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 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 One

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a week since we packed up the car and headed north for our annual trip to St. Charles, IL for Combo Breaker! We left super early that morning, and while we were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to check in upon our arrival (because of the early hour), we found that our room (the exact same room we had last year on the 15th floor of Pheasant Run’s tower!) was ready and waiting for us!

After we dealt with our luggage, we made a Super Target run, partly because we needed a few things, and partly because we just love Super Target!

Most of the rest of the day was spent in one of Pheasant Run’s pools. I don’t think we’ve ever spent that much time in the pool in one day before!

We did take a break to walk around Pheasant Run and see if anything had changed…for the most part, nothing had.

When we got back to our room, we were tickled to find a tray of cookies and some milk waiting for us…it was so nice of Pheasant Run to welcome us that way!

Up next: Probably our busiest day of this year’s weekend getaway.

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!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Three

We were up pretty early yet again (we really don’t sleep in on vacations) to attend the early service at St. John Wheaton. It felt a little more familiar than it did last year, but part of me is still shocked that they’re in a different building!

When we arrived back at Pheasant Run, we hurried over to the Mega Center to watch Ryan play in the Mystery Tournament top eight. He didn’t win his match, but he came home with a medal for the second year in a row!

After he was done running his bracket, Ryan took us to lunch at Portillo’s. I think we’ve decided that enjoying one meal there while we’re in Chicago is a must…fortunately, it’s not too expensive! I ordered the Italian beef dipped (of course!), and some of my children were adventurous enough to order a Chicago-style hot dog. It was a delicious meal!

After yet another swim, we checked back in with Combo Breaker. The farther you get into Sunday, the bigger the crowds are!

Another swim, another walk around the resort. There was a small art show in the normally blocked-off upstairs of Bourbon Street, so we took a walk though there, and enjoyed both the art and the unique view. We also stopped by the bonfire after it had been lit, which was especially nice because it was a fairly cool weekend up north.

One final visit to the Combo Breaker floor, to see a round of the Street Fighter top eight, which is the highlight of the weekend for many:

Of course we watched a little more cable TV back in our room (after I discovered that for some reason, I couldn’t get a signal for WGN and couldn’t watch the News at Nine). And we left the curtains open so we could enjoy a last evening look from our room, on the clearest night we experienced while we were there. The glow coming from downtown Chicago is unmistakable, and we even realized that we could see a few other unidentified skyscrapers by the Sears Tower!

Just one last day of family fun to go before we returned home!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up early again on day two of our weekend getaway (although not as early as on day one), to get ready to go to downtown Chicago for our big day of exploring. We decided to depart from the West Chicago Metra station this year. I was impressed by how cute the station was as soon as we drove up.

And then our plans for the day came to a screeching halt. It turns out that there are no ticket agents on duty inside any Metra station on the weekend. We did discuss one other option for getting on the train, but we decided it just wouldn’t work out, and so we had to cancel our big plans for the day (an especially big disappointment for Bunny, who was really looking forward to going to the Art Institute), and come up with a “Plan B.”

While we were thinking, we took a walk around the outside of Pheasant Run (it was a beautiful day!), and hit the pool again, which is pretty much our default when we don’t have any firm plans.

We then decided that since the weather was so nice, we’d shift our plans for Sunday (visiting the historic Naper Settlement), up one day. We had a really great time, even if it wasn’t Chicago!

We also took a short walk on Naperville’s River Walk while we were down there, mostly so I could see the Dandelion Fountain:

Our big family dinner out for the trip was at Muldoon’s in downtown Wheaton. The food was delicious and the atmosphere just like I remembered from the old days when it was Cafe Wheaton.

After another evening walk around Pheasant Run (there’s seriously so much to explore!), and more swimming, we went back to Combo Breaker, and the children tried out the arcade machines that were set up in one of the resort ballrooms for attendees to play for free:

After that, we were ready to head back to our room, and enjoy a little more TV before bed. One of the nice things about not having cable at home is that it’s a real treat when we get to watch it on vacation! And while I was admiring the view from our 15th floor window, I discovered that we could even see the Sears Tower (about 40 miles east of us) in the distance! We didn’t make it downtown to see it, but at least were able to get a glimpse of it!

Stay tuned for Day Three!