posts tagged with 'pokemon'

competing on Saturday

I like playing Pokemon. Of course, I like lots of other things too, so it isn't always—often—a priority. Also with competitive play still only slowly starting to come back after the pandemic, there aren't as many chances to get in there with the card game. And while our local store runs monthly events, I ended up having to judge for the last one rather than playing. So I was eagerly looking forward to the tournament this past Saturday, and with a careful eye on the metagame developing after the new set released a couple weeks ago ordered cards to make some fun new decks. When Saturday's mail arrived without the most important parts of the order, I was thrown into despair and ready to skip the whole thing. But Zion—now part of our family team—was still eager to go, and was bringing a friend along, so Harvey and I packed up the same old decks we made last month and headed to the store. And I'm glad we did!

two lunarock decks facing off

who expected the lunarock meta?!

Not only did we have a great time with a fine bunch of folks who are obsessed with the same dumb thing we are, Harvey and I both finished first in our age divisions. It wasn't a super-competitive group, but it was still rewarding. Zion, who took down the last two events in the Junior division, was third this time, and his friend was fourth.

Most of the folks there were long-time players—it was especially nice meeting up with a family we had spent some time playing with before the pandemic but hadn't seen since. One junior was new to the scene, though, and besides being the only girl in the room she also wasn't entirely in the know about what makes a good deck. She came in with lots of energy and enthusiasm, but when the final round finished with her fourth straight loss she looked ready to give up on Pokemon entirely. I didn't want that! I had brought a box of spare trainer cards (in the distant hope that we could borrow the missing cards and put together the deck I had hoped to have) so I gave her a bunch of those, and then gave her one of the packs that I got as prizing. Hopefully that makes a difference, and we'll see her again at the next event. Because playing Pokemon is fun!


pokemon again

Not playing competitive Pokemon for the last few years left us with some time to do other fun things, but when we hear that there's a chance to play again that doesn't matter: we need to be back in it! The only problem is that, since we weren't playing, we've barely gotten any new cards for the past couple years! Not being collectors, we only either buy singles that we need to make particular decks, or open packs that we get as prizes from events. OK, so there are some packs from birthdays and Christmas. And we did three or four prerelease tournaments at home when the new sets released during the pandemic. But that's nowhere near enough to build competitive decks, so when I heard that Omar's in Lexington was hosting a tournament on Saturday it was kind of a scramble to get decks ready in time! To get three decks ready, even, since Zion wanted to play too. But with a lot of money thrown at and some help from friends, we did it. And then it was so delightful to be back in the scene!

kids sitting and standing around a table with Pokemon cards

some of the Poké kids

Stores still aren't able to host events that give out Championship Points, so this one was only for prizes... but that was alright because we've made the sad decision that we're not able to go to London this year for Harvey to compete in the World Championships (the World Championships that he qualified for back in 2019). Since we paid $10 each to enter the event our goal was to get at least six packs in prizing—they cost about $5 each on the open market so that way we're breaking even, plus getting in some fun games with awesome people. As it happened we walked away with eight, thanks to Zion taking first place in the Juniors division. Harvey and I didn't do as well—we each only won a single game—but we both got a bye and thanks to resistance both ended up in third place for our age categories. So we contributed our share of the family pot too.

Of course, the real draw was getting to play with people again! There was a good mix of kids and adults, and of good players and beginners—fewer competitive adults than we're used to seeing, but then again Omar's has never really been able to draw them. While I wished I was able to win more than the one game, the two that I lost were close and competitive and actually more fun than my one win, which was easy and quick. And the good games didn't end with the tournament! In order to get ready we needed to do some practice sessions, among ourselves and with friends, and that was lots of fun on its own. And now everyone is excited for the next event in July, so you can bet there'll be lots more playing to come.


