HorhiroCon 2016

This past weekend was the usual summer gathering in Belchertown of some of the Total Confusion Convention Battletech regulars. It’s always a great day of conversation, food, and gaming. This year was no exception.

Belchertown is an hour or so west of where I live, so Scott and I leave pretty early in the morning to get out there by 8am or so. After a stop for some ice for the cooler full of soda I bring every year we were off going west on Route 9. Our tradition is to stop for breakfast at the McDonald’s in Spencer. As happens every year, after having breakfast there I realize why I don’t eat breakfast at McDonald’s.

We’re usually among the first to arrive at the cookout, with only the contingent from southern New Hampshire consistently beating us there. The crew from NH was just one person this time, and he beat us yet again. Once everyone arrived we began the first game, which was a series of two-man team battles on random map boards. In each of the battles we had a different teammate, and in round one I was teamed with Scott on a canyon map against John and Adam. Adam was a new player but picked up on the game pretty quickly.

(All photos are clickable to show larger photos–or at least they should be, you may have to close the tab/window and click again for my free host to show the larger version)

In this picture I’m in the center of the map, hiding behind the pillar. Scott is the red ‘mech against the wall in the center, while John is in the open at the top and Adam is to the right using the level dip as cover. Putting Scott and I on the same team is unfair most of the time so we had no troubles beating the other pair.

This battle is the other round one matchup, which was brothers Mike and Tom against Merl and Dave. I was busy playing my match (and helping to teach Adam) so I’m not sure who is who on the map (and the opposite matches of mine in the other rounds will be the same below). I’m also not sure of the specifics of the map board, but I do know that red splotch is lava.

This is my round two battle, and I thought I had a full board picture but it appears I have just this one of the battle. Adam and I are the bluish ‘mechs toward the top, Adam’s has the d6 behind it. Our opponents were Tom (directly in front of us) and Dave (on the elevation trying to use the hill as cover). Adam and I played pretty well together considering it was his second game ever, but we couldn’t overcome Dave’s firepower. We did have a chance to win the battle early with me just needing to roll a “3” on two rolls of a d6 to eliminate Tom, but a 1 and a 2 rolled didn’t help much.

Again not sure who is who on this board, but the match was Scott and Merl against John and Mike. This is an interesting board to play on because wall rise and fall randomly making planning from turn to turn very difficult. If you’re an aggressive player you can do well on that board. If you’re not, you need to get lucky. Based on some of the things I heard coming from over there, Merl didn’t get very lucky.

My third round battle I was teamed with Mike against Tom and John. This board is a mud pit, and if you don’t have the perfect ‘mech selected to fight in it you’ve got issues. As luck would have it none of us had anything that would be good to fight on this board. In this pic Mike is in the blue ‘mech in the top center heading toward John in the upper right corner. I’m toward the left, moving toward the top hex lane as fast as I could (which wasn’t very fast). Tom is sniping at us from the right edge. By the time I got close enough it was all but over for my side.

I’m not even sure what the teams were in that other third round battle. I think it was Scott and Adam against Merl and Dave. Every map board has special rules, but I don’t recall ever playing on that board so I’m not sure what the hook is on that one. I do know that at the end of the battles and the scores tabulated Scott was the overall winner. I believe I was fourth, and considering I was only on the winning side once that’s pretty good.

We then took a break for lunch, and once again Mike killed it with the spread he put out. Bacon burgers, hot hogs with chili (and I think there was some sauerkraut too), potato salad, corn…I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the stuff that was there. If you walked away hungry from that spread it was your own fault.

In the afternoon we skipped what was supposed to be the second game, AeroTech. I have no idea how to play the game. We played it at TotalCon last February and I had great fun being totally lost as to what I was supposed to do to have any chance of doing well in the game. And I really didn’t care. Despite the stumbling and bumbling at TotalCon I suggested it again for HorhiroCon. But with the first battles running a bit long (it tends to happen when you see some of these folks only twice a year) it was voted that we instead play the other planned Battletech game.

