SpartanNerd and SpartanKid Unboxing and Review…Sengoku Astray Gundam (SD)

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Once again…a SD model of a Gundam the SpartanNerd has no investment in.  The title clearly says it is from “Build Fighters.”  I watched about one half of an episode of “Gundam Build Fighters Try” on Netflix.  The Japanese (no offense intended,) plus the presentation of the characters, and just the show in general didn’t agree with me.  I get it.  It’s just not my thing.  The SpartanChildren, however, eat it up.

SpartanTeen tells me that the correct pronunciation for this model is “Astree”.  Don’t know if that is true.  When I see the word “astray,” I think, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”

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Here are the parts before assembly.  It took SpartanKid about two hours to make this.  He is nine years old, so…

I helped a little.  You have to really clear the “nubs” off of the pieces after you break them from this blister.  Also, the pieces are meant to fit together tightly.

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The instructions were easy to read, but in Japanese.

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You also get an apparent advertisement for the Gundam markers and pens, and a Manga comic, just like the others in this line I have reviewed.

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The assembled model looks like this.  The two swords are very nice.  But it is the headpiece that gets your attention!

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He is really busy, and so doesn’t seem as posable as some of the others in this line.  He also tends to want to fall apart.

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The SpartanKid assembled both of these…so here are some statements from him.

“Astray looks really awesome and is pretty solid, except for the arm, which keeps giving me problems…it wants to come off and come apart.”

“I like the coloration, and the parts are unpainted, so you can choose how you want to paint it.  I am going to paint it in a few weeks.  I don’t know what colors yet.”

“I forgot to put the stickers on it for the most part.”  (Plans to use the stickers later.)

The SpartanNerd rates Sengoku Astray Gundam 3/5.  The markdown comes from the limited articulation and the fact that the  pieces want to come loose, especially the arm.

Otherwise, the Astray is pretty cool with the huge headress and the two swords.

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The Grieving SpartanNerd

Today, (June 22) I just learned that Earl Norem passed away.  (He died on June 19, 2015, at the age of 91.)

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Earl Norem was the incredible artist who did posters and covers for the Masters of the Universe magazine back in the 1980’s.  My mother subscribed to this for me, and I never knew why I stopped getting it.  (Later as an adult I would learn that it was discontinued.)

Norem leaves a legacy of Masters of the Universe work, not only including magazines, but all kinds of books.  Think “Little Golden Books” type.  Also the paperback kind you could get at Book Fairs in elementary school.

I reconnected with Norem’s work back in the late 1990’s, when I was just learning to explore the internet.  I was a part of Adam Tyner’s page, which eventually evolved into He-Man.org.  (I am only a member of the forums there now.  Oh.  And one of my songs was published on the Roast Gooble Dinner soundtrack.)  Back then, I scoured the internet for images of He-Man, and kept a folder on my computer so I could look at them anytime and reminisce.  This folder would follow me to today, where I have it on my mac to circulate desktop pictures.  Norem’s work is the most classically spectacular of all of Masters of the Universe paintings.

Eventually, I would listen to Roast Gooble Dinner, and Val Staples, Emiliano Santalucia, Eamon O’Donahue, and Pixel Dan Eardly would interview Norem.  I listened to this interview at least three times!  Just to hear him talk about his work…and the guy was almost completely clueless that he was revered as a great artist!

To hear his story, he was a painter for advertisements.  It was cheaper for magazines to print artistic work than photographs. Eventually he landed the gig to do some Marvel comics, and then pick up with Conan the Barbarian, eventually leading to He-Man.

He worked in paints.  I recently visited Bob Jones’ University’s Classical Art Gallery, and I dare say Earl Norem’s painting is on par with the great classical masters.  A person might argue that his subject matter didn’t lend to the best examples of classical art, with exaggerated muscles or femininity.  But he always made He-Man, Skeletor, Teela, Gwildor, or whoever look tasteful.  His work emphasised action…his painting always give a sense of energy.

