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Articles

The Cartridge Family

Thanks to accidents of birth, geography, and not owning a boat, getting video games at all – let alone playing the bastards – was hard when I was a kid in a military family. While there were many advantages to not living in Britain in the 90s – mainly that you weren’t living in Britain, and as such missed Britpop, ill-founded faith in politics, and a slew of other terrible things – there were, if you loved video games, a whole host of disadvantages. Those disadvantages multiplied if you lived in a country like Germany, which famously doesn’t get along with the games about the blood and the killing. Back then, even more so than now, that category appeared to include every single game ever made. Which wasn’t great if you were 11, and all the games you wanted featured The Blood and The Killing. 

Granted, it was difficult for all kids to get ahold of games at that particular time, what with the absence of money coupled with massive cartridge prices . But living abroad brought its own set of specific challenges: languages; availability; compatibility; replayability. There was no trading games back in at the local Hypermarkt. Renting was not an option, either: Nintendo was still at war with that particular business, and besides, nowhere near me had cottoned onto the fact that there was massive money to be made from rabid kids and tired parents. 

Children being the industrious and devious little bastards they are, however, I soon found myself in an ad-hoc club of sorts, where access was key and whoever had the goods was the most powerful person in the town of Hameln, the Pied Piper having long since been usurped by my friend Daley and his copy of Earthworm Jim.

Ours was an odd world, even if it seemed perfectly natural at the time. The constant influx of new arrivals as people’s parents were posted in and out of the local military presence meant that the market, as it were, always saw fresh (and, sometimes, rare) ‘stock’ flow in. Trading games between friends isn’t new or novel, but when just getting the games at all seems like a logistical nightmare, there was a special premium associated with them when they arrived.

Having grandparents willing to set up a ‘supply route’ and send you games from Britain made you a mini-Escobar.

Take Paul, for example, and his elder brother Richard. Now, older siblings were almost as useful as the aforementioned grandparents: they were less likely to send you something bad, and were perfect foil for nefarious plans. “Yes, mum, I’ll make sure they don’t play Mortal Kombat. No mum, they’ll be in bed and not watching Alien on Sky Movies Gold.” 

But while Richard had his uses, it was his dad who had something truly rare: a proper, honest-to-goodness gaming PC. Maybe even a 486. Word soon spread that the boys not only had Wolfenstein 3D, but also Doom (which made you the most important person in the world at that point, save maybe Eric Cantona), and some weird thing called Rise of the Triad. Paul and Richard always claimed that we couldn’t come over to play it because their dad never wanted anyone in the house, which now strikes me as perhaps a massaging of the truth, but then such are the levers of power. The closest I got to seeing Doom moving at its thunderous, impossible speed was when I glimpsed it as Paul left to come out and play football. Having only seen it in stills in magazines, it was a revelation. And then the front door closed and it was gone, like an alternate Godfather ending 30 times more tragic than the one we actually got.

Other items caused huge commotions in the playground. News of a Mega Drive version of Super Street Fighter II arriving in town demanded an immediate investigation, which ended when a beleaguered schoolfriend was press-ganged into providing the cart as proof. (He had previously shown us the manual, evidence that was considered circumstantial at best.) Another new arrival was forced into a school assembly show and tell, where the teachers cooed over the fact he’d been posted from ‘exotic’ Asia. Of more interest to almost everyone else was his Mega Drive variant, and the fact he had games with more than one title on a cart, familiar to most as the ‘Lanzarote Special’. 

A variant of the ‘Lanzarote Special’

Everyone had a story like this, and in retrospect it was obvious why. The life of a military brat is a transient one, especially if you’re based somewhere other than Britain. Every single person you met was on borrowed time: who knew when they’d be leaving for another town, another school, another round of trying to integrate themselves into a social hierarchy. Once you left, that was it: for all intents and purposes your old buddies were gone forever, defined in hindsight by what games you played with them.

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Guides

DnD Buyers Guide

Maybe you’ve played a few games, or maybe you’ve got your first game coming up. Either way, I’ve got a long long list of gadgets, gizmos and great websites for you!

Two notes:

  1. These are all things for D&D 5e, although some of them are applicable across other games. 
  2. I would always suggest playing a game before investing loads of money, and playing a few times if you don’t *love* the first game. I know a few people who don’t love me as a DM but love D&D, and that’s okay, but I also know people who spent £100 before realising they actually want to play Warhammer. You can also try the free online rules before dropping the money on the books There are loads of places across the UK to try out D&D, so check online for your local place!

