Land Above Sea Below

Land Above Sea Below

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Challenge Mode Tips and Tricks
By Liquid Fear
A few tips and tricks to get many points and your island big and pretty!
This guide is not a walkthrough, but just a simple collection of tips and tricks I found out with friends while playing this game.

Given the game's RNG, there's no set path on how to build your island correctly or a real surefire way to rack up very large amounts of points and big islands. It might not seem obvious at first but all the elements of the game work very well with each other!
A recap on Synergies
Land Above Sea Below is all about synergies. You have a very limited amount of moves every season so getting the most out of every move is paramount. The number of matching adjacent tiles next to the one you place matter a lot. Here's a small breakdown (I don't know the entire math behind the 3+ synergies, but the more matching tiles affected the more points you get):

  1. 5 points
  2. 10 points
  3. raises the height of the connected tiles of the same kind and provides some points based on their amount
  4. raises the height of the connected tiles of the same kind and provides some points based on their amount and gives you 1 bonus day
  5. raises the height of the connected tiles of the same kind and provides more points based on their amount and gives you 2 bonus days
  6. raises the height of the connected tiles of the same kind and provides even more points based on their amount and gives you 2 bonus days

Therefore, keep in mind that 4+ synergies will extend the duration of your season and you should always aim for 4 or more matching tiles!
General tips
These are organized based in my experience of "how soon you'll deal with them":

  1. You can only place regular land around the Tree of Fall tiles. This means no rivers, lakes, walls, special buildings or anything! Keep this in mind so you don't accidentally point your river towards the tree and make the space next to the tree permanently unusable!
  2. Keep an eye out on the score milestones on the right side of the screen! Even though you might not have complete prediction of how many points you'll be getting in your next move, its important to know how close you are to getting a new milestone to get a card that will help you sooner rather than later, or even an extra clutch day!
  3. The last tile you place on the season will never sink. Keep this in mind along with the synergies and score milestones. Placing a 5 synergy on the last day will give you two extra days and you might not have the right tiles to keep everything from sinking, therefore if you're trying to get the "Higher and Higher" achievements this will be a very important factor to not screw up!
  4. Special buildings aren't just for decoration! They work just like walls and rivers as in they don't let the neighboring tiles sink. If you get one, consider your options for expansion and place it so it can hold everything up for big combos!
  5. Mini Objectives comes in 2 types: Height and Colors. Height objectives are just tiles that need to be raised to a certain height above sea level, try to place them wherever you're raising the land more aggressively. Color objectives are trickier, but you can always work around them. Overall, try not to let these distract you too much from making big tile synergies, which will always be your main source of points and days.
  6. Rivers and walls will either make or break your plans. Always keep in mind that the longer they are, the more points you get, and tiles don't sink around them. But also, they divide the land masses. The easiest way to deal with them is to try and make them follow a straight line around your island and building around them as you need, instead of trying to make them fit the inside of your island layout
  7. Card colors matter. Getting a Brown Sprout Card will give you specifically a Brown Tree of Fall, regardless of the color of the tile you're currently holding. If you don't have any brown tiles to sustain it, you should not use that card until you can make good use of it.
  8. Similarly, the Purple Special card will give you ANY kind of special building (but only of the colors you've unlocked so far). Its good that the special tile will never sink, but keep this in mind to know when to play and mitigate your risks.
  9. As the seasons pass, new islands will show up around. There will be two kinds: the dark ones are reefs, and they just exist to block your progression. Meanwhile the white ones can be connected and you can build towards them to nab some extra land tiles, along with a special building or a Tree of Fall!
  10. Double tiles/split tiles (half green half orange, or any kind of mix) are EXTREMELY powerful. If placed correctly between corresponding land masses it will greatly amplify your land height and score because whenever you place a 3+ synergistic tile on either connected land color, it will contribute to the other one! Keep this in mind and leave a gap between different colored land masses in order to get this bonus. Its an extremely rare tile spawn as well, so keep an eye out for it! Important note: these tiles are not kept above sea level by rivers, therefore make sure you can keep them properly raised! Thanks for pointing this out @dascombak
Event Cards and when to use them
There's currently 7 different Event Cards in the game. Here's how they work and tips on when to use them:

New Dawn

What it does: Gives you one extra day before the end of the season

When to use: As tempting as it is to use this card as soon as it shows up in your hand, you might want to save it for when you really need it.
  • Say you're on your last move and the last tile you can place won't save your other tiles from sinking. It might be worth a shot to use this card and if anything good comes up you can still salvage the situation!
  • On the other hand, you might be seeing an opportunity to do a 5+ Synergy placement but you're missing a single tile to complete it all or make it safe to go all in. New Dawn can and should be used to help you with that last tile that ties everything together, or a new tool to help you figure out a different way to go about your current season!


What it does: Decrease the sea level by one unit.

When to use: Keep it in your hand for high risk and reward plays: you can set up great 5 tile synergies without worrying about them sinking on the next season, just lower the sea level and reap the rewards! Just keep in mind that the next season might not come with the exact right tiles for the perfect play, so manage your risk accordingly.

