‘The X-Files’ 10.6: “My Struggle II” – Out with A Bang, or with Deafening Silence?

The X-files’ season finale, “My Struggle II”, was a non-stop 45 minutes of action and medical mumbo-jumbo that saw Mulder & Scully working with allies old and new to try and combat a deadly, global contagion. Read on for our spoiler-filled recap. Continue reading ‘The X-Files’ 10.6: “My Struggle II” – Out with A Bang, or with Deafening Silence?

‘The X-Files’ 10.5: “Babylon” – What the Honky Tonk Badonkadonk?!

In this week’s episode of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully work with another pair of FBI agents to help foil a terrorist plot, and Mulder takes a magical mystery trip courtesy of some mushrooms. Read behind the cut for our spoiler-filled recap of “Babylon”. Continue reading ‘The X-Files’ 10.5: “Babylon” – What the Honky Tonk Badonkadonk?!

Between the Bookends Feb 2016: Smugglers, Spaceflight, and Schooling

In this most romantic of months, the GeekMoms have been reading about smugglers, spaceflight, and schools, elder gods, forensic anthropology, and grumpy cats.

Oh, and there might be a romance novel buried in there somewhere too! Read on to check out our February book choices.

Continue reading Between the Bookends Feb 2016: Smugglers, Spaceflight, and Schooling

‘The X-Files’ 10.4: “Home Again” – The Trash Man Cometh

On this week’s episode of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of horrifying murders linked to the homeless of Philadelphia, while Scully handles a personal tragedy.

This is the episode that I, as a die-hard fan, have been waiting for this season. It combines all the elements that made the X-Files great. A disturbing villain, a social message, some fantastic jump scares, and a wonderfully emotional story for Mulder and Scully.

In fact, the only thing I found myself not liking was a specific camera angle, which says a lot about the episode as a whole. “Home Again” offered some amazing opportunities for both Scully, and us as viewers, to examine the aftermath of William’s adoption and how that has impacted Scully ever since. It also opened up new questions, including the nature of Charlie Scully’s estrangement, and of Scully’s relationship with her mother over recent years. But a good episode of The X-Files always had to end by giving us more questions, and this one delivers in spades.

Read behind the jump for our spoiler-filled recap of “Home Again”.

Continue reading ‘The X-Files’ 10.4: “Home Again” – The Trash Man Cometh

Awaken Romance this Valentines Day with Star Wars Cards on Etsy

At this time of year, I can generally be found scrambling to locate a Valentines Day card for my husband that fulfils my near-impossible desires of being not-too-smutty, not-too-smushy, and not costing approximately half my next mortgage payment.

As much as I love him, my husband and I are more likely to quote lines from Galavant‘s “Maybe You’re Not the Worst Thing Ever” to one another than Hallmark’s sickeningly sweet endearments.

Nor do I wish to have “hilarious” cards describing how much we’d like to “bonk” one another on display where our six-year-old, or my mother-in-law, can easily read them. As a result, I’ve taken to Etsy for my Valentines Day card shopping over recent years where I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to nerdy, adorable cards that really speak to us and our relationship. This year I have, unsurprisingly, noticed a vast array of Star Wars cards in my searches and I wanted to share some of my favourites with you, many of which are perfect for handing out at school.

Continue reading Awaken Romance this Valentines Day with Star Wars Cards on Etsy

‘The X-Files’ 10.3: “Mulder And Scully Meet the Were-Monster” – Dagoo? Dagoo!

On this week’s episode of The X-Files, the show gives us the latest in its run of comedy episodes that stretches back to season two.

As with many of the previous comedy episodes, this one contains some fantastic moments and some deeply troubling ones. Read on for our spoiler-filled recap of “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”. Continue reading ‘The X-Files’ 10.3: “Mulder And Scully Meet the Were-Monster” – Dagoo? Dagoo!

‘The X-Files’ 10.2: “Founder’s Mutation” – X-Files Meets X-Men

While Sunday’s opening episode of The X-Files’ 10th season waded far into the depths of mythology, Monday night’s follow-up, “Founder’s Mutation”, looks at the emotional impact that mythology has had on Mulder and Scully, and the scars they still carry.

