Not So Long Ago…

(Editor’s Note:  Spoiler Alert!  This movie was awesome!)

My history with Star Wars is well documented. Perhaps not on this page, but all it takes is a single inquiry or comment and I will tell you all about it.  What’s that?  You want to hear all about it?  Perhaps another time.  Let’s just say that I am of a certain age and temperament that lends itself to minor obsession with the films.  I’m not a costume guy, but I did attend a midnight showing of Episode III and I made Christine come with me to watch at least Episode IV when it was re-released into the theaters.  She’s still “on the fence”, but I think she hates the movies and merely tolerates them like I do country music.  You have to make sacrifices for the ones you love.

Since the boys have been born, much of my Star Wars experience has been of the Lego variety.  They’ve seen some of the actual movies, but we’ve spared them the more intense Episode III and I despise everything about Episode II, so they might not have seen that one, either.  News of Episode VII had me excited, then apprehensive because Disney and JJ Abrams (ugh), and finally back to a fevered pitch of fan boy enthusiasm that culminated in ordering tickets for the official premiere date for me, Liam, Aiden, and my father-in-law.

So, if Wil Wheaton is unofficial king of the nerds, does that make him queen? Nah, I suppose that's Felicia Day. Maybe he's the duke, but nobody even knows what a duke is. Jester, then. JJ Abrams is the jester of the nerd court.
So, if Wil Wheaton is unofficial king of the nerds, does that make him queen? Nah, I suppose that’s Felicia Day. Maybe he’s the duke, but nobody even knows what a duke is. Jester.  JJ Abrams is the jester of nerd court.

I wasn’t sure how to structure this article, but I had a flash of inspiration and I”m going to go with a running journal starting on Thursday afternoon.  That’s when the excitement really started to ramp up to nearly mythical levels.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

4:45 pm:  While at tutoring, I got a text from my wife that read, “Dinner at my Moms at 5:30 pm.”  Okay, cool, no problem.  While dinner at her mother’s might not seem all that interesting or relevant to a story about Star Wars, I assure you it has a place.  Stay tuned.

6:30 pm:  Dinner was ham and au gratin potatoes.  it was delicious and, you are right, has nothing to do with Star Wars.  You just have to appreciate the little things in life.

Side note:  I have not been as excited about the movie as expected.  Maybe the grind of the end of the semester interfered.  Perhaps, because we don’t have cable, I have been able to avoid the incessant advertising.

Yes, in case you don’t know, we are the annoying family without cable that uses that trait as one of our identifying characteristics.  I found myself saying, “We don’t even have TV at home.  Why are you arguing over TV?” to my 5 year old.

Well, after dinner, the hype machine finally got me.  A commercial came on for Dodge (or ram or are they the same thing?  Who cares, right?) with Star wars music in the background and I made a comment about buying the truck just because they put Star Wars on it.  My father in law replied with, “They’ve been putting Star Wars on everything.”  Sure enough, the next commercial was a tie-in, too.  I have to admit that I got a kick out of that one, though.

6:49 pm:  After the commercial, I said, “Okay, that one was funny.” and my wife rolled her eyes.  She had already been making side comments through and after dinner and I just had to ask her to stop.  I don’t usually get defensive about my nerd love, but Star Wars is different.  As I explained to her, I’ve been watching these movies since I was a kid and now I’m taking my own kids to see them.  When she first said, “I love you.”  I replied with, “I know.”  I’m not a super Star Wars fan, but buried deep down, I am.

6:50 pm:  To assuage my hurt feelings and pump the gas (or tug the steam whistle, but that sounds weird) of the hype train a little, I watch the trailer again.  Now that I’m more familiar with the new characters, watching it gives me the ASMR something fierce.  I watch it five times.  Aiden joins me for one of the viewings.

7:15-10:30 pm:  The hype is somewhat diminished by having to write a final.  Tests are the absolute worst part of my job (I know #firstworldproblems) but they are a necessary evil.

10:30 pm:  Speaking of necessary evil…Watching one of my favorite streamers on Twitch and someone comes with the chat with, “Just got home from Star Wars.”  Immediately he is hit with the “No spoilers in this chat!!” by several users and a couple even ask for an unconditional ban “just in case”.  Look, I get it….sort of.  Your lives are so devoid of suspense and surprise that you live vicariously through movies and television.  But, serious, the “No spoilers!” gestapo has gotten out of hand.  The guy is simply trying to start a conversation about something he enjoyed and assumes that you enjoy as well.  I, and one other, responded with, “Is it any good?”  He said that he really enjoyed it and listed off the reasons without giving away any major plot points.

