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Heroes of Land, Air & Sea» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Beautiful and elegant 4x game rss

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Khelz Underworld
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I'd like to write about Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, which I discovered recently while wandering in Essen.

I was convinced by the artwork (also had a quick look to check the score on BGG which is good), and the fact that it was a 4x in a high fantasy setting. Oh and the existence of a solo-mode just finished to convince me.

I've played a few games now, and I can tell you one thing: This game is simply one of the best and enjoyable games I've ever played.

Among its qualities:

- This is a real 4x game, not a game that tries to look like one. Fighting and area control is frequent, exterminating an opponent is clearly part of the options you need to consider.

- You can eXplore, each region contains a token representing a specific encounter; could be a mage tower, a rogue passing by, an earthquake, etc.

- You can eXploit and gather resources by controlling areas that will give you resource depending on the nature of the terrain (Mana, Food and Ore).

- You can eXpand yourself: improve your capital city with taverns, shadow guilds, cathedral etc. in order to recruit new units and benefit from new perks.

- You can eXterminate: yes you can totally annihilate an enemy and this feels soooo good Attack their structures, their sea/air vessels, and even their capital city if you're prepared enough. The latter would trigger the end of the game, and the exterminated player will necessarily end the game with a score of 0.

In addition to all these neat features, the high fantasy theme is very strong. Traditional heroic fantasy setting (which I love), and asymetric perks depending on the selected faction: Humans, Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Undead, Lionkins, Lizardfolks, Goblins, Birdfolks and Merfolks.

This game is simply the closest and most successful representation of Heroes of Might & Magic in a boardgame form.

Combat is so good in this game that I need to mention it as well: it's an example of elegance in game design. Each player owns 7 tactical cards in his hand and must pick one secretly. Some tactical cards have bonuses against other tactical cards; and by understanding the position of your opponent and with some experience it can be easy to understand what he's going to play (then a double-guessing aspect enters in play when a combat happens between two experienced players). But you can't just play any tactical card, you also have to pay its price with your resources. So for example if your opponent is low on resources, you know that he will not be able to play this or that card, and you'll be in a better situation to outsmart him in combat. Seriously this is one of the best implementation of combat without dice that I've ever seen in any game before.

Conclusion: This game works perfectly well because it's played in a reasonable amount of time (around 30 minutes per player); it's a complete and deep game, but light and elegant at the same time. It seems to be well-balanced. Oh, and there is a solo mode as well; which is rare enough in 4x games.

In short, I totally recommend this game to any 4x lovers. It plays fast, it plays fun, it's fluid and elegant and offers a lot of contents at the same time; along with stunning components. 10/10.
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Chad Pearson
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I'm anxiously awaiting the KS to deliver!
 
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Randolph Bookman
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Khelz,
Great written review. As a counter and I can only speak to my plays, but if you want a 4x game this is not it.

I was once like you enamored by the bling and beauty of this game...
Then I realized it was all just a trap.

- Overpriced
Let's start with the obvious. Here we are 2 years later. The game is $100 dollars for the base. This doesn't include 2 additional factions needed to play 6 players nor any of the mercenary pack figures, or the expansion that adds the better factions to the game. If you want to go all in you're looking at around $200 or more if you're buying from ebay or bgg market.

But let's look at just the base game. Do you get a lot in this box? Yes, but the quality is only so-so. CMON, FFG, Awaken Realms have all taken minis to another dimension. Same with the tokens. The 3 dimensional ships and towers look cool, but are a pain to store and tend to fall apart unless you glue them. Add to this relatively low availability of this game which only increases the cost if you want to buy it from a re-sale and there are just better options for your $.

- I will storm your land with my massive army of...3 figures
The game does not allow you to build a up a fleet, army or any massive amount of units. Though units may act like an army it just don't give the same feeling of a massive empire. I want to see a wave of figures spill onto board as I conquer land, but movement and build restrictions kill that. I understand why it was done to help simplify and keep time down, but it just doesn't feel like an empire builder.

- Some End game/Win Condition Feel Easier Than Others
Just curious what has triggered your end game the most in games played?

