This year was the 4th year in a row I attended TotalCon. TotalCon is a wonderfully-run board and RPG convention in the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA. It’s interesting to see how my tastes have changed since I started coming. Four years ago I solely played D&D. Two years ago I did a mix of RPG and board games. The last two years I have done board game solely. The main reason for this shift is I don’t really like playing role-playing games with people that aren’t my regular gaming group. We tend to approach the source material with a certain irreverence that is hard to match in a convention setting. Board games work great for me at the con. That said, my approach to TotalCon is I make my own fun. Looking through the event listings the last two years, if I didn’t run the board games I did, I wouldn’t have gone to the con. I enjoy teaching people board games so it’s a win. Plus I get to play games that don’t hit my table often.
For this post I’m going to mention the games I ran, how I thought they went, and what I likely do next year.
Arkham Horror – Thursday 1pm and 8 am Friday:
Arkham is one of my favorite games and a game my regular gaming group does not enjoy playing. Four hours as a teaching game means we won’t the defeat the bad guy, but people get to at least play and learn the game. Next year the only difference is if I run it twice I will do it back to back to cut down on the setup and tear down. The system I have for Arkham lets it hit the table fairly fast, but I’d rather do it only once.
Eldritch Horror – Thursday 7pm: This was well-attended. People seemed to have a good time and it was nice playing with a father and his two sons. Even though the game was sold out, it didn’t have that big draggy feeling lots of Eldritch games with a lot of people tend to have. We had 6 people which is really the upper limit of the number of players it supports. That said, even though it was sold out and I love the game, this will be the last year I run it. My gaming group loves Eldritch and I don’t need the convention to get my fix.
Firefly – Friday and Saturday 1pm
Both Firefly games were over attended and I had turn people away both times. We also ended up with 8 people which is way too many. The unfortunate part of this game for me is I own most of the expansions making the board fricking huge. I can’t undo it since a some of the cards from the original game have been replaced by expansion cards. It’s a pain to set up and tear down and it takes up the entire table. I’ve made a few changes already: I ordered this storage solution and I’m going to get some 4x4s cut down to 6″ sections. The game boards will set on these. Next year I will run Firefly back to back. Next year, though I am going to hard stop the number of players at 4 or 5. Eight is just way to much. By a long stretch, this was my most popular game.
Fury of Dracula – Saturday 8am: Oddly, this game was the first of mine to sell out. The table was fantastic. They quickly got the rules and had a blast scheming up ways to try and find Dracula (me) we didn’t end up finishing, but I think I would have run the clock out. This game my Friday night group doesn’t like to play, so I will definitely run it again next year. Maybe even twice.
Spartacus – Friday and Saturday 7pm: The Friday night game has taken on a life of its own. The same group of people have played with me both years. We had a blast last year and almost everyone showed up again. Spartacus is a game of backstabbing and treachery. With the proper group, the game is a complete blast. This year we picked up right where we left off. The game was so exciting I had a hard time sleeping afterwards. That said, the Saturday option wasn’t well-attended and lacked the energy of Friday night. I will be running it one night only next year.
Sons of Anarchy – Thursday 10am
This went ok. The 10am slot on Thursday is tough sell. We had enough people to get a game in, and it was a good time. Next year I don’t think I will run it. The last two years I’ve run it have been sparsely attended and it’s one my gaming group will let hit the table.
For next year, in replacement for Eldtritch horror and Sons of Anarchy I’m thinking running a Small World, Pandemic, or Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters has a hard cap of four players, and four players are required to play the game (although you can run more than one Ghostbuster). My plan for the cons is to either run games my Friday night group won’t play (Arkham, Fury), games that I don’t play enough (Firefly), or are just plain fun at the con (SPARTACUS!).
My chief complaint is the restaurant at the hotel every year feels like they are shocked at how many people show up. The smaller menu isn’t that good, the service is slow, and the food isn’t prepared well. Plus, my GF is a vegetarian and the best they offer is a chicken Caesar salad without the chicken. No protein for vegetarians!
There are rumors that the convention is moving next year. I’m bittersweet if that happens. The new location is convenient to me, and by now I know my way around. I know where to park so I’m close to the board game area. But the convention has outgrown the hotel. The board game area was packed and it felt like a 20-degree difference between the hallway and 10 feet into the room.