Numbers Up from Milton Bradley (Commercial, 1981)

Another game that Steam had on sale for some obscene discount was Gemcraft: Chasing Shadows, a tower defense game. The monsters come out on this part of the screen, you have to place gems in towers to shoot at the monsters as they walk past to the other part of the screen.

It’s the levels of customization, though, where this game really shines. You power your towers through magic gems of different types. This gem does armor damage, that gem does HP damage, this other gem does poison damage… but then you can spend mana points mix them. Create a gem that does armor *AND* poison damage and put it in a trap and then, a little down the path, have the HP damage gem hit the weakened creature from a tower and if anybody gets past *THAT*, then you can just create a gem and cast it from the heavens and hit the monster like a bomb.

There are different monsters as well, the usual mid-tier baddies, but also swarms of little weenie creatures with very few hit points but there are dozens and dozens of them so your towers can’t keep up, as well as the giant monsters with giant armor and even gianter hit points.

As you progress in the game, you learn spells like “freeze” and can upgrade your gem towers with spells like “bolt” and the game starts out easy… but somewhere around level 40 it starts getting really, really difficult and you have to leverage all of the stuff you’ve learned to this point to start beating the new maps.

On top of that, once you’ve really mastered a particular map, you can then give additional things to make the levels more difficult (and, if you beat those levels, you get more experience points). Stuff like “faster waves” or “tougher armor on the monsters”.

And, on top of *THAT*, as you go up levels, you get experience points and you can spend these experience points on a whole wealth of skills… but your starting mana can be boosted by unspend experience points. Would you rather have higher starting mana or would you rather your poison do more damage? Would you rather have higher starting mana or would you rather it be cheaper to build towers?

I can’t believe the amount of replayability this game has. If I were to complain, it’s that the graphics are a bit simple… but, heck. It’s 10 bucks (and I got it for something like 75% off). If you want really awesome graphics, spend 12 bucks on a game.

So… what are you playing?

(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913))

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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19 thoughts on “Saturday!

  1. Shadows of Mordor is free on Steam through the end of the weekend, so I’m taking that for a spin, even though I really ought to be brushing up on C++.


    • More years ago then I’d like to admit, I had a job developing software in C++. We didn’t use STL, though; we had our own libraries. I always wondered why.

      Now I know.


      • I sort of love STL. But it probably matters that I got to listen to talks by Alex Stepanov (the guy who invented it) and worked with Matt Austern, the guy who wrote one of the first books about it. There’s a very steep learning curve there.

        However, that is way OT.


    • I loved that game. I didn’t quite cotton to it at first… but when I had my own personal nemesis kill me five or six times and got stronger each time? When I *FINALLY* killed him, I crowed and had to pause the game so I could tell Maribou about it.


      • I liked it enough to pay the $10, but I’m finding the large trash packs to be a bit tedious, given that it takes about a dozen hits to down a single enemy. I get that it’s largely a stealth game, and that having to fight them all is kind of a punishment for failing at stealth, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the stealth button doesn’t work on a toggle basis, but needs to be held down continuously.


  2. I’m playing XCom 2 from the steam sale. I figure if I liked Invisible but thought it was too short…

    Pretty intense gameplay, well worth the $10-15 it cost


    • Yeah, I’ve got an upcoming Saturday! dealing with it.

      One of the lines I’m tinkering with: “It’s one of the rare sequels that makes you see the first game as merely a tutorial for the real one.”


      • I’ll probably do a replay after the expansion comes out in a couple months. Since they didn’t follow the WoW model of just adding endgame content, making a fresh start with all the changes ahead of me seems more efficient.


    • I’m about to restart on Commander difficulty. My last run ended when the Viper King showed up on three missions in a row–the first two being my attempts to win the Black Site mission (failed the first time). Winning that mission cost me eight soldiers and necessitated one of the greatest escapes I’ve ever executed in the game. But losing that many soldiers left me in a death spiral which was going to be difficult to pull out of, so imagine my consternation when the supposedly dead Viper King showed up on the very next mission! Yeah, um…so I’m restarting and I’m going to disable the Alien Hunters DLC.

      I still love this game, though, no matter how badly it treats me sometimes.


  3. I’m playing an early-release game (on Steam) called Northgard. It’s sort of a 4X strategy game cross pollinated with an RTS game. I’m having a hard time with it, but in a good way. It’s early-access but seems pretty polished to me.


  4. The announcement of new DLC for XCOM 2, War of the Chosen, has me playing that again. A bunch of new mission types, a new faction for XCOM to ally with, new enemies include some kind of zombie-adjacent enemy called The Lost, which are the remnants of the human population of Earth’s cities and are drawn to the sounds of combat, apparently attacking everyone. Really looking forward to it, and not at all disappointed that they’re staying away from Terror From The Deep (not sarcasm–that frakking game was HARD).


  5. I’m nearly done with Fallout 4. I’ve been spending some time doing misc. achievements. Taking a break from questing. Got all my magazines and bobbleheads.


  6. Did I mention reinstalling No One Lives Forever last.weekend? It’s surprisingly playable at something close to modern resolutions for a game of its vintage, and it’s still a classic of the genre.

    Rock Paper Shotgun gave a pointer to an abandonware site, which might not have been shut down yet. But it installs from the original discs if you can find them (the edition I have even came with an audio CD of the excellent musical score).


  7. I enjoyed chasing shadows but I find Gemcraft: Labyrinth is even better. I play on armor games so it’s free.


  8. War for the Overworld. It’s the Dungeon Keeper that isn’t Dungeon Keeper but since the real DK property was purchased, tarted up in prostitutes makeup and sent to be a fremium whore on the corner WFTO is the spiritual successor to DK2.
    It’s good, like genuinely good, but the new critters are missing… something… that DK2 had. I don’t know what it is. The DK2 critters just had more… character? Maybe it’s just nostalgia.


    • Oh, Dungeon Keeper. The game that relied on bugs in windows to work right… (to be fair, it meant it ran faster like that). Can’t even be run reliably in an emulator, let alone other versions of windows.

      Tried Guild of Dungeoneering? A friend of mine did voicework for that one.


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