- Time Length
The game was toted as a quick 4x game. I don't think you can play a full game as a new player in an hour. Maybe it's just our group. I think our first 3 player game took just under 3 hours maybe 2.5 hours. You can play a 3 player game of of Eclipse or Clash of Cultures in the same time they're both better examples of 4x games. Don't take my word for it look where they rank. Now I think you could probably play this game quicker than 2 hours if everyone knows it, but you sacrifice a lot to do it.


-The Battle System
The battle system in theory sounds like it will be quick, intuitive, and a bit of a gamble, but in practice the guessing/double guessing of what your enemy will play makes it longer than it needs to be and more likely you will know exactly what they're going to play. This made battles feel very deterministic and play out without much interesting results. That said you want to battle as much as possible (if I remember right) because you can get vps for every battle.

This Game Is Bad
NO. Not at all. It's actually a decent game. It's just not an interesting one. It's safe,light, and in the end suffers from what I personally feel about all Tiny Epic Games. They're really great ideas that just miss the mark. If you can get this at a good price or trade for games you'll no longer play then go for it. Otherwise, I would tell you to look elsewhere for your 4x fix.
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Martin Mudrak
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shieldwolf wrote:
...

Thanks for your thoughts, these were however all very subjective, as are the positive feelings many of us have towards the game...

- Overpriced
Already had 2 chances to back KS Campaigns for a very fairly discounted price...

Quality of the minis is great. It might be a little cartoonish, but so is the art of the game, which I love...

- I will storm your land with my massive army of...3 figures
Sorry, not even TI4 let's you move fleets of a hundreds (or tens) of ships...

- Some End game/Win Condition Feel Easier Than Others
Equally triggered by exploration tokens, warriors/serfs and towers in our experience...

- Time Length
Depends on players, could easily be around 2h with 3 players.


-The Battle System
We love the battle system.

This Game Is Bad
NO. It's great and our group loves it. But I won't blame people for loving other games, instead. Subjective.
 
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Khelz Underworld
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Indeed, to each his own as they say

For my group this game is the best thing since sliced bread, we just love how the game is played, and how it feels: it's simple, it's smooth, and you don't need to keep your nose in the rulebook after you've played your first game, unlike most of the games I will mention below.

Speaking about other 4x games, let's talk about what we have available:

Twilight Imperium: So long that it's barely playable imho. Feels really too heavy and fiddly, even in its 4th implementation. When we organize boardgaming days we do enjoy playing different games, not just a single game. But okay this one is epic and I definitely understand why it's a popular classic. With the right group of highly motivated people, it can be the right sci-fi themed 4x game.

Runewars: Good game, I like this one, but it's suffering from the same issues as Twilight Imperium to a lesser extent however. But basically it feels too long, too fiddly with unnecessary game elements here and there; there are just too many cards and too many features, the setup time is way too long. Additionally, I think that the combat system is way less elegant than in HLAS (and much more random). For me the deterministic aspect of the combat (still leaving SOME room for randomness though) is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Eclipse: Meh. I just dislike this game, way too heavy for what it offers and just doesn't feel like a 4x game. Not a fan of the art either.

Scythe: Meh². I don't like this game. It encourages you not to attack other players and to me this is just not fun.

Space Empires 4x: Okay this one is great. Clearly my second favourite 4x after HLAS

Clash of Cultures: This one looks good. I can't speak about it though because I've never played it, but I will always favor a high fantasy theme over a civ-like theme. Also it doesn't provide a solo mode unfortunately, otherwise I think I would have bought it already.

Among those popular 4x (or 3.5x) games, only Space Empires 4x comes with a solo mode AND provides a good "Scifi 4x fix". The only other high-fantasy 4x that I know of is Runewars, and although I like it, my group doesn't enjoy it that much because it's too long and fiddly.

Of course everything is a matter of opinion, and we don't need to agree there. However if you think there are some other 4x games around that I might like, please don't hesitate to mention them, I always like to discover new games.

As far as Heroes of Air, Land & Sea is concerned, I believe it doesn't have any competition as of today. This game totally blew my mind, and I'm 100% sure that this is not an "novelty effect", as far as my group and myself are concerned. I'm originally a great fan of Heroes of the Might & Magic (the video game), and HLAS just have that unique thematic feeling while also providing fluid and awesome mechanics.

