Without The Sarcasm http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Tue, 16 Sep 2014 03:06:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Five Surprising CoC Clan Wars Secrets (pt 2) http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/five-coc-clan-wars-secrets-pt2/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/five-coc-clan-wars-secrets-pt2/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 21:12:36 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5594 Prev Page 2 of 2 Next

4. Rolling the tape

One of the really cool aspects of Clan Wars is that it gives your whole Clan the chance to review the same targets in a lot of detail, and analyze the results of one or multiple attacks on each of those targets. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn ways to improve your own raids, and share learnings with clanmates.

Attack in progress!

If you are chatting with a clanmate who is about to attack, open the War Map and watch their target. If you time it right, you should have an option to “Watch Battle Live”. This gives you a cool opportunity to see exactly what they see, and try and assess whether you would make the same decisions or choose differently. Be sure to congratulate big wins, and offer condolences on crushing defeats – but either way, see what can be learned from each attack. Even a major slip up can identify trap locations and defensive weak point or blind spots.

Clash of Clans: Clan Wars War Events

Did you see that?!?

At any given time, the best attack on each base on the War Map is accessible by clicking the blue “Replay” button – but what if you want to see one of the other attacks against it? You can! Simply tap the blue star next to the opposing clans name on the War Map, and a dialog will open up with various tabs of stats and details about the Clan War. On the “War Events” tab a replay is available for every battle in the Clan War so you can watch those epic moments again and again.

5. War winnings and your “real” Clan Castle

As if the rest of Clan Wars were not confusing enough, the actual loot mechanics have further nuances to confuse you.

Ghost Loot

During each of your two attacks in the Clan War, you will destroy Collectors and Storages as you seek to completely obliterate your enemies and salt the earth so that nothing ever grows. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that you get a modest amount of loot during these attacks. This Ghost Loot seems to come from basically nowhere. Your opponent does not lose it as a result of your attack, and it doesn’t seem to be related to how much loot that opponent actually has at the time of the attack. Spooky.

Clash of Clans: Clan Castle Mini Storages

What are those tiny shapes?

Like I touched on in #2, you will win loot at the end of the war depending on a) the targets you personally defeated with at least one star b) whether your clan won, lost, or tied. If you win, what you see is what you get. If you tie or lose, you’ll still get something, but much less. So where does all of this loot go? Obviously the most logical place to store it is in tiny containers on top of your Clan Castle. Here I’m referring to the Clan Castle in your real base (not your War Base). I’m of two minds about whether SuperCell did us a favor by storing the loot in the CC, or figured out another backhanded way to expose our hard fought booty to further plundering, but regardless… that’s where you can find your loot after the Clan War is over.

Pro Tip If you like to leave your Clan Castle empty and outside your base (and why is that again?) then take head that it is now a tiny Storage, and should be treated like one. I find it useful for setting aside a little bit of extra Dark Elixir when I’m trying to make a push to an expensive DE upgrade, but opinions vary about whether or not you should immediately empty your CC as soon as you have space to do so, or leave your winnings in there until you need to spend them.

Warning After the stones are cast in a Clan War, and you know roughly how much loot you are going to win – check and make sure you have room in your Clan Castle, and “Collect” it’s contents if you do not. Losing all of that loot to overflow would be a genuine tragedy.

Got any of your own CoC Clan Wars tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments!

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Five CoC Clan Wars Secrets that may surprise you http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/five-coc-clan-wars-secrets/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/five-coc-clan-wars-secrets/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 21:11:46 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5584 Clash of Clans: Clan Wars have been a very welcome injection of new content to SuperCell’s mobile strategy juggernaut, but as with other aspects of CoC (and mobile games in general), you are often left to figure out the finer details on your own. In a game of strategy, information is power, so arm yourself with these clan wars secrets and get a leg up on those other Chiefs.

1. Trophy ranking determine participation

Clans range in size, and Clan Wars is designed to accommodate that. You’ve probably noticed that Clans are matched in 5 member increments up to the maximum of 50 vs. 50, and down to the minimum of 10 vs. 10. What is much less obvious, is who participates and how they are listed.


Clan members are ranked by Trophies, and then selected up to a number between 10 and 50 that’s divisible by 5. Town Hall level, and upgrade status have no effect on whether clan members participate in a Clan War.

Warning If some of your senior members like to really “slum it” in the low trophy ranges when farming, be sure they climb up to the “per 5″ breakpoint before starting a Clan Wars search, or they will be excluded from the Clan War.

Pro Tip Have a member you don’t want to participate in a Clan War? If you have extra members past the “per 5″ clan match up threshold, you can have them drop Trophies till they are at the bottom of your list. So for example if you have 12 members, make sure they drop till they are 11 or 12. This will keep them out of the Clan War, and will give another clan member the opportunity to participate so that hopefully attacks don’t go unused.

Clash of Clans: Clan Wars War Map

War Map Listing

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the Clan War Map lists each participating clan member based on their upgrades. Often this will result in a sorting by Town Hall level, but it is possible for highly upgraded clan members (for their level) to be listed higher than a fellow clan member with a higher Town Hall level. This doesn’t have much strategic effect, but there are minor effects.

Pro Tip The War Map is a great way to assess the upgrades-based pecking order of your clan. You may be surprised to see some clan members ranking much higher than you’d expect, and some much lower. If you are recruiting, or assessing new recruits, keep an eye out for those that rank highly among peers at the same Town Hall level.

Warning Upgrading your Town Hall too soon has lots of downsides, and now there is another one. Players who rush to upgrade will find that they may rank lower on the War Map than highly upgraded clanmates with a lower level Town Hall. This will make the higher Town Hall clannie a lightning rod for attacks in every Clan War because a) Opposing clan members generally get more loot for attacking a higher Town Hall target b) The “lightning rod” will look like the easiest target for that Town Hall level, and in general a weak target. I know it’s hard, but don’t rush Town Hall upgrades Chief.

2. Attacking

By now if you’ve done a few Clan Wars you’ve probably figured out that you only need 1 star to be eligible for a War Win Bonus, and I’m sure you’ve guessed that not all targets are created equal so it pays to shop around. There are some nuances of choosing a target that are not obvious, however.