Don't worry. I'm not going to post spoilers just to spite people. I'm not a complete jerk. I just wanted to see how many people would scramble away after getting to this image. Okay, maybe I'm a bit of a jerk.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to post spoilers just to spite people. I’m not a complete jerk. I just wanted to see how many people would scramble away after getting to this image. Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a jerk.

10:45 pm:  Shortly after, my cousin contacted me to compare notes.  I told him that I had yet to see it and we also went on to discuss the movie without giving anything away.  We talked at length, too, about a variety of subjects.  We expressed a desire to see the movie more than once.  He assured me that JJ Abrams did a good job, which I was still a bit worried about.  We both lamented that our wives showed no interest in the movie.  Having already seen the movie, he was particularly dismayed that his wife wasn’t there.  We moved onto female representation and it sounds like they are trying to appeal more to women with this series.

As an aside, my feeling is that this film is about leaving the past behind and reinventing Star Wars for the future.  I know, that sounds weird.  But, I contend that the disastrous prequels were meant to be for the hard core fans, but Uncle George overcompensated and we got what we got.

Oh well, maybe the boys and I can wear her down over vacation and get her to see it with us.  It is really something that I want to share with her.  After I see it, maybe I can find an angle.

12:15 am:  I joked with my cousin that I might not even sleep because I was so excited.  That became a lie as I crashed on the couch watching Twitch.

Friday, December 18, 2015

6:15 am:  Alarm goes off and today is the day!  All I have to do is give two finals, one tutoring session, and I will be on my way to the theater.  I’m excited, but I also think that I might have a cold coming on.

11:15 am:  One final given and the tutoring session done and I need to go get some medicine and do Christmas shopping at the mall.  I’m not looking forward to this at all.  Oh, hey, what’s that?  It’s a pretty cool looking R2D2 shirt that I can wear to strengthen my nerd cred.  The shirt and lunch at my favorite Greek place made the “have to do”s all worth it.

I don't know if you can see from the picture, but it is the silhouette of R2D2 (okay, that's not a surprise) with iconic moments from the movies in each panel. Pretty awesome.
I don’t know if you can see from the picture, but it is the silhouette of R2D2 (okay, that’s not a surprise) with iconic moments from the movies in each panel. Pretty awesome.

2:15 pm:  Last final is done!  I’m so excited that I’m going to go out to the van and take a nap!  I know, I know, all of this build up to the big day, it’s almost time, and that’s my response.  I’m pretty sure that this cold is actually the flu.  So, I curl up in the van for a short winter’s nap.

3:00 pm:  Nap over!  Let’s do this.  I drive to Amherst, find my father-in-law’s truck, and park near him.  I meet them all in the theater, post to my Facebook (because it’s not official unless it’s on social media), grab the tickets, they get popcorn and soda, and then we go stand in line for the movie.  The half an hour wait in the theater for the movie to start is excruciating and made all the worse by the cheesy pre-show advertisements that they show.  By the end of it, I scream, “Let’s go already!”  Not one to get faked out, I also say, “Is it actually starting?” when the Lucasfilm logo comes onto the screen.  Thankfully for me and those in the immediate vicinity who were sick of my whining, it was actually starting.  The theater went black, the title came up, the theme song started, and applause began.

7:30 pm:  The opening wasn’t the only applause worthy moment.  I’m pretty sure that Aiden even got the theater going a couple of times when some of his favorite characters came onto the screen.  I gave the movie a standing ovation.  It wasn’t perfect, which goes without saying, but it was a very good movie.  They paid homage to the past in the right way and they are definitely moving the franchise forward at the same time.  As with many fans, I was a little down on Star Wars after the prequels and then the Disney sale, but everything has worked out well so far.  Even though I’m pretty sure I know how Episode VIII and IX will continue the story, I’m still unbelievably excited to see both of them.  We still have a good year and a half, so I guess the only course of action is to go see this one a couple of more times.

If you’re a fan, you’ve already seen and drew your own conclusions.  If you’re not a fan, this is actually the perfect movie to get into the series.  After you’ve done that, go back and watch the originals.  If you still love Star Wars after that, avoid the prequels altogether, except for maybe Episode III and Episode I if you can stomach it.  As always, May the Force be with you.

Little Soldiers follow Tiny Leaders

(Editor’s Note:  Must be the end of the semester.  Two articles with possibly two more by the end of the week!)

