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Guest Post

Guy to Gyaru: A Journey into Cosplay, Crossplay and New Adventures

Cosplay has been a passion area in my life for quite some time, from gushing over cosplay pictures online to meeting cosplayers at conventions and expressing my compliments to them in person.

Before this experience; I had only done one cosplay. A Team Magma Grunt from Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald. A fairly simple design with minimal bells and whistles attached. So, the next phase from this is obviously going for a busty gyaru type character, right?

Join me in this adventure of new experiences, mildly annoying struggles, and pant-soiling excitement – as I put together a cosplay of Junko Enoshima from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

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Marvel’s Secret Empire (Part 2)

The continuation of our guest post from Ed Brown of last week which has had to be split into two parts, in which Ed explores Marvels major story-arc, the Secret Empire. We left mid-discussion about Captain America switching sides to H.Y.D.R.A and the fact that it put a lot of people off…


Super-hero Segregation

You’re a man with a shield, enhanced strength and agility, and some of your friends can fly real fast, have strength vastly surpassing your own, and have a nasty tendency to do things like beating Tony Stark into a coma while walking away completely scot-free. While he’s wearing Hulkbuster armour. Yeah. That happened.

So of course, you need a plan. And at the very start of Secret Empire, you get to see one exceptionally hastily constructed plot point that freezes New York and its population of crimefighters out of the equation, and one more carefully developed plot point that walls of Earth from outside influence while most of the galactic-powered characters are up in space. Inhumans are corralled into a prison in their own ‘city’ of New Attilan, and Mutants are expelled from the USA and forced into an independent province on the west coast. There’s more to all of that, which was explained in individual books, but the set-up, in all honesty, was compelling. (more…)


Marvel’s Secret Empire (Part 1)

Or How to Alienate Your Readers with a Great Storyline

We’re heading towards October, the time of year where the Marvel Universe receives its annual shake-up at the climax of a 5-month long universe-spanning crossover that involves every hero with TV or silver screen time (planned or actual) and nearly every support character they’ve ever worked with.

Yes, this year is no different – as a longstanding Marvel fan I have now been conditioned to prepare myself and my bank account for a relentless onslaught from May onwards, and I have even reached the stage where I’ve accepted the fact that I can either choose between rent or being able to read every chapter of the story.

As the dust is now preparing to settle on the latest summer blockbuster, I felt that now would be an outstanding time to share my thoughts with some fellow geeks on this year’s offering, along with a healthy smattering of completely unsolicited comics on both the storylines that led into it and summer blockbusters in general. (more…)


Gaming Genres: Multiplayer (with Friends)

The title does seem a bit generic, so I’ll clarify.

When I’m talking about a ‘multiplayer (with friends)’ game, I’m talking about a game that can be played as a single player game quite easily — It’s designed in such a way that one person can progress normally. But the design is also in place to make the experience infinitely enhanced with the addition of your friends playing with you, either as allies, enemies or neutral parties (Read: Potential backstabbers).

So how about starting with a game where a friend can go through all three of those positions?

Sid Meier’s Civilization V (or Civ 5 for short) is a 4X strategy game1 where the end goal is “to build a civilisation that will stand the test of time”. You do this through various means — Researching new technology, developing your culture to build social policies and, when it comes to it, nuking the ever loving hell out of anyone who wrongs you.

Playing Civ 5 with friends is an interesting experience, to say the least. You can act amicable at first, sharing embassies, helping each other out through simple trade and maybe killing some barbarians, with the threats being only very vague and passive-aggressive in nature…

…then you’ve declared war on every AI player and your friend, just so you can say you’re at war with everyone.

Those are just the two far points of the spectrum of evil deeds during multiplayer in Civ 5 — You’ve also got imposing taxes on your friends to use your borders, or giving salt after a brutal war to, well, rub salt in the wound and — possibly the most brutal act your friends can commit — of nuking your capital city into the dirt when you’re playing as Venice, so that the only city you have left standing is a little city state that has nothing in it.

Salty? Me? No.

As much as I’d like to ramble on about when you get backstabbed by an ally, even during all-out war, I still have this element of joy flowing through me. Thinking about what move my friend will make next; what soldiers may be coming out from behind the frontlines; are the frontlines just a ploy to distract me? Combining that with all the previously mentioned elements, Civ 5 is a multiplayer game that can consume literal hours with a group of good people.