For everyone

The most valuable resource I can offer anyone ever is an online character builder. The books are great, and if you love pen & paper and making it yourself, I’m not suggesting stop, but there has been many a session saved by having your character sheet in the cloud. 

Option 1: My personal favourite site is https://www.dungeonmastersvault.com/. It allows you to import homebrew content really easily and it allows you to share your character sheets with your DM. On top of this, there’s 0 cost – the best cost! It’s got a super easy guided process if you are creating your first characters. It also allows you to share your character with your DM if you’re all using the same sheet, and they can add them all into a party (share the URL by clicking www once you’ve shared your sheet and your DM can click add to party)

Option 2: If you’re wanting something with all the expansion books easily available, https://www.dndbeyond.com/ is the only choice. With all books loaded in, it’s an easy and simple choice but the price point is not to be sniffed at – buying the books costs RRP of the book price – so just the player’s guide & Xanathar’s guide will set you back £50 or so, and that is only a digital copy. The advantage is that if your DM buys all of them & the subscription, then all your party can access them!

The second most interesting item I suggest is to always have some cute D&D loot. I have these cute little lip balms and this lovely ring.

Both of them allow me to show off my subtle D&D-nerdy-ness at any time. The ring gives me the ability to always roll a d20 – i keep it on my keys. The lip balm is a lovely little conversation starter that also deals with my chapped lips after a long 8 hour gaming session.

For the dungeon master

Every single dungeon master has that one time when the players go “oh and what’s through this door” and open a door that you hadn’t planned for. Part of the joy of DM’ing is ad-libbing what is behind the door and hoping your players don’t cotton on to the fact you’re making it up as you go along. But what happens when they start to ask about what it looks like, or want to start combat and you’re a map-based DM (rather than a theater of the mind DM). 

Dungeon Tiles Reincarnated are exactly what you need at this point 

If you make me pick between dice and these tiles, I’ll always pick the tiles as I love a good combat field to give my players a real sense of the room they are in. Players can always be represented by a leftover d4 or a bottlecap, but the maps really give players a sense of the room. Each pack, Dungeon, Wilderness and City, all contain 16 A4 sheets which can be mixed & matched to give your players an idea of the room. From big almost A4 maps of a tavern, to a mish-mash of 2×4 pieces, you can make almost any situation your players might be in.
I personally own all 3, and have them stored in plastic wallets by size – 1×1 gridded squares to 3×3’s in a little fishing tackle box, and larger pieces in a clear wallet ready to go at any time.

GameTee’s Coin of Life & Death 

This is very much a situational piece, but I love having one of these. A beautiful brass coin for saving throws. If your players are dying and have no buffs, taking their dice out of their hand and handing them this coin can make this moment more tense. I tend to hand players this coin on their final saving throw, when they’re caught between life and death. Thrice I have handed it to a player on a darkened evening, sitting there with tears in their eyes, hoping that their character is not lost this time and twice it has allowed the player to return as the same character the next session. And in the time it did not, the moment was made more solem by the rattle of the coin hitting the table as it fell on the side of no return.

For the player

So you’ve played a few times? And you’ve decided to be a wizard for some reason (I mean, sorcerer and Warlock are right there! You could’ve sold your soul to satan or be rolling on random-tables but sure, wizard is fun too). The best investment for you (or any of your fellow magic users) is the D&D 5e Spellbook Cards. Now hear me out – I know some people despise them – but they are so useful if you wish to take your character between DM’s. My wizards use them often to help select spells after a long rest, and my sorcerer carries them to shuffle during some wild magic bursts. If I wish to pack light, I can fit them, and my character sheet, and some dice into a nice A6 bag, ready to play whenever the time suits. I’ve handed them to my DM to save them having to pass a huge book. I’ve put them into little A6 folio as a true wizards spellbook!

Either way, they are incredibly useful. They come in Arcana (Wizards, Warlocks and Sorcerers), as well as Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger and Martial Powers & Races. There’s also an expansion for Xanathar and Elemental spells. 

There’s something important that players forget sometimes which is that note taking can be vital. The DM will likely have a massive tome of notes and plans, and sometimes it’s really useful to have made notes (obviously not every game is the same etc). 

