Monday, April 15, 2019

Ka-BOOM! (But that's a good thing)

Many of us have experienced this at some point in our lives, or something very similar. Studying for that major exam, hoping you are prepared enough to do well and survive that brutally hard class. It's an open-book test, so you have that going for you. Maybe.

"I've got this," you think to yourself, as you start to read the test instructions. Except they're written in what looks like Greek. Or maybe Aramaic. Whatever it is, it sure doesn't look like anything you've prepared for. You glance around nervously at your classmates, and they all seem to be having no trouble at all as they measure out ingredients and add them to their flasks. Puffs of smoke and flashes of light accompany the reactions as your fellow students create their potions with apparent ease. 

What was that recipe again?
image from Google search

"OK, here goes," you say to yourself as you open your supply chest and take a smidgeon of fairy dandruff. As you start collecting some unicorn tears from your supply the magic begins and before you know it, your first potion is complete! One down, but how many more to go?

Nope, this wasn't a scene from Harry Potter, but you would be correct in guessing that I was talking about an exam in a potions class. I'm referring to the game Potion Explosion, originally published in 2015 by Horrible Games. I discovered this game from a friend of mine, who posted about playing it during one of their game sessions. When Cindy and I got the chance to visit them, we played it and both of us were immediately hooked. Thanks, Steve and Amy! I'll be referring to many of the potions and other aspects of this game throughout this blog, and if you want a more detailed description of what each potion does, just click here for a PDF of the rules from the Horrible Games website.

Potion Explosion (2nd edition)

Thematically, the game pits you against up to three other "students" taking a final exam in a potions class. Not only must you carefully select your ingredients (in turn), to make as many potions as you can, but you must also have the skill to use the completed potions to your advantage to score as many points as possible before time runs out. There is no specific time limit for this game, as the end game is triggered by the players themselves when a certain condition is met. 

A quick note to my new readers, and a reminder to my established readers. Any word or phrase in blue is a link that will open in a new window. You won't lose your place here. Also, clicking on any photo will open a larger version of the photo in a new window. This page will always stay open. 

So, welcome to the Horribilorum Sorcery Academy for Witty Witches and Wizards. Albedus Humblescore, the Headmaster, will be in charge today and will grade your potions. Not to worry, though, as he will even give you a little help if you need it. It will cost you some points off your final grade, though, so use his help wisely.

There are eight potions that are subject to be on your exam, but only six of the eight will be tested. Each set of potions have slightly different recipes, and some are worth more points than others. Each type of potion has a special effect, too, that will help you complete more potions. Thankfully, you'll only have to manage four ingredients: fairy dandruff, dragon smoke, unicorn tears, and ogre mucus. These four ingredients, mixed in different proportions, will create the potions.

The eight potions

Now I'm sure some of y'all are thinking: "Wait, I have to handle mucus? From an ogre?? No wayyy!"

Relax, take a deep breath and realize that the ingredients are represented by marbles. You won't have to get close to a dragon to collect some of its smoke, or grab a spatula and find the nearest congested ogre. A plastic dispenser with five columns will have a random assortment of yellow, red, blue or black marbles to represent the fairy dandruff, dragon smoke, unicorn tears, and ogre mucus respectively. 

Your ingredients await

The player that most recently prepared a drink is designated as the "first player," and places the first player token by their desk board. Play proceeds clockwise from the first player. This token is just a reminder, as the order won't change throughout the rest of the game. 

Once the marbles are loaded into the dispenser, six of the eight potions are chosen by the group and shuffled into five equal stacks. Two starter potions (marked with a star) per player are placed in the center of the table and the first player selects his or her first potion. Proceeding clockwise, each player will then select their first potion. Once all players have selected one starter potion, the last player will get the second pick, and then going counterclockwise, the rest of the players will select their second potion. Place your potions on your desk board and we are almost ready to go.

Are you ready?

Depending on the number of players, a number of skill tokens are placed into a countdown stack. Once these skill tokens have been awarded, the end game is triggered. The skill tokens are worth four points each and are awarded any time a player completes three potions of the same kind or five different potions. 