And now, to give my editor flashbacks.

Ahh… only a few people are going to get that, and that makes me happy.

Terraria should be familiar to quite a few people reading this, due to its similarities to Minecraft and how both games shared a good amount of popularity during 2011.

The advantages of Terraria come in the form of more of a set structure, with more armour tiers to advance through, biomes becoming harder as the game progresses and an incredibly diverse selection of boss fights.

As someone who has spent a small time…

…playing Terraria, I can vouch that the game has a veritable gold mine of possibilities for multiplayer.

Of course you can progress normally by gathering materials and building a large castle, all to slowly carve your way up to the Moon Lord, the Cthulhu inspired final boss.

However there are also options for PvP modes, with plenty of maps available online to download for these purposes, alongside inventory/character editors so all your friends are as powerful as each other, regardless of whether you use a mage, fighter or ranger build.

A random game to play in multiplayer that I made up involves mining. You get a Spelunker Potion (which reveals ores and treasures with a glow for a brief time), a Teleportation Potion (which teleports the player character randomly once around the map) and a high level pickaxe/drill.

The objective? Mine as much as you can before the Spelunker potion runs out. The person with the most ores and treasure wins. Simple, yet surprisingly competitive.

With the previous two games, the amount of players in a single session can go up to sixteen and even higher. The next game is a bit smaller by contrast, on a scale as grand as the starry sky.

Source: Nintendo UK

Get it?

Being one of the more obscure multiplayer titles to pick, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky, is a JRPG developed by Level-5 and released for the Nintendo DS. The game follows the classic four person party composed of different classes with different abilities, going through a large open world completing quests, delving into dungeons and battling giant spear wielding cucumbers.

Yes… This is called a Cruelcumber.

The difference here is that the four-person party doesn’t have to be party members recruited at a tavern. They can be your friends in local multiplayer (recruiting these at a tavern is optional).

DQ:IX handled multiplayer through a drop-in, drop-out system. In the main hub tavern of the game, there is a portal which you use to start connection with nearby DS systems, either opening your world to other players or trying to find the world of your friends.

This system is downright amazing — and honestly I believe it’s the best way to play the game, even during the campaign.

Sure, it is possible to soft sequence break your own world, by going into a friends world with more towns open and buying the better equipment there.

But that ignores how ridiculously fun and satisfying it can get exploring the world as an actual party; the conversation you share in real life being the snarky comments actual adventurers would have in the face of monsters.

Martial Artist, Armamentalist, Luminary and a healer character from that persons own party made up my band of adventurers, meeting up on the weekends to take on the harder bosses…

…only to take up a lot of turn time using an attack with a pointlessly long animation, which, at the end of the day, didn’t even do that much better damage than a regular attack.

That’s been my summary of a few multiplayer games I’ve enjoyed over my life. I’ll admit, I don’t play these with other people much these days, so a lot of my thoughts and ideas are from pure memory.

But that’s the point of playing games with your friends; creating the memories that last.

Be it sitting in a living room, making sure not to move too far away so the DS infrared connection doesn’t break, sitting in bed as suggesting Terraria as a game night idea goes horribly wrong, even to the people who prefer tabletop, gathered round a table playing Magic and D&D for hours on end.

We’re all geeks here, building a community around these sorts of things is why we’re here.

14X strategy game is a genre with the goals all having the second letter “X”, they are “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate”

Thanks for reading, this was a good article to write because it reminded me of a lot of good times in my life, if you’re one of those people who I shared that time with, thank you. Got any multiplayer stories you’d like to tell? Or maybe you’ve got a game in mind which is just perfect for this kind of multiplayer? Let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit.


Spider-Man Homecoming: A Missed Opportunity

What happens when a Spider-fan, of almost three decades, walks into the most eagerly anticipated Spider-Man film since Spider-Man films were a thing? Well, they do so with a lot of expectation! They carry with them memories of the best bits of five previous Spider-films, a fantastic cameo in Civil War, the 90s Spider-Man cartoon (and its AWESOME theme tune) and a shed load of comic book knowledge. Any fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is aware that you can’t get too precious about any of that – there will be changes and you should expect things to be different.

