strong!

Total Confusion Schedule

This doesn’t include scheduled games that I’ll be signing up for to participate in as pre-registration hasn’t opened yet.

Wednesday

Arriving in the late afternoon/early evening.

7pm – Private game.

Thursday

1pm – 3pm: Seasons 

Seasons is the beautifully illustrated, wonderfully designed game of magicians battling to score the most points, as magicians are wont to do. If you enjoy a bit of card drafting mixed in with a ton of card combos, a few ‘take that’ moments and lots of interesting decisions, come play a game of Seasons! If we have a novice player, we’ll use the basic set. If we have experienced players, we’ll use some of the expansions.

6:00pm – 10:30pm Flea Market at the Auditorium 

Friday

10:00am – 12:00pm:  Clubs, Villas and Rhinos – The Friday Morning Ugg-Tect, Dexterity Game Spectacular!

Have you ever wanted to construct a fabulous monument that will stand the test of time, while being directed by a slobbering, pre-literate, club wielding task-master with zero language skills? This is the event for you! In this Friday morning event, you can begin your day with a bash! Also build your own Villa – but do it carefully or it’ll all fall down! Then assist a ½ ton rhino to climb a less-than-stable apartment building!

1:00pm – 3:00pmSmall Board and Card Games: Big Fun!

I love small box games. Cards and board that can almost fit into your pockets make for a great experience in quick games. Many people call these filler games but sometimes what you really want is to get 3-4 games into a two hour period. If you’re curious to check out some smaller games, from Love Letter to Diamonds, Eight Minute Empire Legends to My Happy Farm and more – this event is for you! I’ll be bringing a bunch of my favorites, maybe even my own game, Swamped!

Saturday

7:00pm – 11:00pm: Talisman with the Dungeon, Highlands and a few house rules

Talisman is the classic roll and move quest game that brings players together so they can all kill each other. In this version, we’ll include an expansion or three and have one house rule – The +1 rule! Every character gets one extra Strength and Craft, turning this 5 hour game into a 3-4 hour game. Also in force – the rule of 5. It takes 5 points to upgrade your Craft or Strength, not 7.

12:00am -> Private event.

Sunday

10:00am – Noon: Prototype Pitch Workshop – Board and Card Games

Bring in your card and board game prototype and give us a 15 minute pitch! We’ll give you a 15 minute review in turn! First come, first serve! Last year’s event was a big hit so stop by and say hello. Please limit one prototype per person.

I’ll also be around for the rest of the day Sunday to close out the convention – so if you’re hanging about, let’s game!

Total Confusion 29 – Four Days of Gaming Our Faces Off

COVER
Total Confusion 29

From February 19th through February 22nd I was once again invited to attend Total Confusion 29 as an industry guest. Let me tell you, this is hands down my all time favorite gaming event of the year. I ask you in all seriousness, where else can you wake up on a Friday morning, grab some breakfast, head down to a nicely busy events room and hit a bunch of friends and strangers over the head with an inflatable club?

The Pros

Tons of games being played by tons of friendly gamers. The people are amazing. The staff and volunteers are great. The vendor area, while small, is also great. Themed cocktails created by Steve Wollett.  Rubbing elbows and playing games with industry guests including legends like Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer and Mike Pondsmith. Games running from 8am to 1am, with open gaming starting earlier and going later. I got to demo my newest game Swamped a bunch of times, and had five full play tests completed with five different groups of people, which was amazing. I also get a weekend amongst friends with my wife, which really only happens once or twice a year.

Swamped!
Swamped!

The Cons (Get it? The Cons? No?)

Well, there was the weather and the parking which was entirely out of the conventions hands but still were issues. Other than that, I’d have loved better wifi coverage (also a hotel thing, not a convention thing).  Really I have not a single complaint aimed towards the convention staff or volunteers – mostly it’s the hotel that could have acted and reacted better and this darned New England weather.

Wednesday

My wife Jenn is an Associate for Total Confusion in the capacity of organizing the panels and some of the events. As such, I often get a behind the curtain look at how this convention works, from attending meetings to going to the airport to pick up or drop off industry guests. On Wednesday we traveled to the far off wilds of Rhode Island to pick up Tim Kask and Frank Mentzer from the airport. This is the second year we’ve done this and we enjoy it immensely because not only are these two guys TSR alums and industry veterans but they are full of interesting stories. We love hanging out with them. Then we drop them off at the hotel and get our last glimpse of the Holiday Inn before it transforms into Total Con.

