PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

PAX – where Gamers go to Loot.

Walk the exhibition hall and the first thing thrown at you is every big name in the video game industry, and more. The hype is about new and upcoming games; the atmosphere is about promoting the most unreal gaming experience.

In between all the glitz and glory are the indie developers, stealing all the tweets. Part 2 of my PAX review is aimed squarely at the video games: the games planning to conquer the world… and the ones I predict will succeed.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

If the “geek shall inherit the Earth” then PAX is where they divvy up the loot.

As an expo, it is a huge opportunity to try new games, find new talent, and “mingle with your people.” Trust me—I have plenty of new finds to +1 your geek status.

But as a social hub? It’s a whole other level.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

Amiibo-geddon Is Here!

If you thought the Nintendo Wii U was unpopular or that Disney Infinity and Skylanders characters ruled the cute little video game figures market… wrong! Nintendo released Wave 4 of their amiibo figures today, and people were waiting in line to get them. I was at the Toys”R”Us in Cary, North Carolina, and there were at least 40 people in line. I got in line at 9:15 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. opening, but some people had been waiting in line for hours!

Wave 4 amiibo line at Toys" R"Us
Waiting in line for Wave 4 amiibos at Toys”R”Us. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

My experience was very orderly. Toys”R”Us handed out purchase tickets for the desired figures. This store had 38 Greninja figures, and I got ticket 33. Woohoo! I was doing that estimate-how-many-people-are-in-front-of-me thing and was worried.

Toys"R"Us Wave 4 amiibo purchase ticket. Photo: Maryann Goldman
Toys”R”Us Wave 4 amiibo purchase ticket. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

As we stood in line, we discussed which figures we wanted, what our game plan was for hitting all the stores with exclusives, and the heat. Although the shopping experience was similar to Black Friday, it felt more like Red Friday as we melted in the heat and worried about getting sunburned.

One mother even had a special sheet that her son prepared for her to make sure she went to the right stores in the right order and secured the correct amiibos. Wow!

amiibo wish list
Amiibo wish list prepared by child. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Let’s be clear: My 12-year-old son, Joey, is the reason I was in line. He started talking my head off about the Wave 4 amiibo release a week ago and asked me to, “Please, please, please go get them.” I did my best.

So what did I get?

At Toys”R”Us, I got Silver Mario and Greninja.

Toys"R"Us amiibo figures
Amiibo figures from Toys”R”Us. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

At Best Buy, I got Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, and Charizard.

Best Buy amiibo figures
Amiibo figures from Best Buy. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

And at Target, I got Jigglypuff.

Target amiibo figure
Amiibo figure from Target. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Joey will be pleased, although he is still hoping for Meta Knight and Rosalina/Luma, which came out in Wave 3 back in February. They are going for $50 or more now on Amazon and eBay. Gulp!

If you missed out on the amiibos you wanted today at your local store, you can try Amazon, but make sure to follow their ordering instructions and time intervals. Also, I previously ordered a Japanese marked Pac-Man from Amazon, and I can report that it works just fine with our United States Wii U.

8 Ways to Be a Pokémon Smart Parent

All of the Pokémon! All of the time! Photo: Cathe Post

Are Pokémon cards taking over your house? Here are 8 ways to embrace the little pocket monsters.

  1. Do you have a bunch of cards sitting around? Do your kids carry them in their pockets in a jumbled mess? Build them a playable deck! (Don’t worry, the monsters only bite each other.)
  2. Take your Pokémon experience a bit further, learn the basics of playing the game. Even if you have old cards from your brother’s attic, you can still play the game!
  3. If you don’t have cards, you can learn while you play online. No cards needed, just an internet connection.
  4. Do you have video games instead of cards? There are some great guides for beginning Pokémon video game players. Even if you are just interested in the art of Pokémon, there is a video game for that, too.
  5. Ready for playing with other Pokémon fans? Find a league near you!
  6. Are you ready to go completely crazy with Pokémon?! Check out the Twitch channel, YouTube channel, Netflix line up, and more!
  7. Did you know you can be a real Pokémon Professor (if you are 18 or older)? Take the test to see if you have what it takes! (I was a professor for two years and believe me when I say you earn the title.)
  8. Show your Pokémon Pride! Make a shirt, read about the Pokémon, or collect the little characters.

Gotta Draw ‘Em All! Hands On With Pokémon Art Academy

© Nintendo
All images © Nintendo

Aspiring artists of all ages will love getting their hands on Pokémon Art Academy, out on October 24 for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS. If you have a Pokémon fan in the house, picking up this game is a no-brainer. Pokémon Art Academy walks players through step-by-step lessons, from novice to expert, to teach them how to draw some of their favorite pocket monsters.

The lessons, led by Professor Andy, introduce new drawing tools and art concepts for each level of expertise. You’ll learn about concepts like symmetry, perspective, and construction shapes, all while using the stylus to trace (and eventually draw freehand) some of Pokémon’s biggest stars.

Kids as young as preschool and kindergarten can even grab the stylus and play. You’ll need to do a lot of reading out loud to walk them through the lessons, but that can make for some entertaining family game time together. It’s also a perfect opportunity to work on fine motor skills like tracing and holding the stylus the correct way. (We are still working on that in my house.) While they will probably only be able to complete the Novice Course exercises, there are plenty of Pokémon for them to draw in the extra lessons and free draw.

Art by my five-year-old.
Art by my five-year-old.

My five-year-old is a big fan of the game. In fact, she wanted to tell you all about Pokémon Art Academy herself! Here she is demonstrating one of the novice lessons: drawing Oshawott.

Pokémon Art Academy is part game, part art lesson, and an altogether fun way to spend a fall afternoon. I even go through a lesson now and then when I’m looking for some quiet time for myself. It’s a great addition to your DS library, one of those rare games that you can pick it up for five minutes and still feel like you’ve accomplished something.

Pokémon Art Academy is available on October 24 for a suggested retail price of $29.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Giveaway: Pokémon TCG: XY-Flashfire Booster Box and Theme Decks!

Image: The Pokémon Company

We here at GeekMom have a great giveaway for the aspiring Pokémon trainer in your life featuring the Pokémon TCG: XY-Flashfire expansion pack. This expansion pack includes the Mega Charizard-EX and Mega Kangaskhan-EX cards, as well as the Brilliant Thunder theme deck and Mystic Typhoon theme deck. You know the Pokémon fan in your life would love to have these for their next game.