Collaborative Selfishness

You might think that Clan Wars were about rallying your Clan to fight other Clans and win lots of loot. This is true, but to a much lesser extent than you might initially think. In each attack, you earn loot during the attack as an individual. If you earn stars in an attack, you also become eligible for a War Win loot bonus as an individual. The only effect other clanmates have on your loot is if your Clan wins or loses overall, and this in turn only affects the modifier for your War Win loot bonus. If you don’t earn any stars, you don’t get any bonus period. If you win stars, you will get a bonus even if your team loses, and more importantly even if other clanmates attack the same target and score more stars. In the end, the loot bonus is much higher if you win as a team… but don’t forget to look out for number one.

Double Jeopardy

You get exactly one shot at any given target. This means the first clan member to attempt a target always has a little bit more of a challenge, since trap locations and CC troops will be unknown, and they won’t get a second try. Even if you are attacking a target another clan mate has already hit, it pays to be fully prepared. Watch all replays, memorize the locations of traps, and for heaven’s sake bring a full Clan Castle and max Spells to the fight.

Pro Tip Due to the “No Double Jeopardy” rule, it pays to have your heavy hitters attack later in the Clan War. This will give them an opportunity to watch replays and see trap locations and Clan Castle troop compositions, which may increase their chances of getting the higher Star counts you’ll need to win the Clan War.

3. War Base and Donates

If you’ve read agent’s Tips for Clan Wars you should already know that your War Base is different than your regular base in several key ways. For some reason I still see A LOT of Clans or Clan Members that enter Clan Wars without seeming to understand this basic difference, so I think it bears elaborating.

Clash of Clans: Clan Wars Edit War Base

Reloadless Defense

Traps, XBows, Inferno Towers, and Heroes are all immediately replenished after each Clan Wars attack by an opposing Clan Member, without any need to pay for them. In fact, even the resources that get stolen from your Collectors and Storages don’t come out of your actual personal reserves. This should radically change your base design, to try and pull every possible trick on your opponents to limit Stars. Even leave some of your traps unarmed in your “real” base, be sure to place them appropriately in your War Base. Be sure you have purchased all the traps for your Town Hall level, and at least get the cheap upgrades, as they can really make a difference when attempting to stop a 3 star.

Pro Tip Due to the new Hero AI, remember that your Hero will now patrol a more narrow area and can not be “kited” very far. Factor this into your Clan War Base design to protect your Town Hall, your Clan Castle, or critical defensive buildings. When your Hero engages enemy troops, they will tend to draw aggro, even if those units can’t path to the Hero, and this is a great way to get them chewed up by defenses.

Premium Clan Castle Troops

Unless you are in a pretty elite Clan, your clanmates are not going to be able to shell out Dragons every time you make a request. For Clan Wars though, it is really beneficial to spend a little extra for the more premium troops, since they are used over and over. It is also worth noting that Clan War CC troops can only be donated via the War Map and only on Preparation Day. Either due to lack of coordination, ignorance, or poor teamwork, we fight a lot of other Clans who have zero troops in their War Base Clan Castles. This is a significant strategic disadvantage because not only does the attacker not have to encounter and eliminate the infinitely replenishing CC troops, they don’t even have to spend one second during the battle thinking about how to deal with them. This can easily make the difference between 2 and 3 stars on a close battle.

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Recording your phone/tablet’s screen with Android KitKat (4.4) http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/recording-phonetablets-screen-android-kitkat-4-4/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/recording-phonetablets-screen-android-kitkat-4-4/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 22:23:06 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5570 Screenshots of your Android phone or tablet are pretty easy to do. On my Nexus 4, for instance, I can capture the screen by pressing the “Power” and “Volume Down” buttons at the same time. Sometimes, though, there’s something on your phone that you really want to capture in video rather than in screenshots. This quick guide will help you record your Android device’s screen, for free, without needing to root your device at all!

Stuff You Need

Okay, first things first. You will need:

  • A PC, running Windows, Mac, or Linux
  • An Android device, running Android 4.4 or better
  • A USB cable to connect the two

That’s it. There’s some software to download on your PC, but other than that you don’t need anything else.

If you’re not sure what Android version your phone has, you can check it by going into the Settings, then tapping “About Phone.” You need the “Android Version” to be at least 4.4 or better. If it’s not, bummer… The version of software on your phone is not easy to change, so I won’t go into details on that in this guide.

Configure The Phone

There’s no need to “have root” or “flash the ROM” or do anything fancy to your phone in order to make this work. You can do it without modifying the software, buying anything, or voiding your warranty. It just takes a couple of steps.

Go into the phone’s settings by tapping the app drawer and then finding Settings and tapping that. If you swipe down towards the bottom of this list, you might see the “Developer options” item. If you don’t, do the following:

  • Tap “About Phone”
  • Tap “Build number” 7 times.

Android Video Capture: Tapping Build Number

Once you do this, tap the Back icon and you should see “Developer options” near the bottom of the list.

On the “Developer options” screen, swipe down until you see the option for “USB Debugging” and check the box.

Your phone is now set up!

Configure the PC

We’re going to need some tools installed on the PC in order for this to work. You can get them from the Android Developer Site.

First, click “System Requirements” and install JDK6 and Apache Ant if you don’t have these things installed already.

Then, scroll down and click on “View All Downloads and Sizes” and then scroll further down and pick the correct package for your OS listed under “SDK Tools Only.”

Download this and install it. You’ll have to pick a directory, by default on Windows this is installed to:


If you change this path, make a note of it.

When the install is finished, run the Android SDK Manager. On Windows, this is installed in the Start menu under the Android SDK Tools group.

Android SDK Installer

The SDK Manager will default to installing a bunch of stuff we don’t need. The only things we need are:

  • Tools -> Android SDK Tools
  • Tools -> Android SDK Platform-tools
  • Extras -> Google USB Driver

Anything else you can uncheck. When this is done, click the “Install (number) packages…” button.