I came up with the idea to try and emulate some of Earl Norem’s paintings with the incredibly posable Masters of the Universe Classics figures.  I will be featuring some of my results here on SpartanNerd.com in the future.

Until then, please go by Earl Norem’s fan page.  (You can see some of his art.  I believe Eamon O’Donahue runs this site.)  Also swing by He-Man.org.

SpartanNerd and SpartanTeen Review…Knight Gundam (SD)

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The second SD Gundam model review ever.  The Knight Gundam.  Does the SpartanNerd think this is worth picking up?  Keep reading!

The Knight Gundam is another of those Gundams that I have zero association with.  I never heard of it.  SpartanTeen saw it on “Gundam Build Fighters”, at least I gather.  The price was $13.99.

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The instructions were in Japanese.  But the Knight Gunam came with a Manga.  No idea what is going on here.  It is a cute little comic strip, though.

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Here is the model assembled.  Highly detailed!  I like the color scheme…mostly gray with blue and red details.  A splash of yellow for the cross on the shield and the headpiece.  It has that oversized head of course.  Tis time there is a barrel inside that allows you to give him two different looks for the eyes.

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This Gundam has an AMAZING amount of accessories.  I removed them all so you can see just how incredible it really is.

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Without the accessories, he feels like a knight without armor should feel.  I applaud the detail that went into this.

But this isn’t all!

It can TRANSFORM!

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That’s right…Knight Gundam transforms into a Centaur!

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I can’t say enough good things about this toy!  Wow!

The SpartanTeen had a few things to say about it:

“The mask part is shiny.  The rest of it is not, and it should be.”

“The sword is hidden in the shield.”

“Knight Gundam and Unicorn Knight Gundam combine, to for a unicorn.  Alone, he is a Centaur”

“This Gundam has relatively few problems compared to other models in this series.”

“It was nothing hard…it took me about ten minutes to build.”

Here is a comparison shot with the Build Burning Gundam SD.

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So what does the SpartanNerd rate Knight Gundam (SD)?

I can’t say anything negative about it.  The SpartanTeen is a little bothered that the mask is vac-metal while the rest of the armor isn’t.  I think it makes the mask pop, though.  Then he informed me that it isn’t just a transformer, but a Combiner as well.

This thing gets a 5/5.  Only $13.99 for basically hours of entertainment.  The amount of things to do here reminds me of playing with “Modulok” from Masters of the Universe Classics.  It is fairly sturdy, and has no stupid problems.

The SpartanNerd rates Knight Gundam (SD) a solid 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd…Why I play this game?

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Why do I play “Magic: The Gathering?”

I began playing this game around four years ago.  I had been playing Pokemon cards with my children, as well as Shadow Era.  I got into Shadow Era because I wanted a card game that was more in-depth and on an adult level.  (I was playing Poker online as well, but not gambling.)  Around this time, I began frequenting comics stores, and noticing how popular Magic was.  I thought it a little crazy that some cards costed over thirty dollars, and said as much.  (Not to mention Jace, Mind Sculptor…who at the time was $100.)

I made the jump one day when I found some cards on sale at Target…a “Deck Builders Toolkit.”  And It was during “Innistraad” block at the time.  But I didn’t know that.

Since then, I have moved my children into the game, and one has left.  The other teeters on losing interest, as children do and should do have shifting  interests as they grow and develop.  But I don’t see myself quitting any time soon.

Today I went to “The Mighty Moo” festival in Cowpens, South Carolina.  Then ate lunch with my family at Taco Dog, in Spartanburg.  Then proceeded with the SpartanKid to a Modern MTG tournament at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg.  This tournament turned out to be really small…we left at 4:00…but I needed to play some more.  So I drove up to Grover, NC, and played at Stormcrow’s Clubhouse Modern event.

