Gems of War

The other match-3 game I have been playing a bit of lately is Gems of War, also off the Steam discovery queue. It is from the makers of Puzzle Quest, so the basic gameplay is solid and entertaining. This is their F2P game that includes just about every F2P grind and cash shop mechanic I have ever heard of, except for selling “energy.” Its monetization is impressive in its horribleness, particularly in the way it stacks upon itself and creates layers of hiding actual dollar amounts. Continue reading Gems of War


The Steam summer sale recommended I try Force of Elements, a match-3 F2P2W asynchronous PvP game in early release. Having enjoyed a bit of match-3 lately, I tried it out. In my second game, I found something really exciting: this game not only failed to take colorblind people into account, it went in the other direction and uses a “grayed out” mode as an attack to make it difficult to see what gems should match. That is one way of defining a problem into a feature.

Also note the “asynchronous PvP,” in that your opponents are computer-controlled versions of other players. This means using colorblindness as an attack only works against other humans, unless the computer imposes a different penalty upon itself in these cases.

: Zubon

Story via Mechanics

One thing I enjoy in the Pathfinder Adventures story mode is that the rules can be adapted to create good scenes, fluff out of the crunch. One of these is done inelegantly, with a paragraph of text that makes that one a mini-game, but consider:

  • “The Poison Pill” sets you against someone leaving deadly traps around town. The usual henchman mini-bosses are obstacles (poison traps) instead of monsters.
  • “Local Heroes” wants you to network around town and meet people. The henchman mini-bosses are replaced with allies you can recruit, with the goal of closing all the locations instead of defeating a villain. And the scenario reward is more allies.
  • Several scenarios have a special rule that makes the difficulty scale in a way that encourages you to find the villain as quickly as possible and to create the usually desired effect of rising difficulty over time. For example, “Undead Uprising” raises the difficulty to defeat Zombie Minion mini-bosses for each Zombie Minion defeated (and the boss summons more before the final confrontation). “Foul Misgivings” increases the difficulty of everything as Haunt mini-bosses haunt your characters, and the lowest difficulty adds a rising chance for a bonus boss fight as you meet Haunts (the higher difficulties just throw the bonus boss at you). “Them Ogres Ain’t Right” increases the final boss’s difficulty by 2 for each mini-boss defeated. A wildcard mechanic has the same effect of rising difficulty, which could get ugly stacking with the scenario mechanic.
  • Several locations have connections to specific allies who can be used for bonus effects, like the one who can banish the aforementioned Haunts.
  • “Angel in the Tower” requires you to have someone at the Shadow Clock location or else time starts slipping away.
  • “Battle at the Dam” has the most elegant implementation: “The Dam may not be temporarily closed.” For folks who have not played, if you encounted the boss but have not closed all the locations, you can “temporarily close” them to keep the boss from escaping; if you win the fight, the boss flees to any open location. If the Dam cannot be temporarily closed, you MUST fight the boss there, either early (and you spend the rest of the scenario tracking him down) or more likely as the climactic battle (because why risk fighting a mini-boss there when you cannot close it).

: Zubon

Conflict and Anger

Typically, the more direct the conflict, the less anger it tends to provoke. At the extreme, I don’t think too many people have flipped the table because someone captured one of their pieces in a chess game. … On the other hand, indirect conflict, which is perhaps, another way of saying passive-aggressive conflict, tends to produce stronger feelings. For example, spite-drafting a card in a drafting game, taking the last of a scarce resource in a resource management game, or blocking someone out of a needed action spot in a worker placement game are all the sort of thing that tend to irritate people in a way that blowing up their troops does not.

Inverted Porcupine

That seems about right to me. No one objects to killing in a murder simulator. People get up in arms when you take the last wheat that their imaginary sheep needed. The harshest PvP MMO in history is A Tale in the Desert, where the explicit Conflict discipline was about playing friendly games of open competition, while Leadership and Worship gave you the chance to kill people in a permadeath game.

: Zubon


Pathfinder Adventures is the electronic version of the card game version of Paizo’s version of D&D.

I feel like I should be able to work a couple more “version of”s in there, but it could be a stretch.

: Zubon

Evil Defenders

I finished playing through Evil Defenders. It is a tower defense game for PC or mobile; I played PC. It is somewhat entertaining, but either you like tower defense and have already played better or have not and should play better. If you liked Kingdom Rush and want more levels of a worse version, pick this up on a sale.