Hooking it All Together

Now that you’ve got the Android SDK installed and USB debugging turned on on your device, it’s time to link them up. Connect the phone/tablet to your PC via USB cable.

If you’re running Windows, it might not properly install the USB driver for the debug interface. You may have to go into the Device Manager and manually select the missing USB driver. By default, this is installed in:


Once this is happy, open a command prompt and navigate to the SDK directory, and then into the platform-tools directory.

Test everything with the following command:

adb devices

Android Video Capture: Authorize your PC

You should see a serial number and the word “device” next to it. If you see “unauthorized,” check your phone/tablet, there will be a little dialog you have to tap OK on. Try again and it should show “device” now.

Capturing Video

All the setup is out of the way now, so it’s time to capture your device’s screen!

adb shell screenrecord /sdcard/capture.mp4

This will record the video and save it to the device’s filesystem at /sdcard/capture.mp4. The maximum length of the recording is 3 minutes.

To transfer the recording to your PC, use:

adb pull /sdcard/capture.mp4

The file will be transferred into the same platform-tools directory as above.

Restoring Your Phone

If you decide you want to turn all this stuff back off again, it’s easy.

Just go back into the Settings menu, then tap Developer Options. At the top, tap the “On” button to turn the developer tools back off again. Simple, yeah?


It’s really easy to capture video off an Android phone. As long as your phone has a new enough version of the Android software on it, it’s a really quick process to get it set up.

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Quick Beginner Destiny FAQ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/quick-beginner-destiny-faq/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/quick-beginner-destiny-faq/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:50:07 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5586 Now that EBongo and I have spent a few hours with Destiny, we’ve worked out a few strategies for optimal early play. We’ll share our early game tips and tricks in this Destiny early-game guide!

What is the Level Cap?

The level cap in Destiny is currently 20. Past that point, you can kill all you want and you won’t get any more experience.

However, it’s possible to bypass this level cap, up to a max level of 30. The way you do this is by buying armor with the “Light” attribute. This armor is purchased with “Motes of Light” which is the level-cap equivalent of experience.

What Are Orbs of Light?

Ah, Orbs of Light. This is kind of a confusing topic for new players, one that Destiny doesn’t really tell you anything about…

Orbs of Light are dropped whenever someone does damage with their supercharged special skill (ie, the one you get when you press both shoulder buttons together).

Orbs of Light will charge other players supercharge meter by quite a bit. They can only be picked up if you have less than a full supercharge meter. Otherwise you can run over them and nothing will happen. They despawn after a little while.

This means that if your fireteam is using their special abilities, you should probably do the same – everyone will drop Orbs of Light, and everyone will get more charge on their supercharge meter as a result.

What is the Vanguard Armory?

The Vanguard Armory is a special shop in Destiny that contains some better-than-average items. If you preordered the game, inside the box is a code for early access to the Armory. If you don’t have this code, you’ll unlock the Armory at level 10.

You can find the Armory in the Tower. It’s near the vendor for new ships.

What Good Are Grimoire Cards?

Grimoire Cards are little collectible items that can be unlocked by performing various actions in Destiny. For instance, finding and activating dead Ghosts unlocks more cards. Also, there are cards that unlock as you kill enemies or play certain missions.

Grimoire Cards give you Grimoire points, which are just for show right now. There is an achievement tied to getting 50 of these cards, which should just happen during normal play. You can accelerate the process by looking for dead Ghosts and farming kills, but right now the rewards just aren’t that awesome.

You can also view the cards, which contain a lot of lore about the game. You can do this via the Destiny mobile app, or on Bungie.net.

Why Did My Chest Disappear?

If you’re playing Destiny in a Fireteam, you will see chests that everyone on your team can loot. However, (and this is a big however), once a chest is opened it will fade out after a short delay. This delay is somewhere around 30 seconds.

Everyone on your Fireteam can loot it, but only if they get there fast enough after it spawns. It pays to communicate with your team and get everyone together before opening a chest for maximum loot opportunity.

The exception to this appears to be Golden Chests – they are unique for each player, and there are a limited number of them per zone. (For instance, there are 5 in the Russian Cosmodrome map)

What’s the Deal With Gold Chests?

Gold Chests in Destiny only appear once per character. Collecting them gives you some cool loot. You can check to see how many of them you’ve found on the mission select screen. For each map, there is a count of how many you’ve found and how many there are total.

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Beginner’s Guide to Diamond Digger Saga http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/beginners-guide-diamond-digger-saga/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/beginners-guide-diamond-digger-saga/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 17:24:19 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5572 Diamond Digger Saga is the latest game in King’s Saga-themed mobile empire. It can be a bit confusing at first, though. I’ve put together a Diamond Digger Saga guide to help new players out! Come check out my Diamond Digger Saga tips, tricks, and gotchas!

Gems, Dirt, Stones, and Water

Diamond Digger Saga Guide: Block Types

The Gems in Diamond Digger Saga are very similar to the colored blocks in Pet Rescue Saga. Both require you to tap groups of 3 or more of the same color together in order to clear them. Gems continue to fall from the top of the level to replace gems that you’ve already cleared, as long as there aren’t any stones in the way.

Dirt in Diamond Digger Saga is similar to jelly from Candy Crush Saga. Gems can be in the same square as dirt. If you clear the gems, you clear the dirt as well. Dirt keeps water from flowing, however.

Pro Tip Some dirt has gold stripes through it, and when cleared you’ll get a score boost. The score boost increases the deeper you go, so clearing the gold striped dirt on the first screen isn’t worth nearly as much as it is when you get towards the bottom of a level.

Stones in Diamond Digger Saga are similar to meringue in Candy Crush Saga. They block squares and won’t allow gems OR water to pass. Matching next to stones helps to clear them.

Pro Tip Gems can move diagonally past stones, but water will not!

The other major game element is Water. Water needs to reach the exit in order to move on to the next part of the level. Water is blocked by dirt and stones, so these must be cleared out before you can proceed.

In addition to increasing the depth, water must touch certain things in order to collect them. For instance, fireflies and keys must be touched by the water in order for them to count as collected.

