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Hereos of Land, Air & Sea: Pestilence Expansion Review

Quick Look: Heroes of Land, Air & Sea - Pestilence Expansion

Designer: Scott Almes
Artists: Chad Hoverter, Ian Rosenthaler, Benjamin Shulman
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-7
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 120-180 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is one of my favorite games. It’s got combat, exploration, and a bunch of unique factions that make things exciting. And when I love a game, I like to dive into it as deep as I can. Fortunately, there are expansions. And, fortunately again, I was able to review both of them! I have already published my review of the Order and Chaos expansion (find it here), and this one will cover the Pestilence expansion.

To start, I will mention that this is not an in-depth review of Heroes of Land, Air & Sea. You can find a review of that elsewhere (there are many, and you can bet that most of them will give it high praise, as I would if I had written a review for it). Instead, this review will focus only on the Pestilence expansion. 

Pestilence brings two additional factions to the game—the Birdfolk and Merfolk—as well as the option of adding in a seventh player. Now, the more the merrier, I always say, and in the case of Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, I still hold to that sentiment. A crowded Aughmoore is a wonderful place. But where will the seventh continent go?

Try the sky.

In Pestilence, the Birdfolk comes with a unique, floating continent. Held up by clear, plastic stilts (similar to what holds up each faction’s airship), the floating continent hovers above the central sea region. With it comes a little bit more rules, but generally everything remains the same. For instance, boats are spawned in the central sea region underneath the floating island. And, when flying up to the island using the Flu action, you’ll need an additional movement, much like moving the airship through the central sea region. And if the Birdfolk are not in play, then anyone can claim the floating island for themself. (But Birdfolk must have their capital on the floating continent if in the game.)

The Merfolk also have a unique continent and is the only faction not allowed to have a capital on the floating continent. However, they have their own special continent. The Merfolk live in a flooded land, depicted by the included blue-swirly overlay. Instead of land exploration tokens, the Menfolk’s starting continent has a sea exploration token. However, the water is considered to be shallow, so units still walk across the land there, towers can still be built, and boats may not float freely through the continent. Essentially, the only difference is the use of sea exploration tokens.

While these two factions are vastly different in anatomy, they share a common desire: enforce the denizens of Aughmoore to cease fighting, once and for all!

Let’s dive into each faction and soar through their differences, similarities, and what makes them special to Heroes of Land, Air & Sea.

Birdfolk Faction

Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion Birdfolk Faction; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

One could say that the Birdfolk is the fowlest faction in the game (ba dum ch!). Puns aside, these units like to get around without touching the ground. From the get-go, the Jousting Ring building allows Birdfolk heroes to use the Fly action to move. One level up, and all Birdfolk units (except the Ark) get to fly. And, if you level your capital up all the way, the Jousting Ring grants a +2 bonus the Flying into battle. 

The Champion hero is the most powerful, but also the slowest, moving only one space each March action. However, each other unit in this hero’s region grants an additional movement when using a Fly action. So, with four other units alongside him, he can Fly up to five regions away! Pretty scary if you see that nearby. Fortunately for your opponents, that’s only the Champion flying; the others don’t get to move that far. Unless, of course, you’re jumping off the floating continent. By leveling up, the Champion can Fly off the floating continent and bring up to four friendly units with him, regardless of their movement number. This was one of my favorite abilities to use, as I was able to swoop into battle (gaining +2 battle power, thanks to the Jousting Ring’s level three ability), and beat down the competition.

Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion birdfolk Board; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

The ability to have all your units Fly is amazing and is more than helpful in getting from A to C quickly. Overall, though, these guys are fairly well rounded, from what I’ve been able to gather. They’re able to travel more efficiently, they have perks geared toward exploring and resources, they have battle bonuses, and they’re able to do a variety of smaller abilities that make them more versatile.