The game was supposed to be on a board the players build, with each player given some terrain to place on an otherwise blank hex grid. I suggested we use an oversized “basic” map that Mike used once for a previous HorhiroCon battle. I thought it worked out perfectly, with the scenario Mike designed on the familiar basic board. Here are some pictures of the battle. My side (Merl, Tom, Dave, and I) with the red ‘mechs, and the other side (Scott, Adam, John, and Mike) with the green units. People familiar with the Battletech will know what each of these are as they all represent the actual units played.

Now it would appear from that last picture that my team was victorious. Well, that was not the case. Scott’s team came back and defeated my squad after we made a couple of silly errors.

After that battle the event broke up, but not before Mike claimed all the grape soda that was left. I’m not sure why I buy grape soda when it’s available, because with the exception of a can or two Mike drinks it all and then takes whatever is left in the cooler. On second thought, I’m actually very sure as to why I bring grape soda.

Thanks for a great event again Mike. Despite Scott talking of holding one here in the fall and knowing we’ll all get together next February, I’m already looking forward to next summer’s cookout…

HorhiroCon 2014 (with pictures)

After an unintentionally long break from blogging due to being very busy and then an annoying health issue that only made me even busier when I recovered it’s only fitting my “comeback” post is about an event that returns after a one year absence itself: HorhiroCon. It’s not really a game convention, it’s the summer gathering/cookout of the Total Confusion BattleTech “regulars” named for the nickname Mike, our host, goes by online in many places.

From my location it’s about an hour’s drive toward western Massachusetts, so for a Sunday I have to get up God-awful early to get out there for the proposed 8am start. I did get to sleep in a little later than usual because since the last HorhiroCon I purchased a house just a few hundred yards from Scott, the person who drives out there. No one will be shocked to find out an extra 10 minutes of sleep is essentially worthless in the long run. After our traditional stop for breakfast at McDonald’s early in the hour long journey for the first time ever Scott and I arrived first, a feat that was accomplished only because the folks that trek in from New Hampshire and usually beat us did not attend this year because of OGC taking place and another longtime friend flying in from out west to attend OGC.

Just like for TotalCon Mike writes “blurbs” for the scenarios being run so people will know what to expect (and if they’ll have to bring anything). The first one was called The Falcon and the Wolf, which was a 3050 Clan omnimech team battle where two fierce Clan rivals fight a Trail of Possession for a supply base. Each Clan had the same omnimechs in their force but got a choice of configurations based on those provided. The sides were picked and it was Mike, his son John, his brother Tom and his son Patrick, and Merl vs Scott, myself, Dave, and JohnO. To determine who would be Clan Falcon and who would be Clan Wolf a “rock/paper/scissors” showdown took place. Now being gamers we didn’t actually play “rock/paper/scissors”, we used “rock/paper/scissors” dice (Warning: link goes to a commercial site just for pics of the dice). Those dice would play a key roll in who won the battle.

Scott “won” the dice roll and chose Clan Falcon. So off to the side room our party of four goes to select from the stack of ‘Mechs we were given. Now, is far often the case no one on our team paid a lot of attention to some of the instructions about how we would be starting, what our ultimate goal would be…you know, stuff that would actually help us win the battle. Dumb luck won out again as we chose all the right units and matched them together exactly right without even trying to. What we did was pick what we all agreed was the best ‘Mech we could chose from without paying attention to what we had chosen from the other stacks. In only one case were we unsure of which unit to pick and put it off until the end. When we were down to that last stack and still unsure we finally looked as what we had selected so far and saw four jumped and five didn’t. Easy choice at that point, we picked a jumping variant from the last remaining pile. Turned out that was a winning formula.

For the first turn I rolled initiative for our side and lost, which meant we entered the board first. Next turn Dave rolled and won, and as we traditionally do Dave would continue to roll until he lost. He finally lost on turn eight (it may have been turn nine, actually), which gave Clan Falcon such an advantage in the battle that even losing initiative that turn was essentially meaningless. Clan Wolf’s plan was to flank our right side, but always having to move first slowed half their units into a defensive posture while we were able to simply combine our two five ‘Mech stars into a large force and attack half their units outnumbering them essentially two to one. That was the battle right there.