Thursday

Let the games begin! Thursday we arrived right around lunch time, met up with our buddy Jean who’d driven up from somewhere down south where it’s warm, and grabbed lunch. We then played a few games, met up with a ton of people we hadn’t seen in a literal year and had a hell of a time. At 6 that evening Jenn and I helped set up the first ever flea market at Total Con (which raised about $700 for the Wounded Warrior Project) and it was a blast! I helped direct the flow of traffic and also accidentally purchased a copy of Stone Age and Spyrium. Whoops!

Sals Traveling Market
Sals Traveling Market

At 7pm I wandered over to the board game room where I had scheduled a 2 hour block to play small box games. Jean joined me along with a few new friends and we played a large variety of games! Lost Legacy, Sushi Go, Hanabi and more. Then at 9:30 or so it was back to the flea market to help corral games that hadn’t sold and get them back to their owners. After that it was hanging out with Jenn, the staff, volunteers and guests in the Green room for a bit and then off to bed for us!

Friday

Early Friday starts with breakfast for Jenn and I in the Green Room. It’s a nice chance to get some caffeine and food into us and gear up for the day. Gaming opened up at 10am for me with something I’ve always wanted to do. Ugg-Tect! We had six folks, including myself and this game was an absolute blast! More than one person stopped just to watch our antics as we tried to communicate with a four word vocabulary and lots of motions what we wanted our teammates to build. Unfortunately Ugg-Tect is currently out of print, so here’s to Fantasy Flight Games getting new copies out to the world!

Ugg-Tect!
Ugg-Tect!

I then purchased my very own copy of Lewis and Clark the Expedition. Just as I was setting it up to learn with Jean, a very nice person who’s name I didn’t catch stopped by the table and offered to teach it to us. He spent a good half hour getting us up and running! It was a fun race game that I very much enjoyed though I’ll admit it was a bit more brain burny than I expected.

Lewis & Clark & Jean & Ben
Lewis & Clark & John & Ben

After that it was off to lunch with Jenn and then some more open gaming! We played a few different things, including my own Swamped until we had dinner, and then at 7pm. After that, I had a very special appointment. My first game with TSR alum Tim Kask – Curse of the Weaver Queen. The point of the game wasn’t to make it through alive, but to see just how far we could make it. Alas, I made it right up to the high level Litch and that was it for my poor character. While I was being set upon by a nasty undead magic user my wife was off getting the RKO Army going with the first of several shows they put on during Friday and Saturday evenings.

RIP Tylar
RIP Tylar

Saturday

Saturday is usually the biggest day of Total Con for both myself, Jenn and the convention. I usually have a bunch of events lined up, Jenn has a whole line up of panels to see through and the convention’s at it’s busiest with attendees. This year was no exception, although later in the day the weather kept some folks away. I started off actually leaving the convention to pick up my 11 year old daughter who was going to spend half the day with us. Arriving back with her, she elected to join me on my Kids and Gaming panel! It’s nice to get a real expert in on the talk.

From Left to Right - Me, Izzie, Jay Libby, Mike Pondsmith.
From Left to Right – Me, Izzie, Jay Libby, Mike Pondsmith.

After that, as I taught Star Realms, Izzie headed up on the stage to paint her very first miniature figure – a wizard, which I’m proud to say won Best Youth Mini later that evening!

We wandered the board game hall for a bit to stare at the minis section. Where else are you going to see this?

Fenway!
Fenway!

Izzie departed in the late afternoon after she and her sister got to peruse the vendor room and then it was another fun dinner, and a chance to sit down with Emerson Matsuuchi of Nazca Games and Chip Beauvais, designer of Chroma Cubes to get in a demo game of Volt! I’d heard a lot about this one but hadn’t been able to play it, so I remedied that situation. Emerson also had his copy of Specter Ops which I very much wanted to play and a copy of Dead of Winter – alas I ran out of time to try any more.

Volt!
Volt!

After this I met up with my wife and Jean and we found ourselves in front of Pike’s Peak (the hotel restaurant) where Steve Wollett was doing a book signing for Blasphemous Cocktails. Jenn took it upon herself to test the Mushroom Cloud (a drink from the book) and can highly recommend it.

Steve and Peter doing the Blasphemous Cocktails book signing.
Steve and Peter doing the Blasphemous Cocktails book signing.

Then came by my yearly game of Talisman! Six players (With shout outs to Jenn, Jean, Dan, Jake and Gordon), four hours and it culminated in the Demon in the center being faced by a very, very unfortunate Toad.