Pro Tip When water flows, it fills all available spaces before moving on. Thus, if you need to get a Firefly before continuing, you can let the water flow to both the exit and the Firefly at the same time.

Just like previous King games, there are new block types that unlock as you proceed through the game. Hopefully, though, this gives you the basic idea of how the game works.

We (Don’t) Have To Go Deeper

In many levels, you don’t have to get all the way to the bottom to win. However, getting to the bottommost depth can help. Every time the depth increases, you get two extra free moves.

Diamond Digger Saga Guide: Treasure Rooms!

In score-based levels, usually getting all the way to the bottom gives you a Treasure Room. Treasure rooms are filled with gems, and any square of 4 gems becomes a massive gem worth tons of points! This can easily dwarf the treasures you find in previous rooms, so it is super worth it to increase the depth when going for score.

In objective levels, like “wake the firefly” and “collect the toys” levels, increasing the depth will bring you to new screens where fireflies and toys may reside.

Warning! Be careful when digging deeper, though! Items like toys and fireflies can be missed. Sometimes this isn’t the end of the world, but it can make the levels harder. Fireflies, toys, and other things that can’t be missed without failing the level will have a little exclamation point over their squares.

Keep your eyes on the prize!

All of these different elements can combine to create some confusing situations. Should I match the dirt with gold streaks to get extra points? Should I let the water flow past this screen, or should I focus on matching where I am now?

Some of these things you’re only going to learn as you play the level a few times to get the hang of the individual challenges each level has. However, there is one general tip I can give.

Focus on the goal of the level.

  • On score levels, go for depth. The treasures are always worth more the further down you go, so sticking around at a high level is worthless.
  • On objective levels, clear what you can and then move on if the rest isn’t marked as essential. You don’t have moves to waste getting just one more toy if the next screen is full of them.

Diamond Digger Saga Guide: Check the Objective!

Pro Tip Check the score requirements – on some of the objective levels, there’s no score requirement to get 1 star. Ignore the gold dirt blocks in this case. That leaves you more moves to focus on the real goal!

The Free Boost in Diamond Digger Saga

Similar to Pet Rescue Saga, Diamond Digger Saga has a free boost that you can use on most levels once you unlock it. In Pet Rescue Saga this was a rocket that cleared a single line, but in Diamond Digger Saga it is a bomb called the “magic orb” that clears all of the same color. Neat.

Diamond Digger Saga Guide: Free Boost - Magic Orb

The orb charges up as you clear gems. Once charged, though, any gems you match won’t count towards charging it any further. Therefore, you should carefully plan when you want to use your free magic orb boost. If you leave it charged all the time, you’ll miss out on free boosts. But if you use it up and then realize you need it, you’ll waste a lot of moves charging it again.


Hopefully this guide has helped you understand the basics of Diamond Digger Saga. With these tips, you’ll have a leg up regardless of the level!

Have you given Diamond Digger Saga a try? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!

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Infinite Space 3: Sea of Stars Preview http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/infinite-space-3-sea-stars-preview/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/infinite-space-3-sea-stars-preview/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 00:48:09 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5564 Infinite Space series has always held a special place in my heart. I recently grabbed the latest entry in the series, Sea of Stars, during an IndieGameStand bundle promotion. It's still in Early Access, so it's got a way to go before release. In this article, I'll see what's new and interesting in the third chapter of the Infinite Space series and check out the early build to get an idea as to what's to come.]]> The Infinite Space series has always held a special place in my heart. I recently grabbed the latest entry in the series, Sea of Stars, during an IndieGameStand bundle promotion. It’s still in Early Access, so it’s got a way to go before release. In this article, I’ll see what’s new and interesting in the third chapter of the Infinite Space series and check out the early build to get an idea as to what’s to come.

A Finite History in Infinite Space

I’ve played a lot of Infinite Space over the years. Back before the era of smartphones, we had something called “PDAs” which were like smartphones except without being phones, having internet, or really having a coherent app store of any kind. Apps were expensive and so I had very few games. One of them was Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. It was easily one of the most played games on my PDA, and it had to compete with PopCap games for that title, so that’s saying something.

The Infinite Space series boils down to a relatively easy to explain concept: it’s a space roguelike. FTL shares many similarties, although I don’t know if the influence is direct, or if they both just had similar ideas. You play as an adventurous deep space explorer. You take your ship from star system to star system, collecting rare items and trying to find upgrades for your ship.


There’s an element of combat to the series – if you encounter a hostile ship orbiting a star system, you can choose to engage in battle. Battles take place in real time, and you can move your ship around on the 2D combat area. It will automatically fire its weapons whenever you’re in range.

The game ends when you return home to retire, if your ship is destroyed, or if you run out of time. Your valuables are totaled and you’re given a score. The more stuff you find and the more you bring back with you, the higher your score will be.

Pretty straightforward, right? Each game takes anywhere from five minutes to maybe an hour. It’s got a real “one more try” quality to it. The encounters are randomized, and there are some quasi-quests to undertake if you’re so inclined. It’s very much “easy to play, but tough to master.” Even after years of play, I still enjoy a quick game now and again.

See the Sea

That brings us to Infinite Space: Sea of Stars. It’s the third game in the franchise, and it’s currently in Early Access (ie, alpha/beta) on Steam. What does it do differently from the previous games to warrant a sequel? The disappointing answer at this point is “not a lot, and most of it is bad.”

There’s a lot of overlap between this game and the previous two. Right now a lot of the core game mechanics are identical:

  • You explore the galaxy
  • There’s a time limit to your adventures
  • You explore for loot and upgrades (in fact, many of these items are identical to previous games)
  • There’s 2D real-time combat between your ships and enemy ships
  • There is a nebula that slows you down
  • You can find many of the same races
  • The Klakar are still around, they still give you a beacon, and they’ll still accept anything in trade, no matter the value


The big change here is the 3D galaxy map, but I pretty much hate it. It’s really hard to see where the other stars are, it’s nearly impossible to determine how the nebula is laid out, it’s difficult to navigate around, etc. There’s nothing about this change that I like. It’s needlessly complex and difficult to use.