Read on for our recap but beware: here be spoilers.

Continue reading ‘The X-Files’ 10.2: “Founder’s Mutation” – X-Files Meets X-Men

The X-Files 10.1: “My Struggle” – A New Mythology for the Modern Age

The X-Files returned to FOX last night after a, frankly terrifying, 14-year hiatus. Launching straight back into the show’s epic, and complex, mythology, Mulder, Scully, and the gang were back in fine, if confusing form in the unfortunately titled “My Struggle Part One”, an episode that delighted fans but is unlikely to win over many new faces, whilst positively alienating (pun absolutely intended) anyone sitting in the right hand side of the political spectrum.

Read on for our spoilerific recap! Continue reading The X-Files 10.1: “My Struggle” – A New Mythology for the Modern Age

Return to Potter in 2016

It could easily be argued that 2016 is the year that Harry Potter returns. Of course, the boy wizard has never really gone away as the large crowds at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, or the Harry Potter Studios Tour in Leavesden will attest. However it has been five years since the last Potter film—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II—was released, and a frankly astounding nine years since the final book was launched. 2016 will give us our first new material in the Potter universe (excluding updates to Pottermore) since then, so it’s only right that Potterheads are celebrating, even as they continue to mourn for Alan Rickman. A whole host of things are happening in the Potter world this year so let’s take a look at them. Continue reading Return to Potter in 2016

Between the Bookends Jan 2016: Werewolves, Wonderland, and a Whole Lot of History

The holiday period can make it tricky to squeeze in reading time, but the GeekMoms still managed to clock up plenty of reading material. This month’s selections include books on alternative and real-life history, Wonderland and werewolves, yoga and classic sci-fi, and teaching kids both how to draw sharks, and how to value money.
Continue reading Between the Bookends Jan 2016: Werewolves, Wonderland, and a Whole Lot of History

GeekMom Recommends: Christmas Picture Books

Christmas is a time for traditions, with the same food, films, music, and memories brought out year after year. Yet it’s always great to add a little something new to the mix as well. Here are some of my favorite Christmas-themed picture books that I hope you might enjoy adding to your own library. Continue reading GeekMom Recommends: Christmas Picture Books

Between the Bookends Dec 2015: Ms. Marvel, Teen Angst & The Science of Parenthood

This month the GeekMoms have been preparing for the holiday season, but we have still found time to do some serious reading. Selections this month include bad teenage poetry, a Hobbit-style adventure in post-war England,  advice for hosting a steampunk tea party, and a bad-ass female superhero trying to manage her own life as well. Read on for our December recommendations. Continue reading Between the Bookends Dec 2015: Ms. Marvel, Teen Angst & The Science of Parenthood

Is Donald Trump Leading the U.S. Down the Path to the Dark Side?

My favorite line in the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy comes from Padmé toward the end of Revenge of The Sith. She stands in the Galactic Senate and watches Supreme Chancellor Palpatine proclaim himself Emperor of a newly founded Empire.

“This is how liberty dies,” she comments to her companions, “with thunderous applause.”

It’s a chilling line simply because we know from our own history how true it can be. Even the briefest look at the story of Hitler’s rise to power mirrors Palpatine’s own journey in many ways. Rising to power on a tidal wave of support, first elected as Chancellor before using fear to manipulate other politicians and transform the country/Republic into a dictatorship under his control alone.

The Star Wars prequels reflect our own history back at us through the lens of a galaxy far, far away and remind us of things we ought not to forget. In our post 9/11 era where we as “good citizens” are expected to throw away more and more of our personal liberties in the never-ending pursuit of the spectre of terrorism, and where increasingly oppressive politicians are growing in popularity with an increasingly scared population – perhaps the story we see across the three prequels has never been more important.

This is what I love about the Star Wars prequel trilogy. While the Original Trilogy throws us straight into the heart of an ongoing war where heroes and villains are already established, the prequels show us both how those things came to be, and how easily the road to war can be walked. In fact, if we take a look at recent news, it’s a path we can see being trodden once again – only this time it’s happening in the United States with the rise of Donald Trump. Continue reading Is Donald Trump Leading the U.S. Down the Path to the Dark Side?