The second battle was an “every man for himself” fight with a twist. We each had to bring two different Inner Sphere ‘Mechs, up to and including 3067 era, with a max BV2 of 1500 each. Each player randomly would get to play one that they brought and one taken randomly from another player. Nearly everyone went with straight 4g/5p units close to 1500 BV, while I went with two smaller units at 3g/5p. I chose the Centurion CN10-B and the Enfield END-6Q, and had the Enfield taken away (JohnO got it). In return I received the Hunchback HBK-4G (from Dave, who picked his units that morning at Mike’s house), which was a 3g/4p. The 4G is one of my favorites from long ago because of the AC20, but for some reason over the last few years whenever I play a ‘Mech with an AC20 I can’t hit the broadside of a barn from the inside. In fact, while we were eating lunch I joked I liked the Ultra-AC20 equipped units because it allowed me to run through my ammo quickly as I could miss with two shots a turn instead of one.

Starting at the map corner right in front of me and moving just 4/6 it was hard to get into any battles as the players on both sides of me (Scott to my left, Dave to my right) each went in opposite directions away from me. I fired the Centurion’s long range weapons every time I had a resolution, but it was some time before I was able to really engage in the battle. After starting out going right I swung to the left to get a couple pot shots off at Scott, and then swung back right to engage the Dave/JohnO/Mike battle going on. By the time I could bring the short ranged AC20 into the battle everyone was torn up badly, and amazingly I went a perfect three for three with it to rip apart a couple units. The clock ended the battle at 8pm, and Scott was declared the winner by virtue of “quality of kills”. Had the battle gone on to the last ‘Mech standing I would have made a good run at that, but the last hour forced the battle to a close.

I took some pics of the first battle. The units are what they represent. Presuming I did it correctly, all pics are really thumbnails and will show larger versions if you click on them.

The board prior to the start.

Early in the game, Clan Wolf using the supply building (which the scenario rules say we could not shoot at) for cover as Clan Falcon gets ready to swoop in on the attack with the second star of Clan Wolf bogged down in the hills. The smaller supply hexes granted a bonus as if they were light woods, although couldn’t be entered.

Later in the battle with Clan Falcon taking it to Clan Wolf and the Wolf flanking force finally getting close to the battle.

It’s just about over. Notice the virtually unmarked Dashi sheet in the photo.

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.

Total Confusion 2013

So this weekend was the 27 installment of Total Confusion, the game convention I’ve been going to for, well, 27 years. It was an weird convention for me because due to an odd confluence of events I was only able to make it Saturday afternoon and evening as opposed to my normal Thursday through Sunday attendance, and many other long time attendees were not there for a variety of reasons. (For some reason my buddy Scott thought his honeymoon was more important than gaming, I’ll need to have a talk with him about that next time I see him).

On top of my already reduced schedule the early week weather forecast was calling for a huge snowstorm Saturday evening which looked like it was going to cut my available time even further. Luckily the arrangements I made to have someone else run my Saturday night game wasn’t needed.

I arrived about noon and check in at the convention was easy, mostly because by that point everyone was already registered and after 27 years they all know me pretty well. I went right to the miniatures room where I met up with the Battletech people I usually hang with. The afternoon game was run by Mike, but I spent most of the game “casually disinterested” as I walked around the table and game room catching up with people. At one point during the game I was going to miss my turn, but the players on the opposing team saw me taking pictures of some stuff so they took my turn for me. They probably did better than I would have.

Later in the game when my team really started to need to pay attention we raised our alertness level to “moderately engaged”. It didn’t help, we lost. Eh, it wasn’t that important anyway.

I spent the two hour dinner break catching up with more people, including Wes Carpenter, one of the founders of the convention and one of the very few (three, we think) that has been around since the first year. It’s great talking to Wes, and the funny thing is I should get to do it more often since we live less than five miles apart, but it’s just one of those things that never gets to happen I guess.

My wife and I also went into the dealer’s room to see what was going on there, and after making our yearly purchase from the folks at The Dragon’s Lair I wandered about the game dealers looking at all the new cool boardgames that have come out recently. There were a couple I was thinking about, but the retails on some of these games are pretty high so unless I absolutely have to have it I generally pass. And I don’t absolutely have to have any of them. (Although I did look one up on Amazon and it was 38% off there, so maybe over the summer).

