Riding the Waves with Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef

May 20, 2024 | Sessions | 0 comments

Take on challenges and compete across a vibrant island setting to become a champion in Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef.

A couple of years ago, I jumped at the chance to take home a copy of Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef. It made the journey by air in my suitcase, and still wears some interesting box scars! Yet I’ve been intimidated by the sheer size and amount of everything… Until now. At last, I welcomed this beautiful production to my solo table on a warm spring day!

Game Overview

Game Name: Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef
Publication Year:

Lina Cossette & David Forest
Publishers: & 
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game

Over the course of just 4 rounds, the goal is to complete challenges, impress the judge, and become the champion. Different islands provide various choices for a character, who can earn abilities, perform stunts, and even battle encroaching monsters… All in this fantastic water world!

So Many Wonderful Sights to See Across the Boards of Tidal Blades

First Play

May 18, 2024



Latest Play

May 19, 2024



Setup Time

25 Minutes

Lifetime Plays


Play Time

1 Hour & 15 Minutes


High Score



Game Area

46" x 32"


Low Score


Getting Transported

As much as I will continue to say the deluxe edition box is oversized… WOW! I almost always prop up the game box in front of me when I play, and this one is spectacular.

It feels like it transports you into the game world, almost as if you’re right there on the dock. Clouds almost move. You can almost hear the ocean and smell the saltwater.

That might sound over-the-top, yet it’s rare. I love most of my board game covers, yet this one takes me elsewhere.

The enormous box size creates its own storage issues, yet I can stop and fall into this art for a long, long time.

The Amazing Feeling of Getting Transported Into a Game World with Tidal Blades

Living the Island Life

The split boards and unusual angles can make setup a bit of a nightmare for those who like to arrange everything… Myself included! But what a gorgeous play area!

Curves and imperfect lines feel like they mimic the ways islands aren’t perfectly aligned. And the color scheme is just amazing: Bright, vibrant, warm, and cheerful.

I took forever getting everything right, though, as there were all sorts of setup steps to follow. Yet I made it!

Surprisingly, the deluxe edition insert didn’t save much setup time. It is a storage solution first and foremost.

Dealing with Tons of Setup Steps and Way Too Many Elements in Tidal Blades

Choosing a Character

There are 4 different characters included, each with their own backstory, play style, and set of ability cards. I liked all of then, yet it was Axl who ultimately stepped up!

I liked a lot of the gameplay elements as I sifted through the rules, although the solo mode changed many things.

There are unofficial solo variants that focus more on victory points, yet I wanted to try out the original version.

It certainly felt like I was going to need to learn how to play before Axl had any chance at doing well, which was fine by me. I just wasn’t prepared for the humiliation!

Setting Out to Become a Champion as Axl in Tidal Blades

Plotting Against Axl

In short, my first play was brutal and demoralizing. Axl kept getting destroyed by the solo opponent, Dust. Ouch!

Plot effects triggered a couple of times, mostly owing to bad luck. I kept getting unlucky with low-value challenge cards, which couldn’t reduce the piles Dust collected.

These felt pretty terrible, to the point that it didn’t feel like I could recover. There is an errata for the card on the left, but even with that, I lost all of my progress.

Nothing I did worked, and I couldn’t see what I was doing so wrong. Poor Axl had to deal with my incompetence!

Struggling to Get Anywhere with Horrible Bad Luck in Tidal Blades

The Yo-Yo Effect of the First Few Plays

When my first play doesn’t quite go as expected, I usually have a good idea about whether or not playing again could be a better experience. Do I need to play the same solo game time and time again to have a good idea about it? Nope! Luckily, I struggled with this initial play but had the sense to recognize some of the interesting decision spaces.

To then flip-flop to have an enjoyable experience isn’t unheard of for me… But where does that leave me? This is what I call the yo-yo effect, a very unscientific and casual term. Ha! These sorts of games could go in either direction in the long-term, but it often requires a significant time investment. Maybe that’s why I rarely part with games I sort of like!

In this case, the box size is a huge consideration. Just finding a place to store it was a chore, and setup will always involve managing it from another chair or the floor. Not ideal. Beyond that, though, the game experience could teeter in either direction. Time will tell what happens here, and if a yo-yo analogy even makes sense. Typical ramblings. Ha!