Also a lifesaver for later seasons when you get the new colored tiles which will inevitably sink if you can't skip or get unlucky with them!

I also found out, you can use this before the end of a season to save tiles that will be drowned, especially if they have mini objectives you're aiming to complete! Take a look below:

In this scene, some tiles containing height mini objectives are about to sink to the left and right of the island. But I have a drought card I can play and ensure they will remain active on the next season!

Here we have it, objectives saved!

An additional tip regarding this card: you can use it to increase the height of tiles in general if you're just 10m away from completing height objectives! Thanks to Flamyko on the Discord for this tip!


What it does: Skips the current tile in hand, it also gives you an extra day at the end to compensate, so don't worry about losing moves when using this!

When to use: Whenever you just don't have a good way to place your current tile without messing up all your planning, use this card. For example, you just got a 4 way river tile and placing it at the end of your current river will mess up your entire game. Just throw away this tile, especially if the next tile is something safer like regular land that you know where and how to use best!


What it does: Replace your current tile with a specific Tree of Fall (specific means it will match the card's color!)

When to use: The Tree of Fall is a special tile that gives you lots of points but is very hard to place: The Tree of Fall can only be placed next to regular land tiles, never next to rivers, walls or special buildings! Fortunately, since the card is color coded, you can just keep it in your hand for when you have the ideal situation which is place it in a 5+ synergy move!


What it does: Replace your current tile with a random special tile (random tile, random color)

When to use: Treat this as an alternative and slightly less reliable Skip card. It will give you a special tile, which never sinks and holds up the tiles around it above the sea level, but it will be of a random color you already have in play. If your current tile is very bad for your planned synergies and you don't have any skips, use this card. It might be the perfect fit for an even better play, or open up a very nice path elsewhere on your island!

Full Sun

What it does: Raise all Tree of Fall tiles by one unit

When to use: I never actually ran into a situation in which this card did anything useful. It might be a good thing to use if you have a second Tree of Fall that is under risk of sinking, this card can help it stay afloat for another season, but that's it. The card only affects Tree of Fall tiles, nothing else!


What it does: Undo the previously placed tile

When to use: This card is very interesting, all things considered. By all means its just a regular undo move and does exactly as it says on the card, but it doesn't take away the score or the days you've earned on your last move. This means you can place a tile on a 5-tile synergy, gain 2 days, undo the move, place it again and gain another 2 days. I'm aware this sounds like a cheat and exploit, but I checked the discord and the devs seem to be aware of this and are monitoring the impact on the game before tweaking it. I'll leave this here anyway as a tip.

A slightly more strategical approach to this card is using it to complete Color Mini Objectives without compromising your layout: Instead of trying to fit a green land next to an orange zone just to finish the mini objective and having to deal with it for the rest of the game, you can just place it, complete the mini objective, and undo the placement, preserving the dominant colors for future use!
Risk management
In my opinion, this game boils down to risk management on the later seasons, which is pretty true to the spirit of the roguelike genre. Whatever you've built so far, resources gathered and so on culminates in how far you can still go on the last seasons. In a way:

  1. Special tiles can be placed anywhere and will never sink. Treat them as the highest possible value tile you can place absolutely anywhere. You might not have control of the color they spawn as, but they act as a tool to open a new range of expansion you couldn't before
  2. Land tiles are extremely versatile, limited only by color. Treat them as the highest common value placement you can put anywhere. Whenever working with them, look at how many of these you'll have in this season, and plan based on that to get 4-5 synergies as often as possible. Doing 2-3 moves in order to earn 1-2 days is almost always worth the trouble if its guaranteed by the days prediction and your current layout capabilities
  3. Rivers and walls will both limit and warrant your expansion. Sinking tiles are worth 0 points and will screw up your island a bit so its in you best interest to keep them up. More often than not you won't be able to nail down that last placement that keeps the whole island above the water, especially with 2+ colors on the map, therefore rivers and walls (and special tiles) are the only things that will keep them up for later use. Surely, you can't predict the direction of the rivers and walls, but you can minimize your risks by leaving the tiles around them open, eventually filling them and THEN placing lands around them since you know they won't change anymore.
  4. Event cards are a way to cheat your way around the RNG. A [drought] card can be used to save tiles, preserve tiles and even complete height mini objectives, all at the same time. The [Skip] card can always help you out of a tough situation, when you get a 4-way river tile that you can't reasonably place anywhere in your layout, or a new color without a way to keep it from sinking, skipping is very high value. The [undo] card is atrociously versatile too
Easy start: The Line
This is a small guide on how to do an easy start on a funny island shape that greatly extends the first season, giving you a few cards so you have a few extra resources for the upcoming ones.

Day 1, this is how you start. Simply use a few moves in order to make a "C" shape

There we go, its day 5. If you place a tile right inside the shape you created, you'll make a 5-tile synergy that awards you 2 extra days and a few good points!

