Microsoft Xbox Fanfest: Sydney 2016

The next big event on my social calendar work-duty list is the EB Games Expo, starting next week on Friday 30 September. I’m heading in for the day, under the codename “Official GeekMom Writer”, which should improve my chances of scoring some playtime with ‘yet-to-be-released’ computer games. My preview expectations is up on GeekDad/GeekMom.

In the meantime, Microsoft is doing their own special lead-up to the Expo with Xbox Fanfest: Sydney 2016.

xbox-fanfest

The Good News: Fanfest is totally free. I kid you not. This is a free event and it comes with some pretty cool stuff. More on that in a minute.

The Bad News: Tickets are limited to the first 250 people who turn up at the Microsoft Store in Pitt Street Mall at 10.30am Tuesday 27 September. Tickets will be first-come-first-serve, one per person, adult only (no kids AT ALL), and must be there in person ready to go for the next three (3) days.

If you do happen to satisfy all the criteria (including the insanity of lining up early enough to gain the ticket), then you have this to look forward to:

  • A special Forza Horizon 3 launch event at Sydney Dragway (Tuesday afternoon – transport provided);
  • A secret Wednesday activity for Gears of War 4 (late Wednesday afternoon);
  • Exclusive early access to the Xbox booth at EB Games Expo (Thursday night);
  • Fan swag, Xbox fan shirt, and other loot;
  • Meet and greet with some top-notch developers.

Let me know if you score a ticket, Willy Wonka style. If not, don’t stress. There is still EB Games Expo starting on Friday 30 September.

I’ll see you there.

 

Review: Monstrous (The Game)

Out of all the elements of this new game, the one that hooked the spawnlings was:

Throwing Cards Inside

Despite all of their Evil Genius training to take over the world, they are still little spawnlings at heart. Awwwww…

Of course, they also loved the mythical monsters, the references to Greek Mythology, the fantastic artwork, and especially the competition to be the GREATEST OF ALL GODS!! But let’s be honest here: Any game that allows them to break what is usually a standard rule in the house is ALWAYS going to win esteem points in their minds.IMG_0879

Monstrous was sent to me to play and review by Good Games (Australia). The deal was simply to play it with EG Inc and tell Good Games what I thought. They are familiar with my blog and my ever endearing personality – so they know they are going to have an honest and upfront assessment of this game. As will you.

So What Is It?

IT is a ‘tabletop’ game with card-throwing as a key feature. As individuals, 2 to 5 gods can play; as teams, you can have up to 10 gods fighting over the table. The box says “ages 10 and up” but 7yo Nefarious handed me my glorified derriere so I think you can safely include younger spawnlings. Zaltu (2yo) was not invited to play – I’m already at risk of injuring myself. I don’t need to add her to the mix.

monstrous1

Photo by Good Games

 

General Guidelines

All the players are gods (it doesn’t matter which god you are – if someone asks if you are a god, you say YES!). And all the gods are a little miffed about dwindling faith on Earth, with offerings and sacrifices and what-not. So Zeus commands the gods to ‘thrown down some monstrous pets’ and scare a little faith out of the pesky mortals.

The real stars of this game are the monsters – and don’t they look beautiful! I have been a fan of Greek Mythology since I was 8, especially the artistic interpretation of the mythic creatures. Monstrous is true to form.IMG_0900

Each monster has a range of powers to use, and it totally depends on which side up your card lands. There are TRAP powers, MONSTER powers, and LOCATION powers. Some of these powers release a ‘Faith’ count to you. And the god with the most faith at the end of the game wins.

Let’s Play

I’m just going to pre-empt all of this with a single statement: I am an un-coordinated git on the best of days. The spawnlings know this. It’s pretty fair to say I lost the game.

The order of events is like this:

  • Throw a Monster
  • Check for Traps (if you have landed on another monster)
  • Check for Monster powers
  • Check for Location powers
  • Collect your Faith tokens (if any)
  • Draw a card
  • End your turn

IMG_0898So, you set up the Locations. Each god has a Player Card, with instructions and guidelines (very handy). You have your Monster Deck, and your Underworld (discard pile). It is easier standing around the table when you have your turn to throw – if your hand crosses the edge of the table, your throw is discounted and your Monster is discarded to the Underworld. Position is everything; Distractions are hilarious.

See – fairly easy going game, right?

Until you have your spawnlings (and husband) start setting up traps on your closest location.

To be honest, I was surprised at how much room there was for strategy in a game I thought was just ‘card throwing’. Each of the monster powers can be used in unique ways to give you the greatest impact on the table. If you’re a complete klutz like me, Pegasus will be your best friend – he has extra throws. Gorgons have always been, and will always be, absolute b*****s. Land on one of those and your card is GONE. And the Harpy – she steals your Faith, just like the lunch of King Phineus.

However, if you’re fellow gods pick up on your inability to throw a damn card, they are likely to start setting up traps on your more … ‘reachable’ locations. Once trapped, you lose your buddy Pegasus FOREVER!! L

Did we like the game?

Oh, yes! I have never played a game that required throwing things at the table. That’s not to say I haven’t thrown things across the table in frustration, but never as part of the game. This was novel and lots of fun.

