More Cardboard, Please!

The very first year we opened the doors at TsunamiCon, we were startled to realize that the event we envisioned wasn’t quite what we saw developing around us. My friends and I were roleplayers; I’ve been a hard-core D&D nerd since the early ’80s, and naturally I attracted a group of similarly-minded gamers who got together every week for an ongoing adventure or two. We had been branching out at our FLGS and connected with other roleplayers, and TsunamiCon was soon to follow. What we didn’t realize at the time was just how the local tabletop gaming demographic – and by extension, the global demographic – had developed in recent years. We were virtually awash in board gamers.

Now, it would be inaccurate to say that we didn’t play board games. In fact, several of my friends have extensive board game collections, and they were common fare for nights when our regular gaming plans fell through. And honestly, that has been a pattern since I was very young. “Oh, Rick can’t make it for D&D… let’s play Axis and Allies.” Years later, it was Betrayal at House of the Hill. Then Lords of Waterdeep. And to be fair, I had never shied away from organizing board game nights for family or friends. But RPGs consumed a more than casual amount of my time and energy – a common trait amongst lifelong roleplayers.

So we expecting that most of our event would be in kind. RPGs with a bit of board gaming going on around it. I had an inkling it might be more; one of our local community friends offered to bring out a small library of games to share, and I even contacted some publishers and set up tournaments for Ticket to Ride and Zombie Dice. But we also set up a Star Wars Miniatures tourney, and Magic: The Gathering events. I figured it’s a gaming con… we should embrace all of it.

Still… I was not prepared for the reality that fully HALF of our gaming tables were board gamers.

Breakin’ out Dead of Winter from the TsunamiCon Game Library!

Was I disappointed? Hells to the NO. It was so exciting to realize that there was this growing community of tabletop gamers who had a completely different hobby than I did. That they were every bit as dedicated, as excited to try something new, and loved to share their passion with fellow gamers! Since that time, TsunamiCon has always had about as many tables devoted to board games and card games as to RPGs. Without the board game community showing up, in fact, our convention would have long since diminished.

Recently a friend of ours who is a local leader in the board game community opined on social media that TsunamiCon is “very good for RPG and so so for Board Games.” (He went on to say that it’s a great time.) Despite the prevalence of board games at our event – the company now maintains a growing library of games that we bring to the con for attendees to freely enjoy – I discovered that I couldn’t disagree. I think I know why… I think I’ve always known why; it’s just a little hard to articulate to anyone who isn’t primarily a roleplayer, and a bitter pill to swallow at some level because we really do try to celebrate it all.

RPGs aren’t typically casual games. That isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions to the rule, nor is it a suggestion that board games can’t be very serious endeavors. But what is true is that most successful RPG experiences require planning, preparation, organization, and engagement by all parties. It’s far easier to take out a board game on a moment’s notice and dive in than it usually is for roleplaying games. Even if you are dealing with published adventure content and pre-made characters, your game master typically has to spend hours familiarizing him/herself with the material and determining how to approach it. It’s a style of gaming that requires a great deal of mental focus, mastery of game system and material, and improvisation.

So naturally, any event that provides roleplayers a chance to list gaming scenarios (that they then spend hours preparing for the event) and sign up for games (that they can then bone up on in their spare time, perhaps write up characters, etc.) is a huge draw for the community. It’s harder to find a good opportunity to throw down on some RPG action. Consequentially, one of the highlights of an organized tabletop gaming event that supports RPGs is the online schedule. It quickly becomes a central component of the entire con, which definitely focuses the attention on the games that show up on the schedule.

And this has been the case since Day One.

The TsunamiCon Game Library circa 2017

I earmark a substantial segment of our resources to board games every year. We don’t hold “play to win” events for RPGs. I don’t have a library of RPG books available. Roleplayers are on top of that for their own tables. Just as board gamers can bring games out to share and/or demo, and – to the point of my post, if I have one – also schedule them in advance. A handful of people do, and I’m excited to see it. But while we currently have maybe eight or ten board games on the schedule for the whole weekend, we have dozens of RPGs.

I want to show the board gaming community the love it deserves. We have 35 Play-To-Win games on the shelf this year, and we have a staff of knowledgeable volunteers managing our library. We’ll have some demos listed for Play-To-Win titles in the next few days. We have tables available for scheduled games and for open gaming. What we’d love to see is more board games and cards games on the schedule.

If you want to bring out a game and share it with your fellow attendees, feel free to list it in advance! Maybe you have a closet full of games and there’s some you never get to play; the convention is a fantastic place to do it. And letting your fellow gamers know about it ahead of time helps you find people who are excited to check it out. Maybe it’s a favorite of theirs, too! Maybe you picked up something new and want to play it more. Maybe you just don’t have the time in life to play your games, but you still have something to share. Bring it to the con!

