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Three Moves Ahead Episode 11 – The Big D

May 5th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 9 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


This week, the panel uses Popcap’s Plants vs Zombies as a jumping off point to talk about defensive games in general – tower defense, grid defense and wargames. Bruce hates playing the Reds, Julian talks about his iPhone, Tom comes with another list and Troy is probably stressing the wrong syllable in Omdurman. We also announce the winner of the Demigod CE.

Listen here.
RSS here.

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Desktop Tower Defence
Julian’s Plants vs Zombies article at GWJ
More from Tom at Fidgit
Downtown at Board Game Geek
Ambush at Board Game Geek
Carrier at Board Game Geek
RAF at Board Game Geek


9 Comments so far ↓

  • Quarter to Three » Three Moves Ahead: Plants vs. Zombies

    […] Listen here and check out the Flash of Steel page here. […]

  • Alan Au

    Chess, the CCG! This would be a fun design exercise. Fun.

    As for Comet Crash-type offense gameplay, there was also the classic Armor Alley (one of the few good Macintosh games) and more recently Glory Days 2 on the DS.

    Defense games are found all over the place. All sorts of games ranging from Company of Heroes to Half-Life 2 have “defend” missions where you set up and hold a point against encroaching bad guys for some amount of time. I sort of think of static defense scenarios as the degenerate cousin of escort missions.

  • LintMan

    I enjoyed DesktopTD for a little while when it first came out, but lost interest when I realized the only way to succeed after a certain point was to start “juggling” enemies – you close off one exit path as the enemies approach while opening one up on the other side, repeatedly sending enemies back and forth across your defensive maze. That felt more like an arcade game to me than a strategy game.

    What appeals to me about the tower defense genre is the strategic (tactical?) planning of where to place the defenses, how to maximize the time enemies spend in range of your weapons, create kill zones, take advantage of the “terrain”, seal the holes in your defense, etc. An ideal one might have things like fog of war, varied terrains that effect different units in different ways, enemies that behave in more varied ways (ie: some stay in place and attack your defenses, some heal others, some create new paths (ie blast through a wall, build a bridge across a river), etc), provide more ability for the player to dynamically adapt the defenses during a wave, and even play as the attacker – perhaps against a defense you designed.

    Unfortunately, most TD games don’t give you the time or don’t have the cmplexity to make it need much time to focus on these things. So far none of the ones I’ve played has really scratched my itch.

  • Rythe

    Immortal Defense for the PC – It gets so close to the Tower Defense game some of you were hoping for. It’s a touch slow pacing wise, and runs out of new gameplay ideas before it runs out of levels in some ways, but the story might keep some of you going all the way to the end. The story was the best aspect of the game for me, actually.

    The feature that separates Immortal Defense from many (most?) Tower Defense games is that your cursor is one of your weapons and can channel your turret fire into a specific area. Resources carry over from level to level, so management there is important. And since it was mentioned, you get most of your towers pretty quickly and the ability (if not resources) to upgrade them fully very quickly. Most levels don’t take much more than five-ish minutes with a final, marathon level at twenty.

  • spelk

    Enjoyed the podcast. I tend to like Tower Defence games, because I can field a strategic setup and govern its upgrades in a controlled fashion, its the reverse of the Zerg rush, its not a Ctrl+A unit charge, its a point by point decisive setup that stands or falls on its own merit.

    I would second the recommendation for Immortal Defence, not only because of the trippy Sci Fi/emotional storyline, and the weird characters who are your heroes of defense, but also because you are actively involved in the engagement, and the positioning of your pointer is key to adding firepower at key areas.

    I’m enjoying PvZ’s although still only on the adventure mode, the introduction of “cards” slowly allows you formulate strategies on a peice by piece basis, and I like the mental progression I’m being led on, to discover some of the more “esoteric” mechanisms of defence and their interplay with the ones you’ve already become familiar with. If I had a lot of options from the get go, I’d be a bit clueless how to mix them together to form a winning defensive strategy. The fact that I get to try things out, with only one or two unknowns, allows for a more experimental approach. And my strategy has to adapt to cope. I think they do a very good job at drip feeding new strategy into the game – and it will be a great help to those casual gamers coming to this title.. and hopefully it will reveal the hidden depths they’ve been missing.. hopefully leading them on to more strategic titles in the future.

    Finally, I’d like to go off at a tangent a bit, and say that playing PvZ reminded me very much of another “strategic gem in the rough”, called Battle of Tiles.


    This has a very “tower defence” feel to it, although it could more appropriately be called a “tower offence” game. You have a grid to place your units, and each unit has the usual RPG style skills and abilities that you can mix together in a very strategic RPG kind of manner. Defensive Shield Warriors at the front, Archers and other ranged support at the flanks, Mages bringing up the rear delivering massive firepower. And once you have them setup, you have to advance one grid square at a time, not a unit at a time though, the whole playfield shifts behind you. As you do so, more enemies come into play at the front. So as you plod on, you can change formation unit by unit if you want, or keep the whole stack moving, marching onward and the enemies come crashing into your offensive/defensive setup. The key to the game though, is that units in combat gain experience, and become tougher, so it behooves you to rotate your fresh green units in to battle to gain valuable experience. Slaying enemies gives you the currency to purchase more units, and replenish your stock. Well worth a look see.

  • Matthew

    If you want to follow the wc3 genre scheme, survival mode left4dead and similar are more like a “Hero Defense” rather than Tower Defense. Hero defenses haven’t taken off as much as Tower defenses did, but the terminology is worth mentioning. I think that hero d’s are MP rather than SP has a lot to do with its relative unpopularity (both much harder to design well, and harder to find a good game of after its designed).

  • M.S. Smith

    I just picked up Defense Grid: The Awakening, but I have to say it really isn’t for me. There have always been awkward design issues in tower defense games, which were fairly well addressed in the podcast, and Defense Grid doesn’t really get rid of them. I love building a good set of defenses in a RTS game but it isn’t any fun if the opponent is simply coming in on a set, predictable path, and can’t even attack you.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Late to the party, didn’t get a chance to listen to the podcast until today. While not a “defense” game I will say that Wizard Kings (Columbia) is very much a board game about turtling. In it there is a limitation to six units in a hex, with one additional unit if it is a wizard. When attacking the attacker is restricted to hex side limitations when bringing units to the assault; clear hexsides permit two units, while all others permit one.

    The problem of course is that a player who likes to turtle will simply clump up his forces in a couple of hexes. Because of the limitations to what can be brought into the attack it’s difficult for the attacker to match the defender. Worse, once in battle the defender gets to fire first and combat is not simultaneous.

    So for anyone looking for an analog turtle game you’ll do fine with the WK system.

    I also wanted to comment on games like the ones that deal with Rourke’s Drift, the Alamo, etc. While they are defensive board games they also fall under the special category of “last stand” games, which I would argue is slightly different from a tower defense game, because in a last stand game you know for a fact that you are doomed. In tower defense games through the use of advancing levels and upgrades and whatnot there is a sliver of optimism running beneath the experience.