A Very Cannibal Christmas: Cookie Recipe Cards From Hannibal’s Janice Poon

How do you cook and serve a human? Hopefully, this is not a question you have ever needed to answer, but it is one that Janice Poon—food consultant and stylist for NBC’s Hannibal—has spent much of her time considering. This holiday season, Janice has teamed up with Freddie of Tattle Crime to produce a batch of cookie recipes that even the fussiest of foodies will love.

I was able to try out some of the recipes myself, and to speak with Janice about her work on Hannibal and her advice for any aspiring chefs who have been inspired by Hannibal‘s culinary command.

Continue reading A Very Cannibal Christmas: Cookie Recipe Cards From Hannibal’s Janice Poon

Between the Bookends: Tea, Vampires, Fantasy CSI &…Cheese-Mites?

In this month’s bumper edition of Between the Bookends, the GeekMoms have been reading about vampires (of both the sparkly and non-sparkly kind), tea, horror in New Zealand, cheese-mite cosmology, CSI meets The Brothers Grimm, and much more. Dive in to check out our recommendations for the month.

Continue reading Between the Bookends: Tea, Vampires, Fantasy CSI &…Cheese-Mites?

Eat Like a Geek: Bonfire Night

In the United Kingdom, November 5th is known as Bonfire Night. Across the country, bonfires are lit and firework displays held to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot way back in 1605.

There are many different foods associated with Bonfire Night although few of them could be called healthy. Among them are toffee apples, treacle toffee, and baked potatoes cooked within the fire itself, but perhaps the most classic Bonfire Night food is parkin.

Continue reading Eat Like a Geek: Bonfire Night

Fun & Spooky Games Whatever Your Halloween Plans

Whether you’re throwing a big neighborhood party, or staying home with the drapes closed this Halloween, chances are there’s a game to suit both your tastes and this spookiest of seasons. To help you celebrate Halloween I’ve picked out six games in six different styles including board games, video games, and games to play with kids.

Continue reading Fun & Spooky Games Whatever Your Halloween Plans

Between the Bookends: Nightvale, Miss Peregrine & Black Widow

This month the GeekMoms have been enjoying spooky tales of peculiar children, talented alchemists, mysterious desert towns, and deep, dark, fears.

These include the latest in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children‘s novels, a novelization of the Welcome to NightVale podcast world, the latest from Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess, and the definitive origin of Black Widow.

Continue reading Between the Bookends: Nightvale, Miss Peregrine & Black Widow

Starting From Scratch: Developing Interest

Teaching kids coding is one of the current buzz topics in schools, and rightly so. Programming is a vital skill, so much so that the National Curriculum in the UK—the government’s official guidelines on what schools are required to teach—has recently been updated to include the subject from a very young age.

My six year old has already come home talking about debugging algorithms, words I never used in all my years of schooling. I wanted to be involved in this journey with him and this new post series will follow our adventures in learning more about robotics, programming and more.

Continue reading Starting From Scratch: Developing Interest

Let’s Be Bad Guys: Time for Some Thrilling Heroics With ‘Colt Express’

In Colt Express, you take on the role of a bandit holding up a train in the American Wild West. Players use their cards to move around the train, gather loot, attack rival players, and influence the Marshall—at the end of the game the player with the most loot is the winner.

Continue reading Let’s Be Bad Guys: Time for Some Thrilling Heroics With ‘Colt Express’

Need Fresh Reads? Try Bill Murray & ‘The Martian’

It’s back-to-school month and the GeekMoms have been working hard on their very own reading lists. From Bill Murray to origami, To Kill a Mockingbird to Shakespearean Star Wars, check out what we have been reading this month.

Continue reading Need Fresh Reads? Try Bill Murray & ‘The Martian’

3 Quick Games For When You Have No Time to Play

Games © FreshPlanet Inc/Twice Circled/Bethesda
Games © FreshPlanet Inc/Twice Circled/Bethesda

If I had to pick one adjective to describe moms, it would be “busy.” We’re always on the go doing something or other, usually at the the cost of our own leisure time. As a result I find it difficult to find the time to sit and play video games that require hours of game-play working through excessively long levels, or exploring open-world universes, unless I choose to sacrifice even more of my sleep. I’ve therefore become a big fan of games I can dip in and out of easily when I have a little time to spare.