Today was the first time I ever played two Magic tournaments, at two different locations.  I am not counting a midnight pre-release and then a “next day” event.  No.  This was a double-header.  And an incredibly full Saturday.  Am I a man obsessed?

I have recently built a re-animator deck, using cards from “Graveborn,” which was my Father’s Day present.  I grew bored with losing using Amulet-Primeval Titan…a fun deck but SUPER HARD to play.  Only recently did I realize, sure some of it is me, the pilot of the deck.  But that deck has losing built in if conditions aren’t just right.

To be fair, I know it is going to be awhile before I enter another tournament.  And I am probably going to miss the Origin’s Pre-Release.  😦

I didn’t come out on top at either tournament.  But still, I had great fun.  And the reasons I had fun are the reasons I play magic:

  • Sitting across from someone for thirty minutes to an hour creates a social relationship that I don’t take lightly.  I learn some things about my opponent.  And they inevitably learn that I am a Christian, a father, a teacher, and a minister as well.  I have time to talk to them and show them that they really are important to me.
  • Magic is a creative outlet.  Side boarding in cards is an act of reacting creatively to situations that aren’t always that clear.  There are a lot of “what-if?” questions to ask.
  • The act of playing in a tournament, at least for me, is an expression of deck-building, which is the biggest creative outlet in MTG.  I don’t “net-deck” much.  In this case, I knew I had encountered a lot of Splinter-Twin at the Tangled Web, so I sided in a card NO-ONE saw coming.  There was a moment in the tournament at Stormcrow’s Clubhouse that summarizes one of the reasons I play Magic.  My opponent, “Turbo”, was playing Tarmo-Twin .  I lost to two Tarmogoyf’s early game in match one.  I sided in “Batwing Brume,” knowing this must be his strategy.  He proceeded to flash in his Deceiver Exarch, put the twin on him, and then begin manuafactoring tokens.  I was surprised that he didn’t just say… “This is a million times.  They all have haste.  They attack.”  I’ve heard that line many times.  Instead, he made twenty-one copies, and declared attack.  I played Batwing Brume, using white and black mana…he attempted to Dispel that.  But I was ready with a Pact of Negation.  BAM.  It was an intense moment, when we both had tons of land on the field, and were vying for the greatest card advantage.  This moment alone was just about worth the whole day of Magic for me.  After this match, Turbo would go on to beat me in another intense standoff.  In that match I bested three Tarmogoyfs!  It could have gone the other way and I could have won if I had had another Pact…(but the way card games work is, there is randomness that beats you sometimes.  I am OK with that!)
  • It is fairly cheap entertainment…I don’t pay for cable or satellite.  In their place I play cards.  I acquire cards.  I collect and organize cards.  I read their flavor text and background stories.  I read about card development from “the mothership” site.  I make casual decks.  I play online occasionally.  And as cheap entertainment goes…it is me using my brain in an analytical and creative way.  I was thinking, as much as I enjoy playing guitar, it is much easier to lug around a red bag with magic decks in it than it is to lug around a guitar, chords, effects, and an amplifier.  At least it is easier to carry.  And while both activities help me get my groove on in a creative way, Magic is a quiet and reflective activity.  A great way to cool down after a long day of work.

I play magic for these reasons.  But as a parent, I have reaped other benefits from teaching and playing the game.  Playing cards is a good way to talk about odds.  Building decks is a way of talking about strategy.  Keeping a curated collection is a way to model taking care of cards.

And playing is quality time spent with the children.

Why do you play Magic, the Gathering readers?  Please let me know.  I know you are out there.  My reviews of sealed products are what gets me the greatest internet traffic to this site.  Please comment in!

SpartanNerd Review…SD Build Burning Gundam

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The SpartanNerd’s interest in Gundams is really very narrow.  I really only like what I have seen on Gundam Wing.  I realize that this is VERY narrow.  But Gundam Wing…the cartoon…as well it’s “Endless Waltz” movie, have tremendous sentimental value for me, as I was very interested in that at a transitional time of life.