I know in my review of Order and Chaos that I said the Lionkin were my new favorite, but that was for just that expansion. In Pestilence, the Birdfolk has my heart (although I do fancy the Merfolk as well). In fact, I’m tempted to say the Birdfolk are my all-time favorite faction. But, that would be playing favorites, and I love them all. Some love is just distributed more densely on some factions than others.

The Birdfolk aren’t necessarily a difficult faction to get the hang of, which is great for new players. They’re also a lot of fun to play, which is great for all players. Playing against them is frightening because their Fly ability—especially with the Champion perched on the edge of the floating continent—can cause them to reach your regions much faster than other factions would. There’s a lot you can do with this faction, and I’ll leave it up to you to figure out the best strategy for you.

Merfolk Faction

Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion Merfolk Faction; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

Opposite from the Birdfolk, the Merfolk takes to the water swimmingly. The Cloister building allows them to take a Sail action to move in the water without their boat/octopus. And the Crusher—the Merfolk brute—can attack vessels on the sea without being in one themselves. That’s too bad for the defenders in the boat because they’re maxed out at three units—the boat and the two units sailing away in it. The Crusher’s army, however, can still have five units. Either stay off the waters or boogie from shore to shore when the Crusher is in play, otherwise, you’ll be taking a trip to Davey Jones’ Locker (I hope you remember the lock combination).

Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion The Crusher; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020
The Crusher.

The Merfolk are another well-balanced faction, not leaning too heavily in one direction. They do have some good magic abilities (from the Acropolis building and Mystic hero), as well as ways to bolster their resource game. Controlling the sea regions is especially important for the Merfolk, as it grants battle bonuses to the Crusher. The sea is also used to grant combat bonuses from the octopus boat and ghost ship.

One of the new things Pestilence—and the Merfolk in particular—brings to the game is a unique continent. Included is an overlay, blue-green with swirl patterns, emulating the ocean. This overlay is placed over the Merfolk’s starting continent (which may never be the floating continent, because the physics of that just doesn’t make sense…). As mentioned above, the only difference with this is that there are sea exploration tokens to explore (that also go toward the “eXplore” game-end condition). And it brings a neat aesthetic to the game. Other than that, there’s no difference. But, thematically, it’s essential.

I will admit, however, that the overlay can make it difficult to see what lies beneath. Each region still produces its specific type of resource, so you’re going to need to know what region you’re over while on the overlay. If it’s too difficult for you, just remove it and keep the sea exploration tokens on the continent. You won’t be ruining anything (except the thematic aesthetic). It’s not a big deal with us, but I can understand if some people have a more difficult time than others. Also, don’t spin in circles and then stare at the overlay. You’re welcome.

Much like the Birdfolk, the Merfolk are a relatively simple faction to learn. The biggest factor to keep in mind is that you have the sea regions to dominate as well. Remind the other factions that you control the water, and you’ll be sitting pretty. 


And there you have it—a brief overview of the two new factions in the Pestilence expansion for Heroes of Land, Air & Sea. Both are wonderful, and the addition of the seventh player makes for a lively Aughmoore. It doesn’t get much better than that!

From here on out, I’ll briefly discuss how Order and Chaos unfold as an expansion, including what to expect when bringing it out.


Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion Setup; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

The setup for Pestilence is literally the same as the base game—get your units, tokens, and everything that belongs to your chosen faction, and set them up as normal. If you’re playing with five or six players, you’ll need the expansion map that comes with the Order and Chaos expansion.

With seven players (or if you want the floating continent with fewer, which still works the same), place the plastic stilts into the four holes along the edge of the floating continent. Don’t forget to remove the little caps on the stilt things before pushing them through the holes! (Trust me, they don’t fit otherwise…) Set the floating continent above the central sea region. All four stilts should stay in the water…but I had an impossible time getting them all off the land regions. There was a little overlap from the stilt feet and the continents, but it didn’t interrupt gameplay at all. And besides, it looks hecka cool. (Yes, hecka.)

This is the best I could get it. Minimal leg/continent interaction.