getting our workout

The pandemic changed our lives in lots of ways, and one of them was to stop us playing Pokemon. In the before time, it was ever on our minds: when the next event was, how many points was Harvey at, what decks should we play, what cards were coming out in the next set... We played in events, we played at the local game store, and we played on Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. Then in March we stopped. Lately, though, we've been getting back into playing online (which is of course all there is), and for Christmas I got all the boys new cards. With our regained enthusiasm for the game, though, I was worried we'd lose all the fitness we'd gained from a summer and fall of off-road cycling. So now we're taking exercise breaks after each game, with jumping jacks and pushups. I don't know how it breaks down in caloric intake compared to actual outdoor activity, but today I did 225 jumping jacks and 63 pushups, which is certainly way more of either of those than I would have otherwise! The boys didn't get quite as many in, since I play faster than them and also I do seven pushups after each game to their five. And then we also took a walk and a bike ride. So while video gaming might not be the best for our bodies, I don't think we're doing too badly.

prerelease at home

The pandemic has changed many things about our lives, and one thing that has pretty much dropped out has been playing Pokemon. With events cancelled there's no reason to practice, we quickly get bored of playing each other with the same decks (and building decks with physical cards is such a pain we never want to do it unless we have to), and it's hard to play online when we're spending so much time on screens for other reasons. But we still love the game, which is why we were so happy yesterday to be able to organize a prerelease tournament for us and some friends.

Prereleases are semi-competitive events that take place every three months to introduce a new set of cards—or they did, before everything was cancelled. We haven't missed a set since Harvey started playing, so I was glad to be able to pick up a few prerelease kits online. Then we set up some Zoom meetings and some cameras—lots of cameras, since to play over Zoom with full human interaction each player needs two: a face cam and a downward facing one to show the cards. I built some stands to hold the cameras.

Harvey playing Pokemon at the kitchen table against an opponent in another house

how we do it these days

There were only two things to mar the fun of the day. The Archibalds didn't do so well—Harvey, Zion, and I only managed to win one game each (out of three). Oh well, more joy to father and son Bongiovanni who took home second and first place! And the recording of the event that we took through Zoom defaulted to speaker view, which means that the actual action of the games isn't ever visible in the recording. So sad. It would have been so fun to have that video record, which I was planning on cutting into a shorter video to share. I guess we'll just have to remember things in our minds like cave people. Well, our minds, and all these words I just wrote.

Here's hoping that the next time a new set drops we'll be able to play in a real card shop. But if not, I think we've got this virtual tournament thing pretty well figured out!


our weekend of driving

I'm not a fan of driving. As much as possible, I like to bike or walk—or failing that, just skip trips to places that are too far away. I don't take it to extremes: we use the car plenty, to go shopping, to go on homeschool outings, to see farther-away friends. But it's generally a priority to minimize our fossil-fueled miles. Of course, sometimes there are other priorities in life. Like playing Pokemon.

On Saturday, Harvey and I drove an hour and a half north to Rochester, New Hampshire, for a League Cup. Then we had to come home too. That felt like a lot of driving, so we figured we might take is easy Sunday. But then we didn't—we went to a League Challenge in Worcester that entailed another two hours, round trip. Five hours of driving in a weekend might not seem like anything at all if you're from Oklahoma or Montana, but it sure was a lot to us!

Of course, it wasn't all bad. If you discount the environmental impact, the cost of the gas, and the wear and tear on our lovely minivan (which with over 200,000 miles—mostly before us!—is nearing the end of its life), we had a great time road tripping together. We listened to music, we talked, and we sang. On the way home last night we enjoyed the sight of the giant, two-days-past-full moon rising in front of us. And when we were far from home we got to play cards with some great people that we can only see by driving all that way. So maybe it's worth it.

(I only wish I had remembered to fill the tank in New Hampshire, even though it wasn't even half-empty—they've got some cheap gas up there!)


a pokemon blog

I've been meaning for some time now to create a place just for my writing about Pokemon. Because I know it's not central to our story here! I've now done that. Follow that link if you want to read many words about the card game that occupies so much of Harvey's and my mind some days. Or don't, and wait for me to write here about the other things we do, like explore the woods and streams of Chelmsford. That was today. Both are good!