But not like this.

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Top 10 Awkward Armours

GeekOut Top 10s

Battlelines are drawn, it’s time to get suited into my gear built for war. On goes these boots, which are ten sizes too large; then on goes my helmet, which is too thick to see out of. It doesn’t matter how big and bulky my armour is though, for you see this is my armour which I wear proudly to combat. I don’t know what I can barely move my arms around in this kit, all that matters is that it’s me and my iron suit out there, wreaking havoc!

Of course, that’s all well said and done, but media really is filled with the most awkward armour known. From ladies armour which barely counts as armour, through to oversized suits which you can barely see out of, all that matters is that the armour must be awkward, either by size, weight or strange designs. Join us this week for another Top 10, where we inspect this armoury as critically as we can.

Before we start, we’d like to say a special thanks to Kevin Kutlesa from The Mental Attic, for his contributions to this week’s Top 10. (more…)


Gaming Genres: Roguelikes

What is a roguelike?

Well, it’s a game like Rogue. (Obviously).

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Gunpla Resources

Last time I wrote for GeekOut South-West I spoke of my new favourite hobby, Gunpla aka Gundam Plastic Models. Since then, I’ve built several models and even completely customised another, which I’m presenting to Timlah at some point in the future as a gift for, well, everything.

  • Timlah’s notes: Thanks Kev! It looks awesome!!

But I realised that something was missing from the primer I wrote last time, some additional information on the resources you can use if you’re diving into the world of Gundam model kits, how useful they are and my own recommendations. So that’s what we’ll focus on for today.

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Winning Without Winning – Succeeding at Failure in Online Games

It’s the last round; the bomb is planted and nobody has a kit.

There’s just one tower left; before long the base will fall.

Pushed back to the final point and already down a player; it’s time for the defenders to take their last fight.

Sadly, none of these are the enemy team tonight. They’re yours and man, losing is just the worst, isn’t it?

It’s the dual nature of team-based competitive games. When the only difference in whether you win or lose is whether or not your team of players can play better than theirs, the rush of a well-earned win is irreplaceable. Equally though, the competitive drive is just as much a curse as it is a blessing when the semi-random nature of online matchmaking is allowed to poke and prod at your ever-dwindling patience. You can’t pick your teammates without putting a party together, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You sure as heck can’t pick your opponents, and what are you supposed to do about getting matched against amazing players when your own teams seem to consist mostly of orangutans, Tamagotchis and bags of hammers that have somehow been trained to use a mouse and keyboard? It’s so dangerously easy to become apathetic, frustrated, and downright mad at a loss.

Well, you shouldn’t. Harder than it sounds? Absolutely, but I’m here to show you why a hard-fought loss is actually one of the best things that can possibly happen to you in online gaming… as long as you know what to do with it. Winning is great, but only by analysing your mistakes can you improve and those are much easier to spot in a loss than in a victory. You just need to know how to self-analyse, so here are some pointers to help get you started on winning your losses.

The Sliding Scale of Overcome to Overwhelmed

The first step in making the most of a loss is also the most intuitive, because it’s often the first thing that will naturally come to mind anyway. “Wow, that sure was a close game!” and “Wow, we sure got a mudhole stomped in us that would bring a 30% alcohol-by-volume tear to the eye of Stone Cold Steve Austin!” are two very different beasts which have to be approached differently. It’s not always a totally clear immediate distinction, either, because frustrated annoyance can make a close loss feel like getting stomped, while frustrated apathy can make a stomp feel like a close loss. Before asking yourself what went wrong, it’s important to sit back, take a breath and ask yourself: how close, realistically, was that game? This can be done from memory or, if you’re serious about improvement, it’s often worth skimming through the demo/replay, assuming your game of choice has that feature. Identifying how close you came to winning is hugely important in putting everything else about a loss into context.

The Three Points of Focus – Us, Them and Me

To make a productive start on analysing your losses, there are three questions you can ask yourself after a match. The way you look at answering them will change from game to game, since different games have different formats. For some games, like MOBAs, these may apply to entire matches. For others, like CS:GO, individual rounds. However, the concepts can be applied to any player-vs-player competitive game, even 1v1 games with a little tweaking.