I’ve rounded up three of my favorite games that can be progressed significantly when you have under five, five to 15, or 15 to 30 minutes of free time: Fallout Shelter, Rock On, and Big Pharma. Continue reading 3 Quick Games For When You Have No Time to Play

A Look At the Best Cosplay of MCM Manchester Comic Con

Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown
Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend Manchester Comic Con for the fourth time. Since its inception in 2011, the con has continued to grow, expanding both in space and time, giving it hugely increased floorspace and a second day.

As one of the largest conventions in the north of England, the con attracts huge crowds and even with the extra space, the con floor remains packed out. I had debated bringing my five year old along this year for the first time, however after seeing the Saturday crowds I opted against it, choosing to introduce him to the convention world at a smaller local show instead.

The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown
The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown

This year’s Expo suffered many of the same minor issues as previous shows. However vast improvements have been made.

No on-the-door tickets were available on the Saturday which prevented people queueing for hours outside the venue in poor weather—an issue in previous years—in the hopes of getting inside.

This did, however, create one of the longest queues I have ever seen for general admission: one which stretched out of the venue, across the courtyard, over a street, and most of the way around the next block, at the time I arrived. Regardless of its length, the fact that the queue was composed only of those with pre-purchased tickets meant it moved quickly. Two friends who joined the end of the line at the time it stretched around the block reported it took only 45 minutes before they were inside.

Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown
Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown

One of my personal gripes with the show was the simple lack of activities. The main stage hosted only a few talks per day alongside the daily cosplay masquerade, and the only other scheduled events were Robots: Live battles.

This year The Victorian Steampunk Society were in attendance with their own events schedule, but even this addition was not enough to really fill two days. I spent some time testing out board games over at the Esdevium Games stand which filled several hours, but even then I found myself ready to leave by early afternoon on Sunday (having left early on Saturday too) because there were only so many times I could walk around the same merchandise stalls.

Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown
Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown

I love Manchester Expo, and having spoken to many regular con attendees, it is a favorite for a lot of the UK geek crowd. Despite its growing size, the con retains a friendly small-show atmosphere and has a great mix of stalls both selling merchandise and for artists over in the Comics Village. I’m already looking forward to bringing my son.

However, I do wish there was simply more to do than just walk around or meet up with friends. While guests are not everything, it is disheartening to see the same company’s London show attracting huge guest stars like Gillian Anderson, Felicia Day, John Noble, and members of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast, while Manchester gets Sylvester McCoy and two of the cast of Arrow.

When the highlight of the weekend’s main stage schedule is a world exclusive preview of an extra from the Robot Overlords Blu-ray—a film that (tragically, it’s actually pretty good) almost nobody went to see—it really suggests a need to try to reach a little higher. Reaching higher has been one of the things the show organizers have been great at. Every year, Manchester Comic Con has grown and improved. I hope it continues to do so. In the meantime enjoy a look at some of the amazing cosplay for this year’s show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Popular Games vs. Geek Gamers: Can They Impress?

Firefly Clue Pieces © Sophie Brown
Firefly Clue Pieces © Sophie Brown

As a group, us geeks can be a little, well, snobbish about the games we play. Why would we play Clue when we could play Catan? Why choose Scrabble over Stone Age? As much as we might think that way, a quick Amazon search for “board games” reveals that classic titles such as Monopoly, Clue, Sorry!, and The Game of Life are still the top results. My husband and I returned to two popular games—Yahtzee and Clue—both of which had recently been given a Firefly-themed makeover, to see if they could win us over.

Continue reading Popular Games vs. Geek Gamers: Can They Impress?

Between the Bookends – August 2015

Between the Bookends © Sophie Brown
Between the Bookends © Sophie Brown

This month the GeekMoms dove deeply into the Chris Carter-verse with books featuring both The X-Files and Millennium, fallen in love again with Star Wars through a new series of Little Golden Books, enjoyed home crafts, and finally found something to draw them away from a beloved series. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been reading this month.

