Our team at Meeple Mountain loved Air, Land & Sea (2019, Arcane Wonders) so much that we actually reviewed it twice: my colleagues David McMillan and Mark Iradian have each shared a review.
Arcane Wonders loved the game so much they reskinned it and released the game as Air, Land, & Sea: Critters at War, shifting from a dry view of planes, ships and tanks to a comic vision of animals on the front lines.
Now comes Air, Land & Sea: Spies, Lies & Supplies (2022, Arcane Wonders), a standalone set of 18 cards that can be played separately from, or alongside parts of, the original game.
That means you could play Land, Lies, and Spies, using one “theater” of cards from the base game and two from the new game. You could instead play Supplies, Sea, and Air! You could even play with 5 of the 6 total theaters in a “mega” Air, Land & Sea format with more cards in hand and a lower score limit.
I look at all of a game’s expansion content the same way: if you own the base game, do you need the expansion?
If you have not played the base game, both of our previous reviews highlight the how-to-play elements to perfection.
In Spies, Lies & Supplies, only one game element changes a tad: one of the theaters, Economics, provides chances to add strength not only to its own theater, but by adding Supplies tokens to a different theater on the same action.
These cards end up being just as powerful as all the other cards—maybe even more so than the single 6-strength card in each theater deck—by giving players a chance to win theaters where their initial hand cards were a bit weak.
This provides an interesting wrinkle to each hand, especially when Supplies/Economic cards (or just “the brown cards”, as they became known to my wife and I) are played late in a hand to turn the tide in multiple theaters with a single card play.
Like the base game, all the cards in Spies, Lies & Supplies do something different, and the abilities of the 1- and 2-strength cards are usually incredible to make up for the fact that they don’t add much strength to your mission of winning theaters. Designer Jon Perry, who designed both the base and expansion games, must be credited here for doing so much with a simple 18-card “war” game.
As mentioned, Spies, Lies and Supplies can also be mixed and matched with the three theaters from the base game. You could also play with 5 of the 6 theaters in a single game, playing to 6 VPs instead of 12 as in the base variant of a 3-theater game.
This is still going to only be a 20-to-30 minute affair, but at least you’d have options when sorting through different strategies as you try to win 3 out of the 5 theaters to win a round. The mega version of this game didn’t appeal to me nor my wife, so we stuck firmly to the 3-theater format, with some mixing of theaters to shake things up.
Completionists, Slow Down
The biggest problem for Spies, Lies & Supplies? The base game is already great, full of layers, and scratches the itch of two people who want a quick-playing strategy game.
A minor problem: Spies, Lies & Supplies is completely standalone. I would actually buy this one over the base game if only because Supplies offers a nice addition to the choices from the base game alignment.
One minor quibble: I wish the new theaters in Spies, Lies & Supplies were just called Spies, and Lies, and Supplies. In Air, Land & Sea, the theaters are called Air, Land, Sea. Why is Economics the name of the “Supplies” theater in the new game?
I like both games and each offers a surprisingly robust decision cycle in such a small package. I certainly won’t play these enough to warrant “needing” a new copy of Spies, Lies & Supplies to round out the collection. Certainly, the price point is very fair for what you are getting, but getting both of these games to the table seems unlikely.
My vote: you only need one of these two games, and not both. If you already have Air, Land & Sea, stand down. If you don’t own either, definitely buy one of them if you have a dedicated partner, and I would side with Spies, Lies & Supplies.