Although it does have more bookkeeping, Space Empires 4x has the same kind of "fluidity/fluency" aspect that makes the game so enjoyable as well.
 
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Randolph Bookman
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Agreed
TI 4 and RuneWars are just too long for normal play for most groups.

Eclipse I understand why some don't like it and I haven't played Space Empires

Scythe isn't a 4x game it's not even really area control. It's just a race game and to be honest other than the bling and theme, Euphoria scratches the same itches and can be played in a fraction of the time.

And I would argue that this isn't a 4x game either. It's an RTS.

I'm still curious about how your games have ended? What triggered the end and how many games have ended with that condition?
The game just starts to feel samey very quickly.

I also think that you really have to have the expan$ion to introduce the interesting races like the lions and lizards. So unless you kick started the game you're spending more money right away.

It's a game that's great on paper but I suspect that this game will drop off in ratings very quickly. like I said Tiny Epic guys make interesting games, but they always just miss the mark. Not criticizing your review or your group liking the game. Just noting that I felt very much like you until about 4 games in.
 
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Pierre Philippe Goyer
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Good discussion to read...Thanks
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Khelz Underworld
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Most of the time for us it ends with eXplore, eXpand, eXploit. Capital city destruction already happened too but of course it's more difficult to achieve (which is fortunate), but definitely not impossible with the right timing and cards in hands. Exploring all the tokens is more often happening during my solo play sessions since the enemies are stacking up a lot of tokens when they roam on the map (especially with the updated rules since the vessels now move x3), but when the heroes are out of the capital city there is also a good opportunity for me to eXterminate that enemy.

In any case, the way the game ends doesn't really matter. It's not a victory condition but some kind of "marker" or "guideline" to say "okay guys the game is now over". Combat happens a lot and it's really fun. I don't see this game decreasing in ratings as you do anytime soon, but even if it was the case, I wouldn't care much about that because on the one hand I'm pretty sure it's going to increase in popularity and please to a lot of new fans. On the other hand, the rank doesn't matter much in my opinion; my favourite game of all time isn't even ranked at 8/10 and still its community is one of the most active and creative of all time, even 10 years after the production stopped (talking about Heroscape here).

I don't know why you keep saying that Tiny Epic games keep missing the mark; their popularity seem to contradict this argument. Personally I'm enjoying TEG and TEZ a lot I'm also willing to see how good Tiny Epic Mechs is going to be, but I like the concept a lot so far.

I agree with you about the price tag though, but I have had games that were more expensive and had a better "geek score", and still I had to sell them because they didn't do it for me (looking at you GloomHaven or Mythic Battles Pantheon).

As for the category, I don't understand why you say it's an RTS and not a 4x. RTS (Real Time Strategy) games have to happen in real time and this one is turn-based (pretty much like 99% of the boardgames anyway).

I'm also still expecting your recommendations for what a great 4x game would be in your opinion, because I will certainly check them out as well since I'm a fan of the genre

Anyway, great discussion and great opportunity to talk about the games we like
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Randolph Bookman
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Agreed, great discussion and please do not take my comments as an attack on yours, just another opinion based on my games of HoLAS.

To go back to your comment about waves of ships. You're right you don't have hundreds of ships in TI4 but you might have 7 and a ton of fighters. That's not uncommon. In HOLAS you want to build units. You want airships. You want to build boats, but you're artificially hog tied so you have to wait to produce only one unit. None of the other 4x games I know do that. I understand the rational behind it, but it just takes away from the feeling of a 4x.

I consider it an RTS not because you're all playing simultaneously, but because your actions and the gameplay feel more like an RTS. I know I'm not explaining it well. I think Tom Vasel said the same thing maybe he explains it better in his video.


Expand and exploit seem to be the two most common ways the game ends. Explore doesn't really happen unless everyone is focusing on that and if they are then you've probably got an advantage on military or one of the other conditions.