I know that we’ll see plenty of cardboard hit the table. Being “very good for RPG and so so for Board Games” is all about context. When people check out the con in the weeks leading up to the event, the RPG crowd just takes up a lot of the space… Letting attendees know that board gamers are ready to rock and roll is a perfect step toward a level of equity.

Submit your games today!

~ E. “Captain” Carl

A Note from the Director

It was about 10 years ago, summer of 2013, when I first uttered the word “TsunamiCon” to my fellow podcasters on Metagamers Anonymous. We’d been casting pods about gaming for over a year at this point, and I had been inspired by a show I listened to out of Chicago to connect with a local game store – The Burrow – and launch our Tsunami GameDays. We were working on our second such event, and I remember telling my crew about a con in St. Louis that had been constructed by the hosts of a podcast. And I said… “I see TsunamiCon in our future.”

It got a good laugh.

We weren’t the kind of people who launched major events. Those took money. And vision. And a lot of work. It wasn’t until after we met Shaun and Eli at one of our early GameDay events that a plan started to take shape. I had more than a decade of experience planning events when I was in radio, but I’d never even been to a game con. Shaun and Eli, on the other hand, had helped run the gaming at several conventions over the years, and the idea of building one from the ground up was appealing. Jonikka helped me run the numbers and we started working on a game plan.

In the spring of 2014 we launched our startup. I had seen another convention out of Waco, TX, launch a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell tickets, and I realized that we had finally (potentially) solved the last big problem: raising capital. None of us had much money to put into the endeavor, and it would take a large injection of cash up front to secure a venue, print programs, merchandise, promotional materials, pay for hotel rooms, catering, equipment, signage – the list went on and on!

And that’s how we did it. Kickstarter.

I know it may be hard believe if you’ve never been in the business, but in 10 years we’ve never made a dime on TsunamiCon. As we grew the convention became more expensive, and any money we made – which wasn’t much! – went right back into the event. In a very real sense, it’s a labor of love… and we know that our community gets that. Because so many of our friends and fellow gamers volunteer their time, energy, and yes, CASH, into helping make TsunamiCon an amazing place to spend a weekend in Wichita.

The Pandemic hit us hard, of course. The costs of running an event have skyrocketed, while our attendance numbers took a dive. It took everything we had and then some to make 2021 happen… we gave until it hurt, and in some ways we’re still reeling. But there was never a question that we’d made a run at Year 10. This event means a lot to us and our community, and we owe it to ourselves to keep on giving.

But we need money. It’s been a few years since we turned to Kickstarter for help, but we want more than anything to make this year’s event successful, and the cost of entry is daunting. Kickstarter represents our first best chance at putting together the bare minimum funds to kick things into motion, and we the community to pull together.

So pledge. Get your friends and family on board. If you’re not sure about how Kickstarter works, ask us. Share the campaign. On Facebook. On Twitter. To your Instagram followers, on TikTok – wherever you can! It’s important. Not to line anybody’s pockets or make anyone feel important, but just to help provide our local gaming community a place to get immersed in gaming fun and frivolity for three amazing days!

This campaign has been a grind, but it’s far from over!

With TsunamiCon 2019 happening a little more than a week from now, I feel like it’s a good time to highlight some of the… er… highlights… of this year’s event.

To start with, we have a nice selection of Dungeons & Dragons games on the schedule. Our current list of Adventurers League games are full – though it never hurts to get on the waiting list – but if D&D is your poison, there’s plenty to go around. I’m also pleased to see about a dozen Savage Worlds games on the schedule, and they fill up fast. But there are definitely some other unique RPG experiences to which I’d like to draw your attention.

First, we’ve brought in veteran game designer Sean Patrick Fannon to show off his newest creation Prowlers & Paragons. He’s running a series of missions during the con to showcase the rules, and this is an amazing opportunity to check out a game run by the designer. They’re in series, but you can definitely jump in to any game you like to check it out. And I’m particularly excited about the Saturday night EPIC. I’ve watched Sean handle a group event like this with multiple tables, and it is an experience NOT to be missed!

Secondly, Danny Oliver is back with more Shadowrun Missions, this time bringing us a taste of the newest edition of the game! Just as exciting, in its own way, is Danny’s Saturday night Red Dragon Inn ALL OUT BRAWL! There will be prizes. Oh yes… there WILL be prizes.

