No Coast. No Kings. Combo Breaker 2018

I’ve shared bits and pieces about this year’s Combo Breaker, held in the Mega Center (plus a ballroom) at Pheasant Run Resort, as I’ve recapped our trip north, but now it’s time to take a closer look at the event itself!

I think we spent more quality time at Combo Breaker than ever before this year. We actually saw a final in its entirety! We watched more top eights than we ever have, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Ryan play this year (he competed in the Mystery Tournament again, but we missed it), but we did see him hard at work volunteering many times, because he was busy with running brackets and being part of the security team all weekend!

We saw the cosplay contest this year, and following it, we got to see Samus up close, and I asked if I could take a picture:

We also spent more time at the arcade this year. I love how there was something for everybody to play…even me! I stuck with the pinball tables, but the children enjoyed lots of different games, including Crazy Taxi, Killer Instinct, Bubble Hockey, Hydro Thunder and Duck Hunt. It’s also always fun to take a walk through the vendor area, and some of the children bought something with the money they had been saving. And there were game-themed Redbull beverages again this year, which I find very amusing!

I think the most exciting moment of the weekend, though, was when Ryan was given this medal. He earned medals at the previous two Combo Breakers he went to (fifth place in Tekken Ball in 2016 and seventh place in the Mystery Tournament in 2017), but this year, he didn’t advance far enough to be in contention for an award. On Sunday, however, he was given this medal in thanks for all the hard work he did helping with setup and the event itself…we are very proud of him!

So that’s it for another Combo Breaker. The staff and volunteers worked so hard, often behind the scenes, to make this another fantastic event. It’s clear, even to someone with no familiarity with fighting games like myself, how much blood, sweat and tears goes into making it happen, and making it run smoothly. And even though I neither play nor truly understand fighting games, this has become one of the highlights of my year, because the community is so great, the energy and enthusiasm in the Mega Center is so fantastic, and the event is so well-organized, that it’s impossible not to love it and have an amazing time. After three years in attendance, Combo Breaker is firmly in “family tradition” territory, and we are already looking forward to going back next year!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Six

Last Monday morning, it was time to say goodbye to Pheasant Run and Combo Breaker.

But we weren’t quite done with our trip. We headed east, for a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where, despite the extreme temperatures, it still looked like spring!

We then drove to the south side of Chicago to try one of the Windy City’s specialties: Rainbow Cones. We were not disappointed!

We took the long way south to Normal, where we had one last taste of Chicago at Portillo’s before heading home:

And so our vacation came to an end. We have more fun trips planned for this summer, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s Combo Breaker!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Five

Last Sunday morning, we celebrated the Holy Trinity at St. John Wheaton. We didn’t say the Athanasian Creed, but we did get to have donuts after the service!

Following church, we hurried back to Combo Breaker. I had to take a picture in what I’m calling a “Sailor Moon Bound” Pinup Girl Clothing outfit with my Sailor Jupiter lanyard that Ryan bought for me before the trip:

And, as always, we had to get a family picture with the big Combo Breaker screen in the background:

We went for one last swim:

And then returned to Combo Breaker, to see the Guilty Gear final, which Bunny was very excited about:

We celebrated my 1st 39th birthday a few weeks early with my mom at the Schnitzel Platz, where I got to hear “Happy Birthday” played on cowbells after dinner!

Back at Pheasant Run, we visited the arcade one last time:

While we were doing that, Ryan received a medal for the third year running…this one was very special!

We saw some of the Dragon Ball top eight, but it was getting late, so we headed back to our room before the final. Turkey watched it on my phone while the rest of his siblings fell asleep watching…more Food Network!

That was (sadly) our last night at Pheasant Run, but we still had a few fun activities planned before we headed home on Monday!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Four

Originally, we had planned to drive up to Milwaukee on the fourth day of our trip, but that ended up not happening. That was ok, though, because we got to spend extra time at Combo Breaker! In addition to watching more of the tournament(s), we also spent some time in the (free!) arcade, playing games like Crazy Taxi, bubble hockey, and pinball. It was crowded and loud and a lot of fun!

We did venture out for a bit in the unusually-hot-for-May temperatures to visit Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living history farm. The animals seemed to enjoy the heat about as much as we did, but we did get to pet a sheep and some chickens. The horses, cows, and pigs were too busy trying to stay cool for us to get close to them.

Have I mentioned the fantastic view from our 15th floor room at Pheasant Run?!? On a clear day (and there were many) you can see the Sears (Willis, whatever) Tower dominating the Chicago skyline in the distance, over 30 miles away. And on a really clear day, you can see about three other unidentified skyscrapers, too!

We didn’t have money for a full meal at Giordano’s, but I had to stop and get an order of their limited-time fried artichoke hearts. They were delicious, and I managed to convince all of the children to try at least one…and most of them liked it!