That said, you're absolutely right. The game end conditions don't mean your winning. Sometimes quite the opposite. In some of our games it slogged the game down as people would try and just keep the game going so they could score a few more points. That's fine in a worker placement game. However, in a 4x it feels anti-thematic and odd.

Tiny Epic Games do really cool things, but they're not short and the bigger box versions of the games they emulate are just. TEW is cool idea of worker placement and using people's buildings but its still as long as playing another worker placement game that does worker placement better. Take out or Fine Dining. Again, I don't think TEGs are bad games, but if you're going to spend the time to play a 3 hour game I think they're are deeper games that scratch the same itch.

I agree about Rank. I actually hate the BGG rank. I guess it really boils down to what you consider a 4x game and the mechanics you enjoy. For me, I want to see a presence on the board. I want to make units that have meaningful choices and I want to use them. In HoLAS you have so very few units. Building them is not easy making fighting a terrible prospect.

Definitely check out Clash of Cultures. It may not be as pretty as HoLAS but definitely a 4x game. Rune Wars is good, not sure how long games for your group last, but we play those in about 4 hours with 4 players.

TI4 is great, but not really a 4x game as much as an objective space opera. At an hour a player you not complaining about 12 hour games anymore. Our last game of 5 players was finished in 5 1/2 hours (and that was with 4 new players).

If you don't like Eclipse, I don't know what to tell you. My only complaint with that game is it is very cold war until the last few rounds and I actually wish the game went for one more round. That said, nothing I've seen of 2.0 makes feel like it is an improvement.

I'll throw out an odd idea of a 4x game, Dominant Species. Now it's worker placement but it's totally a 4x game and probably one of the best games that we've mentioned so far. It's not even my favorite, but it's hard to deny that DS is a very well crafted game.

Here's another odd one, Lords of Hellas. While not a 4x game, it has many aspects of one plays in a quarter of the time of the games we've mentioned.

And as I type this I just realized that a 4x game should be a means to an end, but with HoLAS it is the end.
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Khelz Underworld
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I see, thanks for your comments.

Well I already own most of the games you've mentioned, and the ones I don't own aren't really 4x games or aren't of interest to me (due to theme, or mechanics), or have disappointed me in the past. The only one I will probably get is Clash of Cultures but that's really too bad it doesn't provide a solo mode (in fact the only "real" 4x games that seem to provide a solo mode is Space Empires 4x and HLAS).

Regarding the specific case of Runewars, I think it's a great game, but it just feels too heavy. There are too many rules and features (e.g. different combat rules for armies and heroes) All those features that feel unnecessary to the game and create a lot of overhead and lack of elegance. But nevertheless I agree that this is one of the best fantasy 4x ever made and I will certainly play it again when I have the opportunity.

Regarding HLAS I don't agree that "4x is the end", I'd rather say that a specific appearance of one of the 4x features triggers the end of the game; but before that, you will be exterminating/exploring/expanding/exploiting a lot of things before the game ends.

We played again a game of HLAS yesterday, and it was again a great experience, I'm pretty convinced that there is nothing like it on the market currently and I want to play it more and more

Some variants could be interesting to implement (for example removing the limitation of 5 miniatures per region/army, and keep playing until a capital city is destroyed could be something to try out , but even then I don't think it's required and I just love the game as it is!


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Khelz wrote:
keep playing until a capital city is destroyed


That would be very interesting. I wonder if you would bother to track VP...
 
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David Molina
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I would think at this point it would be last one standing wins.
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Nestor Quintero
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shieldwolf wrote:
Agreed, great discussion and please do not take my comments as an attack on yours..


Hey this is actually a nice thread. 4X games are kindof in a highpoint right now - I only wish cooperative/solo games would get less attention

I really liked to read you guys comparing to other 4x games. Same as OP this is my #1 4x game, actually my favorite game currently overall

As for comparison I like to think of this:

**TI3/4: this could be the best and only game ever, everything about it is perfect.. except that you never get to play it. It's like that wonderful get in shape program that you never actually did or completed. That kills it. I hate to admit that I have 6 unfinished games , 1 finished game and a load of invitations that never materialized. Overly complex, clunky and unpractical - yet the most inspiring because it is the definition of epic

**Scythe: This used to be my top 1. It's so smooth, and I don't seem to get tired of it (the opposite). It's a game where you really feel you are carefully crafting your way to victory, downtime is little and it's so beautiful. The only wish it leaves is a bit more of confrontation between players, heck the game is a work emplacement mostly rather than area control. But the game is awesome and it feels greatly designed.