I also want to draw some attention to my very own Zero Signal: Supply Run Tournament on Friday afternoon. I published this game this year, and I’m very proud of it. It’s quick, easy to learn, and a good one to share with the kids. For the tournament, I’ve put together a very special deluxe Tournament Kit – which we’ll be giving away to the winner – and I’m looking forward to showcasing the expanded rules for tournament play. I’d love to see some folks come by, learn to play, and get in on the action. (It’s that easy!)

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to some unique RPG opportunities. On Friday night, Matt Harrop is running a game of Dread, the unusually tense horror system that uses a Jenga tower for challenge resolution. On Saturday afternoon, Rolando Gomez still has a few seats left for his Star Trek Adventures game, and you should consider joining Tadd for his PRAXIS: King of Storms scenario or Ben Burns for Zeta Complex: Man’s Last Hope. And I can certainly recommend signing up for Kevin Pennington’s Shadow of the Demon Lord offering on Sunday morning.

We have a lot to forward to, and plenty of seats left at the table. So sign up now! And we’ll see you at the con!


As we head into the final stretch, a calm grips the high seas. The crew busies themselves with the tasks at hand, making final preparations for the weekend of the con, whilst our lookout keeps a steady eye on the horizon. TsunamiCon is nigh! As we prepare ourselves for the final leg of our voyage, I want to thank a few of our distinguished sponsors and encourage you to follow suit. Without these fine folks, TsunamiCon just isn’t the same great experience we’ve come to love.

The Burrow: Gifts For Geeks. Even before we ran our very first convention here in Wichita, the Burrow was our home away from home. Derrek’s family welcomed our gaming community with open arms, and when we started pushing his little store to capacity, he expanded and gave us even more room to play. The Burrow has hosted our quarterly Game Day events and generously sponsored each and every TsunamiCon with a single-minded devotion to our local community and the hobby that brings us together. He has even eschewed the opportunity to set up shop in our dealer hall each year in favor of spending his own time enjoying the convention as a regular at the gaming tables! I cannot overemphasize how much The Burrow’s patronage has meant to TsunamiCon… a factor you’ve likely noted yourself if you’ve been collecting TsunamiCon T-shirts, as they’ve decorated each and every year’s edition as one of our beloved corporate sponsors.

Be sure to visit the store this week and thank them personally for everything they do. And pick up a TsunamiCon ticket while you’re there. Already have one? Fantastic! Buy one for a friend. You can a discount if you spend a little money at the store.

Venue 332 at Wichita Scottish Rite. Long-time attendees know that we floundered for a bit the first few years, trying to find the venue that perfectly complimented the style and substance of our event. After finally venturing away from the hotel circuit, we found just the right partner in the Wichita Scottish Rite. Kelly and her staff have shown a wonderful enthusiasm for everything we do and opened their hearts and their doors to our local gaming community. Partners in more than just the name, the Scottish Rite works with TsunamiCon to help make the event successful, investing in our event as a sponsor and helping us spread the good word. We’re excited at the opportunity to grow into the massive space available at their facility, a building with enough old world charm and immersion to please everyone’s inner child as they step into the room. And we have events all over the place… an enormous gaming room in the Great Hall, with our Marketplace nestled in an adjacent annex, an auditorium upstairs for our panels and live events, and designated rooms for special features like our Paint and Take, the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator, the Puzzle Plex escape room, VIG Lounge, and more! Not to mention the fantastic concessions they make available throughout the hours of the con!

If you get a chance, I would definitely recommend you thank them for their hospitality, their support of our local gaming community, and for bringing us back year after year!

Puzzle Plex, About a year and a half ago, one of my friends in the podcasting community regaled me with tales of his family vacation and a visit to an escape room facility in one of the bigger cities he traveled through. At the time, escape rooms were a new phenomenon in the US and few and far between. In the months following that conversation, one or two such businesses popped their heads up here in Wichita, but they still weren’t common knowledge. Fortunately, a lot can change in a year… Wichita now has a handful of escape room facilities, and a growing number of Wichitans have had the pleasure of sampling their unique challenges. After taking some time to peruse some of the excellent facilities discussed online by our local community, I ultimately reached out to Puzzle Plex with a proposition. Eric and Curtis not only loved the idea, but we spent about an hour together one afternoon just touring the Scottish Rite and discussing all the possibilities. We picked a room, and they got to work. They’ll be tucked away in a lounge upstairs, and you absolutely must take this opportunity to see what they’ve come up with… not to mention get your name posted on the leaderboard!