The evening slot was the game I was running, and in my event I took a different course and decided to challenge the players by setting a scenario in conditions the players would not be used to: darkness. When players are forced to use their mech’s spotlights different tactics come into play, and one team figured it out a little quicker than the other and they we the victors. Our hour ride home, which we expected to be in the snow at some point, was uneventful as it was rain until we were within a mile of our house.

I’m already making plans for next year, and hopefully everything will be back to normal and I’ll get the four days in again.

I mentioned above taking some pictures, and here are a few of them…

This is Mike M.’s Battletech event. He always has cool 3D maps.

This is Circus Maximum, a board game that the convention has morphed into a miniatures game using Legos. It’s a pretty cool game, although the players were far too quiet this year.

This is Car Wars, which every year is run on Saturday night and I keep saying I’m going to try and I never do. On Friday night they had a massive game where it was cars taking on an 18 wheeler full of weapons. Kind of bummed I missed that.

This was some sort of a game where the players were hunting King Kong. The picture does not do the table any justice, it was incredibly cool looking. The best part of this game was a young man, maybe aged 10, that would throw his arms up in the air like he just scored a Stanley Cup winning goal every time he was successful during his turn.

I have no idea what either of these two games were, nor were there really anyone playing them, but they looked cool so I took a picture of them.

The following pics are all of Warhammer 40k games. I know nothing about the game other than they have really cool set ups.

Beasts, breasts, and boobs

After what has seemed like a millennium Blizzard Entertainment has finally released the long awaited sequel to Diablo II, called (not so shockingly) Diablo III. As my wife and I both enjoyed Diablo II and played together for countless hours we were looking forward to it being released so we could adventure together in a new game. We were so excited about it we toyed with the idea of even taking the day off from work to buy and play the game, but ultimately decided that we’d waited this long for the game to come out what was a few more hours. Turns out that was a wise decision as things didn’t work out quite like we were expecting.

After work we went to Target to buy a couple copies of the game because we get 5% off there when we use their debit card plus has another 5% off coupon. (Folks, if you shop at Target their debit/credit deal for using one of their cards can’t be beat and is genuinely as good as advertised). I knew when we got home and went to install the game it was going to be slow going because I was following along with Blizzard on twitter and they were having some issues with the mad rush of people trying to install/play the game so I knew it would be take a little more time than usual. Because there is an additional download required to play the game and everyone buying the game was trying to do that at the same time it gave a whole new definition to “slow”, with my usually pretty good download speed hitting a whopping 39 bytes a second.

Yes, not “MB” (megabyte) or “KB” (kilobyte), just “B”. To put that in perspective, picture your standard size inground swimming pool. “MB” would be like filling it with a fire hose, “KB” would be like using a garden hose. My download speed was like filling it with a tablespoon. Needless to say I gave up and went on to do some other stuff, again figuring what’s a few more hours. So just before I went to bed for the evening I decided to set up the download again so it could do it overnight. Getting up the next morning I saw that the download and installation was complete, so despite having to go to work I figured I’d click the “play” button just to get it started. I got a message I was not expecting…my video card was not good enough (meaning not powerful enough) to run the game, so it wouldn’t start.

After grumbling my way through the day I returned home after work and checked out the list Blizzard provided of video cards not supported and they was quite a lot of them. After posting about it on a forum I frequent it turns out many of those video cards were older ones, or were low end cards used in business machines (which was the type of computer I usually bought). My machine was also at it max ability to run things, so even if I wanted to upgrade my video card it would have meant upgrading a whole lot of things, so for me to play the best option was to buy a new computer. That wasn’t something I was looking to do right now, but luckily after a check of Trish’s laptop it would play the game (just barely) so that Saturday when she was out running errands with her dad I installed her copy on the laptop.

All I can say is “Holy cow!!!”

I played for a couple hours before she came home, and then she played for a couple more hours. The Sunday before Memorial Day Trish told me that we should go out and upgrade my desktop so we can play the game. So because I have a very cool wife this is my first blog post coming from my new computer as I take a break from killing beasts in Diablo III.