The giveaway includes (1) Booster Box and (2) Themed Decks for a total of three items. Entering is super easy through the Rafflecopter link below. You can even enter multiple times to increase your chances of winning.

The contest will run through midnight ET on Wednesday, April 13th, at which time a winner will be randomly selected. As soon as that winner is notified, their name will be posted right in the widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note this giveaway is open only to those with shipping addresses within the continental United States.

Good luck!

Mommy and Me Time With Pokemon XY

My son has all the best badges! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
My son has all the best badges! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Pokemon XY reintroduced me to my love of the Pokemon world. Not to age myself, but I loved playing the original Pokemon Red on my Game Boy color when I was twelve years old. Over time though, I lost my love of Pokemon somewhere between my teenage years and my adult years. Thanks to a Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY, I’ve rediscovered my long-lost love of trying to “catch them all.”

In the past few months, my life has gotten not only complicated but stressful, and one day while looking for a way to relax, my younger brother brought over his old Game Boy Advance and his Pokemon games for me to play.


My love of Pokemon instantly came back to me like an old friend who had been away on vacation. I carefully changed the battery in the game console, blew it out to rid it of any dust, and then I sat down and got to work trying to catch them all.

A funny thing happened that day. Not only did I rediscover my love of Pokemon, but my 8-year-old son discovered his love as well. He was intrigued by the old Game Boy system and instantly wanted to play. Of course, he was a little disappointed when he asked if it would work with the iPad and I told him no <shaking my head>. Despite the fact that his newer Nintendo 3DS is fancier and has two back-lit screens, he was still excited to sit down and play on my old Game Boy Color and learn how to capture Pokemon of his own.

As I started to play, I remembered the fun I used to have playing video games. You see, as the years have gone by, the consoles have become more advanced and the graphics more realistic, causing me to get migraines from a few minutes of play…

With the video game trend growing in terms of graphics and realism, I was afraid I would be stuck playing my Game Boy Color for the rest of my life (or its life, whichever ended sooner). Then…I saw the light in the form of the Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY. With the gentle graphics in Pokemon XY and the non-3D effect of the 2DS, I’ve learned I can play for up to 45 minutes without any regret.

It didn’t take long before my son discovered my shiny new hardware and a few days later (and a lot of begging on his part), I downloaded the game onto his DS so we could play together.

I’ll admit that I was a little skittish giving my son his own Pokemon. After all, he doesn’t know the difference between the types, their unique powers, or how to level them up to defeat the gym leaders. I decided to put my fears and worries aside and let him find his own way. Turns out, that wasn’t such a bad idea, because the game pretty much taught him everything he needed to know. With the exception of choosing his first Pokemon because it was “cute,” he’s battled his way through more gym badges than I have and captured a nice array of Pokemon (in my defense, it’s my lack of time, not skill, that has allowed him to pass me in gym badges).

After playing for a few days, I realized a few differences in this Pokemon game versus the ones I grew up with.

The first difference I noticed was the ability to choose between a male or female lead character and whichever you chose to be, your companion will be the opposite. Something else I noticed was the inclusion of a few more friendly characters, mostly trainers your character’s age, to help you along the way. Each of them has a different reason for catching Pokemon, just like each player in the real world has a different reason for playing.

Pokemon XY also has a few new faces, including three new starter Pokemon. In case you’re wondering, my son chose Chespin and I chose Fennekin (whom I’ve nicknamed Fen). There’s also a wide range of game-version-specific Pokemon, and a few other features that the previous games I’ve played didn’t have, including fancy boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and five-star hotels.

The boutiques are special, because they sell a wide variety of fashions in which to dress your character up, and further personalize the game character to its real-world player. I didn’t think I would care too much about the fashions, but then I realized I could get everything from my hair cut, to contacts, to jeans, and t-shirts that reflected my own style instead of the boring default style the game developers give you.

The restaurants are also pretty neat to check out, as some of them only cater to special Pokemon types. Make sure you check them out when you run into them because some of the food provides special energy to you and your Pokemon.

Of course, no game is perfect and I found a couple of things particularly annoying.

First the gym leaders are sometimes easier to beat than the ordinary trainers you find on the paths to the city. I have four badges, and so far I have yet to lose to a gym leader in a battle. Actually, the further along I get in the game, the easier it seems to be to beat the gym leader. Kalos City is the exception, because before you can get to the gym leader you have to answer three quiz questions and beat three trainers. If you choose the wrong answer to the question, you have to retry the question and face another trainer until you get it right.

The second thing I found annoying was how many times I would talk to someone and they would say “here’s something to help you along your journey.” For players who get stuck, this is great. For those who prefer to battle their way to the top with minimum interference, this will hinder your experience. If you prefer to train your Pokemon the old fashion way, you know, through battles…talk when you want and skip around. There are times when talking to someone is required and most of the time, the game will clue you in.

In the beginning, I found the amount of cash you win from various trainers to be a little excessive. After visiting some of the boutiques for clothes, Pokemon gear, and other items, I realized the insane amounts of money you win is actually necessary if you want to purchase any of the upgrades.

There are a few other added bonuses to this game that I haven’t played with much, but seem like they would be fun for younger players. One of those features is Pokemon Amie, and it reminds me of Nintendogs for the DS. Basically this is the area where you get to play and feed your Pokemon like it was a virtual pet.

It’s been fun getting back into the Pokemon world and teaching my son everything I know about the game. And next to reading comics, it’s become one of our favorite ways to spend time together.

Overall, Pokemon XY has given me a way to relax and spend some quality time with my son. What more could a mom ask for in a game?

Pokemon XY is available for Nintendo DS consoles. Check your local game seller or Amazon for pricing and availability.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review sample. 

Parent’s Guide to Pokémon Part 2: Playing the Game

The Eevee dicebag is exploding with cards and dice. Someone is ready to play Pokemon! (All images: Cathe Post)

Last time we talked about how to build a Pokémon card deck. It’s time to learn how to play the game!


First let’s look at a Pokemon card.