Even though Chris and I hare not recording the podcast together, we still try to find time to hang out and play games.  Over the last few months, time has been at a premium, thus leading to the change in direction of the podcast, but we were able to get together this month.  What’s funny is we actually had two gaming nights in December after having none in the previous months.  During the first of those two nights, we played some Dicemasters, started a Heroclix game that had to end early because it conflicted with my bedtime, and we also played Magic.

I find that last part to be the most interesting.  Chris and I have spent the better part of the year trying to justify our interest in the hobby.  He has been more successful than I as he found another play group.  It’s the same guys that we played DTK sealed against earlier in the year.  I have not been able to play with them since, but Chris has about once or twice a month.  Nevertheless, as a result of the sealed night, I had two tiny leaders decks that I build and no live testing of either deck.

Wait, what?

All aboard my train of thought! Wait, what's that over there?!
All aboard my train of thought! What’s that over there?!

I admit that train of thought might be a bit difficult to follow, so I’ll explain.  While making plans to do the sealed, it came up that some of the guys played the Tiny Leaders format.  I had heard of it, but never played.  I had some time and a couple of 3 mana or less legendary cards, so I put together the decks.  I then forgot all of my Magic stuff on the night in question and then Chris and I got away from Magic for a while and finally had no time for any gaming for a few months.

I think it was me who suggested that Chris and I try the Tiny Leaders format during our table top night this month.  My main reason is that his new group has enhanced his “Spike” tendencies, which is great.  It’s given him a new outlet and interest in the game.  My absence from the game has been absolute and I’ve not even looked at any of my decks.  He’d simply mop the floor with me and that’s no fun for either of us.  I need to either tune my current decks or go back to the drawing board and build some new tech to compete.  Well, long story short (too late!), we played a couple of games and I finally go to see my decks live.

Those of you familiar with the page know that sometimes my decks maybe don't deserve life, but like their monstrous counterparts, they just want a hug.
Those of you familiar with the page know that sometimes my decks maybe don’t deserve life, but like their monstrous counterparts, they just want a hug.

Both performed will and mostly according to the strategies in mind when I designed them.  First up, I put my Alesha (the first deck I built and actually tuned some) against his green/red mini ramp deck.  His deck wasn’t strictly legal as he used Burning Tree Emissary as his leader, but I let it go because that’s our agreement.  We play for fun above all else and I’m not going to nit pick silly rules in a kitchen table game.  We both employed aggro strategy that ultimately paid off for me on the turn before he had definite lethal.

He picked B/W Constellation for his second deck.  It is a deck that he has used in various forms before and one of his ongoing projects.  My other deck was mono green and picked because I only had one other legal leader at the time.  In no way can it be interpreted or assumed that any one strategy went into the construction of this deck.  It is a hodge pogde of green Magic things.  A bit of ramp, a dash of stompy (or as much stompy as 3 or less mana allows), some devotion, and a whole lot of praying that the opponent has no removal.  Chris did and used it on the correct target to prevent me from killing him at 26 life on the next turn.

Pay me no mind. Just a 1/1 sitting here minding my own business. Nothing to see. No need to remove. Oh, hey, what are you doing with that black spell there? No, no, no! I'm too young (and valuable to your ultimate destruction) to die!
Pay me no mind. Just a 1/1 sitting here minding my own business. Nothing to see. No need to remove. Oh, hey, what are you doing with that black spell there? No, no, no! I’m too young (and a key instrument to your ultimate destruction) to die!

The games went quickly and were fast paced.  Because nothing cost more than 3, we were able to cast at least one card every turn.  There wasn’t much land/go that can sometimes happen in our other games.  Both games were close, too, with a kill coming one turn before the opponent lethal.  Either we are getting better at building decks or the format lends itself to closer games.

In any case, we both did remark that the singleton nature of the decks provided a challenge in more than one way.  That, and the limited number of cards in each deck really make you think about what cards to include and, more importantly, what can be cut.  Unlike a traditional Magic deck that sometimes has to include do nothing cards because they might be strong in certain situations, you really can’t get away with that in these decks.  All cards need to have a specific purpose and need to fit the overall theme.  That might have been why my mono green deck ultimately fizzled.  I thought that the color might hold things together.  I now realize that I might have been too scattered with my strategies.  Oh well, all part of the learning process.

Overall, I enjoyed the format and it seemed like Chris did, too.  I don’t know if it will be our preferred format, as he has grown attached to Modern/Legacy and I like eternal formats better, too.  Still, it was a nice introduction back into the game.  I’ve been drafting again and am brewing some potentially crazy new decks for our next nerd night in January.