Continue reading Between the Bookends – August 2015

Unlock Big Adventures with Little Passports

Little Passports © Little Passports (Fair Use)
Little Passports © Little Passports (Fair Use)

Little Passports is a subscription service that sends your child a monthly package designed to teach them about a specific country. Each package includes activities and items themed around the culture of that month’s featured country. Geography has never been one of my strong points, in fact it was the subject I hated most at high school after gym, so I had more than a little trepidation when my son (FB) began to express a keen interest in the subject by constantly asking me to label maps and point out locations my husband and I had visited in the past.

Despite my lack of subject knowledge, I was keen to develop his interest at a young age—beginning first with simply buying a globe for his room and investing in an atlas. However, when I began to hear about the Little Passports service I was keen to sign him up for a trial.

Continue reading Unlock Big Adventures with Little Passports

Between the Bookends: July 2015

Bookends © Sophie Brown
Bookends © Sophie Brown

This month in Between the Bookends, the GeekMoms have been reading about alien parasites, parenting skills, dark fantasy, climbing Everest, and the songs that tell the story of modern Britain. Check out what we’ve been reading after the jump.

Continue reading Between the Bookends: July 2015

9¾ x 3: Comparing the Harry Potter Platform Experiences

The Three Platforms : Left © Universal Studios (fair use), Middle © Karen Roe via Flickr (Creative Commons), Right  © Sophie Brown
The Three Platforms : Left © Universal Studios; middle © Karen Roe via Flickr (Creative Commons); right © Sophie Brown

If you want to visit the magical Platform 9¾ from the Harry Potter series, there are currently three places you can do so: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, the Warner Bros. Studios Tour in Leavesden, and the real Kings Cross Station in London. I have been lucky enough to visit all three within the last year and I wanted to try to determine which one is the “best” experience by scoring all three across a range of categories, including how much there is to do, the authenticity, and the cost.

Platform 9¾ at Universal Studios © Universal Studios (Fair Use)
Platform 9¾ at Universal Studios © Universal Studios

What Can You Do there?
Universal Studios definitely wins when it comes to the total Harry Potter package. As well as Platform 9¾, guests can experience Diagon Alley, which features Harry Potter and The Escape from Gringotts, Ollivanders, and dozens of shops and restaurants. After riding the Hogwarts Express to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, they can also visit Hogsmeade where they can ride the Dragon Challenge, the Flight of the Hippogriff, and explore Hogwarts itself in Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. There’s more shops and restaurants there too. I recommend a cauldron cake from Honeydukes—yum! 10/10

At the Warner Bros. Studios Tour, Platform 9¾ forms part of the overall tour, which takes you through dozens of original sets from the movie series. In addition, there’s a cafe where you can drink butterbeer and two shops—the Platform Shop, which sells merchandise specific to the Hogwarts Express, and the more general shop at the end of the tour. Other than a few staged photo opportunities throughout, there is little else to do other than the tour itself. However, more is constantly being added and the Studios run special events every few months. Look out for the Sweets and Treats event this summer, with prop makers recreating the food used in the films. The tour is an amazing experience (my husband and I took seven hours to go through the first time and its has been extended since then), but not ideal for younger children as it is very much a case of look don’t touch throughout. 8/10

Kings Cross station is a real working station not a tourist attraction, so naturally, there is little to do here in comparison to the other locations. However, the designers have packed plenty of theming into their small space. You can take your photo pushing a trolley through the station wall and browse the impressively themed shop, which packs an incredible amount of detail (and spending opportunities) into a very small space. 3/10

Platform 9¾ at the Warner Bros. Studios Tour © Sophie Brown
Platform 9¾ at the Warner Bros. Studios Tour © Sophie Brown

Authenticity
Universal Studios struggles to earn many points when it comes to authenticity. Existing as part of a theme park, the station and train have been built purely for that purpose and were not involved in filming in any way. However, Universal Studios is the only one of the three which allows guests to board the Hogwarts Express and take a real journey (from Diagon Alley in Universal Studios to Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure or vice versa). Because of this, guests pass through a real ticket check (only guests with a park-to-park ticket may ride) before entering the queue for the train. 3/10