  1. Name and Evolution: The name and evolution of the Pokémon will be listed in the upper left-hand corner of the card. This card is Eelektrik. It is a Stage 1 (1st Evolution) Pokémon. It even says in little, tiny, print what this Pokémon evolved from (Evolves from Tynamo).
  2. Hit Points: HP, or hit points, shows how much damage the Pokemon can take before it is knocked out.
  3. Type: The symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the card shows what type of Pokémon it is.
  4. Ability: Not all Pokémon have abilities. When they do, be sure to read if it is something that can happen every turn, or only under certain conditions.
  5. Attacks: Read the text carefully. Sometimes the attack will also require a coin-flip to determine additional effects. The little circles indicate how many/what kind of energy need to be attached to the Pokémon in order to perform the attack. The number at the end is how much damage the attack does to the other player’s Pokémon.
  6. Weakness & Resistance: When a Pokémon is weak to another type of Pokémon, they take more damage. In this case, Eelektrik will take twice as much damage from a Fighting type Pokémon. Likewise, there may be a Pokémon type that does less damage to an active Pokémon. Eelektric is not resistant to any type of damage, but it is something to keep an eye out for.
  7. Retreat: If this Pokémon is in play, and becomes injured or another Pokémon on the bench would work better, the number of energy listed under retreat needs to be paid in order for the Pokémon to be benched. The energy needs to come off the Pokémon that will be benched, and is discarded.
  8. Flavor Text: A cute quote, something from the show, or something shows up in this little box. It is just there and does not affect game play.
  9. Card Number and Series: The number and symbol in the lower corner indicate what number the card is, and what series it is a part of. Card series come out a couple of times a year, but can be used with other sets.

Now that we understand what our Pokémon do, we can play the game! I could write out a bunch of steps, but it would probably be more confusing than just showing you. My daughter happily volunteered to play a game with me so we could share this how-to-play with you.

Next time we will talk about the benefits of Pokémon and resources for you and your children who want to be more involved in the Pokémon community.

A Parent’s Guide to ‘Pokemon’ Part 1: Deck Building

Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here's GeekMom's Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building
Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here’s GeekMom’s Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building Images: Cathe Post

Your kid just came home with some playing cards that have colorful little monsters on them. If you haven’t been exposed to Pokemon before, you aren’t alone. Breathe. That’s why I’m here. I’m going to help you understand the basics of the game, and how to build a deck.

Pokemon is an animated show, a series of video games, and a card game about people who collect, train, and battle the cute, weird monsters (Pokemon) that inhabit their world. In the card game, the player takes the role of of a Pokemon Trainer and battles another trainer. The cards represent the player’s collection of Pokemon, and items, other people, and tools that the Trainer can use to influence the battle. The play of the game represents the battle as the two Trainers direct their Pokemon to knock their opponent’s Pokemon out of the battle.

If there is a game store where you live, they will almost certainly carry Pokemon cards. Most big retail stores carry them, too; Target and Walmart are excellent places to find deals. If your kid is interested in Pokemon, but doesn’t have any (or very few) cards, look for a theme deck (around $10 for one deck). Most likely it will be a cardboard box, about the size of a VHS case, that says it contains one deck of 60 cards. After you have your deck picked, booster packs and tins can supplement the deck with more powerful or prettier cards.

If you have a bunch of random cards, or want to incorporate a few random cards into a new theme deck, we should learn how to build a deck. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is 20 energy, 20 Pokemon, and 20 Trainer cards for a 60 card deck. Once you have built a few decks and know what cards you want to play, you’ll see how fudging some of those numbers work and others don’t. Using this set-up to start will make it fairly easy to learn and play the game.

Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here's GeekMom's Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building
These are Legendary Pokemon. They do not have evolutions and are quite powerful on their own.

There are three main categories of cards. First, let’s talk about Pokemon. These are the little monsters that the player uses to battle their opponent’s Pokemon. They come in different types: Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, Psychic, Dark, Fighting, and Dragon (Dragon is a fairly new kind). There are Pokemon who can evolve and are noted by Basic, Stage 1, and Stage 2 under the Pokemon’s name—these Pokemon will start off in their Basic form, which can evolve into their Stage 1 form, and may be able to evolve into their Stage 2 form. Another kind of Pokemon is a Legendary. They don’t evolve and are quite powerful on their own. Be forewarned—these are the Pokemon your kids will ask for—especially the ones that are like the ones above. These are known as “full-art” cards because the artwork covers the card instead of just being a tiny picture. The full-art cards don’t come in theme decks. Normally these can be found by chance in a booster pack.

Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here's GeekMom's Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building

Find a Pokemon your child likes. If it is a Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokemon, try to put two or three in the deck—three of the Stage 1, and four of the basic (see above, I put three basic and two Stage 1) . If your child picks a Legendary Pokemon, try to put four in a deck. After the favorite Pokemon has been picked, try to find other Pokemon of the same type (Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, etc.) to compliment the main Pokemon. If they want, you can have two different types of Pokemon in the deck, but for a new player, it’s best to limit it to one or two types and no more. Once you have come up with about 20 Pokemon total, you are ready to move on to energy—just make sure you don’t have more than four of any one card!

Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here's GeekMom's Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building --- Energy!
Energy! This is the Electric Energy for my deck. I also have some Special Energies, but no more than four each of those. I can have as many electric energy as I want!

Next, we can move on to energy. Energy is needed to power the Pokemon’s abilities. Look through all of your energy and try to find 20 that match the symbols on the Pokemon in the deck. If the deck has Pokemon of two different types, try to include energy of both types in approximately equal numbers. You can have as many copies of basic energy cards as you’d like. Special Energy are also an option. They can be more versatile, but a deck can only have four of any kind of Special Energy in a deck.

Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here's GeekMom's Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building

Trainer cards are the final part of your deck. These cards can do all sorts of things, from healing Pokemon to letting the player search their deck for a card or many other effects. There are Items, Stadiums, and Supporters. When picking 20 Trainer cards, try for a good mix of Items and Supporters. Here’s why: During a player’s turn, only one Supporter can be played, but multiple Items can be played. Stadiums behave differently; they sit between two players and affect both players whereas most cards only affect one player. Again, there can only be a maximum of four copies of any Trainer card in your deck.

Once you and your child have picked out about 20 each of Pokemon, Energy, and Trainer cards, count them up! If you are slightly under 60 cards total, see if you can add another copy of a Trainer card that you only put one or two of in the deck, or another copy of a Basic Pokemon, or one or two more energy. If you are over 60, double-check that your Pokemon have one less Stage 1 than Basic in the deck, and one less Stage 2 than Stage 1. If you are including four copies of a trainer card, consider including only three or two. Once you have exactly 60 cards, the deck is ready to go.

Do your kids ask how to play Pokemon? Here's GeekMom's Guide to Playing Pokemon Part 1: Deck Building

One other note: Most theme decks come with a coin and some cardboard damage markers. These are great items to collect, but aren’t very useful while playing the game. Instead, try using clear six-sided dice. I say clear because if your child decides to play at a league or in a tournament, dice a judge can’t see through will not be allowed. When using a die as a coin, evens equal heads and odds equal tails. When a die is laid on a Pokemon, each die-pip can represent 10 damage.