A few new races, items, and encounters have been added. I hope this gets expanded to include some more unique scenarios, as I felt like most of them were either identical to or rehashes of the stuff from previous games.

There are also several different shops that have been added to the game. I’m okay with this, for the most part. It gives you some more chances at some of the better gear, although it comes as a price. There’s also a ship vendor in the home system when you start. However, I was never able to afford any of the larger ships so it’s hard to say if that’s going to be any more fun or not.

It’s Early Yet

Sea of Stars is still far from complete. I have no idea what is going to change between the build I can play today and the final game. However, at the moment I can’t really recommend this game. It’s not really in a state that reflects what I’ve come to expect from Infinite Space as a series.

I want to like this game, but I also have to wonder at this point if gaming hasn’t moved on. There are a lot of “space roguelikes” that have been released in the (more than) 10 years since the first Infinite Space. Without some significant improvements over the classic formula, I’m worried that the game might get passed over by today’s gamers, and that would be a shame.

In the meantime, the excellent Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space (aka Infinite Space 2) is on Steam, and you really ought to check it out.

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Clash of Clans Gems – Everything You Need to Know! http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/clash-of-clans-gems/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/clash-of-clans-gems/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:00:37 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5548 All free-to-play games have a way to suck the money out of your wallet. In Clash of Clans, gems are the primary way to spend money. We call these types of things “premium currencies” because they cost actual, real-life dollars. Every Clash of Clans player wonders “How do I get more free gems?” and “What should I spend my gems on?” In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on the ways to get maximum free gems in Clash of Clans, and what you should spend your Clash of Clans gems on.

Acquiring Clash of Clans Gems

There are three major ways to get gems in Clash of Clans:

  1. Buy them. (duh)
  2. Remove landscape items from your base
  3. Get achievements

Buying Gems in Clash of Clans

The first one is obviously the fastest, but it costs you cash. If you like the game, though, dropping a few bucks can be a good way to show your support. After all, most games cost money up front, while Clash of Clans can be played for free for as long as you want. If you would normally drop $20 to play a 20 hour game, how much would you be willing to spend for a game as long as Clash of Clans? It depends on how much fun you’re getting out of the game, no doubt.

Clash of Clans Gems Guide: Buying Gems

Another thing to consider is if you’ve got credit to, say, the iTunes store, but you normally play on an Android phone or tablet, you could temporarily install Clash of Clans on an iOS device to use that credit to buy gems. Just be sure you trust the device (and its owner) before you do this.

Pro Tip Especially around the holidays, you can find discounted iTunes gift cards. This can be a cheap way to stretch your Clash of Clans gem funds a bit further.

Free Gems in Clash of Clans

A BIG FAT WARNING There are a TON of scams on the internet that claim to give you “free Clash of Clans gems!!!” Rest assured that there is no hack, glitch, cheat, etc that will give you free gems. These are all scams, to a one. They will either make you jump through hoops (for which the supposed “hack makers” get money) or they will steal your personal information. Do not, under any circumstances, trust any site that advertises free gems. If ANYONE posts “totally legit, not at all a scam” info about hacking/cheating/glitching this game on our site, I will remove it and immediately notify SuperCell with all the info I have about you so that you hopefully get banned from the game. You have been warned.

For whatever reason, though, you might not be inclined to buy Clash of Clans gems. I, myself, have a mental block about paying for anything I could just play to earn or wait around for. Thus, I stick to the free options myself. That leaves us with two choices.


The first is removing obstacles or “trimming the bushes” so to speak. Whenever you send a builder to remove a bush, tree, or any other misc object on your base, there’s a chance you’ll find gems. This means it pays to keep the lawn clean!

Clash of Clans Gems Guide:  Gem Box!

There’s one special obstacle item, and that’s the Gem Box. It gives a guaranteed, whopping 25 free gems whenever you find and remove one. They’re random, though, so you’ll just have to wait around and get lucky.

Pro Tip New obstacles will only spawn in your base if you have free space and there aren’t too many obstacles already. Make sure you occasionally invest time in removing obstacles, or you’ll miss out on your chance to free gems from gem boxes!


Besides removing obstacles, the other easy way to get free gems in Clash of Clans is via achievements. Most achievements award gems with every level of them you complete. Most achievements you’re going to get just through normal play, but there are a few that are worthy of noting:

Clash of Clans Gems Guide:  Achievements

  • Get Those Goblins – chances are you’ve neglected the single player campaign – I know I have. Once you’re powerful enough to just roll the single player levels, you might as well hit these levels for the gems. This is a good one to do while you’re upgrading walls and have no reason to hang onto your elixir.
  • Nice and Tidy – you get this for removing obstacles – which is the other major way to get gems. So, double win!
  • Union Buster – this achievement is for destroying builder’s huts. Many people stick these in the corners of their base, so while you’re raiding just drop an extra archer or barb nearby to earn points towards this.
  • Sweet Victory! – the third level of this achievement only requires 1,250 trophies. This is a piece of cake. Just make sure you protect your town hall, and get out there and raid, raid, raid!
  • League All-Star – the first level of this one requires you to get to Crystal League, which is 2,000 trophies. However, the reward is 250 gems, so it’s well worth the effort.

Make no mistake, the major gem profits are in obstacle removal. However, you can get a bit of a boost from these achievements if you make the time to unlock them!

Spending Clash of Clans Gems

People are always asking me, “what should I spend my gems on in Clash of Clans?” to which I usually reply, “uhhh, I don’t know you, but can I please have my vanilla shake now?” But they do have a valid question. Gems can be used for almost anything, so knowing what to prioritize can be tricky.

My suggestions for what to spend your Clash of Clans gems on are as follows:


If you have 3 or fewer builders, buy more builders. The fourth builder is a bit harder to justify. It can be useful when your Town Hall first levels up to have a 4th builder, or even a 5th. However, a lot of upgrades like walls and the lab upgrades just require a lot of resources and/or time, with little to no help from additional builders.

Clash of Clans Gems Guide:  5th Builder is Pricey!