For authenticity, almost nothing can beat the Studios Tour. The train sitting in the station is the 5972 Olton Hall—the actual locomotive used in filming—and you can tour the carriage used by Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the films. Each “room” along the carriage has been set out for a specific film with different props strewn around. For example, in the Order of The Phoenix room, you can see Luna’s copy of the Quibbler lying on the seat. 9/10

Kings Cross station also fares well when it comes to authenticity. After all, you’re really in Kings Cross station! If you step just outside, you will even see the building used for exterior shots in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. Sadly, the Platform 9¾ area is not located between the real platforms nine and 10 (to do so would have required architects trained in real magic), but that’s easy enough to overlook. 9/10

Pushing the Trolley to Platform 9¾. When you're already standing on Platform 9¾... © Sophie Brown
Pushing the trolley to Platform 9¾—when you’re already standing on Platform 9¾. © Sophie Brown

Realism of the Platform Effect
Universal Studios is the only one of the three locations to use an effect to make guests really walk through a wall. Sadly, you won’t realize you’re doing it. The effect is used in the queue line where guests at one part of the line will see those further ahead of them appearing to walk through a brick wall. However, once you get to that point, there is nothing to see because the effect is only visible further back. Regardless, it’s an impressive effect that was amazing the children in the queue. 7/10

At the Studios Tour, there is no special effect to greet you as you move from the previous room of the tour onto the platform. I felt this was a wasted opportunity because guests walk down a fairly blank corridor and out onto a very realistic platform, so it’s a shame nothing was made of this transition. Instead, guests can pose with one of four luggage trolleys fixed halfway into the wall. Three are for the official photographers to take your picture, while the fourth is for guests to use their own cameras. While having four trolleys is great to reduce waiting times for the photo opportunity, having them together in a line does unfortunately take away from the realism of the setup. 2/10

At Kings Cross station, the same trolley photo opportunity is available as in the Studios Tour. However, there is only one trolley. This can lead to fairly big queues (even late at night), but the positioning of the trolley (on the same wall as access to real platforms) and the fact that there is only one “entrance” makes the experience impressively believable. 5/10

The Train Rides: Left © Universal Studios (Fair Use), Right © Sophie Brown
The train rides: Left © Universal Studios; right © Sophie Brown

The Train
At Universal Studios, guests can board and ride the Hogwarts Express between the two theme parks that house the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Although the ride isn’t a real train (it’s actually closer to a cable car), the appearance to guests is almost completely immersive. Guests queue up on the platform, wait for the train to arrive, and squeeze into carriages identical to those seen on-screen. During your journey, the “windows” of the carriage look out onto scenic British countryside with a few visitors. Look out for the Knight Bus, Hagrid, and the Weasley twins, to name a few. The journey going the opposite way has a different “story” happening outside too. Add to this the fact that the train journey is a real-life journey, and you couldn’t ask for anything more from the experience. 10/10

At the Studios Tour, guests can meet the real Hogwarts Express and climb aboard one of her carriages. The train is static, but will occasionally blow her whistle and make noises like she is getting ready to depart. A steam effect as seen at Universal Studios would have been a great addition here, but may be difficult to implement given that the train sits within an enclosed room. Across the platform, guests can sit in a semi-open “carriage” with green screen windows to recreate a short journey. This is very similar to the experience of the Hogwarts Express ride at Universal—some of the same footage appears to have been used—but lacks the immersive nature of its counterpart as you are clearly sitting on the platform while it happens. 6/10

Kings Cross station comes up dead last in this area, as there is no train experience at all. You could always board a real train and head off somewhere, but sadly, it won’t be the Hogwarts Express. 0/10

The Shop at Kings Cross © The Harry Potter Shop  (Fair Use)
The Shop at Kings Cross © The Harry Potter Shop

Cost (For a Family of Four)
In order to experience Platform 9¾ at Universal Studios, guests require a park-to-park ticket, as the train ride really does move its passengers between the two parks that make up the resort. Single-day tickets cost $147 per adult and $142 per child making the total cost a whopping $578. However, it is worth remembering that multi-day passes come at a significant discount if you’re planning a trip. 1/10

At the Studios Tour, the cost per adult is £33, while children age five to 12 are £25.50, and children four and under attend for free. A family ticket is available, so the cost for our hypothetical family is £101 ($160). Tickets include access to the entire tour, although extras such as butterbeer and photo opportunities are extra. You can also purchase a digital guide and souvenir book; these come at a reduced cost if purchased as part of your ticket. 6/10

