TotalCon 28 Recap

Last weekend was the 28th gathering of gamers known as “Total Confusion”. For newer readers who may have missed previous posts on TotalCon it’s the largest game convention in New England, which has been held the past few years at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Because I’m a longtime player of BattleTech, most of the things I’ll be talking about will be about the miniatures games held there. You can find out more info about other stuff on their Facebook page.

As we generally do, my buddy Scott and I arrived just after noontime on Thursday to register and make some quick ‘hellos’ before the start of the first game at 1pm. The game run in that slot is always called BattleTech Warm-ups, and for several years Scott and I alternated running the event but the last few it’s been Scott at the helm. It’s a pretty straightforward battle with each player just placing whatever ‘Mech they’ve brought (or chosen from the pile) on the mapboard and going at it until either four hours elapse or you’re the last one standing.

Generally we start with four or five players and as people arrive at the convention they show up to kibitz–or if early enough to join the game–and that’s what Scott was prepared for. In a stunning development there was 13 players ready to go, so suddenly the “easy to run battle” required some quick adjustments for the number of players. Also, there were four children playing. Kids are welcomed at these events, but having so many required each on to have a “buddy” around the table to help them. And, of course, the first kill came from one of the kids that had never played before against one of the more experienced players. Happens every time…

Because the way the battle progressed, and because my ‘Mech was a tad weaker than many of those on the board, I did a lot of hiding in the woods hexes and behind the hills. That’s not a winning strategy, so eventually I was killed. I feigned being angry, which drew lots of laughs, which was my intent. One of the boys sitting close to me got a bigger laugh when he said to me “that’s what you get for camping!”. Even I was laughing hard at that. His mother, sitting a table away reading, was a little upset at her son for taunting me, but as I explained to her every player regardless of age or experience is an equal in the game, and a little ribbing is expected. Worst of all, I added, he was 100% right. We all dubbed the kids “the Next generation”, because three of them were real good at the game. Next year they night be tough to beat.

Thursday evening has become D&D night for Scott and me, as we play a game with three others. We’ve known Pinhead (yes, his legitimate self-given nickname) and Casey for 20ish years, and Casey’s wife Kile has been around for 10 or so of them. It’s a great game that’s 25% drinking alcohol, 25% eating pizza, 45% catching up, and 5% playing the game. As usual, it was a great night.

Friday morning saw us playing a BattleTech (sensing a theme here?), and in a rarity I don’t recall the name of the scenario. Of our little grouping I gather the scenarios and schedule them so we’re not all stepping on each other’s feet for games, but this one was designed by Steve Parenteau (a TotalCon staff member) and run by Mark Merlet. It used the miniature rules for BattleTech and not the hex-based rules, but otherwise is the same game. It was played on a city-scape mapboard, and was a cool event. Only issue was there was a few too many buildings which gave the advantage to the side with the BattleArmor, but as we discussed afterward that’s an easy fix for next year.

These are the five units for our side of the battle. Two ‘Mechs (both 1/76th scale) and three tanks. We took on one ‘Mech and 30 troopers of BattleArmor.

Another picture of the battle. You can see the opposing forces in this one.

The Friday afternoon battle was called The Fox and the Cat, run by Mike Mahaney. His events are known for the incredible 3D terrain they’re held on, and as usual they were worth the price of admission. This one was five Kit Foxes, each one a different configuration of the Clan OmniMech, vs a dozen Panthers. It was a fun battle, and BattleTech players will note the terrain Mike has laid out mimics the original mapboard. Proof that’s what’s old can be made new again.

The whole mapboard after a couple turns.

Most of the Kit Foxes. Mike’s ‘Mech is just out of the picture to the northeast.

Mike’s Kit Fox, behind the hill, about to take on several Panthers

The other side of the board where there were more Panthers waiting.