The BEST notetaking books are the ones that are multipurpose. I have one similar to this, which stores my character sheet in the ziplock bag. It’s a godsend as I can just chuck my character sheet in whatever bag I’m taking to the event and boom – I have a notebook built-in. Need to know what happened last session? Perfect!
Everyone’s notetaking will be different (For example, often, mine is non-existent whilst I let someone else make the notes) but I’d also suggest adding the following things to whatever notebook you choose. 

  • Sticky Notes: They’re useful to pass secrets on. I’ve got a pad in 4 colours stuck to the first page so i can always grab one when i need it. 
  • Little tokens: I have a BUNCH of these in my wallet-book – they’re perfect for when I’ve forgotten my mini and just need a token. I’ve got some nice ones leftover from D&D 4e, but you can also just print one out and tape it to a bit of cardboard. 
  • A spare blank character sheet. Y’know how at the start I mentioned how there’s always a time you forget your character sheet? Well a plain blank one is a great way to deal with that – just keep it in the book at all times and if everything goes wrong, just grab your phone, and copy it from the webapp!
  • A £5 note. This is just my personal preference and probably pointless after the end of the world but it’s always good to have a bit of cash to chuck at whomever buys the pizza. 
  • A paper coaster from your favourite bar. When you’re playing in a bar, there’s often enough. When you’re at someones house, less so. Always keep one on you to protect your favourite table!
  • Little packet of paracetamol/Usb charging cable/any other essentials you may need. In like my second D&D session, I ended up getting an awful headache, but someone at the event had a small packet of paracetamol and I was able to stay till the end! My D&D book goes with me wherever I go so it’s always good to have everything I could possibly need with me. 

This is obviously not an “everything” list – I could mention Roll20, Fantasy grounds or Astral for playing on, all the places to get beautiful dice from, Hero forge for printing mini’s… but hopefully it’s given you a taste of things to pick up, ready for when in-person gaming can happen again!

Categories
Drinks

Portal 2

Another from the 2011 Guardian set, this drink is, of course, designed to resemble the two coloured portals from the excellent sci-fi puzzle game. There’s a heavy dose of orange flavour to pay homage to the The Orange Box, the compilation in which the original Portal appeared.

Ingredients

  • 10ml Blue Curacao
  • 10ml Vodka
  • 100ml Lemonade
  • 10ml Cointreau
  • 10ml White Rum
  • 100ml Orangina
  • Lime Wedge
  • Sugar
  • Blue Colouring
  • Orange Colouring
  • Sandwich bags
  • Ice
  • Two Tumblers

Method

To create the portals, you want to mix sugar in two different sandwich bags, shaking with a few drops of food colouring in each, pour these mixes onto different plates. Use the lime wedge to wet the tumbler rims and create your two portal openings by dipping each glass in one of the coloured sugars.
For the drink to fill the orange rim, mix blue curacao, vodka and top up with the lemonade then create your orange drink with the Cointreau, rum and Orangina, drink solo or coop with someone.

The Game

Like the original Portal (2007), players solve puzzles by placing portals and teleporting between them. Portal 2 adds features including tractor beams, lasers, light bridges, and paint-like gels that alter player movement or allow portals to be placed on any surface. In the game, players control Chell, who navigates the dilapidated Aperture Science Enrichment Center during its reconstruction by the supercomputer GLaDOS, new characters include robot Wheatley and Aperture founder Cave Johnson. Portal 2 boasted a whole new cooperative mode, letting players solve puzzles together as robots Atlas and P-Body

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken Kuma

Kuma-n take on Kuma’s favourite tipple when Panda fails to notice his latest advance he slinks his way to the nearest bar and drowns his sorrow with this tasty drink.

Ingredients

  • 15ml Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 15ml butterscotch schnapps
  • 15ml Kahlua
  • 15ml Patron “XO Cafe” coffee liqueur
  • 100ml half and half (Cream/milk)
  • 1 chocolate stick
  • Cocoa powder  
  • Boston Shaker
  • Ice
  • Tumbler glass

Method

Coat a tumbler glass lip with a lemon wedge, pour your cocoa into a saucer and dip the glass into the chocolate so it coats the glass edge, tap glass while face down to remove excess.
Shake all the ingredients with ice and mix vigorously, strain the mix into the prepared tumbler and finish with “tree bark” the chocolate flake.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken M.Bison

A classic Bloody Mary given the Bison(grass vodka) treatment served in a sloped glass reflecting one of his most iconic/annoying moves.