Side note: The caps for thee stilts are easy to lose. Small and clear. I lost one before our first play with the floating continent. But, the board still floats well without issue, so all’s well that ends well.

If using the Merfolk, place the blue overlay on top of their starting continent, place sea exploration tokens instead of land ones, and you’re good to go. Remember that the sea exploration tokens on the Merfolk’s submerged continent must all be revealed along with the land tokens to trigger the “eXplore” end game.

Oh, and don’t forget to build the constructs before you’re ready to play. That’ll save precious time.


Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion Gameplay; Photo by Benjamin Kocher; Game by Gamelyn Games

The gameplay doesn’t change with this expansion. One thing that changes are the factions that you can choose from and increasing player count. Oh, and using an additional movement when flying up to the floating continent. But, that’s essentially the same as flying across the central sea region; you still need two movements to do it.

Another addition are some new exploration tokens. Not a lot, but enough to spice things up and add a few more challenges/blessings. For example, the Pyramid token gives the controlling faction a point at the end of the game, but it also acts as a one-way portal to any desert region. Pretty handy!

I find that this game thrives with a full map, be it four players or six, or seven now with the Pestilence expansion.

Theme and Mechanics:

Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion Theme; Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The fantasy theme is strong in this expansion. From Merfolk to Rito Birdfolk, the setting of Aughmoore is ever-expanding, and their abilities match their factions, bringing the theme full circle.
In regards to mechanics, the only real different thing with the Pestilence expansion is floating and submerged continents, which we already discussed. The Birdfolk abilities fit right in with their anatomy, as do those of the Merfolk.

Artwork and Components:

The art matches the art from the base game and is evocative of the theme.

The components are also similar to those of the base game. The miniatures look great (albeit unpainted, in my case), and the cards, constructs, and tokens look and feel wonderful. You have the same issues with the constructs as with the base game (i.e. cardboard peeling if not assembled carefully), but that’s minor and really doesn’t affect the game.

The floating continent has a tendency to make things a tad more difficult to see on the other side of it, but I never found it to obstruct my view in such a way that I was at a disadvantage. Plus, it looks super cool floating over the sea, so that’s neat.

The Good:
  • Floating continent looks cool
  • Seven players!
  • New faction abilities are wonderful and thematic
  • Bird’s the word (do these count toward my Big Year?)
  • New exploration tokens
The Other:

The Merfolk’s continent overlay can make it difficult to see what’s underneath, which thing is necessary when going for resources.

Water overlay on the floating continent board. (Yes, that will never happen in a game.)

The Menfolk’s Ghost Ship tends to hide its occupants. Units were forgotten about in there more than once.

As with most “other” things, they tend to be more based on my personal preference than actual hindrance of the game. In this case, the overlay and Ghost Ship doesn’t slow down the game (as long as you remember who’s in the airship) and are minor issues. Still, I find it’s important to mention them. Full disclosure and whatnot.

Final Thoughts:

Heroes of Land, air & Sea Board Game Pestilence Expansion from Gamelyn Games Birdfolk Faction; Photo by Benjamin Kocher 2020

I love the Pestilence expansion. Not only does it make the game more playable by adding a seventh player, but the two new factions are a lot of fun. Personally, the Birdfolk are one of my new favorite factions—perhaps of all-time, even. The Merfolk are great as well, there’s something about flying into battle that speaks to me. Also, the floating continent is great.

While some of the factions in the Order and Chaos expansion are a little more difficult to grasp, I think new players won’t be overwhelmed by what the Birdfolk and Merfolk bring to the game.

Players Who Like:
If you like/love playing Heroes of Land, Air & Sea with just the base game, this expansion ups the ante with more unique factions and a higher player count. If you want more HoLAS in your life, this is your next step into a larger world.

Check out the Pestilence Expansion and Gamelyn Games on:


Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.
Hereos of Land, Air & Sea: Pestilence Expansion Review Hereos of Land, Air & Sea: Pestilence Expansion Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on February 19, 2020 Rating: 5

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