The clear winner in terms of cost is Kings Cross station, which is freely accessible to anyone visiting the area. Photos and souvenirs are obviously available at a cost, but it is free of charge for anyone to queue up and take their photo at the entrance using their own camera. Total cost for a family of four: $0. 10/10

How Does It All Add Up?
The grand totals for each experience are as follows:

Universal Studios: 31
The Warner Bros. Studios Tour: 31
Kings Cross Station: 27

Despite providing dramatically different guest experiences, the two bigger attractions came out, amazingly, with identical scores. Both are must-do attractions for Potterheads and with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter now open in Hong King and soon to be arriving in California, hopefully there will soon be an attraction within a reasonable distance of even more fans. Although it didn’t reach the same total as its bigger siblings, Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross station still fared well, mostly because of its price point, which makes it refreshingly accessible to everyone—a rarity in the world of tourist attractions. Whether you prefer thrilling rides or authentic experiences, there’s a Platform 9¾ experience for everyone.

GeekMom received complimentary entry to the Warner Bros. Studios Tour.

Unlock ‘Lego Jurassic World’: Will Bricks Find a Way?

Lego Jurassic World © Warner Bros. Interactive
Lego Jurassic World © Warner Bros. Interactive

Lego Jurassic World was my first foray back to the Lego games franchise since Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7. Recent offerings have put me off of the games, but the lure of my favorite ever movie being given the Lego treatment was just too strong. I was incredibly hopeful I would enjoy it.

Continue reading Unlock ‘Lego Jurassic World’: Will Bricks Find a Way?

Late to the Game: ‘Elder Sign’

Elder Sign © Fantasy Flight Games (Fair Use)
Elder Sign © Fantasy Flight Games

Elder Sign is a cooperative dice-rolling game based on the Cthulhu Mythos in which you and your fellow players work together as a team of researchers investigating a museum, attempting to prevent the rise of an Ancient One. Players must collect a number of Elder Signs before the Ancient One fills its Doom Track, kills the players, or drives them all mad. Sound good? Then find out more in our in-depth look at both the physical game and its digital alter-ego, Elder Sign: Omens.

Elder Sign set up for a new game © Sophie Brown
Elder Sign set up for a new game © Sophie Brown

How Do You Play?
The museum that forms the playable region of Elder Sign is composed of a number of large cards, each representing a room, while in the digital version you are faced with a map of the museum with a number of locations highlighted on it.

Players choose a room to enter (embarking upon an Adventure) and attempt to roll dice and match the symbols on the card—sometimes in a specific order. If the player successfully completes their Adventure by matching all the symbols, they can gain spells and weapons to help them win more Adventures; they can also gain the all-important Elder Signs needed to defeat the Ancient One. Failing the Adventure can result in a loss of the player’s health and sanity, the arrival of a monster who will increase the difficulty of future Adventures, or Doom being added to the Ancient One’s Doom Track. After each player’s turn, a clock is advanced and at midnight, the Ancient One reveals a card that can benefit them, so players are encouraged to win as fast as possible. Some rooms also have their own, usually negative, Midnight Effects.

Elder Sign: Omens © Fantasy Flight Games (Fair Use)
Elder Sign: Omens © Fantasy Flight Games

How Do You Win and Lose?
To win at Elder Sign, players must collect a set number of Elder Sign tokens. The number is determined by the Ancient One they are fighting.

The tougher the Ancient One, the more Elder Signs will need to be collected to defeat it. Completing some Adventures will win you multiple Elder Signs, but the better the rewards, the harder the Adventure will be to complete. The team of players lose if they all are killed or driven insane by the Ancient One, or if the Ancient One fills its Doom Track.

Are There Any Expansions Available?
Yes. For the physical game two expansions, Unseen Forces and Gates of Arkham, are available. If you are playing digitally, there are currently three expansions: The Call of Cthulhu, The Trail of Ithaqua, and The Dark Pharaoh. All three unlock additional player characters and Ancient Ones to battle.