I became aware of other Gundam properties by seeing models at Toys R Us for “Gundam Seed.”  Later, I would get “Gundam Battle Assault 2” for Playstation.  This game exposed me to several more gundams.  And soon after, I saw “SD” figures on the shelves at different stores.  SD stood for “Super Deformed,” and it was a big-headed fad about ten years ago.  I suppose that gave away to the “vinyl” toy craze today.

The SpartanKids are once again really interested in Gundams, and I have been encouraged to review them.  So without further ado, here is my review of “SD Build Burning Gundam.”

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The instructions were entirely in Japanese.  It is a good thing that the diagrams are very good, otherwise my nine year old might not have been able to assemble it!

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The back of the instructions contains a manga.  Again, not quite sure what is happening here.

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SpartanKid’s build of SD Build Burning Gundam stands just fine.  It is posable in all ways expected for a Gundam.  It doesn’t have a flight stand or other stand, however.

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The model comes with these accessories.  I know from “Gundam Battle Assault 2” that Burning Gundam’s main weapon is fire coming from his hands or fingers.  (He frequently yells, “Burning Finger!”)

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Here he is with both fingers ablaze.  I don’t really care for this accessory.  It reminds me of some kind of dishrag attached to his hand.

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This “fiery chain” is better, as a weapon.  We also figured out that these pieces can attach to the “dishcloth” pieces.

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Here is a comparison shot to another Gundam in the series.  The “Knight Gundam” has more going for it.

So what are my thoughts on this model?

It was fairly inexpensive.  But it has some problems that come with that “cheapness.”  One big thing is that the head doesn’t stay on.  Another, the accessories are kind of … whimsical.  It comes with no guns.  It doesn’t transform.  It just “is”.

I know nothing of the characters, and have no attachment.  I speak as an outsider.  To me, this Gundam is kind of a generic Wing Gundam.  Accept he doesn’t have wings.

But that price point has to figure in.  This model was only $8.00.  This kept the SpartanKid occupied for two days building it.  He has plans to “decorate” it even more.

SpartanKid has a few things to say about this item.

“I really like the model.  It was well worth my $8.00.”

“The model is pretty colorful.  The attachments go on easily.”

“Despite how the head tends to fall off, you can just set it on top of the body.”

“I would give this product a 5/5.”

The SpartanNerd’s rating of “SD Build Burning Gundam” is 3/5.  On the lower end of three.  I am only judging the merits of the product, not the SpartanKid’s build of it.  DO you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd Review…KREO Transformers “Micro-changers” (Blind Bag)

Bored and nearly broke…buying dish detergent and looking for cheap content…I came across this gem for a mere three dollars at Dollar General Market in Pacolet, SC.

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A couple of things bears discussing here, first.

This isn’t my first experience with Kreo Transformers.  One of the Spartan-children had a Kreo BumbleBee once.  They were really too young.  So I had to do the assembling.  Which was quite tough.  I specifically remember putting pieces on, only to have others let go.

Ranking building blocks…LEGO is king.  The blocks go tog enter comfortably.  There are certain “design standards” that LEGO adheres to.  Then there are the iconic Mini-Figures.

Mega-Blocks…second place…at one time these felt like generic LEGO blocks.  Nowadays a kid might just as well be talking about LEGOs and Mega-Blocks interchangeably.  Mega-Blocks has its own figures, and cool licenses such as Halo.  They don’t market to as young of a crowd of kids as LEGO.  But they don’t have the same design standards as LEGO.  So they might just wing a big rectangle on a single stud, and call that a moving part.  Not the best our soundest solution.

Then KREO has to be last.  These blocks are meant to be interchangeable with the other two.  But there are some problems. They tend to be smaller.  And the studs don’t stick together so well even with blocks in the same set.  And forget about design standards…a part might be held together with tension, or whatever.  I remember that BumbleBee having layers and layers of underside.  This was neither fun to build, and seemed to be lacking in function.