Next time we will talk about how to play the game. I am excited to hear what decks you build!

The Pokémon Trading Card Game: Legends of Kalos Tins Giveaway!

Pokémon TCG_Legends of Kalos Tins
Pokémon TCG Legends of Kalos Tins, Image: Pokémon

GeekMom has three sets of the new Legends of Kalos tins from The Pokémon Trading Card Game to giveaway to our lucky readers!

Each tin includes one of two new Pokémon. There’s either the Life Pokémon Xerneas or the Destruction Pokémon Yveltal. Each of the tins has a Xerneas-EX or Yveltal-EX special foil card along with four Pokémon TCG booster packs and a bonus code card for The Pokémon Trading Card Game Online. The tins are valued at $17.99 each and are also perfect for holding all your cards and keeping everything nice and organized.

Now you can win one of three sets of The Pokémon Trading Card Game tins that includes one Xerneas tin and one Yveltal tin. To enter our giveaway just log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and Twitter for up to two entries! A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget so you can check back to see who won.

Contest open to winners with shipping addresses in the continental United States only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!

TPCi is not the giveaway sponsor nor coordinator, nor has any formal association with the contest, but is a supplier of the product.

April Fool’s Day Fun Brought to You by the Google Maps App

Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer. Watch the video at this link.

Google really pulled out all the stops for this year’s April Fool’s Day stunt. They launched a Pokémon Challenge recruiting video, suggesting that those who are really good at catching them can simply use their mobile devices, with Google Maps installed, to catch 150 Pokemon scattered around the world. Those who succeed might be recruited by Google!

Do you want in on the fun? This capability only exists on Google Map apps for Android and iOS and is probably quite short-lived. I don’t expect it to last much past today. Simply ensure your Google Maps app is updated and then initiate a search. When you click on the “Search” box, you should see a blue-colored “Press start” button with a Pokéball icon.

The blue icon should be available on your Google Maps app if you have the most recent version. Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
The blue icon should be available on your Google Maps app if you have the most recent version. Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Select the “Press start” button and you will be whisked away to the Pokémon Lab, which is really the Googleplex at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. You’ll be greeted with a bunch of Pokémon on the map. Just tap the monsters, catch them, and they’ll be added and cataloged in your very own mobile Pokédex.

My sons and I are all playing against each other on separate devices that all have Google Maps installed. My sons are much better at it than I am, and one of my sons has even hit the 25 Collected badge as of this writing.

Simply tap the Pokémon and they'll be added to your Pokédex! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Simply tap the Pokémon and they’ll be added to your Pokédex! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Image Capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Catch enough Pokémon and you can earn badges! Because what game is complete without badges! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.
Catch enough Pokémon and you can earn badges! Because what game is complete without badges! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Are you playing along? Let us know how you’re doing and where you’re finding them!

Win All Three Pokémon Trading Card Game XY Kalos Starter Sets!

Pokémon TCG: XY Series

The latest addition to the Pokémon Trading Card Game is the new series of XY Kalos Starter Set Deluxe Versions and GeekMom is giving you a chance to win all three!

These new sets introduce Fairy-type Pokémon and Fairy Energy to the game. This is the eleventh Pokémon type introduced into the trading card game and the first new once since 2009 when they introduced the Dragon type.

Each of these 60-card decks features a different brand new Pokémon. There’s Chespin, Fennekin, or Froakie and since these are the deluxe versions they also each include a Black and White Series booster pack.

To enter our giveaway just log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and Twitter for up to two entries! A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget so you can check back to see who won.

Contest open to winners with shipping addresses in the continental United States only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Giveaway: Win $120 Worth Of Pokémon Trading Cards!

Pokémon Plasma Freeze, Image: The Pokémon Company International

Here’s your chance to get your hands on all the cards you need to build the perfect deck. We’re giving away cards from the brand new Pokémon Trading Card Game: Black and White Plasma Freeze expansion to one lucky GeekMom reader.

The prize pack includes (1) box (36 packs) of Plasma Freeze Booster Packs, (1) Leafeon Theme Deck and (1) Glaceon Theme Deck worth $120 total.

To enter our giveaway just log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and Twitter for up to two entries! A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget so you can check back to see who won.

Contest open to winners with addresses in the continental United States only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BookExpo 2013: Great Books for GeekKids

Coming Soon: Pokemon Visual Companion. Photo: Amy Kraft
DK Publishing’s Lego Chima awesomeness. Photo: Amy Kraft

BookExpo America took place earlier this month in New York City, and it’s always one of my favorite events. I always need to leave myself a few days to see the show because I’m constantly stopping to read in the booths and waiting in autograph lines. This year my autograph lines included many of my kidlit favorites, including Jon Scieszka, Oliver Jeffers, Bob Shea, Betsy Lewin, and Peter Reynolds, all of whom have new books out.

I fell in love with a ton of picture books, especially Bob Shea’s Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, and saw Star Wars books aplenty. There were no shortage of books for your GeekKids. Here are some more to get excited about.

I was recently talking to a mom who was telling me how much time her son spends with the Lego encyclopedias from DK Publishing. Now, for kids who love Pokemon, there’s the Pokemon Visual Companion.

Angry Birds, now with more learning! Photo: Amy Kraft

Kids who love Angry Birds can convince their parents that the games are educational with the new National Geographic books that use Angry Birds to teach about physics and space.

Bob Der, Director of Time for Kids with the latest book collection. Photo: Amy Kraft

I had a lovely chat with Bob Der, Director of Time for Kids, about getting kids excited about reading (especially nonfiction) and how Time for Kids is finding a home in the classroom. Their books are about topics kids get excited about, like dinosaurs and sports and crazy, weird facts and information. They also have digital versions of many books to have a presence on interactive whiteboards in the classroom, “high-impact versions” made better with video. When I think about all the nonfiction requirements in the Common Core Standards, I’m glad for things like Time for Kids.

The classics made cozier. Photo: Amy Kraft

Cozy Classics are an adorable line of board books that attempt to tell classic tales like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick through a handful of photographs of felted characters paired with single words. It helps to have read the original to be able to fill in some detail for your tot. I can imagine giving two copies of Pride and Prejudice to a new mom—the grownup one for her and the Cozy Classic version for baby.

An interactive experience from Ripley’s. Photo: Amy Kraft

As a kid I was a fan of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not segments that appeared in my Sunday comics, and I’ve stayed intrigued all these years. Ripley’s had a great presence at BookExpo this year, including the gigantic Dare to Look! book. Scan pages with your smart phone to see more videos and images.

