As tile laying games are one of my favorite board game genres, I have taken a look at quite a few games from the genre over the years. There is something quite satisfying about a good tile laying game. They are usually relatively easy to play, and yet there is quite a bit of strategy as well. Released last year in 2021 I was curious when I first heard about Land vs Sea. On the surface the game seemed pretty similar to your typical tile placement game, and yet it seemed to have some interesting ideas as well. Land vs Sea is a good tile placement game that is quite fun with some interesting strategy, that unfortunately doesn’t differ a ton from a lot of other games from the genre.
For the most part Land vs Sea plays like your typical tile placement game. On your turn you will choose one of the tiles from your hand to play. You will add this tile to the map that all of the players are creating together. The only rule when placing tiles is that land must be placed next to land, and water/sea needs to be placed next to water/sea. The goal of the game is to complete areas of the map that correspond to the side that you are playing as. You will score points based on how many tiles contribute to a completed area as well as any bonus symbols present in the area. Once all of the tiles have been played, the player that scored the most points wins the game.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for the game, check out our Land vs Sea how to play guide.
If this sounds like your typical tile placement game, you aren’t far off. The game does share a lot in common with many other tile placement games. In particular the game reminded me a lot of Carcassonne. This is not all that surprising, as there is only so much you can do to change the gameplay of a tile placement game. You basically play tiles based on some sort of criteria in order to score points. If you have ever played one of these type of games before, you should already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Land vs Sea.
That said Land vs Sea does have some interesting twists that I do want to talk about.
The game is basically built around the opposing sides of Land and Sea. Every tile in the game has some land and some water on it. You basically need to use the tiles to complete your areas, while also making it harder for your opponent(s) to complete theirs. This has an interesting impact on how you play the game. Most tile placement games reward you for waiting and building out an area before completing it. You usually score more points for creating a larger area.
This is not the case in Land vs Sea. You score the same amount of points per tile if you complete a two tile area or a ten tile area. Obviously you want to complete a large area when the opportunity presents itself. You are usually better off trying to complete smaller areas though. This is because you might as well focus on getting sure points instead of building an area that you may never score.
This is combined with the fact that the game is quite a bit more confrontational than I initially expected. While you obviously want to score points yourself, sometimes it is better to try and prevent another player from scoring. Especially if you are currently in the lead, you are better off trying to play defensively than offensively. By playing tiles that create more sections for a player to close off, you can stall another player from scoring points. You have to let the other player score points every so often. When it comes to large areas, you are better off just sabotaging the other player than trying to score points yourself. If a player is able to complete a large area, they are going to be very hard to beat.
While there are a lot of similarities between Land vs Sea and other tile placement games, this creates a unique feel for the game. I generally try to play more passively in games where I am more focused on scoring points myself than messing with other players. This isn’t really an option in Land vs Sea though. Every turn you need to be just as observant of the other player’s options as your own.
In general I would say that Land vs Sea is quite easy to play. If you have ever played a tile placement game before, you should be able to pick it up right away. Even if you haven’t, I don’t see the game being all that difficult to learn. You just need to choose a tile to place, and find somewhere on the map where each side is matched. The more advanced scoring options are more difficult to understand. The game has a recommended age of 14+ which seems high. I see no reason why children around eight to ten would have any trouble playing the basic game. They might not fully understand the strategy, but I don’t see them being confused by the actual gameplay.
Even though the game is pretty easy to play, I still think it has quite a bit of strategy. While you can play tiles anywhere as long as they match, you likely won’t do all that well. There is strategy to the game as you try to score points for yourself while minimizing the points that your opponent scores. The more strategic player will usually if not always win the game. The more you play it, the better you will get as you have a better idea of how to finish off your own areas while preventing other players from doing the same.
When you first start playing the game, there isn’t a lot to consider as your placement options are kind of limited. As the map expands though, your options grow exponentially. This gives you a lot to consider on your turn. While you only have two tiles to choose from, the tiles are double sided giving you four options. On top of all of this you get to choose your tile each turn, instead of randomly getting one. This means that you have the opportunity to have a big impact on how well you do in the game. Outside of the tiles that you have available to choose from, there is little luck to the game.
While the basic game is fine, I would probably recommended using at least one if not all of the alternative scoring rules. For your first game or two it may make sense to just play the basic game as the players adjust to learning how to play. The basic game feels a little too basic though.