Example of a player's starting potions

You'll always have two potions to work on at a time, with a small storage vessel to hold any extra ingredients, up to three, that you may have. As you can see from the photo above, I picked two different types of potion, indicated by the different stoppers. One is worth four points when completed, and the other is worth five points. Right off the bat, I'm going to need several red and yellow marbles as well as a single black marble to complete these.

Your turn consists of picking a marble of your choice from the dispenser. If two or more ingredients of the same color then slide together or collide, they'll explode and you will get to take those marbles as well. This is where skill and luck combine to give you the most marbles at a time. Note: only your pick will cause explosions. Using a help token or a potion to remove an ingredient marble will not trigger an explosion. The order, then, in which you do things is important. Generally, it's best to use a help token or potion before making your official pick. 

Let's think this through...

I need to get as many yellow and red marbles as possible on my turn. Click on the photo above, and take a good look at your choices and see what you come up with. Go ahead; I'll wait. 

What did you decide? The only viable option I see is to take a help token (-2 points already!) and use that to remove one of the black marbles in the second slide track from the top. That will then allow me to take the other black marble as my actual pick and trigger two different explosions.

Do you see it?

By using the help token, and removing the black marble (indicated by the white arrow above), my "official" pick of the other black marble to the right will then cause the two red marbles to slide together, creating an explosion. I can take these red marbles, which will cause the yellow marble to collide, and I'll get those as well. So, by taking a small hit of -2 points for help, I'll end up with two black, two red, and four yellow marbles at the end of my pick. That will allow me to finish the potion on the right and be just one red marble short of finishing the other potion on my next turn. The extra black marble will go into the storage vessel on the right. That ends my first turn and I'll then return the marbles from the finished potion to the dispenser, flip the potion to the completed side and pick another potion to work on.

"Recipe" (L) & "Completed" (R) sides

Help tokens and skill tokens

That wasn't so hard, was it? 

I briefly mentioned that each potion had certain powers you can use to help complete other potions. Remember, the more potions you complete, the more points you score. Since only your pick can trigger an explosion (thereby releasing more ingredient marbles), some of these potions allow you to select more than one marble. Another potion will allow you to steal another player's marbles that are in their reserve pool. 

But how do you activate these potions once they are prepared?

Funny you should ask. Perhaps you recall I mentioned how the first player is designated. The person who most recently prepared a......drink. Yes, that's right, you have to drink your potion to activate it. No worries, nothing will taste too vile. You simply announce that you are "drinking" your potion and then you invert the flask. We have a house rule that you must make this as realistic as possible, but that's just us.

Glug glug glug!

In the photo above, one potion, Elixir of Blind Love, has been consumed by a player, so it's inverted. That potion allows the player to steal all of an opponent's marbles from their storage pool (the small, three-holed flask on the right). The potion to the right of the Elixir of Blind Love is one of my favorites. It's called the Potion of Prismatic Joy, and when activated will allow you to place any color marble from your storage pool into any potion you are working on, regardless of what color is required. "Taste the rainbow," indeed!

Oh, those skill tokens I mentioned earlier? Below is an example of a player having a skill token for making at least five different potions. 

Potion master in the making?

Notice in the photo above that all but two potions have been activated (the inverted flasks). Again, a little wisdom is called for. While you may drink (activate) a potion as soon as it's completed, it's not always wise to do so. These potions are single use only, and once activated and used, their effect is gone. You still keep the points, though. One potion, however, called the Sands of Time, will allow you to reactivate a previously used potion. In the photo above, those are the sand colored flasks, second from the right. When I play this game, I always try to have at least one of these available. 

Three of a kind!

Take a look at the photo above. Notice how there's a skill token for having completed three of the same type of potion. While a player can only receive one skill token for completing five different potions, he or she can receive multiple skill tokens for completing different sets of three potions. Did you happen to see that with three of the Sands of Time potions, the other three potions to the right can be used twice? Pretty cool, huh?

And that, dear readers, is pretty much how the game goes until that stack of skill tokens is depleted. This triggers the end game, although play will continue until the player to the right of the first player finishes their turn. That allows everyone to have an equal number of turns. Note that even though the "countdown stack" might be depleted, if someone else earns a skill token, they are awarded one from the supply.

