Although I’m an animal lover, birds were never very interesting to me. So, when I first heard that someone made a board game about them, I was sure it wasn’t a game for me. But after my fellow Boar Gamers convinced me to try out Wingspan, I realized I may have been too quick to judge.
If you want to know why this is one of the best-ranked board games, nestle yourself and read my Wingspan review.
|Playing time:||40 to 70 minutes|
|Number of players:||1 to 5|
|Genre:||Card-driven and engine-building|
- Engaging gameplay
- Beautiful artwork and components
- Educational elements
- Limited player interaction
- The theme may not be inspiring for everyone
Whether you already love birds or not, Wingspan is a board game that will have you chirping with excitement.
In this game, you play a bird enthusiast and get to create your own wildlife preserve. You have a beautiful piece of land with forest, grassland, and wetland areas, and it’s your job to attract and settle the most amazing birds, which are represented by cards.
It may sound easy, but birds can be very demanding creatures. First of all, you need to provide plenty of food if you want to attract them to your sanctuary. Some of them are very picky when it comes to food. However, enough fruits, seeds, fish, mice, or juicy worms will do the trick.
To keep the birds happy and healthy, you also need to find the right habitat for each one of them. They’ll need a safe place to build their nests and start laying eggs.
Perhaps it may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort. In return, the grateful birdies will help you earn the most victory points and win the game.
Get Ready to Fly
First-time designer Elizabeth Hargrave and the team from Stonemaier Games did a great job creating this wonderful board game. Although the unique theme lacks a background story, the beautiful components and gameplay more than make up for it.
In the Wingspan board game, cards are an essential component of gameplay. Players have the opportunity to choose from 170 bird cards that are both beautiful and educational. Each card has a gorgeous illustration of different bird species, along with some basic information about their habitat, diet, and behavior.
Another impressive component of Wingspan is the players’ personal board. It represents a bird preserve with three habitats, and each player has one of their own. Besides being beautiful, the board is designed to be functional as well. It has enough space for all your birds, their eggs, action cubes, and food tokens, and the textured surface prevents components from flying all over the game table.
The cutest part of the game is the birdhouse dice tower. It’s used to supply birds with food by throwing the food dice through it. Even though it’s absolutely adorable, like similar components in other board games, it is more of a cool-looking gimmick than actually useful. On the positive side, once you assemble the cardboard dice tower, with a small adjustment it fits perfectly in the box and you don’t need to do that again.
In addition to these components, wooden dice, food tokens, and colorful eggs create a visually impressive board game.
How to Play Wingspan
When you first play Wingspan, the rules might seem complicated, especially if you aren’t an experienced board gamer. There are a lot of things happening in the game, and it can appear like there’s too much information to memorize. However, in reality, things are much simpler.
In my opinion, your personal board will be your main ally for mastering the rules. The board contains symbols to mark everything you need to know about your actions. Each is clearly labeled, and every empty space for bird cards has a little symbol that shows you the outcome of the action you played.
The board is divided into rows and columns, and each has a specific purpose in the game.
Depending on which action you want to play, you will place the action cube in one of the rows. Three of them represent three different habitats and each contains five empty slots for bird cards.
The columns, on the other hand, provide other useful information for your game. They indicate the cost of an action and its potential effects.
The Wingspan board game is played over four rounds. In each round, you’ll have a certain number of actions. To mark the action you want to play, you will place the action cube in the designated row on the board.
Always palace a cube on the first leftmost empty space in the row. At the beginning of the game, you will have eight action cubes, but their number will reduce in each round. You can play only one action per turn.
There are four types of actions:
- Play a bird
- Gain food
- Lay eggs
- Draw a card
Play a Card
To play bird cards, you need to put an action cube in the designated space on the board and pay the cost of those cards. On every card, you will see the cost in food, but depending on which column you are putting the bird in, there might be an additional cost in eggs.
Each bird has habitat requirements, and every card in Wingspan will provide you with that information. While some birds can live in one habitat only, others are more adaptable and can live in several different environments.
To place bird cards on your board, you’ll need plenty of food. To acquire food tokens you have to place your action cube in a space within the forest habitat. You can only take the food that is shown on the dice in the dice tower. The amount of food you will take depends on the column in which your action cube is located.
Have the Bird Lay Eggs
If you place your action token in a grassland area, it’s time for birds to lay eggs. Depending on the first free slot of the row, you can lay a certain number of eggs. You can place them on different birds in different habitats, but be aware that every bird has its egg limit.
Draw a Card
To add new cards to your hand and expand your options, you need to place the action cube on the wetland row. You can choose whether you’ll draw a card from the top of the deck or the three displayed cards on the bird tray.