There are fifteen levels each at six difficulties. You will need to go through most of those because the upgrade costs were set with mobile microtransactions in mind, please buy more souls. But if you play through the assorted difficulties, the game is not especially difficult, as the upgrades come faster than the difficulty.

The game’s achievements are kind of bad, which is an outgrowth of the grindy mindset. I decided to play through the whole game, all difficulties, and like the person in the linked thread I have 3 achievements left that will take hours of repetitive play to complete. Their estimates are a little high, because you could “efficiently” grind a high-yield map, so I timed that and estimate it would take 15 hours of playing that one map 90 times to complete the last few achievements. No. Even getting 1 more achievement would take 3 hours. Still no. Global stats tell me that 2% of players have that last achievement, so I hope they were cheating rather than spending a literal day farming kills. If the game had an endurance mode, and I could leave it running overnight, that might be doable, but no.

Getting all the achievements is not the point so much as using the achievements as a guide to what the developers are thinking and doing. In this case, they made 15 levels and are trying for fake longevity by adding on repetition. Grind souls to get your upgrades, repeat the levels six times each, and if you want your 100% completion, play for another entire day.

: Zubon


crowbar card from the pathdfinder adventure card game I am trying to decide if this is an example of fluff versus crunch or of fridge brilliance. The crowbar is a staple of gaming, and in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (as well as Pathfinder Adventures), it is an “item” and not a “weapon.” It helps you get past barriers.

blacksmiths son and shopkeepers daughter cards from the pathfinder adventure card game But these two are “barriers” classified as “obstacles.” They get in your way, presumably want to talk, and can take up your turn. Shopkeeper’s daughter is getting chatty? Out comes the crowbar. Blacksmith’s son is trying to seduce your ranger? Crowbar.

: Zubon

Humble E3 Digital Ticket

If you occasionally get a Humble Bundle, now is probably the time to get one. Just looking at the “pay what you want” level, it includes:

  • Psychonauts, which is good.
  • 40 treasure chests for Pathfinder Adventures
  • 500 coins for the Amazon appstore
  • content for 4 MMOs

And then more. And then more MMO and MOBA content in the paid levels, and more games, and some subscriptions and betas. And then there are some more of those games and betas at the “pay what you want” level. And some other stuff.

: Zubon


I have several casual games going at the moment. They give a range of grind. Two are idle games, which grind themselves.

One is Pathfinder Adventures, where I rejoice in the grind. The grind here is simply playing the game. Of course, that is always what grind is; I think of “grind” as when you must repeat the same content repeatedly to unlock new content or achieve some arbitrary goal. In Pathfinder Adventures, you can pay $25 for all the content, pay a smaller amount for a la carte, or repeatedly play “quests” that are essentially the same content as the main “story” but with randomized content and no cut scenes. Those award 100 gold (plus gold for enemies), where it costs 2000 gold to add a character option and 4000 to unlock a set of story missions. You use the same character set on quests with a different character advancement mechanism. Because I enjoy the quests, I have not spent any money, because I will happily get enough gold to unlock everything I want just by playing normally. It is a strange irony they are more likely to get money from people who want to play less. At some point, I will probably play through the story missions on all the difficulty settings, but “same content but you must roll higher” does not sound like a huge draw.

I am also playing Evil Defenders, a mobile tower defense game ported to PC and heavily discounted on Steam. It is mostly entertaining, but not good enough that I can really recommend it. Notably, it has a poorly balanced need for grinding, presumably a relic of mobile F2P microtransactions. Playing gives you “souls” you can spend to upgrade your towers. These are not “nice to have” but absolutely required to beat later levels. After hitting the first level where the difficulty curve spikes faster than the pace of advancement, I went back to try previous levels on higher difficulty settings to get more souls. I cannot yet say whether you need to grind for souls or just beat every level on every difficulty setting (bonus souls for each “star” on a level), but it feels grindy enough just having six difficulty settings for each level. And there are achievements tied to beating the fifth and six settings for each level, so you know my completionist, achievement-whoring heart is going there. Consulting achievements, I see that 92% of people who have bought the game on Steam have played it, much higher than Borderlands 2, but only 19% of players have completed all 15 levels. These are not long levels, the basic difficulty is 10 waves, and you could beat the whole game at one sitting were it not for the grind. More than half the players who have completed every level have also completed every level on every difficulty with a perfect score, so this game either caters to obsessive players or requires that sort of investment to beat the last level at all. Because if you need to defeat 14 levels at all difficulty levels to earn enough upgrades to beat the last level, why not make a perfect game of it?

: Zubon