This card, especially, has been dancing in my heads like the sugar plums are supposed to these days. Maybe that'll be my big break. The Nutcracker staring Dragonlord Ojutai.
This card, especially, has been dancing in my head like the sugar plums are supposed to these days. Maybe that’ll be my big break. The Nutcracker staring Dragonlord Ojutai.

All I want for Christmas

(Editor’s Note: The Noob of All Trades goes back to the future of two years ago to finally maybe join the present of video games.)

Regular visitors to the page (shout out to the both of you!) know that Chris and I are traditionalists–grumpy old men–when it comes to games, especially video games.  We have Magic as our go to table  top game, but we have branched out to others like Herclix and Dicemasters.  Rarely do we ever branch out into new video game territory.  Hell, neither of us even owns a PS4, XBox One or Wii U and those are soon to be last gen.

It’s not that I think new video games are bad.  I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand the appeal of all of the Call of Duty games.  Most new games, however, impress me with their graphics and story.  I guess that I just haven’t been impressed enough to spend the money on one of the systems.  If you know anything about building drama, you know that this is the point where I write, “Until now…”

Then again, games are tough to enjoy when you spend most of your time waiting for the respawn timer to expire.
Then again, games are tough to enjoy when you spend most of your time waiting for the respawn timer to expire.

Until now, none of the next generation systems from the last couple of years have not dropped in price to the point that i’m a comfortable paying yet, but I am considering a purchase of two of them if Santa doesn’t bring them.  Which two?  You may be asking.  If so, thanks for asking and let me explain.

The first one should be obvious if you’ve followed my articles over the past few weeks.  Actually, both of them should be obvious, but one is maybe slightly more obvious, so I will start there.  I grew up with video games.  We owned an Atari 2600 and even a 7800.  I played (and beat) the game considered by some to be the worst of all time, E.T.  I received Jungle Hunt as a gift after receiving 14 stitches in my head.  I can still play Pitfall to a stand still in the timed mode.

Doesn't look so bad does it?  Certainly not deserving of its reputation as a barren Hellscape of a game.  There are plenty of games I'd put below E.T.  Call of Duty among them.
Doesn’t look so bad does it? Certainly not deserving of its reputation as a barren Hellscape of a game. There are plenty of games I’d put below E.T. Call of Duty among them.

Our parents bought us an NES one year for Christmas.  Upon playing Mario for the first time, I immediately switched allegiance from Atari to Nintendo.  I had a brief fling with Sega during the Genesis days and overpaid for a Playstation, but Nintendo remains my favorite system and game maker.  Even now, during a time when other gamers flock away from the “casual” nature of Wiimotes and Amibos, I remain firmly in the corner of Big N.

Two games, especially finally have me excited about the prospects of owning a Wii U.  The first is Super Mario Maker.  I know nothing about this game, but the name alone makes my heart flutter. When I mentioned it to him, he seemed less than enthusiastic about it.  I started to wonder if maybe my own enthusiasm might be misplaced.  Nintendo is capable of making bad games, after all.  However,  Liam has since filled me in on some of the details and I’m even more jazzed about the game.

top5_1_20081208
Nintendo can make bad games. After all, remember this turd? Yeah, me neither.

He said to me the other day, “I thought you could just make levels, Dad.  But, now I realize that you can share them with people, too.  That’s really cool.”  See, I was under the impression from the beginning that was the appeal of the game.  I’m glad that I was not wrong.  I’d have been very disappointed otherwise.  I mean, how many times have you played a Mario game and thought, This level would be so much cooler if they did this.  If you anything like me, you’ve lost count.  I can’t wait to unleash those ideas on unsuspecting gamers.

The other game for Wii U–the one that pushed me over the edge–is Smash Bros.  I played the first one many years ago.  I’m a fan of fighting games and a fighting game with all of the Nintendo characters sounded great.  Unlike MK and SF, games that both have a robust one player mode, Smash Bros is a fighting game for people with friends.  Now that Liam and Aiden are both old enough and taking an interest in games, I want to try Smash Bros as intended.  Other games interest me, too, but those are the two games that make me most want Santa to bring a Wii U.

Come on, Fat Man!  Don't let us down!
Come on, Fat Man! Don’t let us down!

My second system of choice on the list is also obvious, though maybe less so.  I went with Microsoft during the 360/PS3 generation mainly for the Kinect that now lies buried in my big box of dead electronics.  I thought about continuing with the XBox One because I figured that both machines were the same and I wanted to stay consistent.  That attitude persisted until recently.