The first question: What was our win condition and how did we fail to achieve it?

A win condition is exactly what it sounds like. Within the context of the match you just played, what specifically did you have to do in order to beat their team with your team? This can be tricky to pin down in games with random matchmaking as often everyone on the team has a different idea of what the win condition is, but it’s not impossible. In CS:GO, it may be that their AWPer on B site was getting the vast bulk of their team’s kills, therefore keeping them pressured above all others or, conversely, avoiding and killing their team around them may have left them outmatched in firepower, allowing you to take more fights and win more rounds. In Dota 2 it may be that their heroes were weak in the early-game and strong late-game while yours were the opposite, meaning that your window of opportunity would have been to get aggressive as soon as possible, turn that into tower kills, control the map with wards and presence and never allow them to make a comeback. In Overwatch it may be that the enemy were using far more ultimates than you to secure fights and leaving themselves at what the competitive community often calls an ultimate economy disadvantage and your team could have taken points by capitalizing on that more effectively, or perhaps their supports were frequently out of position and could have been killed early to win fights. To wrap everything together, as well as figuring out the things you didn’t do which could have led to a win, identify any things which you did do which were unnecessary for your win condition. Did you spend that extra 5 minutes farming your next item when you should have been looking for kills? Did you spend 30 seconds looking for solo kills while your team was preparing to push a vulnerable area, and by the time you grouped up with them that area was no longer vulnerable? Identify these and you’re well on your way towards improvement.

The second question: What was their win condition and how could we have stopped them from achieving it?

Just as you and your team have a win condition, so do the opponents. The easiest way to stop them from achieving their win condition is, of course, to reach your own first, but often when push comes to shove that’s not a viable option and you’re left to identify what they have to do to win and stop them from doing it. Let’s take our earlier Dota 2 example. If your team has failed to dominate the early-game, the enemy are now free to work towards their own win condition of avoiding fights and farming until their heroes hit their main power spikes and suddenly they can throw you so far across the map that you land in a Heroes of the Storm match. In this situation it’s often productive to focus on their win condition and anything you can do to mess with it. Stealing their jungle camps, forcing their attention with split pushes which spread them around the map where they can be picked off, doing anything possible to prevent them from comfortably preparing for a late-game win. Being able to look back at a loss and recognize times where the enemy were doing something to work towards their win condition which you could have prevented can prepare you for those improbable, clawed-back-from-the-brink games where you win by leaving the opponents unable to close out the match and slowly neutralising their advantage.

The third question: What could I, individually, have done better?

In team games, by far the most common trap I see people falling into is blaming their team for everything, not taking full responsibility for their personal screw-ups. This is rarely conscious and almost everyone falls victim to it at some point. This can boil over into becoming frustrated in-game and giving your teammates grief which, for the record, never helps. If someone’s being counter-productive, mute them. If you’re considering communicating in a way which is counter-productive, follow the system of Stay Targeted, Focused and Understanding.

In other words, if you’re considering giving people grief, remember to S.T.F.U. and keep playing.

But I digress. The final and arguably most important question to ask yourself following a loss. Disregard your teammates’ mistakes – it’s good to recognize them so that you don’t make the same ones yourself but – and I cannot possibly stress this enough – you can’t control or change what other players do. Ask yourself, simply, what you could have done better. Look at the shots you missed, the kills you could have gotten by acting just two seconds faster, the teammates you could have saved by healing them instead of someone already close to full health. Don’t focus on how your teammate let you die that time, focus on how you died and shouldn’t have been in that position. Don’t focus on how your teammate couldn’t finish that important kill, focus on how you also missed the shot in the first place. It’s especially important not to forget this in games where you felt like you carried your team. Even if you did, you did not play a perfect game, because in pretty much any modern competitive game that’s impossible when you account for human error. No matter how hard you carried, there’s always something you could have done something better. That goes for every player of every skill level and any successful professional gamer will tell you the same.