That other blog is just getting going; it doesn't look as nice as it should. I just wanted to get it good enough for me to start writing, and worry about aesthetic improvements later. Harvey is already wondering how many readers we'll get—how people will find our about it, and if they'll be interested in the content. Good thing I'm married to somebody who talks about SEO for work!

headed to Washington!

When we first dipped our toes into competitive Pokemon about nine months ago we figured it would just be a practice year—getting used to the game and the scene. The goal of serious players is qualifying for the World Championship in August, but I thought that was out of reach for both of us. But then Harvey won that first event, and then he won a couple more. Pretty soon it was clear that, while I was a still no-hoper, he had a pretty fair shot for some success. And today, with about a month left in the season, he crossed the finish line and earned his Worlds Invitation!

This year's Worlds in in Washington DC on August 16. We already have our hotel room booked, and we've started psyching ourselves up for the long drive down. Harvey is super excited, and he's also looking forward to a couple months of more relaxed summer Pokemon play. And after late June he—and I—will start collecting the points for next season.


weekends are for Pokemon

Harvey and I got back into competitive Pokemon over the last two weekends. We kicked things off back on the 16th with a League Challenge at MIT. The afternoon got off to a shaky start when Harvey left his wallet (and the Charlie Ticket) on the bus on the way there, but things just got better from there. In a small event Harvey and I both finished first—and we both got to beat top-25 players in our age division in the process. It was the first weekend that the Team Up set was legal, and I think Harvey surprised some competitors with the Pikachu-Zekrom deck he brought. (I totally wanted to play it myself, but he gets first pick because he's more competitive than I am, and plus, he pulled the cards.) On the bus ride home we huddled over my phone watching the Juniors finals at the big international event in Australia—where both competitors were playing PikaRom.

The next day saw us in Lexington for a tournament at Omar's. No championship points at stake, but Omar's is now our local shop and we want to show our support! We brought the same decks, and did almost as well: Harvey won again, and I was second in Masters. It was a tiny tournament and my two wins were against Juniors playing not-really-competitive decks—which meant those games weren't as fun as my round one loss against a very good player. I almost pulled it out! The event finished early enough that we contemplated driving to one more tournament, out in Worcester. We could have made it... but in the end we decided to accept an invitation from friends for dinner and a movie at their house. Probably a good call.

This past Sunday saw us in Saugus for another Challenge. This one was much larger: something like eighteen Masters and six Juniors. Harvey had a tough loss in his first game and, even though he won the next two, finished up third. There five rounds in Masters; I started off with two wins then lost my next three in frustrating fashion I'd be happy to recount if you care to listen. It was still super fun, though. My second loss was to Darin O'Meara, fresh off a fine performance in Australia the previous weekend, and he didn't entirely blow me out.

It's nice for Harvey and I to get out together, and win or lose we both really enjoy being part of the scene; all the more so now as we get to know more and more people playing. Plus it's fun going all these places we'd never visit otherwise: imagine, Saugus! We'll be doing it again in Londonderry, New Hampshire this weekend.. wish us luck!

Harvey on a swing at MIT, the setting sun reflecting on the glass wall beyond him

getting some swinging in after playing at MIT


meanwhile, in Pokemon...

It's an exciting week in the world of Pokemon: the release of a new set and the prerelease tournaments that go with it. That's something that happens four times a year, so this is the fourth one we've seen since we started playing with any seriousness at the beginning of 2018. Each time we've been a little more confident, a little more fully involved with what's going on, and this go-round was no exception. Harvey played his second prerelease event of the week this past Sunday—the first time he's ever done two for one set. I would have played too but I couldn't, since I was judging. It was fun.