Talisman! Demon VS ...Toad?
Talisman! Demon VS …Toad?

As is also traditional for me on Saturday evenings, on wrapping up my Talisman game, there’s a private party for a bunch of industry guests and convention folk. Four years ago Jenn and I were lucky enough to be invited and it’s been one of the highlights of the entire convention every year since! I can’t say much about what goes on except to say that it’s always a fantastic time, where things happen and stories get told. Amazing.

Yearbook Photo
Yearbook Photo

Sunday

Sunday morning opened with my now yearly Prototype Workshop, where I was lucky enough to hang out with Mike Pondsmith, Chip, Glen Given of Games by Play Date and Emerson, who popped in to lend a hand. We got to see and give some advice on a few prototypes which were pretty darned good! Not as big a turn out as last year but I think the weather, 80 or so inches of existing snow and the parking may have deterred a few people from staying through Sunday, or dropping in for the day.

After that, it was a quick lunch with my Jenn and then she had to head off to the airport with two of our VIPs. I got in a ton of Swamped demos and play tests over the next few hours! A couple of guys from my Google Plus Board Game community found me and I convinced them to play.

Swamped with the G+ Guys.
Swamped with the G+ Guys. Sorry for the potato quality.

After that game, Peter Bryant of MythWits fame and Steve Wollett who created Blasphemous Cocktails joined me for a game. As an aside, I’d highly recommend both watching the MythWits and grabbing a copy of Blasphemous Cocktails. In fact, watch the MythWits while drinking the Mushroom Cloud from Blasphemous Cocktails.

Peter Bryant and Steven Wollett getting Swamped.
Peter Bryant and Steven Wollett getting Swamped.

I even managed to get in three more games of Swamped after that – in fact, you can grab the Print and Play files and play it yourself! I was immensely happy with the feedback I’ve gotten and the fact that everyone who played really seemed to enjoy the game.

My children arrived after that and we got in a game of 5th Street Games‘ My Happy Farm, which we all very much enjoyed, while Jenn was helping get the rest of the convention broken down.  Yes, the board game room is still doing a pretty good business at 4pm on a Sunday.

Streeeeeeetchy animals! My Happy Farm.
Streeeeeeetchy animals! My Happy Farm.

From there it was time to say goodbye to all of the friends we’d made in the years past and the awesome folks we met this year. That didn’t mean that we were leaving though, they were. We were determined to stick it out to the end and get in as much gaming as possible! Plus my wife stayed for the 6:30pm staff meeting.

Goodbye, friends!
Goodbye, friends!

I’m also pleased to note that this year was a first for me. I saw far, far more Ninja cards than I had brought with me. People also stopped me to mention Ninja – Silent but Deadly, so I must have done something right with that one!

Note: I did not put this Ninja on Steve.
Note: I did not put this Ninja on Steve.

Still not done, we managed to get in one last game of Love Letter at about 6pm, before the meeting and then the drive home.

The last game of the convention.
The last game of the convention.

All in all it was another amazing, wonderful, fantastic, tiring, incredibly fun four days of gaming with Total Confusion. I’ve said it before and I won’t ever stop saying it until it’s not true anymore – this is the best gaming convention I go to. It’s small enough to not overwhelm and make some real friends. It’s large enough to always find an open game and people to hang out with. If you’re in the New England area next February I would highly recommend joining us.

Total Confusion 29 – New England’s Largest Gaming Convention and Ben’s Schedule at the Con

Total Confusion 29
Total Confusion 29

It’s Total Confusion time again! This is New England’s largest convention geared totally towards gaming and it’s always a fantastic time! This year I’ll be spending a bit more time at the convention (arriving Thursday, yay!) The convention runs Thursday, February 19th through Sunday, February 22. They offer single day or all weekend passes and for my board game peeps, there’s a special board game pass that gets you into the board game room, vendors hall and panels and let’s you play all weekend long. You can find TotalCon at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA. While the hotel is sold out for the weekend, if you’re nearby I’d highly suggest dropping in for a day or two!

If you’re going to be at the convention, please come say hello! I love meeting fellow gamers! Just a quick note on names though. I have a wife and two daughters – I concentrate on remember their names and that’s generally about as good as I get at conventions. Please don’t take offense if I don’t remember your name, or you see me trying to sneak a glance at your probably backwards Total Con badge. It’s not you, it’s me.