Ingredients

  • 50 ml Zubrowka
  • 100ml Tomato Juice
  • ½ teaspoon Worcester sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 pinch Pepper
  • 1 pinch Chili Flakes
  • 1 pinch celery salt
  • Ice
  • Long bar spoon
  • Sloping or high ball glass

Method

Combine all the ingredients and stir continuously in a tall glass with ice until chilled.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken Yoshimitsu

Drawing inspiration from Yoshimitsu’s poisonous breath cloud attack, commit Harakiri and drink up.

Ingredients

  • 25ml Midori
  • 50ml sake
  • 10ml passion fruit syrup
  • Lemon juice (½ a lemon’s worth)
  • Lime Wedge
  • Popping Candy Sachet
  • Ice
  • Boston Shaker
  • Martini glass

Method

Coat a Martini glass lip with the lime wedge, pour your popping candy into a saucer and dip the glass into the candy so it coats the glass edge.

Combine all the remaining ingredients in a shaker along with ice and mix, strain this into the prepared Martini glass. To get the straw to stick like Yoshimitsu’s sword, rinse the cocktail straw with sparkling water and gently press against the chilled cocktail glass.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken Chun-Li

Like Chun-Li’s quest for revenge, this is a drink best served cold.

Ingredients

  • 25ml Jasmine Tea infused vodka*
  • 25ml lychee liqueur
  • 10ml blue curacao
  • 150ml Elderflower Presse
  • Ice
  • Boston Shaker
  • High ball glass

Method

Mix the Jasmine Tea infused vodka, Lychee and Blue Curacao in a shaker and mix, strain this into a glass over ice and top up with the Elderflower Presse.

*If you can’t find it a mix of vodka and jasmine tea syrup will work.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken Paul Phoenix

Paul Phoenix is Tekken’s nearly man, despite battling in every tournament Paul always comes up short, this all-American drink takes the classic coke float and gives it a makeover.

Ingredients

  • 50 ml Jack Daniels
  • 125ml Coca-Cola
  • Chambord Foam
  • 20ml Chambord
  • Egg White
  • Sugar Syrup
  • Lemon Juice
  • Whipped Cream Dispenser
  • High ball glass

Method

Pour your JD over ice and top up with the 75mlcola, next top with foam or the ice cream to the glass top, if foam you can get the hair cut effect by carefully pouring the remaining cola down the side of the glass so the foam rises over the glass edge.

For the Foam, combine the ingredients in the dispenser, add the gas cylinder, shake vigorously. Scrape so the glass is level and add more coke so the foam forms Pauls hair cut.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken Dhalsim

A drink you really want to keep at arms length, a Martini glass tainted with Naga chilli so take the drink on up close and face the yoga flame or drink at a distance.

Ingredients

  • 25ml Absolut Mandarin Vodka
  • 25ml Chilli Vodka
  • ½ Orange juiced
  • ½ Lemon juiced
  • 50ml Splash of cranberry juice
  • Naga Chili
  • Ice
  • Martini glass

Method

Take the Naga chilli, slice and rub the chilli around the rim of a martini glass and set aside. Carefully wash your hands here unless you want Yoga pain! Combine all the remaining ingredients in a shaker, shake, strain and serve in the spicy martini glass.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.

Categories
Drinks

SF x Tekken Nina

A classic cocktail for a mainstay of the Tekken series, This blonde bombshell is made with rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and collides with a dash of baileys to bring in her Irish background to create a tasty delight that still holds its own against anything else.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Dark Rum
  • 10ml Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 60ml Cream of coconut  
  • 120ml Pineapple juice
  • Blender 
  • Ice
  • Hurricane glass

Method

Mix all the ingredients in a blender and serve in the Hurricane glass.

The Game

Street Fighter X Tekken is a crossover fighting game developed by Capcom and released in March 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it also made its way to PC and Vita. The game features characters from both the Street Fighter franchise and Namco’s Tekken series. In the game, each player selects two characters respectively and face each other as duos in tag-team fighting matches, with the objective to knock out one of the members from the opposing team. In addition to the traditional multiplayer modes, the game also features a single-player Story mode with a plot revolving around a mysterious object called the “Pandora”.