- For ages 6 and up (publisher suggests 14+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 40 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Visuospatial Skills
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Explore and map a new world
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
American actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie said, “Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see.” The players will collectively build their map full of continents and islands, oceans and lakes in this game. The inhabitants of the newly found land are depicted on each tile placed, building the world and the mystery of what the new world is like. Explore, but do so with intent, as the player who explores strategically and tactically will win the day!
Land Vs. Sea, designed by Jon-Paul Jacques and published by Good Games Publishing, is comprised of 60 double-sided Map tiles, two double-sided Player Aid boards, one Scoreboard (that is part of the box), and seven wooden discs. The component quality is outstanding, with thick cardboard components, beveled edges, with a mat finish. The wooden tokens are solid and durable, as well. Jon-Paul Jacques also did the game’s artwork which is both fascinating and whimsical, making each Map tile something you want to look at and explore with your eyes to see all the little details. Great stuff.
Getting Ready to Explore
Land Vs. Sea can be played with two to four players. Three and four-player games require a few additional rules and are summarized in the Game Variants section of this review. We will focus on the traditional two-player game for our demonstration, where we feel that Land Vs. Sea was best received.
To set up the game for two players, complete the following steps.
First, find and place the “Starting” Map tile and place it in the middle of the players. Next, find and set aside the “Volcano/Whirlpool” Map tile, as well. If circumstances call for it, this tile will be used later in the game.
Second, shuffle the Map tiles and place them into two stacks of roughly the same proportions. At this time, have each player decide if they will play as the “land” or as the “sea.”
Third, starting with the land player, draw one Map tile from either stack, ensuring that the player’s opponent does not see the face-down side. Once the player selects and takes a Map tile, they may look at the face-down side. Next, place all Map tiles owned by the player directly in front of them and visible to their opponent. Repeat this, taking turns, until both players have two Map tiles each.
Fourth, find a wooden token that represents the land and the sea. Place these on the “0” space on the scoreboard. Angle the box so that both players can see the icons displayed on the side for easy reference.
That’s it for game set up. Let the contest begin!
Creating the World
Land Vs. Sea is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn consists of several steps summarized here.
Step One: Play a Tile
The player may play any tile using any side they currently have in front of them. However, it must be placed adjacent to any other Map tile already in play when placing a tile. In addition, the “land” and the “sea” illustrations must match on the edges. For example, land cannot suddenly become sea and vice versa.
Step Two: Resolve Bonus Action
Some Map tiles have a bonus action that must be resolved before the player’s turn may continue.
- Steal: The player takes any single Map tile from their opponent, placing it on their side.
- Play Again: The player may play a second Map tile if they have one available and in front of them.
Step Three: Score
If the Map tile placed completes one or more land areas or sea areas, the players now determine the points scored. It’s considered “complete” when there are no open edges. It should be noted that a player scores points for their area, regardless of whether they played the Map tile or not.
- The land player scores one point for each Map tile contributing to the completed land area.
- The sea player scores one point for each Map tile contributing to the completed sea area.
- The player who completed the area (i.e., played the Map tile regardless of land or sea) gets one additional bonus point for each bonus point icon inside the finished area.
Step Four: Place a Waypoint
This optional step is only taken if playing with the Waypoint scoring variant (summarized in the Game Variants section of this review).
Step Five: Replenish Tiles
The player now draws back up to a maximum of two Map tiles taken from either stack. If there are no more Map tiles to draw, skip this step and immediately end the player’s turn.
This completes the player’s turn. The next player now takes their turn, repeating the steps noted above.
Volcanos and Whirlpools, Oh My!
The “Volcano/Whirlpool” Map tile was put to one side during the game setup. It comes into play if the player ever creates a “hole” in the map, wherein a “hole” is a section of the gaming table that is surrounded by six Map tiles that all have the same mass type (land or sea). The player who created this hole now gets to place the “Volcano/Whirlpool” Map tile, with the right side being used (Volcano for land and Whirlpool for sea). Score points as you would normally.
Ending the Adventure
The game continues, as noted above, with each player taking a turn until the last Map tile has been placed. Then, determine the winner by comparing the points scored with victory to the player with the highest recorded score value.
The scoring described above is considered “basic.” There are additional methods to score placed tiles that are all optional. These are “Mountains & Corral” that score extra points for the player and “Caravan and Ship” that score points at the game’s end based on how many completed trade routes are identified when the last Map tile is placed. Both of these optional scoring methods do not increase the game’s difficulty but do provide players additional choices to make as the intent is to create “chains.” Use the provided Player Aid boards to assist in scoring.
Waypoints are also an optional means to score points. Each player is given a Waypoint token at the start of the game and may place it when they place their Map tile. Once placed, Waypoints cannot be removed until scored. A Waypoint is scored when either the land area or sea area is completed that also contains the Waypoint token, or six Map tiles surround the Waypoint token. Whichever player triggers the removal of the Waypoint tokens scores bonus points. In this way, the Waypoint can be used to entice other players to help you complete map sections.