Once everyone has had their final turn, any incomplete potions and spare ingredient marbles are left where they are. Sorry, no points for effort here. Only results count. Add up all of the points from your completed potions, plus any skill tokens and subtract any help tokens. The player with the highest score wins.

Before I describe one of the expansions to Potion Explosion that we have, I want to point out that the following photos will have different marbles. I purchased some custom marbles to replace what came with the game. They are the same basic color as the original set, but  have a little more "personality." The original marbles are perfectly suitable for play, but I like the look of the more customized (and a bit higher quality) marbles that we now play with. These marbles are not part of the expansion set (except for the white ones) but obtained through another vendor. 

Custom marbles

Those who have read some of my other blogs about games know of my penchant for expansions. I love expansions for games and generally try to obtain at least one if not more expansions for any given base game. 

In 2017 Horrible Games released an expansion called "The Fifth Ingredient." It includes more than just another ingredient to throw into the mix (see what I did there?). This expansion also includes four new potions, additional professor tiles and tokens to either reward (add points) or scold (subtract points) to deserving students. This expansion even includes a "ghastly cauldron" to manage the newest ingredient (Ghost Ectoplasm). 

The Fifth Ingredient

The ghost ectoplasm acts as a "wild card" ingredient and can be played as any other color needed to complete any potion. Once the potion is completed, these marbles are returned to the dispenser instead of the cauldron. 

The Ghastly Cauldron with Ghost Ectoplasm

Four new potions with different effects make a fun game that much better. Just like the base game, it is totally up to you how to incorporate these with the others. In our group, we usually pick out six that look like the most fun, but we have used blind picks for some, too. 

New potions

Another fun addition in this expansion is the addition of new professor tiles that will affect gameplay. The rule book states these can be picked randomly or by choice. The rule book recommends using only one of these tiles for the first few times you play them but states a second may be added when you feel comfortable with the new changes. 

Much like the potions, each professor will add another layer of complexity. One professor likes everything neat and tidy. Don't allow one of your marbles to touch the table or you'll get a scolding token! Are you a player often affected by "analysis paralysis?" I'm not mentioning any names (cough*Cindy), but another professor's tile will cause the tardy player to receive a scolding token if their turn isn't completed in 90 seconds. Still not done after another 90 seconds? D'oh! Another scolding token awaits. 

Meet the faculty

Reward tokens are obtained each time a professor's tile instructs you to exchange a marble in your hand for one of the ghost ectoplasm marbles. A potion's effect can also allow this so those reward tokens can add up once you start exchanging marbles in the cauldron.

Scolding (top) and Reward (bottom) tokens

As the game (exam) progresses, the Ghastly Cauldron will start accumulating other marbles as the ghost ectoplasm marbles are returned to the dispenser. Yes, someone else may have had to brew a potion to allow them to exchange a marble, but once it gets returned to the dispenser, it's fair game for anyone to collect.

Ghastly Cauldron in use

Even though there are twelve ghost ectoplasm marbles, the rules allow for the Ghastly Cauldron to impart its magic ability to transform any marble into a ghost ectoplasm marble once it is in there. So, if all of the white marbles have been exchanged for other colors, completing a potion that allows you to exchange one from your hand with one in the cauldron will still give you that "wild" ingredient. Simply take one of the other colors and use it like you would a white marble.

Lots of potential here!

Yes, it's "luck of the draw" as the dispenser gets refilled from a completed potion. As these random combinations then have some wild ingredients thrown in, a wise potions master will be able to create some interesting explosions. Take a look at the photo above. If you need lots of red and yellow, a wise pick will result in a ton of ingredients for you. 

Following are a couple of photos I took to illustrate how a typical turn would go. Let's imagine your potions look like this at the start of your turn. Use the photo above as your supply. Here's the way I would play it. I'm sure there are plenty of other options, but I see a way to complete both potions during my turn. I need two blue and one yellow marble, or some white marbles, to complete what I have brewing.

What should I do?

In the second slide track from the left, I'll pick that bottom white marble, and call it "yellow." That will cause the two blue marbles to slide together and "explode." That will give me all I need to complete these two potions and select two new ones. At this point, I don't want to activate any of my completed potions just yet.