Also, the cost of each builder in Clash of Clans increases significantly, making the cost of that fifth builder kind of unreasonable compared to the other things you can spend gems on.

Dark Elixir

Once you have 3 or 4 Clash of Clans builders, the next priority is probably buying Dark Elixir. There are two major things you want to buy Dark Elixir for:

Your Hero units – the Barbarian King and Archer Queen. You can buy the Barbarian King at TH7, as long as you’ve built the Dark Elixir storage. Raiding for Dark Elixir is tricky at Town Hall 7 though. It can be done, if you are very patient. Chances are you will have a tough time protecting any raided Dark Elixir as well. Thus, I suggest saving your gems to rush the Barbarian King at Town Hall 7. Having him around means you’ve got an extra powerful unit that doesn’t take any camp space.

Clash of Clans Gems Guide:  Buying Dark Elixir

Now, there are upgrades to these Hero units as well, and taking them can be quite helpful. Once these units get to level 5, they also gain a special ability. I suggest prioritizing your gems for these upgrades whenever you can.

Lab upgrades for your Dark Elixir troops. Dark Elixir troops unlock at Town Hall 7. They are super powerful game changing units, but without leveling them up, they’re not particularly useful. Increasing the level of your Dark Elixir troops takes… wait for it… Dark Elixir. Hog riders in particular have been overpowered recently, and you see them a lot in raids at the higher levels. Get those riders upgraded, with gems, if needed!

Upgrades that require completely full storages

If you’ve got gems laying around and aren’t sure what to do with them at this point, or you just don’t want to listen to the advice I’ve given in the previous sections, this is the third and final thing I’d suggest using your gems on in Clash of Clans.

As you approach the most powerful upgrades you can get at a given Town Hall level, you’ll come across upgrades that require you to max out your gold, dark elixir, or elixir storages in order to afford them. This is hard to do, for several reasons:

  1. You generally have to spend this stuff in order to make it, so maxing it out is tricky.
  2. The more of a resource you have, the more likely it is you’re going to get attacked.
  3. The more full your storages are, the more enemies will take each time they hit it. Even a lone archer that survives your defenses can take a toll on your stockpiles.

For this reason, I’d suggest getting as close as possible to maxing your storages out, and then spend a few gems to push you the rest of the way. It is a lot less frustrating than the alternatives.

However, as I said, there are other, better ways to spend your gems.

Other Stuff

Beyond this point, I’d highly suggest you just hold onto your gems. No doubt SuperCell is going to add new stuff to the game. If you have a small stockpile of gems, you can be the first kid on your block (or player in your clan) to get it. This can create a small tactical advantage for a while.

Occasionally Supercell will run a Clash of Clans event where you can get extra stuff for your gems. For instance, recently there was an event where you could boost your collectors for an entire week at a cost of 1 gem. Many people took advantage of this. I kind of felt it was a good time to raid, and I probably would suggest boosting Dark Elixir drills during these events.

I personally don’t like to skip wait times in the game with gems, as the game is essentially one enormous wait time. If you’re buying gems with money regularly, you can kind of spend them however you like. However, if you’ve got a lot, feel free to use them this way if it makes you happy!


That’s it, that’s everything I know about gems in Clash of Clans. In this article, I showed you how to maximize your free gems by clearing obstacles and focusing on achievements. Then I gave you the rundown on the best ways to spend the gems you’ve stockpiled.

It’s my aim to make this the best freakin’ guide to Clash of Clans gems on the internet. If you know something I don’t, leave a comment! I really appreciate any corrections or suggestions other players have.

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Cult of the Fiver | August 2014 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-fiver-august-2014/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-fiver-august-2014/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 00:36:12 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5475 Metro 2033, adapt to a post global warming Earth in Anno 2070, deal with soul-crushing debt in Recettear, outmaneuver the darkness in One Way Heroics, and then escape from the mad prison island of the cat overlords in Battleblock Theater. ]]> Metro 2033


Nuclear winter has devastated Russia, making the air unbreathable and the chances of survival grim. Deadly mutants roam the surface and patrol the air. The survivors have banded together to form small camps within the underground subway tunnels. Not that things are rosy beneath the surface – political and ideological factions are colliding and the mutants are always hungry for a tasty human snack. When mysterious, otherworldly forces start to encroach, it’s up to one gifted soldier to make a perilous journey and decide the future of humanity.

Metro 2033 is worth your $5 because… it’s got sort of a Fallout post-apocalyptic feel to it. In Fallout, though, the survival-pack-rat-esque elements of the game are quickly pushed to the background as your character levels up and becomes ever more god-like. Metro 2033 manages to preserve the feeling of constantly being down to your last clip and having to frequently scavenge for resources. The Ranger difficulty modes make the game feel a bit more realistic, with bullets doing more damage and inventory sizes creeping even smaller than usual.

But don’t pay full price for Metro 2033, since… it’s got some serious rough edges. The filter mechanics are especially painful at times. Gas mask filters are required for survival on the surface. However, the game does a poor job of explaining how they work. You can’t always pick up new filters you find in the environment, and only one or two of the shops sell more. Having to move quickly and not being able to extend your time makes certain sections of the game really frustrating. There’s also a hidden morality system that determines what endings are available to you, which the game also never explains. There are stealth elements, but it’s the kind where once you’ve been detected once, every enemy everywhere will know precisely where you are at all times.

The $5 Deal: Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Although you do need filters to survive on the surface, you can take your gas mask off for up to 30 seconds at a time. You can really stretch a limited filters by putting the mask on long enough to draw a breath, and then remove the mask immediately and go another 30 seconds.
  • On the level where you reach the central armory shops, across from the shops you can buy either a stealth suit (which reduces your visibility in shadows) or a suit of armor that makes you harder to kill. It’s easy to miss these, and you only get one shot at them.
  • All of the weapons can be found in the environment, so I wouldn’t waste your precious money on buying them.
  • The pneumatic bolt weapon is extremely powerful and usually a one-shot kill from stealth. You can recover the bolts, so it should easily earn a slot in your inventory.