I mentioned to Kevin (he of Episode 2 infamy) that I wanted one of the systems and that I was leaning in the direction of XBox One.  He stated flatly that the PS4 is better.  I trust his advice and now I’m definitely going to get a PS4 at some point when I have the spare cash.  I don’t have to explain two of the reasons for my interest, as I went into it in an early article.

i will write, briefly, on another game that recently got my attention again.  I loaded up DOOM on my Steam account the other day.  I’ve been thinking of doing some playthrough videos of the game to show secrets.  While playing, it triggered in my brain that a new one is in development for the PS4 and XBox One. It is also coming out on PC, but I need another reason to convince my skeptical wife that I must ahve another video game machine.  None of it, of course, will change her mind, but a new DOOM game has left no doubt that I’m soon going to own a PS4.  Maybe I’ll buy myself one for my birthday next month.

Posted this to the Instagram account with the caption, "Still one of the best feelings in gaming."  I hope that your character gets that same grin in the new game.
Posted this to the Instagram account with the caption, “Still one of the best feelings in gaming.” I hope that your character gets that same grin in the new game.

Rapid Fire: Random Thoughts Vol.5

Battle for Zendikar is such a terrible set. Even the casual guy in me can’t get into it.  Sure, there’s Newlamog, Ob Nixilis, Gideon, and a handful of decent green ramp spells, but after that it’s just a set full of failed mechanics. Don’t hate the game, hate the set.

Speaking of Zendikar, have you seen the “Wastes” basic land card floating around online that’s a potential Oath of the Gatewatch leak?  What do you think? Real or not? What about the Kozilek and Mirrorpool?  Is Wizards really gonna throw in a colorless 6th basic land for one set?  If they’re fakes, they’re damn good ones…

Rumor has it that we are going back to Innistrad after the Zendikar block wraps up. Should be interesting to see where they go with it as the first visit to that plane brought us some Modern staples. Will lightning strike twice?

Donald Trump, please go away. You’re a joke. The next time I see you I’m sure it’ll be on an episode of celebrity boxing..where hopefully you’ll get ktfo.

Who else is excited for Marvel Comics’ sequel to the Civil War storyline? I’m really curious as to what direction they are going to go in after the ending of the original (which is one of the greatest comic stories of all time).

Speaking of comics..Batman and TMNT is apparently a thing.  I’m sure it’s going to be a fun read but a tad too gimmicky for me.

Getting the itch to get back into collecting comics..miss my old silver and bronze age horror collection. To this day Bernie Wrightson is my favorite comic artist.

Got a couple of deck lists coming your way in the near future. Both of which are RG aggro, one is Modern and one is Tiny Leaders.

Testing out my new Jeskai Ascendancy Storm deck this weekend.  If all goes well, you’ll be seeing that deck list too. See? I don’t just post any ol’ deck..I playtest them first.  Because I care.

Super Bowl Prediction #1:  Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals (being a Pats fan, this prediction pains me).

Super Bowl Prediction #2: New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks part deux. For some reason every season this time of year, Seattle gets hot. Meanwhile, NE’s current injury issues should clear up just in time for the Playoffs.

 

Finally, I want to wish you and yours a fantastic Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or whatever the hell else you celebrate this time of year.

 

 

 

 

 

Refueling the Fire

As you know, here at 2 Guys we go through gaming highs and lows..lately this gaming rollercoaster has been centered around one game, MTG, the godfather of gaming. “How can anybody lose interest in playing MTG?”, you might be asking. Well, It’s actually surprisingly easy when you don’t have the opportunity to play that often and start to question why you have 8 decks of cards sitting around when you only play once every couple of months. Add that to a fairly lackluster BFZ expansion set, toxic forums, and a general unwillingness to spend hundreds of dollars to stay competitive and it’s hard not to sour on the game. Two months ago I reached a new level of sourness, to the point of actually selling my entire collection (except for 3 decks in case the rare opportunity to play arose). Turns out those 3 decks were the game’s lifeline…

In a past article, I’ve mentioned how Shawn and I met up with a group of fellow players and competed in a friendly Origins sealed tournament. The guy who arranged it, and whose house we met at, Joe (I’m calling him “Joe” because some people get weirded out about having their name in print), is an avid player who plays at area tournaments every weekend and has some of the most powerful Modern decks at his disposal. In the article I originally wrote about that night, I voiced my (and Shawn’s) frustration at how the casual games didn’t feel all too casual. This only added to our mutual feeling of “MEH.” regarding the game. Fast forward to a month and a half ago. Joe asked me if I would be interested in playing a few hands of MTG and watching some Football. Well, the MTG part didn’t really float my boat but I’m a sucker for beer and Football, so I packed up my 3 decks and decided to take him up on his offer. Even though I did somewhat better than I did the first time I played against him, I felt like I was starting to understand more of what it takes to be a decent player and also how to build better decks without breaking the bank. I went home that night and immediately logged onto eBay and bought a few singles that I knew would be key against some of his decks. Just like that, I was back in..but only to a certain extent, I still wasn’t as enamored with the game as I had been even a few months earlier. I had no intentions of building multiple decks as I knew that I still would not be playing the game that often. I just wanted to tune the decks that I currently had in order to put up more of a fight.