One of the many great finds in the Chronicle booth. Photo: Amy Kraft

There was much to salivate over in the Chronicle book, including Carnivores, a hilarious book by Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat, a bunch of new Taro Gomi books, and this cool Make Your Own Robot kit that looks like a ready-made birthday gift. 

Watch your fingers! Photo: Amy Kraft

I wish I could tell you this was a real Monster Book of Monsters, but alas it was just a box. What a great place to store your treasures, though. People would think twice before opening.

Other books that came home with me to fill my summer with reading are Octavia Spencer’s debut novel, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective:The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit; the latest in Lemony Snicket’s All the Wrong Questions series, “When Did You See Her Last?”; the new Guys Read anthology Other Worlds; and Gordon Korman’s Hypnotize Me, book 1 of The Hypnotists. I’ve got a reading-filled summer ahead of me.

Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist



Summer vacation is here! Or, it is looming in the not-so-distant future. Either way, kids are getting edgy and are requesting video suggestions to keep them entertained for a few minutes. So, this week’s video playlist features videos the GeekMom writers’ kids enjoy.

GeekMom Video Playlist for the week of June 6. Videos include a singing bird, Lego cartoons, music, NASA engineering, how to make a rocket, and Pokémon Minecraft. All of these videos are for the kids.
GeekMom Video Playlist for the week of June 6. Videos include a singing bird, Lego cartoons, music, NASA engineering, how to make a rocket, and Pokémon Minecraft. All of these videos are for the kids.

This week’s playlist and all of the previous weeks can be found on our YouTube channel. You can also find an up-to-date playlist of all of the GeekMom’s Game of Thrones Season 3 Recap Tea Party episodes.

A GeekMom’s 34 Goals for 2012

Number 17 on my list of goals: Have one thriving crop. This mutant carrot is the outcome of my last gardening attempt. Photo by Cathe Post.

A friend of mine recently published her professional website after months of preparation. One of her premier posts shared 30 things she would like to do this year in honor of turning 30. It’s not a milestone birthday year for me, but the idea made sense. In an effort to set reasonable goals instead of unattainable demands, I’m going to follow in IndieKate‘s blog-steps and create a 34 in 2012 list. Here it goes…

  1. Work on getting in shape – I just signed up for Fitocracy so I can log all of my Dance Central time in Workout Mode.
  2. Keep up with my blog – I would like to share more on my personal blog than a log of articles I write for GeekMom. Some blogs I read just share one moment from the day that their readers can identify with. I’d like to do the same, if I’m not cleaning up the mess from said moment…
  3. Social Butterfly – I want to put myself out there more. I am on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoodreads and Google +. I hope to cross share through all of these platforms at least once a week.
  4. Keep up with Phineas and Ferb this summer – There is a calendar. I printed it for my daughter last summer and we only did about a third of the things that we wrote on it (let alone the ideas that came with it).
  5. Watch less TV – My husband would probably not understand this one. I listen to Netflix shows while I’m on the computer. If I listened to audiobooks or podcasts instead, I would probably be better off.
  6. Read More – I HATE reading. Due to my astigmatism, I end up reading the same line in a book multiple times before getting past it. It makes book reading less than fun. It’s “better” now that we have a Kindle Fire, because I can show one paragraph per page and increase the font size, but it still hurts my eyes – I have to really be interested in the book.
  7. Learn at least one more of my husband’s miniature games – I played Warhammer Fantasy with my husband for a year. It was great fun. But, I played the season, won the tournament (and a really cool sword) and left it at that. So now I should catch up and learn Blood BowlHell Dorado, and Dystopian Wars.
  8. Learn an activity with my daughter – I don’t care if it’s Heroclix or something non-geeky – we had a lot of fun learning Pokémon together (have you heard the recent GeekMom podcast?). Mother/daughter bonding is good.
  9. Earn my Tournament Organizer’s title for Pokémon – Since I keep running computers for Pokémon tournaments, I really should have a copy of the program on my computer. In order to have that, I need to earn my stripes!
  10. Drink water – 8 glasses a day…blah…blah…blah…
  11. GeekMom – The responsibilities of a core contributor on GeekMom are not unreasonable, and yet I find myself fighting to keep up from time to time. I would like to work to 125% of what is required, because GeekMom is a great community to be part of. I keep find myself saying, “That would make a great article.” So, sit down and write the article already!
  12. Pre-school – This would be a goal for later in the year. As my youngest nears turning three, I look at the pre-school choices and cringe. The idea of teaching him myself is daunting, but doable – and he’d love it.
  13. Eat more veggies – I eat veggies twice a day on a good day. I could be better about it.
  14. Ride my bike – Even riding my bike once this summer would be more than I did last year.
  15. Edit out the virtual garbage – This would include cleaning out the backup hard drive, deleting old documents, and having everything backed up and organized in one location…instead of three.
  16. Make headway in the yard – We put in a playground (swings and a slide thanks to my parents) this last summer. We have a small rectangular backyard. I would like a third of it to be raised gardens and a stone oven for baking pizza/bread, a third lawn, and a third playground. It means DOING IT.
  17. Have one crop thrive – I have a black thumb. Enough said.
  18. Go back to church – I haven’t been in a year. Again, if I make it once this year, it will be a step in the right direction.
  19. Vote – I missed our last local election and felt guilty about it for weeks. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain about how your taxes are spent.
  20. Date – My husband. I need to make that clear. I have known my husband since 1993. We started dating in 1998, and were married in 2003. Several times we’ve misplaced the romance. We seem to find it if we can go on a date.
  21. Pet the cats – Isn’t it scientifically proven that animals can reduce stress levels? I have four cats, so I should be four times less stressed, right?
  22. ADHD – I need to learn all I can about this. My daughter was diagnosed with it, and I think it is a HUGE source of the behavior issues we have had in the last three years. Learning how to help her deal with her symptoms will be a relief.
  23. Remain close to my parents – I am an only child. My parents live less than 5 miles away. I have tried very hard to be there for them this year as my mom has taken on difficult volunteer tasks and my dad has undergone chemotherapy. This year can only be better for them, right?
  24. Have a cemented financial plan – Being in a one income household is hard. I am thankful that my husband’s job provides a roof over our head and food on the table. GeekMom Judy Berna had a similar resolution this year.
  25. Learn how to fix one thing – My husband is very handy. He cooks, he sews, he fixes the stuff that needs fixing. Just once I should take initiative and learn to do it myself instead of asking him.
  26. Attempt to potty train – My 2-year-old wants to do everything his sister does. So, perhaps this summer I will have the guts to attempt to teach him how to use the potty. Isn’t it as easy as throwing cheerios in the toilet and having them do target practice?
  27. Write a book with my daughter – She loves drawing and telling stories. It would probably be a great geeky story – an epic tale even!
  28. Start a video podcast – The hubby and I have been watching Hank and Katherine Play Super Mario Brothers Wii! on YouTube. Where my husband is inspired to play his ukulele and make videos someday like the DoubleclicksMolly Lewis, or Pomplamoose, I want to make a board game blog. We shall see if I can get anyone to help me – I can’t really play board games by myself.
  29. Brush up on my sign language – I used to be fluent, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  30. Run a D&D campaign – I don’t know that RPG Kids would count. But I would run a one-shot game in a heartbeat.
  31. Add to my client base – It would be nice to have a couple more clients to tutor in the art of running a computer.
  32. Make one item out of one of my craft books – Complete a large fiber project  (like an afghan) or a project from a craft book. I have a shelf full of craft/fiber books that are fun to look at, but I haven’t done anything other than look at them. I have done a few projects from the GeekDad books, but I want to complete ALL OF THEM.
  33. Do one Arduino project – This is an intelligence challenge. Can I be smarter than the programming language? (I wasn’t in college – that’s for sure).
  34. Enter one photography show – Just one. Just enough of a commitment that I have to attempt to take artsy-fartsy shots throughout the year.