We went back to Combo Breaker to see the cosplay fashion show, and afterward, Samus was kind enough to pose for a picture for us:

A moonlight swim at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool was high on our priority list, and it was a great night for it. The moon was almost full, and you could even see a few stars (which is an accomplishment in Chicagoland!).

Back in our room, we enjoyed the view, and more Food Network shows before bed.

Up next: The final day of Combo Breaker, and the penultimate day of our trip north.

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Day three of our vacation, and we finally get to the reason we were there in the first place…Combo Breaker!

Ryan had been working long hours the previous two days to help set up for the event, but this was our first chance to take a look, and let me tell you, it looked GREAT! We always have fun checking out the different games being played (Chicago’s “Mystery Tournament” is always a favorite), as well as taking a look at the different vendors who have set up shop.

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing we did on Friday. We went swimming (again), in our favorite of Pheasant Run’s pools…the indoor Garden Atrium pool:

And we went back to Medieval Times for the second year in a row. It was a real treat, because it was an all new show! After seeing art, armor, and illuminations at the Art Institute, this was the perfect lighthearted summer school field trip, and Ryan even had a break in his schedule (sort of) to go with us!

Up next: We had to revise our Saturday plans a bit, but that left us with more time for Combo Breaker, plus a visit to a living history farm.

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

I think this was our busiest day of vacation…and Combo Breaker hadn’t even started yet!

Last year when we were in St. Charles, we never made it to downtown Chicago, because to my great surprise, there were no ticket agents on duty at the Metra stations on the weekend. I planned accordingly this year, checked the hours, and was sure we wouldn’t run into any problems. Until we arrived at the Geneva Metra station, and the ticket agent basically shut the door in our face, because she had a “meeting.”

This forced me outside of my comfort zone…A LOT. I had already paid for Wendella boat tickets and Art Institute tickets, so I had to find a way downtown. Even though I faced possible problems, including the fact that my students don’t have school IDs, we used the Ventra app to ride the train, and in the end, it worked out fine.

We took a slightly different walk during our travels in Chicago, so we saw some things that were the same, and some that were new:

The highlight of the day was the Wendella Chicago River and Lake Michigan Tour. It has been close to 30 years since I last did the boat trip, so it was a very different experience for all of us, and a lot of fun!

After disembarking, we began our walk toward the Art Institute, stopping to see the “Bean” and other sites at Millennium Park (including the Crown Fountain) along the way.

At the Art Institute, we focused specifically on the Arms and Armor galleries, as well as a special exhibit on Medieval illuminations, in keeping with this year’s summer school theme, but we also saw a few other things, including the Chagall windows.

My children are obsessed with pigeons (no, I don’t know why), and they certainly got to see a lot of them!

Before heading back to the train, we stopped at Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory (now a Macy’s) to buy Frango mints.

We even got to ride on the upper deck of the train on the way back!

We enjoyed some more pool time back at Pheasant Run, which was the perfect way to end a hot day. We also indulged in some Food Network shows on cable TV, which is one of our favorite things about vacation!

Up next: Combo Breaker finally begins!

Combo Breaker

I realize I’ve mentioned Combo Breaker a lot here and there, but I’ve never really gone into any details about the event. So here you go.

Combo Breaker is a fighting game event that is held annually over Memorial Day Weekend. It’s current home is at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL (which is about 40 miles west of the Chicago lakefront), where it takes up the Mega Center, and this year spilled into the St. Charles ballroom, as well. It is a BIG event!

It’s a three-day event, from Friday morning through Sunday night. 18 different tournaments are contested, and include¬†games like Super Smash Bros., Tekken 7, and Street Fighter V. There are also auction tournaments and a cosplay contest. There is a vendor floor, where you can buy all kinds of video game merchandise, and even an artist alley if you’re looking for something handmade or even commissioned. And it’s a 24 hour event, meaning there are always people up for playing casuals, even if there isn’t a bracketed event running.

For the last two years, Ryan has both run brackets and played various games. And both times, he’s come home with a top eight medal from the Mystery Tournament, which is a big Chicago thing!

There are free arcade games of all kinds set up for participants to play…the children loved that!

This year, in addition to Red Bull slushes (non-alchohoilc), they also had video game-themed adult drinks, also prepared with Red Bull. I don’t know why exactly, but this really amused me!

The “No Coast. No Kings” motto is the perfect way to describe Combo Breaker. It celebrates the midwest, and no one player is more important than another.

This event has even become the perfect opportunity to take some family photos!

I’m not going to lie. I’m not much into video games, and I really don’t get fighting games at all. But Ryan and the children like them, and the community that gathers for Combo Breaker is very friendly, and the energy is great, so even I look forward to going every year!