By completing the two potions above, I'll receive a skill token for having five different potions. Seeing what's available, I'll pick two more Brew of Feather Touch potions (the leftmost completed potion) from the stack so I can try for three of a kind.

The hard part for me is waiting for my next turn, knowing it's futile to try to figure out what marble to pick since it will change with each person's turn. It never fails. When I figure out the optimal combination, someone will mess it up just before my turn. Every.time!

Yep, that's what I thought. My plans got totally hosed but I was able to salvage at least a little something for my efforts.

Should I or shouldn't I?

I decided to take my chances on the next turn to see if I could complete both potions. Yes, I could use the "Potion of Prismatic Joy" to change the three yellow marbles to either red or black to complete one of the potions. In that case, I'd choose the one on the left, as that has a higher point value. I decided to just hang loose for now, and see what the next turn would do.

And of course, it didn't work out like I wanted. Imagine that. By my next turn, there wasn't much available, so after my pick I "drank" the Potion of Prismatic Joy to change the three yellow marbles in my reserve pool into red marbles. 

That's 10 points!

Even with the remaining potions, I couldn't complete the other Brew of Feather Touch, but I'm sure on the next turn I can. And yes, I'll get another skill token out of it. 

Hopefully, this has helped you visualize how much fun this game can be. Speaking of expansions, there's another expansion available that will allow up to 6 players, as well as a new ingredient and new potions. Can you say "wishlist?" 

I have a few other games that I'll write about in the future. Of course, I still need to actually play a couple of them...for the first time...before I can write about the experience. In the meantime, please feel free to check out some of the other games I've written about

For your convenience, I created links below to take you directly to them. Yes, most of them include expansions, if applicable. Just click on the title, and you'll be magically whisked away to that blog. And you won't even have to create (or drink) a potion to do so.

Pandemic  A cooperative game where you try to save the world from deadly diseases.

Flash Point  Another cooperative game in which you get to play firefighter.

Dead of Winter  Do you like The Walking Dead? You'll love this game, then.

Lord of the Fries  Zombies, in a diner, cooking your food. What could go wrong?

Tsuro of the Seas  You're a ship's captain, hauling goods. Try to avoid the dragons.

What are your favorite board games or tabletop games? Please tell me about them in the comments section below. What type of games do you like? Tile placement (like Tsuro of the Seas), Cooperative (Pandemic)? Something else? Do tell!

Coming up in my next few blogs, I'll have another Living History feature among other topics. 

Until next time...

carpe cerevisi

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Whimsical Ways of Cirque du Soleil

I remember growing up in the Corpus Christi area and attending the Al Amin Shrine Circus each year on the bayfront. As a child, this was always an exciting event for me, and my father happened to know many members of the sponsoring organization. Several of these guys would be clowns for the circus and I thought it was cool that dad actually knew them! 

As I reached my adolescent years, and school activities took over much of my life, the circus took a back seat before finally leaving the car altogether. It wasn't a conscious decision, but more of a gradual fading from my day to day thoughts.

Fast forward to my adult years and I eventually learn about a touring circus called Cirque du Soleil. While I knew they were a traveling circus, that's about all I knew of Cirque. After watching an episode of The Simpsons in late 2000 where they featured "Cirque du Puree," I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about. Think about it. If Cirque was featured on the Simpsons, it was worth checking out. It had to be, right?

After attending their most recent show in Houston a couple of months ago, I thought I'd share some of my enthusiasm for Cirque du Soleil. For my new readers, and as a reminder to my established readers, clicking on any blue link will open a new window in your browser. You won't lose your place here. I included quite a few links in this blog, more than usual, and I encourage you to check them out at your leisure. Clicking on any photo will open a larger format version of the photo in a new window as well. This would also be a good time to include the following disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way affiliated with Cirque du Soleil. This blog is strictly my opinion and should be treated as such. I have received no compensation from Cirque du Soleil in any form. I have paid full price for any tickets and merchandise from Cirque du Soliel. They have had no influence or control over any content here.

With that bit of business completed, let's take a journey with Cirque and explore some of the fascinating art they produce. I will say that Cirque did help me with some facts, though, especially the dates of the shows in Houston.