I don’t think this list is unattainable. It will take some work, but there isn’t one thing on this list I can’t finish (maybe 33, but I will at least attempt it). What are your goals for 2012? Do you have some of the same crazy plans as I do?

GeekGirlCon is This Weekend…See You There?

Be still my heart! There is actually a convention for us girls now! It’s in Seattle, so those of you on the East Coast have a ways to trek it (haha, I made a geek funny), but there is indeed a convention made “just for her” and it’s called GeekGirlCon!

That said, I’m dragging my husband with me this weekend to the maiden-voyage of the event. I was looking forward to the GeekGirlCONcert, but it is on Friday night and we won’t make it into Seattle until Saturday. The rest of the weekend proves to be just as entertaining though, with celebrities like Star Wars crafter Bonnie Burton and TV writer Jane Espenson. (I might have a small geek-out if I meet either of these ladies this weekend.) D&D  blogger and podcaster @SarahDarkMagic will also be there, and I’m crossing my fingers to run into her and meet her in person (since I have been following her on Twitter FOREVER).

There are a slew of workshops and games to play in the gaming room. With names like Steve Jackson and Looney Labs on the playlist and workshops like “How to Paint a Miniature,” I have a feeling a major part of our weekend will be spent here (since our daughter will be attending too).

There is a Masquerade on Saturday that my daughter and I might take part in or at least attend for photos. We will be wearing our matching Pokémon skirts that were a hit at PAX, but whether we make it depends how tired we are by Saturday evening.

My list of vendors to visit is HUGE. I’m quickly becoming a comic book fan as my daughter is interested in them too. There will be several female comic book authors and artists there to visit. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the Cute Factory is all about and Geek Stained Glass.

Finally, Sunday I will be moderating the Geeks Raising Geeks panel. Panelists include Nancy HolderBelle HolderCarrie GoldmanKatie GoldmanJenn FujikawaSharon Feliciano, and Stephanie Kaloi.

If you are going to be in Seattle this weekend, I hope to see you there. I will be tweeting (@GamerMom1_0) if I can get reception on my phone. Be sure to say hello!

Balancing Board Games and Babies Part II

My Pokemon mentor once said to me, “The family that games together, stays together.” He couldn’t be more correct.

A few weeks ago I shared with you how my husband and I balance being parents and gamers. My husband and I encourage our kids to play games as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a game we made up with balls, an educational game, a board game, or a video game. Don’t get me wrong, video game play is earned and the time spent playing them is monitored.

Educational games for kids are fairly easy to find. Several companies focus on educational games for kids. Kid appropriate games that are just like mom and dad’s are a little harder to come by.

Our kids often are more interested in the games we play instead of their own. So, here are some kid friendly ideas that are related to the adult versions our little geek 2.0’s might not be ready for.

Pokémon instead of Magic the Gathering

Try Pokémon instead of Magic the Gathering: The mechanics are very similar. The artwork is amazing without being as graphic as Magic. I know some parents cringe at the thought of letting the cute little animé creatures into their homes. The truth is, I used to be one of those parents. Then Call of Legends was released and my then 4-year-old daughter fell in love and was inspired to read. She can now read the cards and count by 10’s and she isn’t even in Kindergarten yet. I think these skills were greatly helped by playing Pokémon. Strategy skills and other math skills are also exercised by playing. Card packs run $4-$15. Most leagues are free and some even offer decks to check out and play.


RPG Kids instead of Dungeons and Dragons


Try RPG Kids instead of Dungeons and Dragons: RPG Kids is a simpler version of Dungeons and Dragons for kids age 4-7. It only uses two dice and the characters can be as simple as attacking only, all the way to having feats and resistances (if you want them). This game also offers an opportunity for parents who have never been a DM before to do so. The game is very easy to run and set up. It comes with pieces that you can cut out, or you can make your own. It can be purchases for $2.99 from RPG Kids uses math, reading, and strategy skills.
















Try Hero Quest instead of Warhammer or other war games.













Try Hero Scape or Hero Quest instead of miniature war games like Warhammer: Over a year ago, my husband and I were both very much into playing Warhammer. Since we spent a decent ammount of time painting our miniatures and playing the game, our daughter also became interested. We found a copy of Heroscape at our local second hand store. We took all of the miniatures out and let her play with them while we were playing Warhammer. Now she’s ready for Hero Quest which has a similar turn style to RPG Kids. If you have crafty kids, why not let them paint a spare miniature?


Computer games aren’t evil, but computers might be (the cake is a LIE)!: We used to be into playing World of Warcraft and other MMO’s. Now, if we actually have the time to play on the computer, we tend to play games like Minecraft, Spore, and Portal 2. The skills used in these games have a huge range but include building and following directions in Minecraft, budgetting money and strategy in Spore, and strategy in Portal. These games are fun for the entire family. It has been debated how much time kids should be spending playing video games, and how young is too young, but computer games have been an asset in our house when played in moderation. There are also some great websites that offer educational and fun games such as Starfall, PBS Kids, and a favorite at our house – Pokémon.