Anno 2070


The Anno series has long focused on commerce and city building between island nations. While most of the series has taken place during the age of sail, Anno 2070 takes us to the not-so-distant future where global warming has forced many once-proud nations to scrounge for resources amidst the waves. Three distinct factions – the Ecos, who value the environment, the Tycoons who desire profits, and the Techs who worship science – vie for limited resources on tiny islands to keep their populaces safe and happy.

Anno 2070 is worth your $5 because… it combines a lot of the more interesting elements of games like Sim City, Tropico, Cities XL, and other similar resource management games. It’s really polished, has a long campaign, and there are significant online scenarios to play as well. Managing your ecology adds a new wrinkle to the game’s delicate balancing act. Playing with the underwater bases and submarines and such is a lot of fun.

But don’t pay full price for ****Anno 2070,*** since… it kind of gets repetitive after a while. All the games play out essentially very similar to one another. The combat is super stripped down, so don’t go into it expecting anything significant in terms of RTS elements. The game has always-online DRM that is quite annoying at times.

The $5 Deal: Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • The + key on the keypad speeds the game up. I don’t remember anywhere that the game explains this to you, but it’s a HUGE lifesaver.
  • Settle other islands early and often. Whenever you need to grow a crop for which you don’t have the fertility on an existing island, grab a new one!
  • Every time you have a major population expansion, make sure you’re producing enough basic goods (ie, fish) for the new residents.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale


Recettear is part action-RPG and part shop simulator. When naive Recette learns she’s in deep with a collections agency, she teams up with the business-minded bill collector Tear to revive her parent’s item shop. When not stocking items or haggling with customers, the duo tags along with adventurers to collect “teh phat lewts” in nearby dungeons.

Recettear is worth your $5 because… it’s a really unique take on the standard dungeon crawling action RPG. Instead of just blindly hacking and slashing, you’ve got to manage your shop’s inventory, sell good stuff to adventurers, take them on trips to level them up and get new loot, and then use that loot in various ways to improve your shop and your stable of adventurers.

But don’t pay full price for Recettear, since… each element is executed competently, but none really stand out. The action RPG combat could be a lot better. The store management stuff, likewise, is kind of lackluster. After a while the whole thing gets kind of old, and the aggressive loan payments hanging over your head don’t do much except increase your stress.

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • If you’ve got a big loan payment coming up and you can’t make it, spend all the money you can. If you “lose” you’ll just start the week over without your money, but with any stock you had left. No point in losing 99% of the payment when you can just plow that money back into stuff to sell for the next attempt.
  • Put stuff out for sale you want your adventurers to buy, and if they try to make an offer on something that is good for them, sell it to them for dirt cheap.
  • If your adventurers have crappy equipment, you can bring things from your shop along and swap their gear out. The downside is you’ll lose slots in your inventory that you could normally take loot home in.

One Way Heroics


The Dark Lord is plaguing the land, while a corrupting Darkness is slowly reducing the world to a living hell-on-earth. It’s up to an infinite number of heroes working across infinite dimensions to stop the Dark Lord, and hopefully, end the blight of the Darkness.

One Way Heroics is worth your $5 because… it’s an excellent game that is terribly addictive. It’s easily the best roguelike I’ve played this year. I could go on for quite a while about how much I enjoyed it, but I already did that in another article…

But don’t pay full price for One Way Heroics, since… it’s not terribly well balanced. Once you find the overpowered combos of class, perk, and abilities, you’ll probably be able to demolish the game in no time flat. It’s still a lot of fun, though, and it’s less than $5 even when it’s not on sale. Pay full price – you’ll get your money’s worth!

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • There aren’t any cursed items, so feel free to equip stuff you find.
  • Hitting chests is a perfectly valid way to get the stuff inside.
  • Pack an axe, they’re good against walls, chests, and certain enemies like skeletons.
  • Shields are super important for almost every class. They significantly reduce the damage you take.
  • Every time you meet a chef, order food and consider buying one of their lunches.
  • Don’t bother carrying a lot of redundant weapons and armor around. You’ll find new gear frequently, and as you progress the power of the stuff you find will go up.

Battleblock Theater


What should have been a pleasure cruise has gone terribly awry. Your boat of best buddies has run aground on an island populated primarily with homicidal cats who imprison people and make them perform for their amusement. A vicious platforming maze of deadly traps and precariously poised treasure awaits!

Battleblock Theater is worth your $5 because… it’s got a clever story told through a unique art style. The various weapons and tools you unlock can sometimes change the game in significant ways. It’s a lot of fun to play in co-op, assuming you’re both pretty patient and work well together.

But don’t pay full price for Battleblock Theater, since… it quickly gets frustrating and super difficult. The platforming here is nothing short of hardcore, especially as the game progresses. There are timed levels that are even harder than the regular ones. The platforming has a limited bag of tricks and doesn’t change things up often.

The $5 Deal: Steam

Quick Tips:

  • There is a suction cup gun that will allow you to make improvised stairs on many surfaces.
  • Often when you see a group of wall blocks in a corner, there are secrets hidden inside false blocks.
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How to make money on the Steam Sales http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/how-to-make-money-on-steam-sales/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/how-to-make-money-on-steam-sales/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 03:34:33 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5518 Prev Page 2 of 2 Next

Did you miss page one? Click the link above to check it out.

Riding the wave

It may surprise you to know that Valve (the creators of Steam) actually consulted with a professor a few years back to better understand their digital marketplace dynamics. Professor Varoufakis went on to write several articles on the subject, among them a very interesting analysis of the economics of game items. In it, Varoufakis concluded that there is arbitrage in the Steam market, and that it can be profitable, especially in the time before the community has determined how to price an item. In practice I find these opportunities to be relatively short in duration and fairly low in trade volume, hence my opinion that you can’t quit your job to become a Steam day-trader… but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few bucks.