Awesome Abilities

Despite my struggles, the coolest part of gameplay was in the character cards. With amazing artwork and unique abilities, these offered up new ways to get even better.

As far as I can tell, the deck is large enough that each play can be just a little different. Axl was just the coolest!

I could picture him racing through the water and showing off during all of his challenges. Naturally, he wiped out with the dice many times, yet I had a few good rolls.

Perhaps I was absorbing the rules, yet this wasn’t a quick play and Dust basically won after the first round.

The Coolest Pieces of Artwork on the Ability Cards in Tidal Blades

Fallen Champion

The champion board is the main area to track progress, often tied to completing challenges with style in front of the judge or dealing certain damage to nearby monsters.

Maybe this looks like the starting state… But no. This is how it ended, with Axl still stuck on the starting space!

He got knocked back over and over, and was only able to activate an ally once early on. Caiman and Eko had no desire to be associated with this embarrassment. Ha!

It was frustrating, to be honest. A big part of me wanted to pack up and move on… But something brought me back.

Stuck in the Starting Shallows in a Play of Nothingness with Tidal Blades

Monster Management

Fighting monsters requires dice… But those dice are spent in the process, forever lost to the waves. It feels like progress is lost, so these battles must be timed right.

But Dust kept dealing damage, forcing me to take the invasion penalty or jump into battle too soon. Axl lost a lot of reputation over here… His attempts were laughable!

Despite the very unfortunate circumstances of this first play, it didn’t feel fair to entirely judge the game yet.

I could see a few areas where I could improve or make different choices, so it was back to the shore for Axl!

Getting Annoyed by Difficult Monsters and Lost Dice in Tidal Blades

Riding the Waves

And then, something clicked. I could actually understand what Dust was up to and pick my way ahead! It took a lot of work, but this also meant I had the allies in play a lot.

Caiman and Eko were useful in the middle rounds, but it was the ending that was the best. They both had active ability cards that triggered against monsters… Roar!

Axl completed his own challenges, mostly in front of the judge, as Dust continued to inch closer to victory. Go, Axl!

I’m not sure exactly what changed with this second play, but the decision space was suddenly interesting and fun.

Over the Waves and Into the Fold with Allied Powers in Tidal Blades

Session Overview

Play Number: 1 & 2
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: Normal Difficulty Level
Outcome: 1 Win & 1 Loss

Success! Look closely in the upper part of this photo, and you’ll see that Axl pulled ahead of Dust by the narrowest of margins. He spent a lot of time at the Chronosseum at the end, picking up stunt cards and impressing the judge with his completed challenges. Awesome! I certainly had a split sort of experience, but throughout the whole time, I really felt like I was present in this setting. So cool!

Finding New Skills and Abilities in a Surprisingly Different Sort of Play in Tidal Blades


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • The visual presentation with the artwork, component shapes, and graphic design is phenomenal and beautiful.
  • Even with the same character, there are many different abilities and combinations that might appear during play.
  • Gameplay isn’t particularly difficult to understand after a few plays, allowing the strategies to remain the focus.
  • Not everything is clear at first, yet trying out action spaces and choices lead to rewarding experiences.
  • Managing the solo opponent doesn’t require a lot of time, yet there is an ongoing challenge to move ahead.
  • Planned well, dice rolls can often be very exciting with a bit of forgiveness for damage dealt to the shell shield.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Everything feels enormous with the deluxe edition, from the box and unruly insert to the amount of table space.
  • A lot of the rules don’t feel particularly well-explained, and learning can be a bit of a chore the first time around.
  • Bad luck with the challenge cards and dice rolls can lead to unfortunate setbacks and a lot of frustration.
  • Falling behind early on can be entirely demoralizing, especially since the solo opponent can easily coast to a win.

More Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef

Explore related posts about Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef!

Victory Conditions

Be in the Top Spot on the Champion Board

  • Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%

Goals and Milestones


Win at least 1 game as Axl.


Win at least 1 game at the normal difficulty level.

Continue the Conversation

What do you like about Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef? Do you have a favorite character or ability? I’m a little torn on this one because it seemed to open up with my second play, but the sheer size of it makes it a little daunting to get back to my solo table. It looks absolutely stunning, though, and I’m glad I finally took a tabletop journey to this world!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.