Stats at a glance
Ages: 14 +
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is a game about exploration, development, and conquest set in the classic fantasy setting with orks, elves, humans, and dwarves. Don’t let the theme deceive you — even though the game uses the basic races and fantasy setting, it does so much with it to make for an excellent experience.
Players will start with modest kingdoms, but as their nations grow and develop, border conflict becomes inevitable. You will have to muster an army and powerful heroes to defend your lands, but also raise the banner of conquest in this highly engaging strategy game!
Table of Contents
Brief Overview of Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is a proper 4X-style game in a tabletop format. The 4 X-es stand for: Expand, Explore, Exploit and Exterminate. If you’re not familiar with the genre, think of Civilization or Twilight Imperium as some of the best examples.
What sets Heroes of Land, Air & Sea apart from the other games is the excellent execution of the 4X genre, high interactivity/low downtime, and a condensed, sub-two-hour experience for up to 4 players.
There are certainly a lot of games that check one or more of these traits, but only a few manage to hit the depth of a 4X game without having it play out for 5+ hours.
This is where Heroes of Land, Air & Sea (referred to as Heroes from now on) truly shines. It has the depth and complexity to make it a compelling experience without gatekeeping people through a complex set of rules or length of the sessions.
Versions & Expansions
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea: Order and Chaos
The Order and Chaos expansion brings support for the 5th and 6th players through a board extension — now featuring six islands. The expansion also adds four new factions: the Linkin, the Lizardfolk, the Goblins, and the Undead.
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea: Pestilence
Pestilence is an expansion you should get after Order and Chaos, as it adds support for the 7th player. The new continent will now float above on a clear plastic stand, a novel feature in the board game industry. You’ll also get two new factions: the Birdfolk and the Merfolk, along with new spells and exploration tokens.
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea: Mercenary Pack #1
The Mercenary Pack #1 adds four new miniatures: Gamelyn the Warlord, Jowls the Minotaur, Gnocke the Hill Giant, and Betula the Treant, accompanied by their mercenary cards and extra rules.
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea: Mercenary Pack #2
The Mercenary Pack #2 is a bit smaller than the first, adding just two miniatures: Mechmaster Cyd the Harvester and Baaledor the Demon Lord, along with their cards and rules.
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea: Mercenary Pack #3
Unboxing Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
The massive game box stores the following components:
- 4 Capital City Boards
- 80 Miniatures
- 12 Hero Cards
- 32 Constructs
- 1 Game Map Board
- 28 Tactic Cards
- 60 Spell Cards
- 8 Solo Enemy Cards
- 94 Exploration Tokens
- 15 Resource Tokens
- 1 First Player Token
- 1 Quick Reference Sheet
- 1 Rulebook
Usually, I’ll start the unboxing by going straight into the box, but this time I need to stop for a moment and tell you just how big the game package is. The box is much bigger than 7 Wonders or Everdel, which works well for the epic 4X feel Heroes is trying to accomplish.
The 20-page full-color rulebook features small illustrations and is very text-heavy. Fortunately, the different mechanics, rules, and phases are well divided to make the learning process more manageable.
Next up, we’ve got the punchout cardboard that forms the game constructs. Towers, city castles, boats, and sea vessels are all constructed through the assembly of these cardboard pieces.
I’m not a big fan of using cardboard in such a way, as it can chip and bend through the assembly and disassembly. However, Heroes does not have this problem — once the pieces are assembled, they can be stored in the box without the risk of damage or wear.
The player boards are large and sturdy pieces of cardboard with a colorful, yet well-organized layout. They are double-sided to support the solo mode.
The game board is much bigger — 4 times the size of the box. It doesn’t look like the typical 4X hex-based map, and instead uses the more natural borders between different areas.
I cannot wrap up this section without talking about the miniatures. Stored in plastic organizers, each figure is both on display, and completely safe from damage while inside the box. The miniatures have a lot of detail and are painted in a single color based on the faction.
Other than these components, we’ve got some punchout cardboard tokens and cards. Overall, the quality of the components found inside the box is excellent, and there’s nothing I can point out as a flaw. Even the cardboard models look great and likely better than plastic models would.
How to Play Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
As with any 4X game, there’s a lot that goes on in Heroes, but fortunately, none of the mechanics are overly complicated. I’ll start by explaining the basics of game setup and then tell you about how the game flows.
Before you can start the first game of Heroes, you need to assemble the cardboard constructs. The assembly is straightforward and once you’re done with it, there’s no need to disassemble the pieces again.
To set up the game, distribute the player boards and the corresponding units, constructs, hero cards, and other race-specific components. You will start the game with two serfs and 1 warrior, while the rest have to be recruited.
Players will then distribute the continents among each other by placing their level 1 capital city constructs on the designated areas. It’s important to note that only one capital can be built per continent, so the game starts with everyone on their own island.
Rounds & Phases
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is played over a series of rounds, each divided into three phases. The game continues through the rounds until one of the game-ending conditions is met.
The phases of the game are:
- Action phase
- Collection phase
- Round end
The round starts with the first player taking their action phase. The available options are listed at the top of the player boards — four capital and four command actions.
The capital actions allow you to recruit, build, research and tax. Actions can only be taken once per round, except when certain cards are played. To play an action, you must meet the conditions and place an action token on it.