Since then, I’ve gone over and played against him a few more times, and the last time his neighbor (another avid Modern player) showed up to play a few hands as well. The atmosphere has changed from that first night we went over and competed in the sealed tourney. They point out misplays, allow me to take them back, give me deck building tips. It’s almost become a learning experience every time I go over. It’s still a different feel from the casual games that Shawn and I have but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve realized that to keep the game fresh and interesting that you have to be competitive to a certain extent. Instead of being frustrated at the Splinter Twin/Exarch combo, I now gameplan against it. Instead of being blown out by an insane RG aggro deck and being disheartened, I built my own to keep up, and in about half the games, out-aggro it. I used to hate mill decks, in fact, Shawn and I essentially banned them from our nerd nights, but Joe has a nasty one that he likes using and I’ve rolled with the punches. I’ve been able to adjust a couple of decks and put up a good fight. You see my point yet? What makes MTG interesting is adapting to your opponent, not just adapting to their deck, but taking advantage of any misplays and finding ways to incorporate cards into your deck that negates their win conditions. The constant game of one-upping each other has become fun for me. Even more fun is the fact that all of my decks are budget..it adds an interesting challenge for me…to be able to at least be competitive with decks that have Snapcasters, Splinter Twins, Ugins, Karns, multiple fetches, etc..using decks that probably cost less than 60 bucks.

Update: Last Friday night Shawn stopped over for a gaming night. He requested that we play Tiny Leaders as he hadn’t tuned any of his Modern decks and wanted to try something new. I was happy to oblige and the night before I built a couple of TL decks. Turns out Tiny Leaders is really, really fun. We had two memorable games and we each won one. The best part was that in each game, if the game had gone to the next turn, the other person would have won. These TL games really helped cement my status as a MTG player for the forseeable future and it’s probably going to be the format that I’m most interested in playing for awhile. If you haven’t tried it, do yourself a favor and give it a shot.

Gotta Collect ‘Em All

(Editor’s Note:  Wait a minute.  Gotta catch ’em all.  Gotta collect ’em all.  I sense a theme here.  I think that this slogan might just be a clever way to sell product.  Has anyone else caught on to this?)

I don’t remember how the card game got introduced into the family.  It’s been such a constant over the last few years that it feels like it’s always been there.  Every trip to Wal*Mart now ends in the card aisle after a detour to look at toys and video games.  We visit all gaming shops that we see so that the boys can look for any new or different sets and decks.  After a couple of months, I pull out the box of cards in a futile attempt to organize them.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I successfully organize them.  The futility comes in keeping them in order.  All of this has been going on for as long as I can remember.  Then again, my memory might be fuzzy and confusing my time with Magic cards and even comics, as the experience with both is much the same.

Well, leave it to the younger generation to set us old folks straight with their fancy new brains and untarnished memories.  After a conversation with Liam during the podcast, we cleared up the mystery.  During one of our Cape Cod camping trips, I brought an introductory Pokemon set to see if Liam would play and enjoy the card game.  I had just started to get back into Magic, but I knew that game would be too complicated for him.  However, he loved Pokemon, so I thought that the 30 cards would serve as a perfect introduction into these types of games.  Boy, was I right.

One of the decks had Machop as the main Pokemon and I remember Liam walking around saying, "Ma-chop-chop-chop." He was so enthusiastic about it that he had me saying it, too.
One of the decks had Machop as the main Pokemon and I remember Liam walking around saying, “Ma-chop-chop-chop.” He was so enthusiastic about it that he had me saying it.

He loved the game and immediately wanted more cards and how to learn to play the “real” game.  So, first I took him to Wal*Mart because they were the only local store that carried the cards.  Ever since the comic book store went out of business here, Wal*Mart is the only bastion of nerdness in town.  However, as soon as we were able, I too him to Greenfield Games, which was the closest actual gaming store.  I’ve mentioned them a couple of times because we do most of our gaming there.  Admittedly, there was also an ulterior motive to the trip.  I had just started to get back into Magic, as I mentioned, and I wanted to see what was happening with the game.  It obviously didn’t hurt that there were other games to put on the wish list, too.