Now all you have to do is place 2 more tiles on the sides to extend the shape, and you can hit another 5-tile synergy!

Repeat for as long as you want. The first season is very generous with the same kind of tile for around 25 days. You can even burn some New Dawn cards to extend the line a little further.

You might notice you get a few extra days out of nowhere, that's because some of the tiles will come with a Height Mini Objective, which awards you more days and points. Given how you're aggressively raising the land every 3 moves, you're bound to place and complete 2-3 of these just like that.

Finishing the first season with 1-2 Drought or Skip cards helps a lot on the next seasons!

Have fun!
Easy start 2: Spiral
This uses the same concept as the line start, but I feel it gets more consistent results and protects your Tree of Fall in a way you'll never have to worry about tile placement next to it ever again!

Start with a "C" shape, but this time the Tree of Fall is one end of it instead of the middle.

Fill it and get your first synergy bonus!

Keep filling it around the tree, always making sure you have enough moves to finish the synergies

The larger the spiral becomes, the less tiles you need to finish a 5-tile synergy move. Instead of 3 tiles you'll periodically hit sections like this that needs only 2 tiles to keep it moving forward!
Sections: one way to structure your island
This is a bit of my personal strategy. I like to divide my islands into sections in order to control the flow of expansion. Its not a surefire way or the only right way to play but its how its been working well for me and how I like to set it up:

  • The peak: its where the first Tree of Fall lies at. Its always going to be the tallest piece of land on the map and where most of the initial height mini objectives will be completed. It will be half surrounded by a river as a 3-tile synergy dump and to be connected to the green rivers eventually
  • The city: second tallest piece of land, is the general regular green tiles. I always place their river on the same side as the river that will surround the peak because I can eventually connect them and make an extremely long river. I'll try to expand this one linearly (3-4 tile width for the most part, more often than not it curves) and away from the first tree to become encased by the walls and rivers
  • The wetlands: as rivers come up more frequently I'll just dump them around the matching rivers wherever they fit. Eventually it will become a generally low height zone full of chaotically connected rivers, sometimes allowing 4 and 5 synergies in between. This is also optimal for the color mini objectives because I can often fit a different colored river in a way to help complete them and not worry about the different colored tile sink
  • The Moat: its the city line that will eventually be squeezed between a wall line and rivers. Sometimes I manage to force them into generating extra 4 or 5-tile synergies. This is nice because both sides hold up tiles, comes with almost free 3-tile synergies when I need to dump tiles, and I don't ever have to worry about the walls trying to cross the rivers and vice versa

This is more or less how the layout ends up looking. Shapes can and will vary, but this is the gist of it

nialu Dec 21, 2023 @ 6:12am 
Great summary of the things to keep in mind - thanks.
Do you have any advice on boat or whale tiles?
I know they give extra points with each tile they swim past, but I haven't gotten them often enough to figure out, if there are restrictions to their movements or where to best place them. I just know, you can place another tile where you placed their tile once they moved out of the way.
ljknijn Nov 6, 2023 @ 11:11am 
Great guide, I have a few things to add:
1. Combining double-tiles/split-tiles with a season 10 undo spree (repeatingly using undo after getting a 6 tile synergy) racks up a TON of points, like more then 2k per undo points. This is because the points awarded for the amount of raised tiles is grealty improved after 10 seasons AND combining 2 'areas' into one.

2. Always try to go for the tree of fall islands that apear, they award a significant amount of points (6,5k or around that). The way I usualy go about this is using the brown biome as some kind of bridgehead and I make the jump with the grey tiles since i wont benefit a lot from creating an actual area for them since you wont get a lot of points from them without them being connected to another biome.
el_zilcho Oct 2, 2023 @ 5:36pm 
Great guide, thank you for sharing!

So you're basically arguing that it's better to do a 5 synergy than a 6 synergy, because it uses fewer tiles while extending the season for the same number of days, right? Good to know!
Rek80 Sep 24, 2023 @ 2:02pm 
This is an excellent guide! Thank you for taking the time to write it!
Liquid Fear  [author] Sep 17, 2023 @ 12:17pm 

Line start with kinks: partially agreed! After day 25 you'll get rivers that will force you to implement these kinks on the layout, even giving you an extra hand in making more 5-tile synergies on your way back to the start. It can get very silly quick and its effective. I think that's a more cost-effective use of regular land tiles.

I didn't know that aspect about the double tiles, I thought the rivers would keep them afloat, I'll add that to the guide. Thanks!
dascombak Sep 17, 2023 @ 11:51am 
An improvement on the Line start is to give it kinks. By surrounding the middle tile with two tiles on one side, you'll make it bend. This makes an easy 3-synergy spot, the perfect spot for when you run out of playable tiles.

I'd also note that the double tiles are also rather difficult to keep afloat. Rivers, special tiles, and walls won't prevent them from sinking; you have to get a connected 3+ synergy to raise it and prevent it from sinking.