Almost all cards have certain special powers. There are three types of powers, each with a different color, and they are activated at a specific moment during the game:
- When played (no color)
- Once between turns (pink)
- When activated (brown)
Every time you play an action in one of the three habitats, all brown powers on the cards in that row will be activated from right to left.
During the game, you should gather as many birds as possible, but this isn’t a random collection. All four actions are interconnected, and with careful planning and balancing of those actions, and use of the birds’ abilities, you can build the perfect engine. ‘
This will allow you to adapt to conditions in the game, achieve your goals, and ultimately win the game. Although most birds will earn you points, you also have a personal objective to complete, and a different goal for each round.
The game ends after four rounds. It’s then time for the players to calculate their points and see who the winner is.
You can earn points from:
- Bird cards in your preserve
- Bonus cards
- End-of-round goals
- 1 point for each egg on a bird card, food token cached on a bird card, card tucked under a bird card
The player with the most points wins.
Although primarily a team game, if you’re in the mood for some solo gaming, Wingspan is still a great choice. You can take your time to strategize and enjoy building your bird sanctuary.
In solo mode, your main rival is an artificial opponent called Automa. It comes with its own deck of cards and unique rules. But if you’ve had a chance to play other games published by Stonemaier Games, then you already know what Automa is.
Playing Wingspan against Automa is challenging and fun. If you want to make things more interesting, there are three levels of difficulty to choose from.
Wingspan expansions are a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with more birds from around the world. All of the expansions are designed to be incorporated into the base game.
Birds in the Wingspan are primarily from North America, and now you have a chance to add 81 birds from Europe to your game. New personal objective cards and bird power will bring new challenges, while more interaction between players will make the game more fun and exciting.
With this expansion, you have the opportunity to meet the colorful birds of Oceania. Along with their beauty, some birds have new special powers and food requirements. Nectar is a new food type introduced to the game, along with five new player mats. To make the game even more interesting and unpredictable, there are also new end-of-round bonuses.
The best part about this expansion is Stonemaier Games’ support for birds affected by the Australian wildfires. Since the expansion wasn’t released yet during the time of the fires, the company decided to collect emails from people interested in buying the Oceania Expansion when it is ready. For every email Stonemaier Games received during the specified period, they donated $1 to WIRES, a wildlife rescue organization in Australia.
It’s time for the beautiful birds of Asia to join your flock. Like the other two expansions, this one brings more eggs, new birds, personal objective cards, and end-of-round bonuses. But that isn’t the most interesting thing about this expansion.
Now you have the opportunity to bring more friends to the game because the Asia expansion adds 6th and 7th players to the game. Even better, this is also a stand-alone game that one or two players can enjoy.
Is Wingspan Better with Expansions?
Overall, Wingspan expansions are a perfect addition to an already great game. If you have mastered the base game, new birds, powers, bonuses, and strategies will keep the game fresh and exciting.
Wingspan Game: Migrate Your Birds to a PC
As much as we love to gather friends and family to play our favorite games, sometimes circumstances don’t allow it. Or maybe, sometimes, we just want to have a different game experience with our beloved games. No matter what your reasons are, the video game version of Wingspan is the perfect solution. This beautiful digital adaptation of the bird board game, with amazing graphics and animation, includes all of the content of the base game, along with the Europe Expansion.
Final Thoughts on Wingspan
Wingspan was a big surprise for me. The bird theme wasn’t appealing to me at all at first, but I gave it a chance, and it turned out to be one of my favorite board games.
If you are looking for beautiful background stories, maybe this isn’t the right choice for you. But if you want to enjoy amazing design and excellent engine-building gameplay, don’t hesitate to try it.
Apart from the unique theme and engaging gameplay, there is another important aspect that sets Wingspan apart from many other board games. That is its educational component and ecological awareness. As I mentioned before, every card has some basic information about the birds, but you can also learn that many of those species are on the verge of extinction.
By raising awareness about environmental issues and by drawing attention to endangered species, Wingspan is a board game that sends a clear and very important message. While your bird sanctuary in the game is fictional, it is also inspirational and reminds us how important is to protect those beautiful animals in real life.
Wingspan is an excellent engine-building board game with a unique theme and beautiful artwork. With a large number of cards and combinations, the game is replayable and allows players to develop many different strategies. It’s enjoyable and fun for both casual and more serious gamers, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular games.
No, especially for seasoned players. Although it may seem complicated for beginners, they will quickly get the hang of it. The rules are well written, and the symbols on the personal player board will be of great help in keeping track of the game.
Absolutely! Your opponent in solo mode is Automa, an AI that plays by its own rules, which makes the game really fun. Also, with three levels of difficulty, it can be quite challenging.
Yes, Wingspan can be played by two players, and the rules are the same. The game is fun, but if you want to make it more unpredictable, you should gather a larger group of friends.