Friday night saw my game, called Return to The Darkened Arena, being played. It was played on two standard CityTech boards, so taking pictures seemed silly. The event was the sequel to The Darkened Arena, which I ran last year in by brief appearance at TotalCon 27. The units were basically the same as last year with some minor changes, and after two runs each side was won once. Some might think a tie-breaking third run might be in order, but it won’t be next year. Scott and I have some plans for that Friday night slot for TotalCon 29.

Saturday morning saw another Mahaney event called Viva La Vida, which was a bunch of assault Mechs just dueling it out. It was a cool battle, but as you can see from the pics somehow a setting got changed on my phone and they came out a little blurry. It’s a shame too because the map was gorgeous and the repurposed Dark Age units fit right in.

Mapboard at the start of the game

Several units on the attack

More of the battle

Saturday afternoon saw the return of an old favorite called The Race. This event debut years ago and is essentially unchanged since its inception. The best part about it is its history. It was in the convention booklet years ago when two hours before the event was to start Scott admitted he had nothing ready because he couldn’t get the idea to work. Enter Pinhead with a magic marker and two blank mapboards, and the figure-8 track was born. The biggest change is Scott unveiled a 3D map for it this year. Several player skipped The Race for other games, but as they wandered in during the slot all were impressed by the board and said they wished they’d signed up. I suspect they’ll get their chance next year.

The best part of The Race was Pinhead’s return to the game (he generally plays D&D an the con now) and Pin finished, as historically is true in these events, second to Casey. Only this time the Casey he lost to was Kile, as she made it father over the finish line in the last turn than Pin did. It was the first time in the event’s history two players made three circuits of the track.

The 3D figure-8 track

Merl (back to wall) and I (in open) dueling as we jump around the track

Final turn, Kile’s Spider in the lead to the left, my Spider more than a lap behind in the middle preparing to fire on Kile, and Pinhead’s Spider on the right being shot at by Merl (out of photo). Kile survived the round and was the winner.

Both Saturday night and Sunday morning were events run by John O’Leary. I wasn’t around for the Saturday night battle as my wife and I went out to dinner, and the Sunday morning battle ended so quickly that we just held a huge free-for-all afterward that will be forever noted as the time when Dave Hruska was tasked to pick one of three ‘Mechs and he chose to take them all; playing each unit as if they were run by different people. May have been the most laughs of the convention.

Sunday afternoon’s event called Highlander Gambit, run by Mike Mahaney on more 3D terrain, turned into a championship round when in addition to the prize envelope a plaque for “Best BattleTech player” was handed to Mike to give out. It was a great battle which was essentially a ‘King of the Hill’ style fight, that went down to the last turn. Had it gone one turn less I would have won, but the extra turn did me in and Dave Hruska was crowned champion.

Mapboard to start the event

John O’Leary claims the hill. He wasn’t there for long.

Another ‘Mech at the top that didn’t stay there long.

So, as I do when it’s not my turn at these games I snapped a few other pictures of some stuff. I don’t know the name of these events, nor in some cases even have an idea what game system they’re for, but I figured they were cool enough for inclusion.

A home-grown game system with some incredibly cool terrain used.

Different angle, same game.

No idea about what this is, but it looked cool.

Game system is “Ogre”. Played it years and years ago. No idea how close this version is to the one I played.

Another “Ogre” game where the person running it has far too many units on the board for the time allowed.

Below is the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. The picture does not do it justice at all. It was incredibly cool, and it took everything I had to not go into the Dealer’s Room and buy the introductory boxed set. I have a “rule” that I don’t buy any new games at the convention, and instead have to wait a full week before buying it. That way it’s not an impulse buy and is instead something I’m definitely interested in. Well, I’m still itching to buy the boxed set, but the sheer cost of acquiring enough pieces to play a decent sized game has made it something I won’t be getting into unless I stumble on a ton of pieces cheaply. And that’s not ever going to happen…

So that’s all for TotalCon 28. And as is often the case I’m already working on some stuff for TotalCon 29. If all goes according to plan we may see the return of an event that’s never been beaten…The Mosh Pit.


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