A successfully completed adventure, with three dice to spare © Sophie Brown
A successfully completed adventure, with three dice to spare © Sophie Brown

What Formats Is the Digital Game Available On?
Elder Sign: Omens is available on iOS (for both iPad and iPhone), Android, Kindle, and Steam.

How Do the Costs Compare?
The base game currently retails for around $30 with the expansions costing $15 to $20 each, making this one of the cheaper games currently on the market. The digital base game retails for $6.99 (iPad), $3.99 (iPhone), $14.99 (Steam), or around $4.50 on Android. Expansions are $2.99 each.

What Age Is It Suitable For?
The game is recommended for age 12+, and having played it many times, that feels like the correct choice from the developer. While the game play is simple enough that a younger child could understand what’s going on, the artwork is obviously very intense (this is a game set in the realm of the Ancient Ones, after all) and some of the mechanics would likely go over their heads.

The digital version also contains occasional cut scenes that could scare young children. If your child is already acquainted with classic horror, they may enjoy the game, but for the majority, the recommended age will be accurate.

Has It Been Featured on TableTop?
Yes! Elder Sign was featured on series one of TableTop and was played by Felicia Day, Mike Morhaime, and Bill Prady.

Attempting to complete the Mystery Tome Adventure © Fantasy Flight Games (Fair Use)
Attempting to complete the Mystery Tome Adventure © Fantasy Flight Games

Is It Actually Any Good?
Whether or not you will enjoy Elder Sign, either digitally or physically, is more than likely going to boil down to how much you enjoy randomness as a factor in your gaming. Completing Adventures is entirely based on dice-rolling (occasional cards and characters can change die rolls, but these are frustratingly few and far between), which means that even the best-equipped Investigator can fail spectacularly over and over again if the dice just aren’t in the mood to behave.

This can be incredibly aggravating, and I would know. Despite countless attempts and intentionally hoarding as many helpful cards as possible, I am still yet to beat the final card of The Call of Cthulhu expansion, by nothing more than sheer bad luck.

The randomness effect does, however, level the playing field, meaning that any group of players can work well together from experienced Investigators to total newbies.

The cooperative element really shines during physical play, as players debate which rooms/Adventures they should attempt and which to avoid. We played as a group late on New Year’s Eve and, despite losing spectacularly, had a great time playing—and isn’t that the whole point?

Digital Vs. Physical
Green = Pro, Red = Con, Black = Neutral

Digital:

  • Game set up is as good as instantaneous.
  • The game keeps track of which cards can be used at any time, instantly deals out the correct rewards (or penalties) at the conclusion of an Adventure, and advances the clock as required.
  • The player has to play as multiple characters, remembering each individual’s special abilities and current inventory once their turn rolls around.
  • Designed for single player, so you don’t need to get a group together.
  • The single-player format means the game loses out on the cooperative nature of the physical version, arguably one of its best parts.
  • Both the base game and the expansions are cheap. The complete game with all expansions can be bought for as little as $13.
  • The base game is somewhat limited and quickly becomes repetitive, so the temptation to buy expansions is high.
  • Rooms with a Midnight Effect (a usually negative outcome every time the clock strikes midnight) are easily spotted on the map, as are those with Terror Effects.
  • Only one room can be seen at a time, so the player must either remember the requirements for each one or spend time looking at each one every time they choose a new room/Adventure.

Physical:

  • Lots and lots of parts means the game takes a very long time to set up.
  • The game can be played by up to eight people, making it a great party game and a good choice at a games night with lots of guests, where other games might leave people out.
  • Midnight and Terror effects are written in small print on the cards, making them easy to overlook.
  • Although more expensive than the digital game, the physical edition is one of the cheaper games on the market (keep an eye out for frequent price reductions too).
  • Despite being cheaper than many games, the build quality is fantastic and the pieces are all well made and lovely to handle.
  • There are only two expansions. However, for those of us trying to limit our rapidly growing game collections, this may be a good thing!
  • The cards representing the rooms are laid out on the table and the requirements for each one can be seen all at once, making choosing your next room/Adventure easier.
  • Best played with a group, so not ideal if you don’t have a gaming group or local gamer friends nearby.

GeekMom received the base game of Elder Signs: Omens for review purposes.