Historical Board Gaming. Every year, I reach out to vendors and potential sponsors throughout the Midwest in the months leading up to the con, and I am always surprised at the kind and supportive words I received from most anyone I connect with during this time. This year, one of those surprises was from Doug at Historical Board Gaming. Doug runs his website out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and specializes in games and accessories for one of the oldest and proudest traditions of our hobby, historical board gaming. As a special thank you for his sponsorship of this year’s convention, I encourage you to visit his website and send link to anyone you know who enjoys the time-honored tradition represented in his store.

I also want to recognize contributions from: Greg and the team at Cardboard Carnage; Hobbytown USA, the Village Geek and Warehouse 34 for contributing games and prizes; Brad Kelly from Midwest GameFest, who has been a fantastic source of advice and encouragement and helps run and organize Shadowrun Missions at TsunamiCon; Badash Cosplay for running our cosplay events; and all our other sponsors, contributors, exhibitors, and the hard-working staff and volunteers who help us make everything happen.


Here’s to another amazing con! I’ll see you all next weekend! Huzzah!!



With only 14 days on the clock, the pressure is on. Our crew is working hard to steer the ship in the right direction and not get distracted by the marine life, and the Captain is bent leaning over his charts to see how far he stretch a metaphor. TsunamiCon… is coming.

We’re down the detail work here at TsunamiCon HQ. I did a final walkthrough at the site yesterday, working out details on how we’re using each room and what we need from the staff at the venue. The kitchens are finalizing the menus, the printers are working on programs and badges as we speak, and I’m stuffing mailers for prizes and Kickstarter rewards, sorting out shirts and dice for our VIGs, and running down a HUGE checklist of everything from signs to table numbers to badge ribbons, and more.

I thought I’d share a few pictures, just for the fun of it:

If you’ve even thought about signing up for games ahead of time, be sure to check out the huge variety of offerings available on our schedule. Buy your tickets now to register in advance, then tell your friends and family all about it and drag everyone you know to TsunamiCon 2017!

And of course, getting up to take a few pictures has it’s own challenges…;


The Captain’s Corner: June Update from HQ

The month or so since the Kickstarter ended has, predictably, been busy here at TsunamiCon HQ. The first priority was collecting info from backers and working up a strategy for Kickstarter fulfillment based on our needs. There’s a lot of back-and-forth going on as we sort out details, but I think everyone involved is pretty happy with the experience and excited about the convention. The money always takes a couple weeks to show up, as well, and then there’s merch to order, flights and hotels to sort out, products and services to plan, supply caches that need to be built, and so on and so forth. To be fair, the details would get a touch boring. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot to do.

While the busy work may not be all fun and games, however, the convention is exactly that! Game masters have begun submitting their initial offerings, and you can expect to see the gaming and event schedule take shape over the next several weeks. Once we reach an arbitrarily determined point of saturation on said schedule, we’ll open event registration – starting with VIGs and, soon thereafter, all registered attendees – and let you reserve seats. You’ll need to buy your badge to get “tickets” for any given game, but you’ll also save a few bucks on the badge by purchasing it in advance, so it’s a win-win.

We are still actively on the hunt for exhibitors and event sponsors, so if you know anyone who might enjoy peddling their wares or purchasing sponsorships or advertising at the con, please let them know where to find us.

So, two things we still need more of: Game Masters and Volunteers. Both opportunities include significant discounts on your badge. Notably, for every four hours you sign up for either duty (or combination, for that matter), you get $10 off the badge. For 12+ hours of GMing and/or volunteering at the con, your weekend pass is free. If you want to take advantage of this option, simple purchase your badge and select the appropriate discount code for your volunteer hours. You’ll see the codes listed on the screen where you add the badge to your cart. Then you’ll need to either register your games on the site before August 31st or fill out the volunteer application so that we know when you’ll be available and how you can best assist us.

Please continue to spread the word and let folks know about the con. Thanks!

Game Mastery and the Art of the Con

Ken runs a table of D&D Adventurers League at TsunamiCon 2014!

Over the past few years, one of our most frequently revisited topics on the Metagamers Anonymous podcast is the art of running “con” games.  In contrast to the sprawling campaigns we enjoy in our everyday gaming or even the limited series arcs we like to run for four of five sessions at a shot, con games are designed to be completely encapsulated in a specific period of play, typically four hours.  Needless to say, the strategy for running effective convention games is only marginally related to the art of the campaign, as it serves an entirely different need and requires an alternative form of investment from the participants.

Many GMs approach this practice with a sense of apprehension, whereas other game masters find the format infinitely more rewarding.  Either way, there is definitely an art to running an effective con game.