My intent is not to review each show I've seen, as this has been done many times over. I'll include a link to either Wikipedia for the retired shows or to the official Cirque site for the current shows I mention if you want to explore these shows further. I want to share my fondness for Cirque, and what they have to offer.

The Grand Chapiteau for Kurios

Founded in 1984, Cirque is a Canadian company headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Currently, Cirque has three types of shows: Resident, Big Top ("Grand Chapiteau") and Arena. The primary difference between a Big Top and an Arena show is that the arena shows are typically scaled-down versions of a Big Top show that can fit inside an existing location in a given city. 

Not only are the actual acts fascinating to watch, but the music accompanying the acts is captivating as well. Many of the songs feature their own "Cirque language," as I call it. From the elaborate costume designs, to set design to lighting, Cirque manages to completely enthrall me every time I see one of their shows. Every.time. I encourage you to sample some of their music by going to YouTube and searching for any of the shows I mention here. You will find plenty of their songs posted, and I think you'll see what I mean when you listen to it. As I write this blog, I'm listening to an extensive playlist of Cirque music on my computer.

Cirque's first appearance in the Houston area was Quidam in 1997. Note: The shows I will write about are all "Big Top" shows, as that is the only type I have attended thus far. Following Quidam, Cirque returned to Houston in 2002 with Dralion. I don't recall how well either of these was advertised, but both of these shows eluded my notice and I didn't get a chance to see them. I do have these shows, and several others, on DVD though, and have at least watched them that way. 

A little over a year later, Cirque brought Alegria to Houston. Alegria was my first experience attending a live Cirque show, and from the first act, I was hooked. I knew I would make it a point to attend any Cirque show in my area that I could. Alegria retired from the "Big Top" tour schedule and became an arena show for a time. Very recently, though, Cirque has revamped Alegria and returned it to the Big Top world. If it comes back to Houston, I'd love to see how it's been reimagined. You can find out more about the new Alegria here

In 2007, we took a cruise over Halloween on the Carnival Conquest. On Halloween night, the ship held a costume party and some of the costumes were quite extraordinary. One, in particular, caught my eye, that of "Mr. Fleur." He is basically the emcee of Alegria, and naturally, I had to shout "Alegria!" when I saw this costume. The man seemed genuinely surprised that I recognized his costume for what it was, and I explained to him that Cindy and I were both huge Cirque fans. Why did I shout "Alegria" like I did? Click here to see a short YouTube clip of a live intro to Alegria and you'll find out.

"Mr. Fleur"

That photo does absolutely no justice to this man's costume. Even in 2007, many of the digital cameras didn't do that well in low light.

I don't have many photos from the first few shows I attended, but I do have a souvenir from each one. Some people collect shot glasses of places they've been or shows they've seen. Some collect refrigerator magnets or t-shirts. I collect coffee cups. I've written before about my love of a good cup of coffee, and these cups allow me to think fondly of the experience. 

Alegria cup (front and back)

Alegria set the bar high, yet each show since then hasn't disappointed me. Each show has a specific theme, or storyline to make it unique. Another interesting aspect of the Big Top shows is the general seating arrangement. While each show has a unique set design, the physical layout of the stage is similar, with about 3/4 of it being visible at all times. There are no "bad" seats at a Cirque show, and the seats close to the stage are close enough to see the performers in detail. 

Varekai was the next show I saw in 2005 and has remained one of my favorites. From the set design to the music to some thrilling acts, Varekai raised an already high bar even higher. I think one of the reasons it's been such a perennial favorite of mine is how I was introduced to the show. In 2002, Bravo TV aired a reality series called Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within about eight performers as they struggled to find their place in Cirque's world, learning their part in the new show. That new show, of course, was Varekai. 

Fire Within followed the development of Varekai before the show even got its name. This inside view of Cirque's staff trying to cast the show, and the artistic directors shaping the acts with the performers reminded me of my days as a stage manager helping produce the next play at the Strand Theatre in Galveston (now called Island ETC). Have you ever done anything in community theatre from either the artistic or technical side? Fire Within will definitely strike a chord with you. Even if you haven't, try finding it on Netflix or Amazon. I have that series, and most of the Cirque shows, on DVD.