TotalCon has been kind enough to have me as a guest for the last four years. This year I’ll be participating in a number of panels, running four different board game sessions, helping out with a Prototype Pitch event for board and card games and overall up to my eyeballs in games! I cannot wait!

Here’s my schedule as it stands right now:

Thursday – February 19

6:00pm – 7:00pm & 9:00pm to 10:00pm Sal’s Traveling Market of Curiosities – the TC Flea.

This is, I believe, a new thing for Total Con. A flea market of wondrous, cash-only gaming stuff for sale! I’m helping to run it, so if you’re there on Thursday and want to find me, this is the place.

7:00pm – 9:00pm Small Board and Card Games – Big Fun!

I love small box games. Cards and board that can almost fit into your pockets make for a great experience in quick games. Many people call these filler games but sometimes what you really want is to get 3-4 games into a two hour period. If you’re curious to check out some smaller games, from Love Letter to Diamonds, Eight Minute Empire to My Happy Farm and more – this event is for you! I’ll be bringing a bunch of my favorites.

Friday – February 20

10:00am – 12:00pm Hit People with Clubs! It’s Ugg-Tectugg

Have you ever wanted to construct a fabulous monument that will stand the test of time, while being directed by a slobbering, pre-literate, club wielding task-master with zero language skills? This is the game for you! In this Friday morning event, you can begin your day with a bash! Ugg-Tect is a game of construction, where teams work to build simple structures, directed only by a made up language and being hit by inflatable clubs.

7:00pm – 11:00pmCurse of the Weaver Queen run by the amazing Tim Kask

Saturday – February 21

argyl11:00am – 12:00pm Kids and Gaming (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)

A discussion of kid friendly RPGs and board games to get your whole family gaming.

1:00pm – 3:00pm Heat Wave and the Bio-Freak (some G-Core goodness with the always awesome Jay Libby). 

7:00pm – 11:00pm Talisman, 4th Editiontalisman

Tonight, we dine in…uh… well, whatever random ending gets picked! Talisman is the classic roll and move quest game that brings players together so they can all kill each other. In this version, we’ll include an expansion or three and have one house rule – The +1 rule! Every character gets one extra Strength and Craft, turning this 5 hour game into a 3-4 hour game. Join us! Or not!

11:59pmPrivate Event

Sunday – February 22

10:00am – 12:00pm  Prototype Pitch (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)

Bring in your card and board game prototype and give us a 15 minute pitch! We’ll give you a 15 minute review in turn! First come, first serve! Last year’s event was a big hit so stop by and say hello. Please limit one prototype per person.

proto

Total Confusion XVIII – Ben's Schedule

TotalCon

It’s that time of year again! My favorite convention, Total Confusion is happening in Mansfield MA! Starting Thursday the 20th and going through until Sunday the 23rd. I’ll be there from Friday around 1pm until Sunday in the afternoon!

Here’s my hard schedule. Any time that isn’t taken up by a panel or the game I’m running, I’ll probably be free!

Friday

7pm – 11pm – Pyramids and Paradoxes – Garden Area (lobby).

Saturday

11am – 12am – Kids & Gaming: Raising the Next Generation of Gamers (amphitheater)

12pm 1pm – Self-Publishing 101 (amphitheater)

1pm – 2pm – Game Design (amphitheater)

5:30pm – 6:30pm Private Event

7:00pm – 11pm – Talisman (board game room)

Midnight – Private Event

Sunday

10am – 11am – Prototype Workshop – Bring your game and game idea! (Seminar room or board game room).

11am -> Free play!

I hope to see you there!

 

Total Confusion XVIII – Ben’s Schedule

TotalCon

It’s that time of year again! My favorite convention, Total Confusion is happening in Mansfield MA! Starting Thursday the 20th and going through until Sunday the 23rd. I’ll be there from Friday around 1pm until Sunday in the afternoon!

Here’s my hard schedule. Any time that isn’t taken up by a panel or the game I’m running, I’ll probably be free!

Friday

7pm – 11pm – Pyramids and Paradoxes – Garden Area (lobby).

Saturday

11am – 12am – Kids & Gaming: Raising the Next Generation of Gamers (amphitheater)

12pm 1pm – Self-Publishing 101 (amphitheater)

1pm – 2pm – Game Design (amphitheater)

5:30pm – 6:30pm Private Event

7:00pm – 11pm – Talisman (board game room)

Midnight – Private Event

Sunday

10am – 11am – Prototype Workshop – Bring your game and game idea! (Seminar room or board game room).

11am -> Free play!

I hope to see you there!

 

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