If you are playing a capital action, other players can also play the same action alongside you, but instead of the token, they can use a serf.
The command actions allow you to move on land, sea, and air, as well as the cast. This set of actions cannot be followed by other players, but you can play a serf to execute two actions at once, which allows you to cover more ground.
During the collection phase, players will gather resources from the controlled areas of the map. To control an area, the player must place a unit or a structure in it. Players also draw spell cards which are added to their library, the size of which is limited by the level of their capital city.
The round-end phase requires everyone to remove their serfs and action tokens from the action bar and reset the spell card cooldown if necessary.
There are a total of eight actions you can take in Heroes, and now that I’ve shown you how the flow of the game goes, we can go into what each of the actions does.
The Recruit action allows you to pay with resources and bring in a new unit into the game. Next to the basic units, you can also recruit heroes and vessels, provided that you meet the requirements.
The Build action lets you build a vessel if you don’t want to use the recruit action for it. You can also build a new building on the player board, build towers and expand the capital city.
The Research or Scribe action provides a way to gain spell cards. You can draw, choose and discard cards so that your hand doesn’t exceed the deck limit. The other option is to scribe cards and use it effect every 3 turns until the game end.
The Tax action will provide resources you’ll need for other actions. The amount of resources you’ll get depends on the tracker’s position.
The command actions are self-explanatory — the March action lets you move on land, the Sail action uses the vessel to carry troops over water, and the Fly action gives you another dimension of travel.
Once an army or a vessel moves into a region occupied by another player’s unit or structure, the movement phase is ended and combat begins.
Combat in Heroes of Land, Air & Sea involves tallying up the army strengths, spell bonuses, and tactics to determine which player is the winner.
To score the strength of an army, combine the values of units, vessels, and structures, plus the bonuses provided by heroes, vessels, or structures.
Spells act as modifiers and can increase the strength of an army, reduce the strength of the opposing army, or kill a unit.
The tactics are played last, with each player having a set of 7 tactic cards. Each tactic has a certain advantage, weakness, and cost, so combatants will have to pick their card carefully.
The goal for every player is to accumulate the most victory points throughout the game. However, there are four conditions that mark the end of the game:
- eXploration end – the entire map has been explored by players.
- eXpand end – a player manages to deploy all of their serfs and warriors.
- eXploit end – a player manages to play all of their towers.
- eXterminate end – one of the capital cities has been destroyed.
Your First Game of Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
If you’ve never played a 4X game before, just think of Heroes as any other strategy game.
You have a small base that needs to grow and develop. To do so, you need resources, and to gain resources, you need to muster forces to explore and seize lands.
Heroes is a free-for-all game, so you must balance the defense of your region with keeping other players in check. At first, you’ll focus on your island but as players begin to encroach on each other’s territories, it becomes a true power struggle.
Pros & Cons
- Highly Interactive Gameplay
- Condensed 4x Experience
I’ll start the pros section by saying that Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is an excellent and complete 4X experience that is far more accessible and in some cases, enjoyable than other titles.
By allowing players to follow up on others’ actions, the game makes you stay engaged throughout, and not just when it’s your turn. There are a few moments of downtime as someone repositions their army or picks through their spells, but for the most part, you’ll be focused and keep your plans adjusted.
The problem with a lot of 4X games is that they require a lot of attention for hours. Heroes is not like that — with the playtime being 30 minutes per player, staying attentive and interested is not a problem.
- Not as Deep as Other 4X Games
- Not for Everyone
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea doesn’t have any strong cons, but rather, it has been designed in a way that’s not going to sit well with everyone.
The high interactivity and combat between players can be a bit frustrating for a few reasons. The first is that you might have a player that will hold a grudge and come at someone with everything they’ve got — not to win, but to make the other lose.
It’s unlikely that you’ve got someone like that in your group, but you should be aware of this nonetheless. The other, far more likely issue is that you have players of widely different skills, and the road to victory can only lead through to the exploitation of the weaker players.
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea Review (TL;DR)
The game offers a great amount of depth, replayability, and engagement packed into 2-hour sessions. You can enjoy Heroes of Land, Air & Sea with a variety of people, and get a group together more easily than for other games in the genre.
I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy Heroes of Land, Air & Sea as much as I did. The classic (some would say generic) spin on Tolkien’s fantasy theme, and the basic-looking map, all of these were false assumptions I made when I first picked up the game.
However, this quickly changes and the more I played, the more I enjoyed it. There are certain depth limitations to a game that can be crammed in 1.5 hours, but even with that in mind, Heroes ended up being more than engaging even for someone like me.
I can love Twilight Imperium 4 as much as I’d like, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be lucky to play it once a year with how busy everyone is. With Heroes, at least I can experience a similar thrill more often and more easily.
This is one of the main reasons why I can recommend this game, and if you’re in a similar position as I am, maybe you’ll enjoy it a lot too!
We hope you enjoyed our Heroes of Land, Air & Sea review! Have you tried this highly-rated 4X board game? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
When I first got into the hobby some 10 years ago, my friend circles didn’t know that board games went further than Monopoly and Risk. Now everyone I’m close with is into board gaming and my collection really has something for everyone.
My favorite games are Terraforming Mars and Lords of Waterdeep and I’m a fan of Euro, strategy, and engine-building games in general. I also enjoy the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which pulled me into the miniature painting hobby.