Do you have a Leapster or DS?: The games offered for the LeapFrog Leapster system are themed after popular characters our kids like (such as Star Wars and Pixar characters). The games are FAR more educational than games played on the DS systems, but the characters and desirableness are comparable. We have used Leapster gaming time as a reward for helping with chores without being asked or, as a quiet gaming activity while mom and dad are playing with other adults.

I hope the ideas shared here inspire you to share a gaming experience with your kids. They don’t even have to be old enough to read in most cases, all you both need is some imagination and patience. What games have you found recently to play with your kids?

The GeekDad’s Guide to Weekend Fun, Put to the Test

The GeekDad’s Guide to Weekend Fun is the latest book by GeekMom publisher Ken Denmead. All photos by Cathe Post

GeekMoms are no stranger to the GeekDad books. Most recently, Ken Denmead’s book The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun: Cool Hacks, Cutting-Edge Games, and More Awesome Projects for the Whole Family was put to the test in our house. GeekMom Julia has already reviewed the book. So I am offering the outcomes – success and failure – of several attempted projects. Please keep in mind, I am doing projects with primarily early elementary aged children, so less than perfect results were due to our own mistakes.

Pokemon Bingo: This project was just done with my daughter. She loves Pokémon. The research involved with making the cards was good for her because she started separating the factual parts of Pokémon (Pikachu is an electric mouse), from the fictional character part. Since my daughter is learning how to play the card game, we incorporated the type of Pokémon (water, electric, grass, etc.) into the game as well in an effort to learn about animals and elements. Of all the projects we did out of the book, this was her favorite. She likes cutting, gluing, and crafting. The bonus of getting to watch Pokémon and go through Mom’s Guide to Pokémon was a complete bonus. Playing the game was the cherry on top.

Shaving cream art is on three different summer curriculum lists for my daughter’s age. It promotes sensory learning and hand eye skills. Plus, the shaving cream cleans up really easily. We started with toothpicks to draw our designs. My daughter wanted to do a Star Wars design, so we dipped Star Wars cookie cutters in the food coloring to create what we titled, “Abstract in Dark Side.”

Homemade Root Beer: The first time it was made by three kids aged 13, 7, and 5. The second time it was just the 5-year-old (with help from mom). The root beer was made on a out of town family trip. We had to leave before it was ready to drink. But it has been reported that it was very fizzy and had an odd aftertaste. I have a feeling this has something to do with the climate we live in, so I am going scientific this summer to find out recipe tweaks work best for the cool and wet Pacific Northwest.


Measuring speed of light with chocolate: This was a very cool experiment even though we were really far off in our measurements. The two younger kids layered the chocolate into a dish (and ate the chocolate), while the older kid worked the microwave and did the math problems. Due to an old microwave with no sticker, we used the frequency given in the book. The speed we came up with averaged out to 240.5. After we had cleaned up the project my husband posed the following: Given the constant of “C” (as in E=MC^2) “C” is measured in a vacuum. Doesn’t light travel slower through air than it would through chocolate? (We don’t know for sure.) This experiment prompted a compelling discussion about how different things move through air. I felt a little rushed doing the experiment and math is not my strong suit. Those two variables probably also contributed to the skewed outcome.

My kids and I will be attempting other projects throughout the summer from The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun. It doesn’t matter to us if the projects go perfectly the first time or not, it’s the science and learning from successes and failures that matters – just like in life. Though the root beer and chocolate experiments didn’t work out the first time, I would do them again. The hidden scientist in me wants to experiment with variables (different microwave, different storage for root beer, etc.) to see if my results come out closer to what is expected. I have a feeling the kids will enjoy helping…if I let them :-)

Try The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun for yourself. It is available in stores and on Amazon for $12.24 and can also be found at a bookstore near you.

*I received The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun for review purposes.*

Pokemon Black for the DS: A Geek Teen Review

One of the perks of being an official GeekMom is that I receive review copies of some of my kid’s favorite games. My two sons and one daughter were particularly pleased to get their hands on a copy of the new Pokemon Black game for the DS.

I’ve never played a Pokemon game in my life, so I turned this review over to the eldest son, who is fifteen. My daughter reluctantly gave him the game for review. I suspect she might get it back because my son told me he’s now hooked on a Pokemon game again. As you can see, he provided some really detailed information about the game.PokemonBlackESRB

My review of Pokemon Black:
Yep,another Pokemon game. Guess they ran out of Islands to base the regions off of, because this one is a loose replica of New York.

I’ve heard from many people that this is just the same thing as all the other the Pokemon games, and it is, but with some new features. This game managed to surprise me because I think they really listened to the gamers this time. They definitely added to the multiplayer, and you can trade from your PC now, saving you A LOT of time.

Even the post game-play has story elements that the others lacked, leading to hours of your army squashing those bugs the game calls trainers at post-elite four.

As for the new perks, there are a decent amount of obvious ones, such as combining the Pokemon center with the store or TMs being reusable now, and some nice subtle ones, like being able to use pick-up during battle and the soda machines occasionally giving you an extra soda.

Also, the Gyms have become a bit more fun. The puzzles are more fun than agonizing this time around. (I’m looking at you, Sabrina’s Saffron Gym.) The puzzles have decent 3D effects, but are a tad simple to solve.

Also, the Gym Leaders are pretty easy to beat if you know what you’re doing. But then again, they always are. In addition, the new maps are similar to the old ones, but not carbon copies, so you may have to circle around a couple times or look at the Town Map to know where you are going. The scenery is about as amazing as it gets for a DS game, especially if you like bridges. There are several nice ones in both versions. In addition, I think they noticed players don’t talk to regular NPCs anymore, so they gave a lot of them goodies and even HMs. Even the trainers may give you berries or heal you after a fight, which is nice.

Now I’ll talk about the Pokemon themselves.

There is always a new set with a new generation, but this one is almost one hundred percent new generation for a decent chunk of the game before you beat the elite four. The bright side is you won’t see any geodudes or zubats until post-game, the annoying part is you have to wait a long time to play with your old favorites.

But if you want the old ones, just play the old games. Well, you can if you buy multiple copies of the game, beat one, and do some other stuff, but I won’t get into that.