In the strictest sense, a con game is a singular scenario or streamlined adventure.  It can often be winnowed down to three or four scenes or story points, with a strict observance of the time required to move from one sequence to the next.  Fluid games are popular at cons, as they provide players a sense of agency while giving the GM a largely reactive role.  Alternatively, many con games are on rails, driving the story from scene to scene in order to derive the greatest story potential from the limited scope of the game.  Most fall somewhere in between, with players bashing through the GM’s hooks and obstacles as willing accomplices in the developing scenario.

Liz runs a World of Darkness game on a Sunday morn.For some games, numerous examples of suitable con games are available for GMs to explore, and they are no less challenging to manage.  Take any two dungeon masters with a copy of the very same D&D Adventurers League scenario and you may still end up with radically different experiences at the table.  This is because every adage invoked in campaign design regarding the chaos of player engagement is magnified in a four-hour game, wherein players are expected to have a more casual commitment to their characters.  Gamers can play it fast and loose, plot holes are virtually irrelevant, and character death is often celebrated.

With TsunamiCon approaching fast, it’s time to accept the challenge.  As a game master, you play an essential role in our community, and a game con is the perfect environment to celebrate it.  Players are ready to sign up for this year’s events, so get your games listed now.  It only takes two scheduled games to earn the GMs badge discount, and running at least one game each day of the convention will net you a free weekend pass.

Secrets of the Tsunami

About four years ago, shortly after running our second local Tsunami GameDay event, I floated the term “TsunamiCon” onto the world stage via the auspices of our RPG podcast Metagamers Anonymous.  It was kind of intended to get a rise out of my co-hosts, who were already reeling from the high-energy output necessary to make a GameDay happen… and my insistence on treating a day of tabletop gaming for 20 or 30 people like a major event.  Everyone laughed nervously and rolled their eyes a bit, certain that ol’ Erik was just reaching well outside the bounds of reality.

Liz runs a World of Darkness game on a Sunday morn.

Liz runs a World of Darkness game on a Sunday morn at TsunamiCon 2014.

Even if you’ve never run a major event, or even contemplated it, there are a few things which you can reasonably assume:

  • It’s complicated.  There are obviously a organizational details and planning exercises involved, and you have to know where to start.
  • It’s questionable.  Just because 30 people show up to a free GameDay, what makes you think you can get a couple hundred gamers to pay for the privilege?  And doesn’t advertising cost money?
  • And it’s expensive.  Clearly, it takes a solid wad of cash to put something significant together.

The first point is inevitably true, and this is where my radio background has served me well.  I’ve helped organize – and often spearheaded – numerous events over the years, from concerts to cooking shows to variety shows at the local park.  I’ve also been firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to marketing, so I’m no stranger to the art of promoting an event.  And as for the cash… well, I wasn’t the first to use Kickstarter to fund a convention, but I definitely felt like a pioneer.

The real secret of my success is in that first paragraph, however.  I figured it out a long time ago, when I was touring the Midwestern bar scene as part of a blues band.  You see, real blues fans are kind of an exclusive crowd.  Sometimes, you’d land somewhere and pack a tiny club with enthusiastic locals; at other times, you’d be lucky to have half a dozen folks in the audience.  But both kinds of gigs had something in common… the audience was full of people who loved the blues.  So whether you played for six or sixty, you got up there and jammed out like it was the freakin’ Hippodrome.


Shaun runs a private game for VIGs.

In short, any event worth doing is worth doing to the best of your ability.  Last year our attendance ran at about 220 people, not counting volunteers, guests, and staff.  Not particularly large by convention standards, though given that a gaming con is about hanging out all day long playing games, it sure feels busy.  And I’ve had a chance to visit with other small convention organizers, and you guys’ll be happy to know that our numbers for the first two years compare very well indeed.  But my point is this… even if you’re game con has only 200 people, it’s your job to treat it like there are 2000.

Details are important to me.  Impressing people with a world-class experience is important to me.  Not just because I want them to come back next year, but because I want the folks in our gaming community to feel like they’ve had a chance to do something awesome.  To have an experience that’s both fulfilling and memorable.  To be fair, we struggle to raise enough capital to have a convention at all… but I could easily sink another $10,000 into our con just to make it shine.  Just to make the experience that much better for everyone involved.

So the secret is this…  If you want to do something BIG, do it right.  If you find yourself looking at the details and going, “that’s just too much work”… buckle up and do it anyway.  Don’t cut corners, don’t over-promise and under-deliver, and don’t shy away from a cool idea just because it sounds complicated.  Take risks, and understand that the reward is the undertaking itself.  The rest will come in time.

Oh… and back my Kickstarter, would ya?  Thanks.