When I saw this KREO Transformer, I remembered the BumbleBee experience.  I also know that that particular set was among the first KREO sets.  I wondered if things had moved along any and improved?  Keep on reading for more of the review!

The back of the bag looked like this…featuring many transformers…most of whom I have little knowledge of or care for.  Rodimus Prime was among them, making me think these must be Transformers from season three of the Generation One cartoon.  (Longtime readers will know that I never cared much for Rodimus Prime.)

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Opening the package revealed these two items…a poly-bag and the instructions.

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I believe the instructions have an error…The ad for Computron and Menasor are BACKWARDS.  Compton is the one at the top. I could be mistaken however, not being that much of an expert on Transformers.  But as a kid, I had Scattershot.  Furthermore, I saw a “Combiner Wars” version of Computron at Big Lots.

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The Transformer I got was “Cyclonis.”  Here are the instructions…

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Here are the assorted parts.

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Here is my first build of Cyclonis.  As I look at him, I scour my memory to see if I can remember this character.  The wings on the arms really bother me.  So I re-arranged him to have a more “Starscream” build.

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One thing that is immediately apparent is the helmet doesn’t want to stay on.  He has a head-barrel almost exactly like a LEGO mini figure.  But that helmet doesn’t snap on well.  And it keeps popping off.

After rebuilding him into “Thundercracker” or similar re-colored Starscream, I put him back the way he is supposed to be according to the instructions.  I am certain, however, if there was a Starscream KREO, he would probably have the same pieces with a different coloration.

Cyclonis…who was he?  The back of the bag tells me that he is probably from the episodes of Transformers I would only OCCASIONALLY watch.  I was very upset when they killed off Optimus Prime.  I also preferred the Autobot and Deception war to be on Earth, and finally the vehicle modes of the last season of Generation 1 Transformers tended to be science fiction things like ships, futuristic cannons, etc.  This made sense for a group of warriors on Cybertron.

Saying all this doesn’t change the fact that I owned more Transformers from this era than from the earlier era.  Transformers were expensive.  The ones I had were gifted to me.  And usually going to the store with money to purchase one meant that characters I knew would be out of stock…

Finally, It came to me.  A little blip in my memory where Galvatron is using Cyclonis name.  I broke down and looked at Wikipedia.  Indeed, Cyclonis was Galvatron’s “right hand man.”  And yes.  His wings are on his arms.

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Transforming Cyclonis wan’t difficult.  He becomes one of those “futuristic” vehicles I mentioned.  The transformation really isn’t anything more than the figure on its belly, with an extra nosecone piece instead of the helmet.  And the wings re-arranged.

I much prefer the robot mode!

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Cyclonis stands just fine without his KREO block-stand.  He comes with this purple gun, which is one of the coolest parts of this set.  That translucent purple reminds me of another Transformer I DID own, Shockwave…

SpartanNerd Review of KREO Transformers “Micro-changers” (Blind Bag)

I haven’t reviewed alot of LEGOs.  But as it goes, this is worth every bit of three dollars.  I really like the color scheme.  He is menacing, with guns on his back and a purple gun accessory.  You immediately know he is a Decepticon!  (I have always been more of a Deception, even though I regarded the Autobots as awesome as well.  But my toys were usually Decepticon.

Sure, it has some problems.  The helmet doesn’t like to stick to the single stud on top of his head.  He stands better without the stand…both feet don’t want to plug into it.  (That’s why you saw me posing him standing on one foot.)  There is ugly branding on the underside of one of the wings.

The SpartanNerd rates  KREO Transformers “Micro-changers” (Blind Bag) a 4/5.  For three dollars,you have something way cooler than most LEGO mini figures that come in blind bags.  For instance, I remember SpartanKid opening a Cheerleader, a clown, and a caveman.  At least this was a Decepticon!