The game described above is for two players. However, you can also play the game with three players, with the third player taking on the role of the “Cartographer.” Players score points as usual, and gameplay remains essentially the same. The one exception is how the Cartographer scores who can only collect bonus points. Therefore, it’s recommended that the three scoring variants be used when playing with three players.
Land Vs. Sea can also be played with four players. Doing so creates two teams (Land team and Sea team). The order in which players take turns should alternate between land and sea, with the teams sharing points earned.
To learn more about Land Vs. Sea, visit the game’s webpage.
The Child Geeks enjoyed the game, finding it easy to put the tiles together like a puzzle, connecting land and sea. Where they didn’t excel was the actual collection of points. Land Vs. Sea is a game about quickly completing minor points or building for a big score. Both approaches are valid, but you want to make cool-looking maps when you are a Child Geek, ignoring points altogether. According to one Child Geek, “I like the game, and I like the little drawings on the tiles. They are funny and make me want to explore.” Another Child Geek reported, “I don’t win, but I also like playing the game. I also like just playing with the tiles and making maps.” When the land was fully explored, the Child Geeks all agreed that Land Vs. Sea was an absolute enjoyment to play.
The Parent Geeks found Land Vs. Sea casual with just the right amount of competitiveness to keep them engaged without feeling overwhelmed. The game was widely believed to be easy to learn and could get to the family gaming table quickly with just the right amount of difficulty to make it a game worth setting up. According to one Parent Geek, “A nice little game. Reminds me of a simpler and more directed version of Carcasonne, but with its flavor and ideas. I enjoyed it as a two-player game.” Another Parent Geek said, “The land appears to be easier to manage and the sea a more interesting puzzle to solve. I like how points are counted regardless of who does what, as it keeps the game humming along. I enjoyed it.” When the last caravan rolled to a stop, and the last sea trader made port, the Parent Geeks all agreed that Land Vs. Sea was a game worth their time.
The Gamer Geeks gave Land Vs. Sea a mixed endorsement, finding the game good enough but not spectacular or rememberable. According to one Gamer Geek, “I think this is a great game to introduce to new players to the hobby, but I would prefer to play Carcassonne and teach them that game. This game feels complete but watered down and not nearly as engaging as I thought it would be. I give it a thumbs up for casual players, but not for us elitists.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Gorgeous to look at and fun to play, but it just fell short for me. It didn’t feel any easier than other tile-laying games, but nor did it feel like it was deep enough. I recommend it, all the same, but only with two players.” When the last Map tiles were placed, the Gamer Geeks thought about it one last time and were of a mixed mind. Some agreed that it was worth their time, and some believed it was worth other people’s time. Either way, the Gamer Geeks found Land Vs. Sea to be “pretty much OK.”
To learn how to play Land vs. Sea use the basic rules first. The optional rules add depth to the game’s decision-making, increasing the time needed to calculate scores. This can cause the game to feel a bit slower than it should, especially if the players are not familiar with the primary scoring method. After you get a few games on the table, add the optional scoring to add new levels of thinking and strategy. Great stuff, and I highly recommend playing with “Caravans and Ship” as soon as you have the basics down. This particular scoring option introduces an end-game scoring that makes each Map tile placed feel all the more critical.
Weirdly enough, the player who takes control of the land has a visual advantage. Scanning the Map tiles to connect land areas always felt more accessible to the land players. I’m not suggesting that connecting the sea is any more or less complicated game-play-wise. Still, visually it’s not as apparent or evident at times how you should connect sea areas without adding to the land areas. Think of it like trying only to see negative space. Of course, you cannot avoid doing so, but visually speaking, it just felt more complex. As a result, our players always wanted to play as the land and begrudgingly took the sea. Honestly, it just feels more complex somehow.
The game publisher suggests the minimum playing age for the game is 14 years and older. Don’t you believe it. This puzzle game requires nothing more of its youngest players to make decisions that are self-evident based on the tiles they have available to them and the tiles already in play. So if your Child Geek can put together a puzzle, they can play Land Vs. Sea. Just expect that they won’t be scoring the “big points.” Regardless, the game is very accessible to young Child Geeks and an excellent opportunity to get them involved in the hobby. Expect your Child Geeks to pour the game’s contents onto the floor and play with the Map tiles to create their unique locations.
Our players mentioned more than once how much Land Vs. Sea felt similar to Carcasonne, a classic tile-laying game that many consider being a “gateway” into the hobby. Truthfully, I see the connection with the games similar in their means of play, which is where any comparisons end. Land Vs. Sea is a beautiful two-player game but falls short of pleasing if you add more players to the table. In contrast, Carcassonne falls flat if playing with two players and excels when more players are added to the mix—as such, comparing Land vs. Sea to Carcasonne is similar to comparing vanilla ice cream to chocolate ice cream. They both do the trick but will serve different audiences.
If you are exploring two-player games or are already a fan, do take a look at Land Vs. Sea and get it to your table as soon as the opportunity presents itself. It’s a clever puzzle game with multiple ways of scoring that can be added or removed per the player’s desire. Explore the land you create and sail the endless seas surrounding your islands and unfathomably massive continents. Enjoy the journey and the game.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.