**Mare Nostrum: How is this game so underrated?. This is the only game I play where it really feels that you are about to win gloriously, and loose tragically - at the same time. In every play you realize "wow.. that ONE move/resource was SO important"; strategy wise I think you can't go higher than this right now. Interaction is extreme and tension is razor sharp. The only thing this game doesn't fulfill is epicness: components are not the most pretty and you feel you don't manage much: 2-3 tiny soldiers ,1-2 ships and a few tokens is all you ever have and need to win. The body count is also low even when theres a lot of fighting . But again, the game is in my view the most skill oriented 4X (3x?) out there


**HoLAS: Oh but this game came along. It has its minuses but the two most important are: 1) hard to get ; 2) not easy to understand strategy wise. I see players who didn't like it , they feel as if it was 'dull' and they didn't have much control of what was going on. The thing is, this is a VERY OPEN game, asymmetry is huge and possibilities are overwhelming.. It's not easy to relate what you do to Victory points, which is what defines victory. (I.E. new players seem to not understand why exploring too much is bad VP-wise)
But on the plus size: this game is highly strategical, precisely because they design so well how you can get points. The interaction and conflict is JUST SO FUN AND HIGH, i mean just the bodycount.. > .. and the game is big enough that it feels EPIC. I don't have a problem with the fact that the biggest army fight is 5 units - and usually 4.. the thing is I feel I recruited a whole nation of servants and they died gloriously under my command. Plus the most important: when you are high teched and you pull those tricks like assasinate, or double cast and attack, or huge collect attack and retreat. WOW.


There it is guys, It's like a love letter to the game I wish I could find more and more players in my area

==
P.S. As a painter, I have to say m favorite game is HoLAS. Please check my thread "non quickwork painted minis for this game" . They are of very high quality for painting. They are just not as bug as some in other games. I painted a lot of FFG minis and they are no better in any aspect: specially price
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Randolph Bookman
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Never played Mare Norstrum, not from lack of trying. It looked interesting originally, but the reviews were mixed. I know they recently (last 3 years) did an update, but yeah that too just kind of fell of planet. Is it a 4x game? Just asking because I don't think of Scythe as a 4x game.












 
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I'm a video gamer at heart. However, due to age and lack of skill / time invested, I find I like the idea of certain games more than the games themselves.

Fortunately, board games solve a lot of these issues because I don't have to worry about eye-hand coordination. Plus, I can play them with my family.

The first one that did this for me was EXCEED: Seventh Cross – Hunters vs. Demons because it's a fighting game (think Mortal Kombat or Darkstalkers) but I don't have to button-mash.

I also love MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm and Rum & Bones: Second Tide replaces that for me.

Of course, MOBAs were originally inspired by the RTS, Warcraft III, and now we have come full circle. I know a lot of people get confused when HoLAS is described as an RTS because it's turn-based, but it has to do with how the game feels to play.

My sincerest hope is that other designers will take note of this game and that this is only the beginning of a chain of ever-improving ideas in this space. I look forward to the day HoLAS is referred back to the same way Dominion is with deckbuilders.

meeple
 
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Nestor Quintero
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shieldwolf wrote:
Never played Mare Norstrum, not from lack of trying. It looked interesting originally, but the reviews were mixed. I know they recently (last 3 years) did an update, but yeah that too just kind of fell of planet. Is it a 4x game? Just asking because I don't think of Scythe as a 4x game.


There are 4 different victory conditions in Mare Nostrum - I'm not sure what the strict definition of 4x is (do you have to explore or expand?) but Mare magnun certainly is the same category as HoLAS.

You're right in that Scythe is not a 4X game - but to me it feels right to put it in the same genre as HoLAS, and Rising sun (another non 4X)
 
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