The advanced scoring rules add more complexity to the game, while giving you additional things to consider when placing tiles. None of these additional scoring rules are that complicated, and they add considerably more to the game. Instead of just being focused on completing areas, there are additional ways to score points. There may be times where it is more beneficial to try and utilize these scoring options instead of just trying to complete areas. This gives you more options, which is always a positive in my opinion. I really don’t see playing the basic game again after playing with the more advanced scoring rules.
The one problem with the game’s strategy is the fact that Land vs Sea is one of those games that can easily suffer from analysis paralysis. Early in the game you don’t have too much to consider. You can go through all of your potential options rather quickly. Later in the game this will be much harder to do as you will have much more to consider.
If you or someone you play with has to analyze every single option before making a choice, the game can really start to drag towards the end. This can really hurt the game. To get the most out of the game you need to be willing to accept that you won’t always make the best possible move on your turn. Spend a little time considering your options, and then choose which one looks the best. This makes the game play faster, and also prevents it from getting bogged down.
Ultimately I found Land vs Sea to be a fun tile placement game. It is satisfying when you finish off an area and score points. Things get even better when you complete a large area. It is fun creating the various seas and lands. Basically it does what you expect of a good tile laying game. If you are a fan of the genre, I see no reason why you wouldn’t really enjoy Land vs Sea as well.
While I enjoyed Land vs Sea, it does have a few issues.
The biggest is just the fact that it is not the most original game. If you have ever played a tile placement game before, you likely have already played something quite similar to Land vs Sea. As soon as I started playing the game it reminded me a lot of Carcassonne and other tile placement games that I have played. While the tile shapes and theme are different, much of the gameplay feels quite similar. Land vs Sea is a good to great tile placement game. I don’t know if it is good enough to warrant a purchase though if you already own another similar game from the genre. The game has a few somewhat unique ideas. I can’t think of a mechanic that is so different that makes it totally stand out from other similar games though.
There are some occasional issues with the scoring as well. The scoring itself is rather simple and easy to follow. If you aren’t careful though, it can be pretty easy to mess up when scoring. If you don’t pay attention, you could forget to score an area. I would actually recommend using some sort of markers to note areas that have been scored. Then you can look at the map at the end of the game to make sure that there weren’t any missed areas.
Finally this might just be an issue with the group I played with. I personally think it is easier to play as the land player than the sea player. This has nothing to do with it being easier to score points playing as land. As far as I can tell, the two sides seem to have the same distribution of tiles. The problem comes from positive versus negative space. It was naturally easier for us to figure out ways to complete a section of land than a body of water. This could just be our group though.
As for the game’s components I thought they were really good. The game mostly comes with tiles, but they are really nice. They are quite thick and durable. The game’s artwork is great. The game does a good job adding little details to the tiles that add charm. It is easy to tell where you can play a tile. At the end of the game, you created a little world of your own which is interesting to look at. This all comes in a surprisingly small package. There really isn’t anything to complain about with regards to Land vs Sea’s components.
For the most part I enjoyed my time with Land vs Sea. On the surface the game is your typical tile placement game, but it has some interesting twists on the formula. The game is surprisingly competitive as you are all playing on the same map. While you are trying to score points yourself, you are also preventing the other player(s) from scoring points. This leads to a situation where you are best off completing small areas instead of large ones. This is uncommon for the genre. The game does a good job balancing simplicity with strategy. Land vs Sea is pretty easy to play and yet there is quite a bit of strategy. This can sometimes lead to some analysis paralysis though. Land vs Sea is a fun tile placement game. The biggest issue is just that it isn’t all that different from a lot of other games in the genre.
My recommendation for Land vs Sea comes down to your thoughts on the premise and tile placement games in general. If you aren’t a big fan of the genre or already own several similar games, I don’t know if there is enough to the game to make it worth picking up. If you are a fan of tile placement games though and are intrigued by the premise, I think you will enjoy Land vs Sea and should consider picking it up.
Land vs Sea
Year: 2021 | Publisher: Good Games Publishing | Designer: Jon-Paul Jacques | Artist: Jon-Paul Jacques
Genres: Abstract, Family, Puzzle, Tile Placement
Ages: 14+ | Number of Players: 2-4 | Length of Game: 45 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Moderate | Luck: Light
Components: starting map tile, Volcano/Whirlpool tile, 58 map tiles, 2 player scoring aids, 7 wooden discs (3 land, 3 sea, 1 cartographer) 1 scoreboard, instructions
- A fun tile placement game.
- Good balance between accessibility and strategy.
- Not much different than your typical tile placement game.
- Players can suffer from analysis paralysis if they have to consider every option.
Recommendation: For fans of tile placement games that are intrigued by the game’s premise.