As for this generation, I think they dropped the ball on their looks here. Some of them are uglier than Purugly. Also, a lot of them are terrible to use in the long run. Fortunately, a seasoned veteran can spot the rattata clones and use the good flyers and bug-types. Black and White do offer a large variety of psychic Pokemon, most of which are actually pretty good. Take Victini, the Wi-Fi giveaway that is available until April 10 this year. You can get it early on by just reading the packet that comes in the box for the actual game. It has amazing growth and comes at level 15, a solid level for immediate use in your party. There is even a hidden Ultra Ball on the island you can use to catch it. As for where it is, you need to flash a ticket to a guy on a boat in Castellia City, the site of the second Gym. After getting it, you probably could solo the game with it, but you may want to be a little more sane than that and balance it in your party.

On to the story. A lot of people were impressed with the story, but I wasn’t. I guess I was expecting more, but it’s Pokemon. The story is decent, it just won’t blow your mind away, mainly because it is for a younger audience.

Team Plasma thinks Pokemon don’t belong in Pokeballs, partially to create a dilemma for the protagonist, partially because Game Freak wanted to get a kick out of parodying PETA. They then act all hypocritical, “This is for the Greater Good, The means justify the end…” Blah blah blah

I kinda tuned it out and just flattened them.

The silver lining is that the story is better than other Pokemon games and Team Plasma comes to you. I mean that you see them as often as Ash sees Team Rocket. You do have to go on a quest for them post-game though, which is more entertaining than it sounds. Also, the Gym Leaders may only fight you on-screen, but they appear to do stuff in Events nearly every time you go to a city. Maybe they realized they would have been fired for just sitting at the ends of mazes waiting for 10-year-olds to beat them up and not helping the endangered people in their cities. The two rivals will also randomly show up to help you or stand in your way a lot too, which is good since both their egos need deflating.

In conclusion, this game really got me back into Pokemon, because I lost interest as I grew older in the games, but Black and White had just the right blend of Nostalgia and new features to pull me back in.

I highly recommend this to die-hard fans and newcomers.

Pokémon: Should You Catch The Call Of Legends?

“Their names are legend: Raikou. Entei. Suicune. Lugia. Ho-Oh. Kyogre. Groudon. Rayquaza. Deoxys. Dialga. Palkia. And when Legendary Pokémon come together, only the greatest Trainers can control their might. In the Pokémon TCG: Call of Legends expansion, not only will you discover incredibly powerful Pokémon— including very rare “Shiny” versions of some of them—but you’ll also find exciting new Lost Zone effects to expand your gameplay choices. The Legendary Pokémon have gathered—are you ready to answer the call?”

I am ready to answer the call!  I’m hooked.  I had a passing interest in the Pokémon collectible card game before looking through the cards for the new Call of Legends (I have been more in to the video games – I’ve tried to catch em all on the Game Boy Advance, Gamecube, and DS).  The continued use of “holo” and “foil” cards caught my attention quickly – I mean, I will admit to falling into the stereotype of being a girl who likes sparkly things.  But, with these new decks, an additional win scenario has been introduced which makes game play more intriguing than before.

Serious players will buy booster packs to find the new cards “Lost World (Stadium Supporter card),” and the “Lost Remover (Trainer card).” Another card of note is the “Groudon (Basic Pokemon).” Are these new cards worth the hype? I believe so, since the Stadium and Trainer cards will introduce another method of winning matches.

With the introduction of new cards, and the reprint of old cards, is Call of Legends worth the money? Decide for yourself:

Theme Decks: In general, the theme decks are better balanced (having fewer energy per deck and more Pokémon than previous theme decks), making it easier to play the deck straight out of the box. There are better evolution lines provided in the theme decks than previous releases. And finally, the re-prints have beautiful new artwork.  These decks would be good for any beginning Pokemon player or any experienced player looking to add to their collection.  Most collectors will be happy as well with the addition of more “prime,” holographic, shiny, and foil cards.
Booster Decks: As stated previously, the big excitement about the booster decks comes from the new “lost” scenario cards.

Theme Decks: Some players (especially juniors) might think these decks have too many “crappy re-prints” and not enough new cards, though I think the re-prints do the well-loved characters artistic justice.
Booster Decks: Are the “lost” cards going to be enough incentive for beginning and young players to buy ten cards for $5 (with no guarantee of getting those cards, but getting at least a couple of rarer cards)?

Pokémon: Call of Legends theme decks and booster decks are available for sale in retail stores nation wide. Theme decks and booster packs would make great Valentine gifts for the Pokémon trainers in your life (hint-hint, Honey-Deary-Poo).

*I received theme decks and booster decks for review purposes*

SMACKDOWN! Pokemon Evolution vs. Biological Evolution

for-kate-pokemon-versus-evolution-6-475x475Pokemon fever has hit our household, as it can in even the best of families. For those readers who have been in solitary confinement for the last decade, Pokemon is a collectible card game with hundreds of little creatures that “evolve” from one bodily form to the next. The word “evolution” gets tossed around early and often.

Weirdly, I happen to invest a lot of time thinking about how to explain actual biological evolution to little kids. The result? My kids are world-class experts on the epic, shattering, and inevitable smackdown between Pokemon evolution and biological evolution.

And now, into the wrestling ring with my 10-year-old:

Mom: How much do you love Pokemon?

Son: A lot. Two kilothinks.* They have cool pictures and you can do a lot of things with them. I really get addicted to these kinds of games, and a lot of the kids in my class like Pokemon too.

Mom: What do you think about evolution? What is it?

Son: Evolution is when a creature’s body adapts to the environment surrounding it in a slow period of time. One creature might have a baby that was more adapted to its environment. So that creature would survive long enough to have babies. And its babies would either have better adaptability than that creature or worse adaptability. Through the years, every species would evolve to have whatever the first one had.

Mom: And what is evolution in Pokemon?

Son: When one of the creatures changes to be more powerful. It’s sort of the same concept except without the environment, and it happens in two snaps of a finger.

Mom: Is Pokemon evolution teaching kids about biological evolution?

Son: I don’t think so. Biological evolution is when a creature adapts to its surroundings, while Pokemon evolution is when a creature adapts to nothing in particular so that it can knock out other creatures.

Mom: There’s another big difference I’m thinking of too.

Son: Um….what!?

Mom: Pokemon evolution happens to individuals and real evolution happens to populations.

Son: Oh, RIGHT! Write that down!

There you have it folks. Straight from the next generation: Pokemon evolution has nothing to do with biological evolution!

Pokemon is SMACKED DOWN!

* A “think” is a unit of measure expressing how much mental energy or excitement something generates. Pokemon = 2 kilothinks. New book about monsters = 5 thinks. Cleaning out the cat litter = 1.5 microthinks.