Those games stay on the wish list, too, until the boys are older or Chris and I are able to have more game time together to branch out.
Those games stay on the wish list, too, until the boys are older or Chris and I are able to have more game time together to branch out.

Aiden and Quinn have both followed in the footsteps of their older brother.  Aiden, especially, has gotten into collectibles in a big way.  He most recently started collecting Minecraft miniatures and shopkins.  Pokemon cards remain his favorite, though, I think.  Similar to me, he pulled out the cards and started putting together a deck.  We didn’t finish, but at least we are playing with the cards again.  Hopefully we can finish our decks over the weekend (after I finish organizing the cards for the bazillionth time) and play some games.

I need to get back into the card game because I’m actually interested in the new expansion Breakthrough.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about the current state of the Pokemon card game and I know next to nothing about the expansion, but they hooked me with this one.  I’m sure that it is all a marketing gimmick.  Still, the idea of two worlds, technology and nature, is interesting and the mind boggles with what they can do with that.  That answer is probably nothing.  I am an eternal optimist, though, and this optimism has yet to be extinguished.

Hopefully Santa brings some intro decks for the set and we can see if the hype is real.  Naturally, I hope that it is.  I haven’t played any magic except for some of the new BFZ expansion in Duels.  I’ve been filling the void with Hearthstone, as I often do, but I usually hate (and I mean HATE) playing that game.  Therefore, I need a card game that doesn’t make me want to kick kittens when I play it.

Don't worry little guy. No actual kittens are harmed when I play Hearthstone. Only my dignity.
Don’t worry little guy. No actual kittens are harmed when I play Hearthstone. Only my dignity.

So, let’s explore Pokemon Breakthrough a bit more to see if it can occupy me or if I have to go make nice with Magic again.  The set is an off shoot of the X/Y series, meaning that it takes place in the Kalos region.  I haven’t had a chance to play the video games yet for X/Y because Liam and Aiden both have a save game on their cartridge and, well, there’s still only one per.  I think I can find both games for $40 total, so I will try them soon.

Back to the cards.  We haven’t ever been in Kalos in the card game other than the most recent expansions.  This is the 2nd or 3rd card game in the X/Y series because no new video games have been released since that one.  That, alone, might mean that they push the envelope a little bit more with this set.  Again, there’s no guarantees.  Magic seems to have backed off a bit on the power level with the new Zendikar, which sounds weird when you’re talking about Eldrazi.  Nevertheless, this set is much lower level than even Origins and that was a huge step back.  Not knowing enough about the card game, I don’t know if they need to make a similar adjustment in Pokemon.  I guess we will find out soon enough.

C'mon, Santa, bring us the goodies!
C’mon, Santa, bring us the goodies!

Gonna Catch ’em All! (Eventually? Maybe?)

(Note:  Gotta catch ’em all?  Yeah, right.  I couldn’t catch ’em all when there were only 150 of ’em.  I have no chance at this point.)

On this month’s Noob and Sons (recorded over the weekend and most likely to be posted later in the week), we dedicated the whole show to Pokemon.  The crazy little creatures are near and dear to me.  So much so that, for some reason,  I remember the first time I encountered them.  Having grown up with video games, I had heard of Pokemon, but never played the games.  One day while working at KMart, I received a call from a woman.  I assume she was a mom trying desperately to understand this thing called Pokemon that was most likely in response to a request by her son to get him one of the games for Christmas.  I calmly explained to her what I knew of the relatively new phenomenon.

I don’t, however, remember how I got into the games.  I do know that I have played since the first generation.  I chose red over blue at the time and I’m not sure why.  Blue is my favorite color and I was too ignorant at the time to know anything about exclusives for each version.  Maybe that’s the only version that the local Toys (backwards) R Us (or Babbages, remember that place?) had at the time and I thought that I’d eventually go back for Blue.

Used to go to this place all the time at the Millcreek Mall, along with McDonalds, the movie theater, and the arcade.  Don't hate me because I'm an OG.
Used to go to this place all the time at the Millcreek Mall, along with McDonalds, the movie theater, and the arcade. Don’t hate me because I’m an OG.

I’m not entirely sure, either, why I didn’t get Blue.  I remember enjoying Red because it was similar to one of my favorite games at the time, Final Fantasy.  Maybe I lived under the delusion that I’d be able to trade for the missing Pokemon.  Perhaps my gaming budget simply went to other games as I eventually shifted my short attention span away from Pikachu and Co.  Just another in a long line of good intentions gone bad.