New Steam Item Price Spike

Sell in the spike

First of all, you can note that for almost every item on the Steam marketplace, there is a huge initial spike in pricing that takes some time to correct. I don’t know whether it is due to Elijah Wood making it rain to have the newest shiny items, or because some OCD basement-dweller has to collect them I don’t know. Surely there is an element of confusion in the market before rational pricing can be established as well – but whatever the reason, the spike always seems to exist. Given this fact rule number one is: Sell during the spike if at all possible. A great example of putting this into practice is to sell the first trading card you earn in a Steam Sale immediately.

Pro Tip If you are prepared for the sale, you’ve likely set aside some other sets of non-Sale Trading Cards for badge-craftage. Plan to cash in all or most of these on the first day of the Sale to get early Sale Trading Cards that you can sell while the price is high.

Steam Sale Arbitrage

Elliott and his Waves

Past the first spike, things get a great deal more murky. There is certainly no exact science here, but there has been a great deal of research on the extent to which future price behavior is predictable, based on crowd psychology. In particular, there was a famous economist from the late 19th century named Ralph Nelson Elliott who theorized that price behavior follows a wave pattern which can be predicted to some extent. I would definitely not bet my life savings on this theory, but when you think about it, it does make sense that there is some predictability to how a crowd will act when presented with certain stimuli. As such, when looking at pricing trends, try to think a little farther into the future and make bets on where you think the price is likely to ultimately end up. Barring certain caveats, if the price is climbing fast it is likely to correct lower at some future point, and if it is falling like a stone you might wait for a rebound before selling.

Getting out

Certain items, especially those associated with Steam Sales, have a shot clock that ticks down. In the closing hours of the sale, these items will fall in price like a stone, because their real value for crafting badges and other sale items is about to go to zero. Take note of the important time milestones of a sale, and be sure to sell your items before the fire sale. Conversely, if you for whatever reason want to buy said items (say, just to collect), the closing hours of the Sale are a great time to buy them at a fraction of the cost.


While selling on the Steam Marketplace is unlikely to get you rich, there are some trends and tricks to keep in mind if you do decide to offload some virtual collectables. Armed with this knowledge, you can make a few bucks – which on Steam can go a really long way. Free games, woo!

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How to profit on the Steam Marketplace http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/how-to-make-money-on-the-steam-marketplace/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/how-to-make-money-on-the-steam-marketplace/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 03:34:15 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=5517

The internet is rife with snake-oil salesmen and pyramid scheme peddlers that will either convince you that they need your bank account number (…and it bears repeating, don’t ever do that) or that this evil series of tubes is a den of thieves and liars and all of the easy money has already been made. Even still, if you are a fan of Steam, you’ve probably participated in a Steam Sale or two, and you’ve probably heard about Hats, Trading Cards, and various other items that can be sold on their open market between ordinary folks like you and me. If you’re an enterprising individual, you’ve probably pondered whether you might earn a little coin for yourself off this “marketplace” … earnings that I’m sure you could find a way to spend. Well wonder no more! Below I’ll debunk some of the myths and explain some of the tricks to make just a little money, if you’ve got the time and the patience.

You can’t quit your job

Let me start by saying that this article doesn’t constitute financial advice, but rather my own experience when buying, selling, and attempting to profit with the Steam Marketplace. Consult your Financial Advisor as applicable, and don’t use Mommy and Daddy’s credit card without permission :). I also want to clarify that everything I describe in this article is completely “above board” from my perspective – no gray market trading, no “conning of noobs”. If that’s your thing I suppose you’ll have to find your tips elsewhere.

With that out of the way, I must unfortunately share a little more bad news. At least with the ground rules I used, I don’t see a feasible way you could quit your day job and solely earn your living from Steam market sales. Profit opportunities are in small volume, the risk profile for trading is often very high, and the time opportunity cost of seeking out profits typically amounts to sub-minimum wage rates. Despite those downers, free money is free money, and over time even small profits can net you the occasional awesome five dollar game.


It so happens that there is not any real physical market for Steam where traders in cool jackets yell offers for DOTA Compendium points or scribble notes about Pyro Trading Card futures while they chug Red Bulls… although plenty of money is changing hands. Steam does however provide some nifty tools that give you something of the same effect when you are dealing with items that have been classified as commodities. On Steam (as in real life), commodities are any item that is sufficiently common that large quantities of them are traded and purchasers are primarily motivated by price (since the items are identical).

Steam Marketplace Commodity Interface

Be sure that whenever you are selling a commodity, you do so from the Commodity interface (as shown in the picture). This will give you the most information about existing offers, volume, and trading history. Merely going by the “suggested list price” that is shown in the Inventory interface and some other places can cost you some significant profit (but be aware that a lot of sellers use this as their only guidance).

Pro Tip Don’t believe everything Steam is telling you with all of its whiz-bang graphics and stats. Trades are happening in extremely high volume, especially during sales, and those stats will often not update fast enough for you to benefit from changing trends. If you need to sell something fast, the Steam suggest prices is likely to move it, but if you can afford to wait (and you almost always can), then look closely at the existing cheapest competitive offer and consider pricing higher than that. Chances are, the natural variation in price will cause your item to sell before long, sometimes almost instantly. For most commodities this won’t net you much, but a few pennies will add up towards cheap games over time.

Team Fortress 2 Venture Brothers Hats

Can you really even LIVE without these hats?

To horde or not to horde

At this point in the maturity of the Steam Marketplace, it is possible to earn a ton of items for doing literally nothing. Trading cards are earned simply by spending time with a game window open, and many in game items like TF2 hats are earned the same way. As the free virtual shiny objects begin to crowd your inventory, you’ll need to decide whether you want to cash them in, or stack them high and covetously protect them. For my own part I tend to keep them for games I like, so that I can craft badges and get other virtual schwag for that game – but I cash them in for the games which I’m not as invested in.

Pro Tip When considering to sell Trading Cards, take a minute to consider the opportunity cost of holding on to them. For very popular or free games like TF2, the cards trade near the basement price of around $0.07, limited by the transaction prices of Valve to net you $0.01. Cards for these types of games are worth very little, but when combined into badges during sales, they will net you additional loot which has a chance of being worth more. This means it is sometimes more profitable to buy or better yet trade to get a few cards to complete a set before a sale, and then craft the badge during the sale.

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