There are lots of powers and interactions to keep track of during the game, but the rules and structure of the game are very simple to follow. The spawnlings loved it and have asked for it again next weekend. The best part is, you can change the game with locations and layouts, so maybe next time I will have a chance? Unlikely…IMG_0899

If there was anything I would change about the game, it would be the value of the Faith tokens. They come in 1, 3, 10, 30. I think I can see why they went with these combinations, but for the younger age groups, it adds a little extra work. If we had 1 and 2 value tokens, we would probably need more of them – though, the spawnlings would be faster in calculations.

For a throwing game, the cards are pretty good quality. Good durable card with a smooth glossy finish that won’t fade with wear anytime soon. Even when the Cyclops misjudged his step and went skidding across the table into a nearby wall, he walked away without even a scratch.

Monstrous is available through Good Games, for $39.95. Tell them I said hi. And thanks for the Pegasus.

Pokemon: 20 Years of Taking My Money

For 20 years, Pokemon has been taking my money. 20 YEARS!! Holy crispy Charmander! The calculations are sound: My younger brothers were in the first wave of fans; the Spawnlings are in the current wave. And with the latest money-sucker game now available on my iPhone (Pokemon Go)… well, that’s a lot of money to pay-out over such a sustained period of time. What could possibly appeal to two separate generations and maintain such high levels of fandom?Pokemon-20Bday-Cake-1

Continue reading

The Normality Of ‘In-Between’

There no longer seems to be a grey area. No ‘kind-of’.

No ‘In-Between’.

You are expected to be either completely for the cause, or completely against it.

Mediocre - Featured

Sometimes, this makes sense. For example:

  • Domestic Violence – completely against
  • Equal Marriage Rights – completely for
  • Secular education – absolutely and completely secular
  • Lycra in my cosplay – no way, uh-uh, not for me

But there are some things that are not life/death, or even moralistic in their conundrum-drumming.

Today’s example of “Taking your advocacy for a First World Issue too far” is gender-specific clothing.

I’m talking pink for girls, and blue for boys.

Now, before you get all defensive and start muttering for Thor’s sake, woman – can’t we just let kids wear what they wantthat’s my frackin’ point!!

We don’t do gender specific clothing in EG Inc. The spawnlings can wear whatever they want (outside of school uniform requirements). I seriously cannot be stuffed arguing this point with them. Pick your battles, minions.

But it amazes me how often complete strangers will point out how confused poor Zaltu will be because I have dressed her in blue today. Or if she is wearing torn jeans and a Batman t-shirt, then I at least saved the day by adding a pretty yellow bow.

Zaltu-Batman

Apparently, unless she is wearing a skirt she must automatically be in the extreme Tom-Boy camp. But if she happens to wear a t-shirt with a pink flower on it, then clearly she is in the extreme Pretty Girl camp.

I have this one particular shopping centre Zaltu and I frequent about once a month – we buy the requirements, and then stop to watch the ice-skating with a milkshake and a doughnut.

And every time, every time, I am admonished by some absolute stranger on my parenting. More often, it is about Zaltu’s outfit. Apparently, this week I was lucky I had remembered to put the pretty bow/clip in her hair to stop from confusing her gender identity. Poor Zaltu was only wearing her favourite jeans and blue dolphin shirt.

Over the last year, my responses have been progressing from “Thankyou for noticing her favourite hair clip WITH her favourite-colour shirt” to “At what point between your table and ours, did you think it was okay to come over and pass judgement on a two-year-old?”

EG Dad says I’m doing it all wrong.

He thinks I should be submitting all comments to scientific evaluation:
TPB-Posterity

“Now, for this survey, on a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do you think I should care about your opinion on my daughter’s outfit?

Okay, now on a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do you think you can @#$% off?

And remember, this is for posterity, so please – be honest.”

Whatever happened to simply being a kid who likes clothes?

Why do we have to join any extreme group on this issue, or any issue that doesn’t involve basic human rights and equality? I don’t think Zaltu (or her brothers, for that matter) care about whether she is wearing a pink shirt for all pretty girls out there.

 

She is simply wearing a shirt because I told her she has to wear a shirt to play in the park next door. It’s a little cold outside.

I am all for encouraging children to wear whatever they want. However, this should not then make them the pin-up poster for the cause. It should not be their social uniform every day, to the point they are interrogated if they wear something else the next day.

It has become so prevalent, where even though I picked up a wicked pair of boots today, I cannot talk about it to anyone without the awkward feeling of explaining myself.

I’m not a Tomboy. I’m not a Pretty Girl. Neither is Zaltu. Nor are most other females I know.

Zaltu-TARDIS

We are not walking talking stereotypes for you to label for your marketing or judgemental pleasure. We are not dressing to fit the category you are trying to shove us into. Just because we are female does not mean we have to be the same as all females all the time. If I bought a pair of shoes today, that does not make me a ‘girl’. If Zaltu plays with Lego Friends today, that does not mean we are abandoning all equal rights in play. If I choose not to take the spawnlings to see the new Ghostbusters, it does not mean I am spitting in the face of ‘girl power’ (thank you Lisa, for a damn good article about this).

