Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef is a worker placement game with dice upgrading, which arrived in 2020 and is set on a beautiful island resort. The game is strikingly stunning with the artwork arguably some of the best you will see in a board game. You will be playing as a young hero looking to impress the judges and be crowned champion, to earn the right to join the tidal blades who are the protectors of the island. There are four characters in the core box, each with different starting skills and abilities, but there is plenty of room to customise and develop you character to suit your chosen strategy.
Each turn your hero will visit one of the five main island locations such as the Chronossium, Lamara Stadium or Droska Ring to collect resources and receive bonus rewards. Resources include fruit to gain strength, shells for defense or new dice which enable you to undertake stunt challenges to impress the judges, progress up the champions board and earn victory points. Alongside this you will need to be defending your island home from the monster creatures that are trying to destroy it. Undertaking stunts and challenges will reward you with trait upgrades, spirit, focus, resilience and synergy which translate into improving skills and abilities from your cards and dice.
There are plenty of decisions to be made in terms of where the best place is for your character to go each turn, and which dice to focus on and upgrade, and there are ways to mitigate your dice rolling or improve your success chances from the resources you have collected. The neat monsters you fight just off the coast will earn victory points, however the dice you use here are lost once your battle is over. If you choose to become selfish and ignore this threat, it may result in you suffering a penalty if a creature manages to attack the island.
Every now and again a game comes along which oozes great theme, and looks amazing and makes you want to play it, and when it comes with a lot of fun too then it is a winner. This is a really great family game that breaks up the more methodical tactical positioning with fun dice collecting, upgrading and rolling. A balance is always required between collecting resources, undertaking challenges and recovering your dice. Whilst this is a predominantly competitive game, there is also a great solo variant included too which has been fun to play and provides a good challenge. Personally i love a game with neat artwork and theme as it helps my enjoyment. I really like the mechanics mix here, a pure worked placement game is good, but one that layers over dice rolling is even better.
The retail version of the game comes with nice standees and cardboard resource tokens, however if you really want the best experience then the deluxe edition adds miniatures, squishy fruit and solid shells. The gametray inserts also really helps organising but the dice tray is a little loud is use. Perhaps the best item is the lovely hardback artbook which is fantastic. Whilst all of this is cosmetic I do own the deluxe edition and my pride of ownership is sky high.
This is a gameplay expansion that adds a new character to use and a side board with some strong new rewards, but using them may come at a price. If you want to add a 5th player, or like some push your luck or the look of the new character then this is a great addition.