Pokemon players at the tables at Omar's

playing with the new cards

I've become a volunteer "League Leader" at Omar's, a store in Lexington with a relatively new Pokemon League. This was the first prerelease they've done, and coming into it I was a little nervous about turnout: on the one hand that nobody would show up and we wouldn't be able to run the event, on the other that it would fill up and all my children and their friends wouldn't be able to play. As it turned out it was perfect, with plenty of eager players and room for everyone who wanted to play (Zion decided to just watch; he still isn't confident enough about his reading to want to play with brand-new cards).

I was happy enough with my judging—nothing went egregiously wrong—but Harvey wasn't happy at all with his play. It just wasn't happening for him: he had a chance to come back in his first game but didn't quite make it, then he conceded his next two when he just couldn't draw the cards he wanted. He got a win in the final round but still felt pretty discouraged. I told him never mind: the real purpose of the afternoon was to get a first crack at the new cards, and in that regard Harvey finished near the top of the tables.

Harvey holding up his three best pulls

the good stuff

This new set also marks the first time I've felt good about building decks with the new cards right away, and two of those cards Harvey pulled were just what we wanted to get started. Of course, that means I had to drop a little too much money this week to order the rest of the cards we need, but that's OK... Harvey'll make it all back in prize money when he gets famous. Or we'll just have fun with our hobby; that'll make it worth it too!


adventures in Pokemon and beyond

It's hard to believe that it was only a year ago now that I made my first forays into buying Pokemon singles online, in an effort to surprise Harvey and Zion with some good cards for Christmas. Looking back, I realize that the cards I picked out weren't really that good: I had no idea at all what I was doing. From that humble beginning we've seen the game of Pokemon insinuate its way ever-deeper into our lives, to the extent that the whole family spent this past Saturday on an outing to a comic store an hour and a half away in order to play cards for four hours. At least we also took a side trip to the ocean.

Harvey and Zion walking along a lawn towards the rocks at the water's edge

winter water

The purpose of our jaunt up north to Rochester, NH, was to let Harvey—and me and Zion too—play in a League Cup. League Cups are the second rank of tournaments in the world of competitive Pokemon, and Harvey was looking for some points to continue along his road towards the World Championship in August. He got em: his second-place finish was good for 40, giving him 122 so far for the season, out of the 350 he needs to qualify for Worlds. I dropped out of the Masters division competition after the Juniors finished up so we could do something else, so I didn't get any more points (and Zion finished fourth to catch up with me in the points table!) but never mind, I've also secured my first gig as a judge, at an event coming up at the end of the month. And also doing other things is sometimes good.

Since Rochester is kind of near the ocean—it's in the "Inland Coast" region of New Hampshire, though I'm not totally sure how that's a thing—we figured we could probably go find some water. Without any real plan in mind my memory for long-ago adventures and my unerring instinct for interesting places led us to the tip of New Castle Island in Portsmouth, where there's a beach, some rocks, and an old fort to explore. What could be finer?

the  boys checking out an observation tower in the fort

why didn't they leave any guns?

The part of the fort we were allowed to explore was mostly an early-19th century structure, with thick walls, mysterious passageways, and cannon-ports looking out to sea. We could easily have imagined ourselves defending the approaches to Portsmouth Harbor from the British, except that it was exceedingly, all-consumingly cold. So mostly we ran around from one fascinating corner of the fort to another or climbed around on the walls. As long as we were moving we weren't freezing to death. Unfortunately some of the most interesting-looking passageways were blocked off, which was disappointing; at least the stairway to the more modern tower pictured above was only half blocked off, the caution tape having blown away a little bit. It was cold up there too. The only place where we were comfortable enough to pretend was the dungeon.

Lijah behind a rusty iron jail door


Had I been there in the fort in 1812 or whatever I wouldn't have minded a stay in that lock-up; much better than freezing up on the walls! In 2018 our car was pretty warm too, and we were happy after a little while to retreat there for our long drive home (almost long enough to finish our latest audiobook). Adventure successful.