We are somewhere ‘In-Between’ and we shouldn’t have to justify, defend, or explain that to anybody.

 

FCBD 2016 Re-Cap

I Survived FCBD 2016.

Not sure how, but we did.


For those playing at home, EG Inc cosplayed with a Doctor Who theme: 9th Doctor; 11th Doctor; River Song; Osgood; and of course, the TARDIS. The Dalek is a bonus, given to us by family a few years back. Yes, it’s ride-in for a small child.

No, you are not small enough.

I love the cosplay. It’s just simple fun. It’s dress-ups for geeks, but it’s not a game. It’s a community. A nod to anyone’s fandom.

But I noticed something that this year’s FCBD (Free Comic Book Day): there was less cosplay then previous years.


We had a little game in the car on the way to Kings Comics. I said I would see 5 Batman-cosplayers in the queue for FCBD. Sinister said 6; Nefarious said 4. 

I saw one.

I saw two Deadpool.

And I saw one Iron Man. And one Captain America.

Don’t get me wrong; there were some awesome contributions. But the pool was running a little dry this year.


I had a chat with staff at nearby Kinokuniya and they had also noticed a difference, albeit more pronounced at Kinokuniya.

When we first came across FCBD in 2010, there was a great community of cosplayers working with the stores as part of the celebrations. 

There were storm troopers (501st?), Trekkies, and a guy with a full-size Dalek.  There was chatting about the comics on offer, discussions about artists involved, and a general positive air about the whole event. FCBD is about promoting comics and reading for everyone – it’s not just reassuring established geeks, but inviting new readers to the genre.

The queue at Kings still had this, though not as strong as previous years. Kinokuniya, however, had no vibe. The staff were great but the line so long and impersonal…

How to fix it? I don’t know. Like I said, Kings still had it – but they were putting on a huge birthday party as well. They also have a different community: they are still a local comic bookstore (a large one, but still a ‘local’). They also have a great family focus for the day; plenty of activities and interaction with the kids. 

Kinokuniya is a bookstore which has a pretty good comic selection… And a bigger manga section. The majority of cosplay who turned up at Kinokuniya were manga-inspired. But a good chunk of them didn’t even go upstairs to the store. They were just hanging around downstairs in the foyer. 

There’s not a problem with this – I like the mix. But I wonder this the telling difference between the two. And will this continue to reflect on future FCBD?


But enough about the cosplay and stores – what goodies did I pick up?

In the freebies: Lady Mechanica; Serenity; Mooncop; Spectrum; Pokemon; Dream Jumper; Doctor Who; Science Comics; Darkhorse All Ages; and DC SuperHero Girls.

We also bought Gwenpool #0, a 9th Doctor comic, and my favourite: a signed trade copy of Black Magic. Nicola Scott was at Kings today. I’ll be sharing my chat with her over at GeekMom shortly.

Whatever happens at my end, make sure you go out and enjoy YOUR FCBD. That vibe I was talking about? It comes from YOU.

Don’t disappoint me. 

Sydney Brickshow 2016

Happy 5th Birthday to the Sydney Brickshow!

We’ve attended four out of the five shows in Sydney; Sinister won a place as a Junior Builder in 2013.

Each year the show is an absolute hit with the kids AND the bigger kids. It’s a huge exhibition for Lego fans to show off their designs. This is not an official Lego show; these are fans who create displays that combine sets with free play – just like every spawnling dreams!

Check out the beach scene – you won’t find this as a set in any store. You’re going to have to cannibalise whatever you have at home.

But it’s not just a flat Lego scene. Look at the barrel in that wave! The use of the linked bricks! And they move! That’s an added level of creativity.

Sometimes the fans just want to build their fandoms, whether or not Lego has released a set.

This year had a stand-out Pokemon display. Not only were the Pokeballs impressive (see above), the complete layout for the original opening route was equal parts nostalgic and inspiring.

That’s the secret weapon of these local exhibition shows – not Lego itself, but the ability to inspire you to go home and create.

I overheard one parent comparing the Sydney Brickshow to the other hot Lego ticket in town, Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick: DC.

Both exhibitions are designed to inspire; both show the endless creativity available with Lego as a medium.

But while I love Nathan’s ability to show play as an art form, I also love the approachable nature of local exhibitions.

For me, the star of the show (for this and ALL the Sydney Brickshows I have attended) was this guy: Henry Pinto.

He just started this year – won Best Newcomer for 2016. Built the above chess set for his son to learn how to play, as well as a very cool collection of Bat-vehicles.

But the real reason I would give him the title of Evil Genius Lego Builder is because of this:


Not only was Henry willing to show how he made his chess set, he actively encouraged the kids to recognise the pieces they may have at home. He is interacting with his audience and showing them how to do it too. He is sharing stories with them! He knows about being a Lego fan and shares that. This all happened so quick and so naturally, I’m lucky to have caught it at all!

While we love all the exhibits and will definitely be back next year (maybe junior builders again?), Henry is the guy I will be looking for.
All photos from our visit will be posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. No sponsorship – happily paid for our family tickets as the money supports a fantastic charity, Bear Cottage.