Quick Look: Wingspan
Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Solo Designer: David J. Studley
Artists: Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, Beth Sobel
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 40-70 minutes.
This review is part of a 3-part series where I revisit some of my favorite Stonemaier titles (Scythe
, and Wingspan
) and share my impression of these signature titles. I’ve got experience with Wingspan as well as the Oceania, European, and Asia Expansions. I like to combine them all but they can be added or removed without affecting the gameplay. That’s one of my favorite things about these expansions, they don’t overload you or change the game in a big way. They simply add more. Of course, the Oceania expansion does introduce a food type, but aside from that I found they just offered more combos and gameplay variance.
From the Publisher:
Wingspan is a competitive, medium-weight, card-driven, engine-building board game from Stonemaier Games. It’s designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and features over 170 birds illustrated by Beth Sobel, Natalia Rojas, and Ana Maria Martinez.
You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors—seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). These habitats focus on several key aspects of growth:
Gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower
Lay eggs using egg miniatures in a variety of colors
Draw from hundreds of unique bird cards and play them
The winner is the player with the most points after 4 rounds.
Here is a list of base game components:
170 unique bird cards (57x87mm) + 10 unique bird cards in the swift-start teaching guide
26 bonus cards (57x87mm)
16 Automa cards (57x87mm)
103 food tokens
75 egg miniatures
5 custom wooden dice
5 player mats (400 x 280mm)
1 birdfeeder dice tower
2-piece custom tray (now made of eco-friendly sugarcane–it’s white instead of the purple shown in older photos and videos)
1 goal mat
8 goal tiles
1 first-player token
40 action cubes (8 per player)
1 scorepad (50 sheets; 1 sheet used for all players each game)
I like the ability to set up 3 different combo chains per action type. This creates a neat aspect to the game that can open up big scoring opportunities if things go your way. Especially if those combos line up with the private goals or group objectives.
My main setback for this title is that I feel it can sometimes be like playing a solo game as a group. You have very little interaction with other players and you can almost forget anyone else is playing and become hyper focused on your own little tableau.
End Game Bonuses
Solo / Solitaire Game
Turn Order: Progressive
The full rulebook for Wingspan – and any other Stonemaier title – can be found in this dropbox link:
Areas they did well:
– Fantastic realism of bird types and content
– Food system / costs
– Very well balanced – Even the expansions try to stay true to ratios and keep things as intended.
– Positive player interaction when applicable
– Thematic tie-in and art
– Birdfeeder dice tower was a nice touch
– Variable set up/goals
– Easy to learn and teach
– Fast turns
– Combo Chaining
– Open Market
– Private Goals
– Large variety of bird powers/abilities
– Component quality
– Clearly explained and laid out rulebook
– Ways you can earn points (goals, tucks, stored food, eggs, predator powers, etc.)
Areas they could have improved:
– More player interaction
– The play a bird action feels like it was jammed on the player board as an afterthought
– It might be just my impression but I never use as many berries and have a harder time with my wetland birds.
– End of round scoring is a little difficult for new players especially when ties occur
I can’t remember the card combinations that I had, but I recall a recent game where I had an amazing Grassland and Wetland combo that allowed me to go back and forth between the actions and continuously gain points. They also had abilities to gain food so it didn’t require me to use the top row nearly at all. I fired some birds up there I needed for scoring/goals but just kept running my engine to boost out my points. It was definitely the best chains I’ve ever had, though I don’t know if it was my top scoring game or not. I had a ton of fun with the steady earning, and tucking.
The “pick one” of four possible actions each turn works great for the gameplay and allows players full control of what they’d like to prioritize. I really like how they paired these action types and the habitats you placed them into as mini engines or opportunities for combos. Besides the play a bird action, each of the other 3 correspond with a habitat type and trigger all cards in that row. It’s super satisfying when that comes together nicely. You just got to keep an eye on the costs (your food supply and eggs) to make sure you can keep things progressing as you want them to. I think this title would be a great pick for anyone interested in birds, for a family, for a light gamer group looking to expand their tastes, or for hosting and you need a crowd favorite. Oh! and one tip, don’t forget you can choose not to activate a bird power if you don’t want to use it. There are several situations where a bird power benefits the group but may help everyone more than it helps you (if at all). In those cases, don’t activate them just because you can.
I end up playing this game a lot as friends often bring it to the table when I’m over and it’s gets to the table a fair bit at local gameshops. It’s an ideal game for strangers to play together because you can interact with them as much as you want to. If you aren’t clicking as well, or find conversation tough, you don’t really need to say much. If you prefer a lively conversation, then you can do that too without losing track or derailing the game. This is a modern classic and an example of a spot-on nature theme, well executed.
I’ll see you next time, back here at The Game Table,
Brad Hiscock, aka Zerility
After reading Brad’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Scythe is on sale in the United States for only $55. check it out and get yours HERE.
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Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”, is a construction project manager and electrician by trade who was the owner of a 6-time award winning electrical company. His passion for board games has led him from playing hundreds of original titles to creating a design and publishing company of his own, Convivial Games. As an up and coming collaborator on many projects, he is always eager to try new games and meet new people.
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All of Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”‘s reviews can be found HERE.