Believe it or not, knowing how the show would progress, and seeing samples of the acts didn't diminish my enjoyment of watching it live in the slightest. In fact, I think it enhanced my enjoyment, as I knew what to look for. An interesting bit of trivia here, that I learned from watching the "additional features" on the Varekai DVD: The original artist cast for Icarus, Anton Chelnokov, began his Cirque career with his parents as an act in a previous Cirque show called Saltimbanco when he was just five years old. He's the little guy in white in the video clip you can see here. And here is Anton in Varekai, again dressed in white, performing his net act.

Varekai cup (front and back)

Between Varekai and Corteo, I met my now wife Cindy, and from Corteo on she has been my constant companion for each show. Cindy's first experience with Cirque was one of their resident shows in Orlando, Florida called La Nouba

Corteo arrived in 2007, and we attended the show in late April. Starting with Corteo, Cirque's Grand Chapiteau camps out at the Sam Houston Race Park for the duration of its run in Houston. Previous to that, Cirque held their shows near the GRB in Houston and Reliant Park. As with most Big Top shows, Corteo has since converted to a traveling show in the arena format. Check out the newer version here.

Corteo cup (front and back)

I'm glad I signed up with "Cirque Club," as doing so will give you access to pre-sale tickets. Yes, it's free to sign up, so why not? Tickets go fast once they are released, and the best seats are taken quickly. Our first experience with the pre-sale advantage was with Corteo, and I'm glad we took the opportunity to select some fantastic seats. 

There was a four-year gap between Corteo and OvO, the next show to grace our location. Generally, Cirque visits Houston every other year, but as you've probably noticed, that's not always the case. Both Cindy and I were soooo ready for another Cirque show by the time OvO came around! I wonder if Hurricane Ike in 2008 had anything to do with such a large gap. 

We attended OvO in March of 2011, just before Cindy's birthday. We made a whole night of it, having dinner before the show and booking a nearby hotel for the evening. This worked so well for us that from then on, we've always made an evening of Cirque. We'll pick a Saturday night show, have dinner close by and make our way to the Grand Chapiteau. After the show, we'll head to a nearby hotel and avoid the long drive back home. Breakfast the next morning will complete our "Cirque weekend."

OvO's Grand Chapiteau

Cindy and me before the show

By sheer accident, I discovered another, unique view of OvO's setup. While perusing Google Earth one day, not too long after OvO left Houston, I found the image below. I took a screenshot of it and I'm glad I did. 

Google Earth image of OvO

At the bottom of the image are the entrance tents. The large circular tent in the middle is the stage, and the cluster of three at the top is the backstage area for the artists. The dirt track at the right of the image is the horse racing track.

OvO cup (front and back)

Given such a long gap between Corteo and OvO, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kooza would be playing in Houston the following year. Oh, yes, yes yes! Maybe Cirque was trying to make up for such a long gap between the last two? Who knows, and really who cares? The important thing here is that we got to see another Cirque show so soon after OvO.

We watched Kooza in early August of 2012, making a fun evening of it, as usual. I was glad to see the return of a particular act called "the wheel of death." I've seen this before in other circus acts, and it's always interesting to watch the artists perform on such a device. Click here to watch a short clip from Cirque showing just how exciting this act is.

Kooza cup (front and back)

Hoping annual visits would be the new trend, we had to wait until early 2015 for the next show, Amaluna. Timing is everything, though, and for this show, we had tickets on a Saturday night, which happened to fall on Valentine's Day. I wanted to do this right, so I made Cindy some strawberry brownies and had a nice bottle of wine to complement them that would finish off the evening in style after the show once we got back to our hotel.

I made reservations at the Steamboat House, a short distance from the race park. Notice I didn't write short drive. While the actual distance from Steamboat House to the race park entrance is just over half a mile, traffic alone will make this short jaunt at least ten if not fifteen minutes. Dinner was fantastic, and ever since then, we've made reservations there before each show. 

Steamboat House

Amaluna introduced a new type of act I haven't seen before. A large clear water bowl sits on stage, and an artist performs a contortion act both in and out of the water. Check out some of the action here. This was easily my favorite act of Amaluna, and Cindy and I talked about it for a long time afterward. 

