This past weekend was the 26th edition of the gaming convention Total Confusion, or as it is known almost everywhere, TotalCon. It was my 26th official journey into what my wife calls “Geek-fest”.
For some background, the convention–where the “con” part comes into the name–started in Auburn at the Yankee Drummer Inn was back in the late 1980’s by Wes Carpenter with some other folks whose names I just don’t recall. It spent a year at Clark University in Worcester, and then a couple of years at a hotel in Worcester (the The Sheraton Inn, I think), before heading to the Royal Plaza Trade Center Marlborough, Massachusetts. After a few years there of not being treated very well by the hotel the convention moved up to the Ramada Rolling Green in Andover. TotalCon left there because the hotel was being torn down, and about ten years ago moved to its current location of the Holiday Inn in Mansfield. Everything I hear says this should be their home for the near future.
The convention runs from Thursday thru Sunday, and I arrived with my buddy Scott just before the 1pm games started on Thursday. Scott and I play Battletech, and he was the “game master” for the slot (in miniature style games, the person running the game is called many things including “referee” or “judge”, but in convention-speak “game master” is the person running the game). That opening Thursday slot for us–TotalCon officially starts at 8am on Thursday–is just a get together type game where we catch up with the same handful of players that show up to play that early. I’m usually the one running that game, but for my silver anniversary in attending TotalCon I took the year off and didn’t run any games.
We were surprised to find three new players at our table, but there were enough experienced players to help the newbies out and we had a pretty good game. I won the game (and two prize tickets) by being the only player to not have one of their ‘mechs killed despite choosing a pretty weak machine to play. Thursday night we do a non-convention event that, as it always does, turned into a night of drinking and hanging out with some longtime friends.
Friday saw us playing more Battletech, with the first event of the day being a cross between the Battletech world and the Marvel Comics universe as all the ‘mechs were created by old friend Mike Mahaney with an Iron Man type theme. Mike makes the best 3-D maps, so his events are very well attended and this one was no exception. The afternoon slot was a tank on mech battle run by John O., and despite not being a very good vehicle player I was the winning player again (adding two more prize tickets to my stash). The evening slot was a battle that looked unwinnable for my team, but with the experienced players on my team we decided to just play a reckless as possible in hoping to luck out into a win. And we won. Doug split up the two prize tickets for the event with each team getting one, and I was the player that got the ticket making it five in just four gaming slots for me.
Friday night also saw a troupe of actors called RKO Army perform in front of a movie screen à la Rocky Horror, which drew many stares as the performers ran about the hallway and to the areas where they were doing costume changes. It wasn’t a rated “G” show and had some revealing costumes (nothing worse than you’d see on broadcast TV) and that caused some issues, but to TotalCon’s and RKO’s credit they addressed what might have been potential issues right away and made some changes to what was seen from the common areas for Saturday night’s shows.
Saturday morning was Mike’s turn again to run an event, and it was a pretty straight forward battle on some island maps that are his favorite to use. They are not easy maps to play on and many inexperienced players often find themselves out of the game quickly if they don’t pay attention. I’ve played on them a lot so I spent a lot of time wandering wound checking out other games while I was playing that one. I also decided to cash in my prize tickets because one of the five ticket prizes was the game “Conquest of the Empire”, which I grabbed before someone else did. It turned out that was a wise choice as I didn’t win any more tickets for the convention and got a very nice prize.
That early Saturday game was a win for my team, although I don’t recall who got the tickets. The Saturday afternoon game was an “escape” type scenario where one team has to escape from the other, but before it was even set up one of the guys on my team did the math and saw it was mathematically impossible for us to achieve our goal. We made the best of it, and hopefully it was a learning experience for the game master. We didn’t play Saturday night as that’s “wife’s night” for Scott and I, but by all accounts it was a great game.
Sunday saw Scott running an old stand-by “the Race” where out ‘mechs race along a figure eight track. It’s run just about every year at TotalCon with very little change. I know for a fact that next year it will be different as Scott is already working on some changes. Nonetheless it was an awesome game. Sunday afternoon Scott had one more battle to run, but by that point I was gamed out so I just kibitzed and wandered around a little.
Some other little tidbits…
There was a player in the board game area dressed as Winnie the Pooh on Saturday. It was an odd sight. Even funnier, my wife Trish mentioned in the morning it was going to be a “Winnie the Pooh day”, meaning it was going to be a blustery day. I guess maybe she meant it literally.
Lots of cool stuff in the dealer’s room. First time in a long while I bought stuff from three different dealers. Lots of good deals to be had if you looked around.
Next year I need to check out the Iron GM competition. This is something that is right in my wheelhouse. I say the same thing every year about Car Wars. Maybe someday…
If you’re involved in the game industry in any way you need to hook up with the TotalCon folks. Every person that registers for the convention–and word is this year was a record setter–gets a “swag bag” that’s full of stuff (meaning “ads”) targeted right at the people you want knowing about your product, store, etc. I also know they accept donations of stuff to give away as prizes too if you’re interested in going that route.
The travel mugs are cool. As a VIP I get one for free. I bought one too. I’m hoping they do a different color next year (hint, hint).
Next TotalCon starts on February, 21, 2013…unless, of course, the Mayans were right.