Applying the theory

All of this, of course, is just a set of pointers and guidelines, something to point you in the right direction. The most important part – and if you only take one thing away from this, it should be this – is that winning isn’t everything. A loss can be just as valuable as a win, if not more, if you take the time to look at how and why they happen and for that reason, why be upset by them? Losses are a necessity, and a beautiful one. Competitive games are all about the rush of competition, about proving your skill, about the satisfaction of being the better player. Without the sting of losing, winning wouldn’t taste nearly as sweet. So, embrace it. You’ll get that win back sooner or later.


Gunpla Primer

Gunpla is very likely an unfamiliar word. But if I tell you it has something to do with Gundam and model building, you’ll probably figure out what the word means, but don’t worry, I’m planning to explain everything.

Gunpla is my latest hobby, and one that I’m pretty sure I’ll stick to for a long time, as I find it extremely fun. I also have some interesting ideas but can’t really put them in motion until I become more proficient with the out-of-the-box models.

Plastic History

So, what is it? Gunpla is a simple Japanese portmanteau of the words “Gundam Plastic Model,” and refers to modelling kits for building scaled versions of every vehicle and mecha of the many Mobile Suit Gundam franchises. I’ll be using this word to refer to all Gundam modelling for the rest of the article.
The first line of model kits, way before anyone ever came up with the name Gunpla, appeared on the market following the cancellation of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series in the 70s, and included every single type of mecha or vehicle seen on the show as well as variations. These models were rather simplistic by today’s standards and much like other model kits—such as airplanes—you needed to paint and glue them together yourself.

These are not pretty! | Credit: CollectionDX

These are not pretty! | Credit: CollectionDX

During the 80s, with the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam line, the style changed and they started using both polycaps (soft plastic connectors) for better-articulated joints and snap-fit parts that didn’t need glue. These two improvements make up the current standard for Gundam models aka Gunpla.

Over the years, Bandai introduced the “Grades” which represent not only levels of quality and detail but also the scale—though the first Grade introduced, the High Grade, shares the scale with three other lines. Some of these Gunpla grades had limited runs, as they were part of Anniversary events, such as the First Grade, a re-release of the first series’ mechs under modern snap-fit standards yet keeping the original simplicity, and the Mega Size Model “Grade”, 1:48 scale, during the 30th anniversary event and discontinued only three years later.

We’ve come a long way!

We’ve come a long way!

When it comes to collecting and building Gundam, it’s all…

A Matter of Scale

The average-sized mecha in the Gundam universe is around 18 meters tall. Building a plastic model that size would be overkill. You wouldn’t really fit the thing in your room, even your garage. You’d have to build it on the Thames! But I suppose you would have to do the same with any model kit, I suppose.

As I mentioned before, every grade has an associated scale, ranging from 1:144 (that is 1/144 of the original 18m size) to the quite massive 1:35. Here’s a quick breakdown:

From small to Gargantuan, kinda like D&D scales! | Credit: Japan-Cool

From small to Gargantuan, kinda like D&D scales! | Credit: Japan-Cool

High Grade (1:144 & 1:100): Introduced in the 90s and still a very popular Gunpla grade. These models are very simple and easy to put together, a recommended starting grade for most builders. You can find almost all Mobile Suit in High Grade.

Real Grade (1:144): A model type with extensive details and using the design principles of the Master and Perfect grades but at a smaller size and cheaper price. Real Grade is the highest end line for this scale.

Master Grades allow for lots of poses!

Master Grades allow for lots of poses!

Master Grade (1:100): These kits introduced something amazing to Gunpla: inner skeletal frame, for better poses and articulation. Master Grades are the 2nd highest level of Gundam models in terms of details and overall difficulty. This is the grade I chose to start with, as I wanted a challenge for myself and the hundreds of tiny pieces were a lot of fun.

Perfect Grade (1:60): Perfect Grades are the top of the line in Gunpla, with massive level of detail and parts. It’s not unusual to find PGs with led parts. Just imagine having to wire lighting in addition to all the building. Perfect Grade Gunpla as you may imagine are also quite large, at around 30cm on average and very expensive. If a Master Grade costs around £40 a Perfect Grade will cost at least five times that amount. These require a lot of skill and time to build.