Amaluna cup (front and back)

I mentioned before how each show has its own storyline. The best way I can describe Kurios is to call it "Steampunk Cirque." In fact, one of the songs in the show is called "Steampunk Telegram." The whole soundtrack, by the way, is one of my favorites of all the Cirque music I've heard. For the record, my favorite tune from Kurios is Bella Donna Twist. I love the high energy the song has, and it's perfect for the act it accompanies. 

I've been hoping that Cirque would bring Kurios to Houston, and in 2017 they did. Prior to Kurios, I took limited photos, mainly outside of the Grand Chapiteau. Part of this was due to not having a good enough camera to take quality photos in low light conditions. Also, Cirque makes a point to say no flash photography or any video recording during the show. Fair enough. Before the show, though, it's perfectly OK to take photos, so starting with Kurios, I took many photos of the set. Yes, you'll still be stuck with photos of the coffee cups I purchased. Sorry.

Almost there!

The set design for Kurios is another of my favorites and is simply brilliant in my humble opinion. Lighting design complemented the set and drew my attention exactly where it needed to be. 

Welcome to Kurios.

Beautiful set!

Steampunk at its best.

Cirque selfie!

Interesting creature...

And the other side


Now I don't know about you, but the character in the photo above reminds me a LOT of Ed Grimley. I made the name a hyperlink in case you don't know who I'm referring to. If you don't, you have my pity, I must say. Take a look at the photo below and see what I mean.

"Ed Grimley"
image from Google search

Kurios had several aerial acts that were stunning to watch. One set of characters had costumes that looked very much like nudibranchs (small, colorful gastropods). Even the way they moved in their act resembled the way a nudibranch moves. 

Kurios cup (front and back)

This, along with Kooza, is more of a mug than a cup based on its size. All of the others are pretty much the standard coffee cup size, while Kooza and Kurios (koincidence?) are larger.

Which brings me to the most current show we've seen, Luzia, which we attended this past January. Of all the shows, Luzia by far had the best technical presentation. By this, I specifically refer to a "water wall" that is used throughout the show. This water wall produces images in an actual curtain of water by varying the release of water through many nozzles at the top. Similar to Amaluna, another act features an aerialist that splashes into a recessed pool of water. 

Luzia's Grand Chapiteau

 Right this way

Ethereal set 

 Pre-show guitar music

Giant hummingbird?

 Give him a hand, folks!

I would be hard pressed to pick a single show to call my overall favorite, but Varekai and Luzia definitely rank in the top two. Having said that, though, all of these shows are wonderful in their own right. 

Luzia cup

When we were looking at the souvenirs before the show, the only coffee cup I saw was the black cup, with the somewhat iridescent letters. Well, if that's the only cup available, I guess I'll take it. Depending on how the light hits the letters, they will show different colors. 

My first time using this cup revealed a surprise. Yes, I washed it in hot water before using it, but I hand-wash all of our Cirque cups to protect them. Upon pouring hot coffee into my new cup, though, it revealed this:


I had no idea it was one of those heat-sensitive, color-changing cups like others we have. I did wonder at the time when I bought it if this would be the case, but there was no indication on the label.  

What will the next Cirque show be that comes to Houston? And when? Based on some of the music I've sampled, and the theme, I hope Totem comes our way. Only time will tell, of course.

Both Cindy and I want to take in a couple of the resident shows in Las Vegas. Specifically, I'd love to see Ka and "O." I have the soundtrack for Ka and love the music. Being a huge Stephen King fan, how could I not want to see Ka, if only for the name. Ka was even featured on an episode of CSI (Season 7, Episode 142). "O" is a water-based show and from the few video clips I've seen, it looks fantastic. I read an article about the safety divers of "O" that play an integral part in keeping the artists safe (and supplying them with air while they are underwater). 

Yes, I'm a diehard Cirque fan. I don't see that changing any time soon. 

Have you been to any Cirque shows, either touring or resident? Tell me all about it in the comments section below. 

Coming up next, I'll review one of my favorite board games. Which one? Well, you'll just have to read it to find out.

Until next time.....

carpe cerevisi