I did eventually tire of fighting the same Pokemon, battling trainer after trainer, and not being as interested in the story as the other games like Final Fantasy.  Also, it was much more fun for my brothers and me to blow each other up in Mutant League Football than to play this single player game running around and trying to catch ’em all.  So, I moved on to other games and mostly forgot all about Pokemon for a few years.

The next game that I remember playing isn’t even a traditional Pokemon game.  A explanation:  One of my favorite consoles of all time was the Game Boy Advance.  I still have one that I borrowed from a friend so that Liam could play some GBA games that he wanted for Christmas.  Thankfully, this game was among them.  The next (and probably my favorite) Pokemon themed game that I played was Pokemon Pinball.

At the time, I worked overnights and had a lot of free time.  I wrote a ton.  Between that job and my time spent unemployed, I was able to finish my two published books.  When I wasn’t writing, I also played a ton of Pokemon Pinball.  I didn’t “catch ’em all” as the saying goes, but I came closer than I ever did in the traditional games.  Now that I have a way to play again, I’ll try to catch the ones that I missed.

Heck, I even caught Numel!  That's gotta count for something, right?
Gotta catch ’em all. Even, Numel, for some reason.

After putting away Pinball, I stopped for so long that I actually forgot that Pokemon existed.  It became one of those “games of my youth” that I never imagined would come back into my life.  Then, suddenly and (maybe) inexplicably, I started looking at Diamond and Pearl.  This time I knew about version exclusives, so I bought Diamond for Dialga.  I actually caught the legendary Pokemon, too.  Sadly, I have no proof and had to give up my save file.

That last paragraph might need some explanation.  I say that the return of Pokemon may have been inexplicable.  That might be true.  I’m not entirely sure of the timeline.  It might also have been that Liam was born and I knew from an early age that I was going to try to get my kids into gaming.  While that gives me an in home playgroup, there are drawbacks.  I surrendered my Diamond game to Liam once he learned about video games and Pokemon.  Since they game has only one save file (still, WTF, Nintendo and Game Freak), there went all the effort to get Dialga.  Such is life, love, and family.  That was also the last time that I could consider the DS to be mine alone.  From that point forward, Liam more or less claimed it for himself.

I don't have Dialga anymore, but that Numel more than makes up for it, amirite?
I don’t have Dialga anymore, but that Numel more than makes up for it, amirite?

I have not played any of the newer traditional Pokemon RPGs, but I have kept an eye on them.  Liam also keeps me updated as to the new developments in the series.  While I’d like to see for my self, I’m actually more excited and interested in the other games being made.  The first I learned about was Pokken Tournament.

Like most these days, Facebook introduced me to the game.  I saw a video of some gameplay, showed it to Liam and Aiden, and then went digging for more information.  I haven’t since searched, so much of my info might be outdated.  Hey, what’s one of my sayings?  Ignorance is bliss and sort of my thing on this page.

The game is being co-developed by Nintendo and the makers of Tekken to be  clone of that popular fighting game.  I have played Tekken, but I wouldn’t consider myself a fan.  I’d much rather play Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Marvel vs. Capcom.  Still, the addition of Pokemon makes the game intriguing.  My main complaint about Tekken is the lack of special moves like fireballs and “get over here” spears.  Pokemon breath fire and shoot lightning.  Pokken could be like a mix between Tekken and MK, but for kids.  That’s awesome.

That’s not the only new concept game four our favorite pocket monsters.  Pokemon Go, an “augmented reality” app for phones and tablets, promises to turn the world around you into a Pokemon filled wonderland.  As I understand, you “search” with the phone to “find” hidden Pokemon.  The types of Pokemon depend on your surroundings and maybe even the season.  What did I tell you?  Ignorance is bliss because you never know what to expect.

This app, if it works the way that I hope it will, has the potential to suck any free time and money that I might have left.  Imagine walking down the street or hiking in the woods and getting a push notification that one of the Pokemon that has eluded you is close.  How cool would it be to lock eyes with that blue eyed stranger on the bus or train, open your app, swipe right, and battle one another for Pokemon trainer supremacy?  I might try Pokken tournament, but I can’t wait for this thing and will most likely be one of the crazy ones crashing the server on day one trying to download it.

Who knew that such a simple concept of tiny monsters with extraordinary abilities would have such influence and staying power?  Over the last 20+ years, there have been toys and stuffed animals, animated TV shows and movies, video and card games, and the franchise shows no indication of slowing down.  The podcast has me playing the old games again, the new expansion has me more excited about the card game than Magic, and I’m hopeful for what is coming next.