Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TotalCon 27 Recap!

This past weekend was TotalCon, an old school game convention in Mansfield, MA. By old school, I don't mean retro games or anything like that, instead TotalCon has the feeling of old friends, meeting up  year after year to play board games. This was my first year at the con, but the 27th for everyone else. Everyone was very welcoming while inviting me into their traditional tournaments and routines. This could be the high school reunion of board game conventions, but way more fun and way less awkward.

I arrived after midnight on Friday and had a little over 24 hours to squeeze in as many games as possible. Click through the jump for the full recap.

Salmon Run
Ex-Fruitless Pursuits Contributor Michael Taylor was at TotalCon demoing games on behalf of Eagle and Gryphon Games. One of those was Jesse Catron's upcoming game, Salmon Run. I've played previous versions of the game, but this was the first time I was able to play the production version.

Salmon Run is an upstream race with awesome components, wonderful art, modular boards, and deckbuilding elements. It's on the lighter side, and perfect for a gaming group like mine.

Super Awesome Frat Boy Keg Party
It was late. Our Salmon Run game ended and devolved into a meeple rolling dexterity challenge. "Can you roll and make the bears stand up?" asked either Kevin Kulp or Anthony Racano of The Cardboard Jungle. It seemed impossible at first, but in the delirium of 2AM, we persisted. Eventually they stood up, and by the next night, everyone was hi-fiving, yelling "DUDE!!!" and singing the theme song to Super Awesome Frat Boy Keg Party.

Super Heartthrob - Game of the Con
The Flip The Table guys came down from Maine and brought some real goodies with them. The best being a kit-bashed, amped-up version of the 80's dream hunk game, Heartthrob. In the game, you choose which guy you want to date, etc.. then you have to guess which guy the other players chose. At first it's based on looks only, but then we start to reveal a little bit about the guys and everything changes. Everyone liked Greg until he developed both a rash and the nickname "Golden Boy". Trevor held strong with his deep stare and the reveal of his twin brother that he often switches dates with. This game is fun, but with Flip Florey at the helm it becomes an absolute blast. Hire him to come to your party and bring Super Heartthrob.

Catan Twister
Now, while you already have Flip at your party for Super Heartthrob, you might want him to make some balloon animals. His balloon sheep was super impressive, as it watched the extended Dice Tower crew play Catan Twister. 

And what is Catan Twister? Exactly what you think. The Settlers of Catan board is on a nearby table, with roads and settlements, but no dice. The dice were replaced with a spinner and twister mat. Each time a resource is chosen by the spinner, the players need to place a body part on that space on the mat. Lots of jokes about "trading wood" but seemingly more fitting than your average game of Catan at the dining room table.

This drew a crowd and basically stopped every surrounding game for about a half an hour. Especially when everyone went crashing to the ground.


Pac-Man Math
I don't think it's actually called Pac-Man Math, but it really should be. I talked Flip The Table's moderator extraordinaire Chris Michaud into bringing this gem down to TotalCon. Being a huge Pac-Man fan, I had to try it out. 

The game is simple (and nothing like Pac-Man) in that you draw either number cards (0-10), or modifier cards (+, -, x). Then you play them on your card or an opponents. EXACTLY LIKE PAC-MAN. 

It's actually a little fun in manipulating the other players and kind of ganging up sometimes, but it's seriously nothing like Pac-Man. Check out Flip The Table's podcast all about the game right here: http://tableflipsyou.blogspot.com/2012/08/episode-8-arcade-special-pac-man-donkey.html   

Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game
We played lot of Pixel Lincoln. I didn't have a schedule and really just hung around the open gaming area, but over the weekend a lot of people stopped at the Game Salute booth asking to play Pixel Lincoln. I managed to get most of those people into a game, and we even threw in the new unreleased Environment cards to mix thing up a little.

The best part about Game Salute being there was that they had the production prototype, so we got to play with the sweet, sweet meeples and all of the boards. These were the first public sessions using the prototype and I can say it's really the ultimate way to experience the game. I was glad to be able to share that pre-release prototype experience with everyone.

I think the craziest game was when I played Insanity Mode (we mixed up the cards to create 2 oversized random levels) with Chris Michaud, Kevin Kulp and Katie D'Amico. Definitely a great time.

Nothing Personal
While I didn't get to play Nothing Personal, I hovered around a session for a while. Tom Vasel was on hand to run demos and everyone had great things to say about it. It's a game about gangsters earning respect via blackmail and bribery, also coming soon from Game Salute.

The award for Most Innovative Game of the Con would go to Charles Beauvais' ChromaCubes. It's a crayon coloring dice game. Yes, it's a CRAYON COLORING DICE GAME. Each turn you roll dice and color part of a picture based off of the colored dice you rolled. While that sounds very simple, it has some very solid mechanics. You need to make dice combos for certain parts of the image, and you need to use your dice in order to re-roll them. So simple, so different, and so jealous that I didn't make this game. Great work Charles.

Wits and Wagers: Music of the 50's, 60's and 70's
In between games I was asked to play in a Wits and Wagers tournament, which was awesome since I love Wits and Wagers. After committing, I realized it was themed to Music of the 50's, 60's and 70's, of which I know very little about. So not only did I have no clue when answering the questions, I had no clue when betting on the right answer. 

My strategy to bet on the big gaps and follow the lead of the players who knew some answers started to pay off, but it was the few questions that I made educated guesses on that sealed the deal for me. "How many top 40 hits were released in 1967?" With this question I could at least use a little math to my advantage, so I made a big bet and eventually won the tournament. 

Our host Larry Whelan did a great job, using custom questions with great projected visuals, and special mid-way multiple choice bonuses. He also asked everyone what they would like the theme to be next year. I suggested Star Wars, of course.

Maximum Throwdown
We played a handful of back to back Maximum Throwdown sessions which were equally epic. But if I had to choose one, it has to be the very first 3 way tie in the history of throwing down.  There's some great news about this game on the horizon so keep your eyes peeled for info. 

We got in an intense 4 player version of Kevin Kulp and Island Officials family friendly card game, Pigpen. In the game, players pen their pigs and aim for big points. Players can also destroy their opponents pens, and in this game they sure did. Chris Michaud ended the game victorious with 2 double pig pens, something I have never witnessed in my non-stop playtesting of this game. 

The Red Dragon Inn (plus expansions)
Wayne Moulton of The Sages of RPG ran a session of The Red Dragon Inn. This is a game that I've seen everywhere and never had a chance to play. I even had the opportunity to share a panel with the designer (Geoff Bottone) last year at Metatopia. But I still never had a chance to play.

It was late Saturday night and we all jumped into the game, which is set in the tavern after a bloody day of fighting. Here you will try to gamble and drink your way to victory, or at least force your opponents to gamble and drink their way right out of the game. I lost pretty badly, but enjoyed manipulating and messing with people before my sudden doom.

While I didn't get any pictures, we also had a chance to play Wayne's prototype, Tugboats. It's a light multiplayer card game with really nice and whimsical artwork. It seemed pretty final to me. Looking forward to picking it up once released.

Super Loopin' Louie and other Late Night Loopiness
It was late, we were tired and loopy so we decided to play Super Loopin' Louie. This was two combined sets of the wonderful kids game, with a hand on each set. It was ridiculous but totally fun. 

From there we spent a good hour stacking meeples on top of each other, and then got some much needed sleep.

Image via Wayne Moulton / The Sages of RPG

TotalCon was a blast. Great people and great games, with an incredible feeling of comfort. It's a very well run convention with a decent website and very helpful staff. Looking forward to going for the next 27 years.

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