In addition to these mainstream lines, there are two others worth mentioning, even though they’re not really grades but separate product lines by Bandai Hobby:

SD Gundams are really cute! | Credit: Amazon UK

SD Gundams are really cute! | Credit: Amazon UK

Super Deformed: The Super Deformed Gunpla kits are easy to build but have limited articulation and need a coat of paint for finishing. These represent the many comically proportioned Gundams from the SD Gundam Franchise. I have at least one SD Gundam planned in the future, the Star Winning Gundam from the anime Gundam Build Fighters Try, the series that inspired me to build my first Gunpla.

B-Club: These are a special category, a secondary line made of resin and with no finishing whatsoever. Because of the industrial process required for resin, these kits often have extra bits attached that the builder needs to remove and that’s just the beginning. Only experts should attempt these builds, as they require copious amounts of customisation to even build an out-of-the-box model.

Resin models are hard! | Credit: GunJap

Resin models are hard! | Credit: GunJap

With that we conclude this overview of Gunpla, so let’s get onto the fun bit…

Gunpla Building

Every Gunpla kit comes with everything you need to build the model, the pieces held together in numbered sprue’s. Along with these comes an instruction manual that will remind you of IKEA, with clear instructions of which numbers to put together and where.

You might not need glue to build Gunpla anymore, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the proper tools. This is still model building and any craft hobby has its toolset! Your primary tools are a cutter and a hobby knife.

Just follow the instructions!

Just follow the instructions!

The cutter, as its name implies is just to cut the Gunpla pieces clear of the sprues, while the hobby knife you’ll most likely use to take off the excess plastic on the part after cutting it free. You have to be very careful with hobby knifes, not only because it’s very easy to cut yourself with the sharp blade, but also it’s very easy to go beyond the simple nub of extra plastic and take out a chunk of the part—though if you’re doing a custom build and want the part to look “damaged,” you might want to do that on purpose.

The hobby knife is also very useful in peeling and attaching decals, which come standard with most models, particularly the “Ver. Ka.” Series, which are redesigned mechs by Hajime Katoki, one of the principal mecha designers for Sunrise and who’s worked on many Gundam series, with Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz being the most famous. He’s the man responsible for the redesigned and frankly badass looking Wing Zero Custom.

I’m still missing decals!

I’m still missing decals!

Aside from these important tools, it never hurts to have a cutting board, as these come with measurements and if you use the knife, you won’t ruin the desk you’re working on.
Lastly, you might need some sandpaper to smooth out the surfaces. Sometimes, even using the hobby knife isn’t enough or the piece is too delicate or small for the blade, so sandpaper can help you where the knife can’t in making your Gunpla pieces ready to go.

This is really, really sharp! | Credit: Gunbies

This is really, really sharp! | Credit: Gunbies

Bandai also sells a ton of markers to pain the parts, or you can go with your own—this bit is really up to you. Let me just say that unless you’re building something custom and want to add your own scheme, the kits come with painted parts, so you don’t need to worry about it.

As for the scales and grades to pick, it’s up to you, but the higher the scale and grade, the more it’ll take to finish a model. High Grade and SD Gunpla take a few minutes to complete. Real Grades take a bit longer and Master Grades a few hours. Perfect Grades and beyond can take up to a day of work depending on the complexity of the model. If you’re doing custom work, it’s impossible to know how long it’ll take.

Love the box art

Love the box art

My first Gunpla, a Master Grade Freedom Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED took 6-8 hours to complete, though it’s still missing the decals. It might seem like a long time, but when you’re doing it, putting the pieces together with the cookbook, time just flies by.

My next project is another Freedom Gundam but a 2016 version with even more articulation and better construction overall. I have a few Beargguy (not a typo) III builds in the works as well, with some custom builds, including one with the GeekOut South-West colours and logo, but those will take time to come together, as will the 3rd Freedom I’ll make, but a custom build with a Decepticon design.

When I eventually make it to PG Gunpla, I’m doing the original Gundam, the RX-78.-2.

One of the most modifiable models out there!

One of the most modifiable models out there!

If you’re interested in Gunpla and want some extra information, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter and I’ll point you in the right direction. I can even teach you which sites to avoid when purchasing Gunpla! I might be just a beginner on the subject, but in this short time, I’ve seen a good chunk of scam websites and I certainly don’t want you to go through the same stuff I did.