When I was young my grandpa used to take me and my cousins on little trips to nature. He said it helped calm our minds and bodies. We loved the opportunity to go exploring for all the new potential hide and seek spots but he always had his own “natureducational” activities planned. Once we went to a lake to fish, another time we went to a ranch and handfed a bunch of horses. One of the things my grandpa taught me how do to and properly appreciate was bird-watching.
I wasn’t all in at first, but then he lured me into it by turning bits of our bird-watching into live-action bird stories. I could imagine them fly as a group and dance to the hum of the wind while I held the binoculars and my grandpa narrated the birds’ movements. However, it wasn’t until I realized just how many types of birds you can find out there that I was fully immersed in bird-watching. Everywhere I looked I could find new shapes and colors and sizes of these beautiful flying, free souls. I couldn’t get enough.
We continued our trips to nature and bird-watching became my favorite part. I even geared up to take pictures. As I got to know the world of birds better and better, I grew to adore them and their way of life. The birds are not bound anywhere. They can take flight at any moment and go anywhere they desire. Lots of decisions for a brain the size of a walnut but they’re much more intelligent that you might think. They spend months preparing everything for when it’s time to lay their eggs and afterwards years bringing up their children into conquering the sky. It’s a magnificent process to observe.
In today’s game, we will be exploring the world of birds and bird-watching right in the living room. Wingspan, Stonemaier’s love letter to birdologists (it is a word feel free to look it up) is a game that attempts to capture, in tabletop, the fascinating beauty that watching birds as a habit can help build up into inner peace. A masterfully produced challenge for the brain that can be experienced both solo board games, with the Automa game mode, and competitively board games with up to 4 others. The art of this game in absolutely phenomenal and the number of all the unique birds that have been featured within the bird cards is quite impressive. The variety can even be increased by the expansion packs that have been released for this gorgeous game.
Wingspan Board Game Overview; A Bird-Batching Adventure
Now, it’s true that Elizabeth Hargrave is an enthusiast of the bird-watching hobby herself and has stated that’s where the idea of this game originates from, but as it plays out you’ll realize that this engine-building type game of cards is more of a bird-catching and breeding exercise than merely watching the creatures. It just makes it all the more fun for a birdman such as myself.
Therefore, in this wingspan board game review, you can imagine that during the 40-70 minutes of your playthrough of Wingspan, what you will be doing for the most part is essentially trying to provide the best nest for your birds. That reminds me, you also need to gather the birds on your own. May sound simple but you have to choose and work your way around 170 completely unique bird cards and each species of bird requires a special kind of attention. If you play your cards right, they will generously reward you for it.
The extremely renowned board game publisher, Stonemaier Games published Wingspan in 2019 and since then it has gained a ton of popularity due to its gorgeous artistic touch and the simple yet tactical and challenging gameplay. The thematic element also plays a big role in the title being increasingly praised by gamers and geeks all over the globe. Wingspan’s theme is not unlike anything I have personally seen before and in addition to being a fresh experience, it’s quite well thought-out. Everything plays just as it should.
Wingspan Gameplay; A Delightful Journey Into Avian Strategy
You may be shocked, as I was, to learn that a crow might win against your very cool-looking bald eagle. Even if your deck looks totally awesome, you might lose your birds. That’s just how Wingspan plays out and for you to get into the bird-breeding profession prepared, here’s a quick guide on how to play Wingspan. Keep in mind that you’ll never truly know just how the game feels until you’ve tried it out for yourself. Trust me this one can be magical.
Each session of Wingspan takes one in-game year to finish, which divided into four seasons, makes up our entire four rounds. During each round players take turns to lay out their tactics and score points. By the end of all four rounds comes the counting of all your scores and eventually declaring the winner. The setup shouldn’t take any longer than 10 minutes and rule book explains the rules in a properly comprehensible way.
Each one of the players has a number of action tokens which they may spend on either one of the four main action types. You can breed your birds and get them to lay eggs, which will reward you according to the specified bird card. You can also collect bird food for your flock from the designated feeding dice tower. Thirdly, you may use your action tokens to play your bird cards or activate them. Finally, you can choose to draw new bird cards if you’re all out.
There are many different ways you can earn victory points. Your birds, your eggs, your bonus cards, etc. will all come to your aide when it’s scoring time. Keep on eye out on your birds’ stats for they’re all unique and all of great importance.
Your flock of birds can vary in many ways. They may vary in shapes and sizes, in fact they all do, but there is more to it. The bird cards introduce a certain element of tactic to the game because not only they need to be in their specified natural habitat but they also need to be fed with their own special kind of food. Except few species that would eat basically anything, all the bird cards you have will ask you for something in return if you decide to use their abilities. May I also add that some of these abilities will prove absolutely vital to your victory.
Whether they live above the clouds, in the water or on land, or whether they eat bugs, fruits or seeds, they will be valuable to you and they will be a delight to look at.
Wingspan board game Expansions
Over the years, the universe of Wingspan has been expanded thanks to the expansion packs that the designer has put out. The bird species from the base game, although large in number, are mostly from central and north America. While we do appreciate the American wild life, nature doesn’t stop at America and neither does Wingspan.
This expansion adds new bird cards featuring all-new European species, as well as a set of new bonus cards, a number of additional end-of-round goals, and even fresh player mats. The new continent is home to many new species of birds that are waiting to be discovered!
2. The Oceania Expansion
Just like the last continent, this one is also full of refreshing new content to upgrade the game. This expansion features birds from Australia, New Zealand, and all the surrounding islands. It also introduces new gameplay mechanics, such as nectar tokens and a new swift start variant, which allows for a compact, quick session of Wingspan with a super quick setup.
3. The Asia Expansion
Wingspan Asia is not just a simple expansion pack. It’s a stand-alone game for 1 or 2 players, with the duet mode, as well as a card expansion to the base game, and a 6-7 player expansion via the new Flock mode. Keep in mind that some components from the original Wingspan are needed to play the Flock mode. Asia is the latest wild life Stonemaier has explored in search of magnificent new birds, but they have already stated that they plan on covering all of the continents in the near future.
Wingspan is a title that brings me joy every time it’s taken out of the shelf. My grandpa loves the visuals and I adore the simplicity. It’s always refreshing because of the very large number of unique bird cards that are available and it always gives you a variety of options regarding which path you’d like to take to your eventual victory.
It’s a family game before anything else, as emphasized in the Wingspan Board Game Review, and I promise once your family gets to know their way around the skillfully hand-drawn bird portraits and their unique abilities, they’re going to be hooked on birds. Perhaps this game even adds weekend bird-watching to the list of your long-running family traditions, who knows? It’s also a great game for children and players who are younger of age because it’s light at heart and easy to pick up.
Has Wingspan already reserved a spot on your shelf? What’s your favorite memory of Wingspan? Do you love or hate the game and why? We’ll be more than happy to read your opinions down in the comments!