Changing direction from video games, can someone explain to me what’s so controversial about a picture of two military Moms breastfeeding? For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the story about it from USA Today and Fox News. I simply don’t see what the issue is. I understand the military has rules about doing certain things in uniform, and that for the most part that’s what the issue really is here, but it seems to me the military may have missed an opportunity to show that while in the reserves/National Guard/etc normal life continues unless they’re called into service.

Something tells me if this had been an ad about hunting or fishing and male servicemen were in uniform there wouldn’t be so many issues with it. No matter how far we’ve come as a people in many cases we’re still in the stone age.


And speaking of boobs, I’d like to call out a couple–because in most cases they come in pairs–in former senator and current perpetual dirt bag John Edwards and the sitting New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Edwards for just being in the news again, because when you cheat on your wife who has untreatable cancer you’re a worthless dirt bag no matter what your politics are, and Bloomberg for deciding for us all that we can’t order soft drinks more than 16oz in his city. He wants to ban the sale of large sized (meaning over 16oz) sugar based drinks by restaurants, movie theatres, street vendors, and in sports stadiums. To add even more stupidity to this, grocery stores and convenience stores are exempt from the law, so that means a restaurant can’t serve a 20oz bottle of soda but you could still buy a 64oz Big Gulp at the corner 7-11.

Ummm, what?

Now the fact people probably shouldn’t be drinking 64oz of soda not withstanding, who is any politician to say I can’t? People are quick to add that diet soda isn’t covered by this proposed law because there’s no sugar in them but let’s be honest here, the chemicals in diet soda are probably worse than the sugar in regular soda. So it won’t be long until someone that dislikes the idea of me drinking that much diet soda will inevitably add them to the ban at some point. Some will be quick to toss around the phrase “nanny state” in relation to this proposed ban, but since I know that term is only used by people that disagree with specific laws passed and never applied to regulated behavior those people agree with I chuckle when I see it.

I have no issue with a regulating body telling companies they need to indicate how many calories (and other health information) are in a drink/snack/whatever, but it’s my decision to determine if I want to consume it or not. Now pass me my Big Gulp of diet soda as I go back to killing bad guys in Diablo III.

TotalCon 2012

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.

HorhiroCon 2011

Sunday saw the annual summer gathering of the Total Confusion Battletech folks at our friend Mike’s house in the bustling metropolis of Belchertown, MA. In keeping with the convention name motif we’ve dubbed the gathering “HorhiroCon” after Mike’s message board moniker. I don’t know what number it would be (5, maybe?), but I’m sure that someone will mention it in the comments section later.

For those that don’t know what Battletech is, it’s the board/miniatures game that the Mechwarrior video games were based on. Although while we play Battletech there, it really has become more of just a friendly “catch up” gathering where we all eat too much food and hang out.

Some things we all took away from the day….
*The more powerful the ‘Mech you’re piloting, the better the odds are that everyone that has a chance to shoot it will do so.
*If you’ve picked two ‘Mechs and one is super powerful and one is incredibly week, the powerful one will die first and very quickly.
*It’s also easy to pick out which players will try that tactic. Here’s a hint: it always fails.
*It’s funny to everyone around the table when a five year old rolls a hit location that kills you–well, funny to everyone except the guy that got killed. (Still not worried about that crit roll to the head, Dave S.?)
*Shadow Hawks jump. Not far, but enough. (I’d like to thank John O. for forgetting that)
*In 3025, inferno rounds used correctly can rule the battlefield (if I ever hear Merl say the word “inferno” again I’m going to douse him in lighter fluid and set him ablaze)
*If someone openly declares he is sacrificing one of his ‘Mechs you’re best move is to figure out why he moved to the hex he did. Or why he didn’t move. (How’s the back armor Patrick?)
*Same rule holds true when a pilot intentionally gives your ‘Mech the back armor of his ‘Mech. (Thanks to Cliff for not figuring your other to-hit rolls)
*The roll most often made while needing eight is seven, especially when rolling for a critical hit on an Awesome’s wide open center torso. Two out of eight chances is a very bad percentage needing a roll of eight or better. And when you do finally get an eight make sure to miss the heat sinks and hit something good. Certainly never do it twice.
*Kids and carpets love grape soda. Carpet owners’, not so much.

TotalCon 26 is February 23-26, 2012…see you all there.