- The game everyone can't stop Raven about
Players: 1 - 5 Playing time: 40 - 70 minutes Designed by: Elizabeth Hargrave Published by: Stonemaier Games
Wingspan is a bird-collection, engine-building game where you take the role of a bird enthusiast - trying to discover and attract different types of birds into your aviary (your player mat) where each bird creates a combination of powerful actions to get your engine up and running.
What's in the box?
- 170 unique bird cards - 26 bonus cards -16 Automa cards - 103 food tokens - 75 egg miniatures -5 custom wooden dice
- 5 player mats - 1 birdfeeder dice tower - 2 piece plastic tray
- 40 action cubes - 4 plastic resource containers - 1 scorepad
- 1 goal mat - 8 goal tiles -1 first player token
- 3 rulebooks (core, Automa and Appendix)
Opening the lid of Wingspan for the very first time exposes a nest of colourful treasures. If you own any other Stonemaier games such as Scythe, then you know that they don't skimp out on quality goods, from the high resolution printed bird cards to the egg miniatures, that look so good I actually want to eat them. The rule books are even finished with a linen texture which of course led to me saying "They're just so quality" over and over again, definitely not a necessity but a nice touch from SM. Probably my favourite component out of the box is the cardboard dice tower which is used as a bird feeder in the game and harbours the 5 beautifully crafted wooden dice, practical and thematic!
In Wingspan you're simply trying to create the most efficient engine over 4 rounds. Players have a limited amount of turns per round so make sure they count.
Players start with an empty play mat, 5 bird cards, 2 bonus cards and 5 food tokens with the option to discard bird cards (it makes sense to do this, as you have to feed every bird you decide to keep. So, if you keep all 5 birds you essentially start off with 0 food tokens). Each bird usually requires some form of food to be placed onto your mat, this can be a mashup of the 5 different tokens (cherries, fish, worms, mice and wheat) or in some cases no food at all. Players should decide which bonus card they want to keep and then discard the other. Bonus cards are simply extra objectives to aim for, potentially earning them more points at the end of the game.
Players then take it in turns to perform one action. These can be:
Gaining food tokens via custom dice in the birdfeeder (you can only take a resource if it is shown on the top face of the dice. You can re roll all of the dice if only one type of resource is show or there is only one dice left to choose from).
Lay eggs using marbled egg miniatures in a variety of colours (eggs are required to place birds down in certain columns of the player mat, they are also worth points at the end of the game so really useful to generate).
Expand your bird collection, drawing from hundreds of unique bird cards (there is actually hundreds, it's a nightmare to shuffle the deck). Players can choose to draw random from a face down deck or from 3 face up birds displayed for all players on the table.
Play a bird from your hand (making sure you have the correct amount of food tokens and eggs available to you).
So now it's time to actually learn about how you use your engine, how egg-sighting....
A bird card usually has an ability, this could be "WHEN PLAYED" (no colour ability) or "WHEN ACTIVATED" (brown ability) . When played means the ability can ONLY be activated when the bird is first placed onto the player mat and when activated means that you can choose to (or choose not to) use that ability everytime you activate the row that bird is in.
For example, in your gain food row there is 5 spaces to play a bird. If you already have 2 birds in this row and then choose the gain food action on your turn you will place your action cube on the first available space with no birds (in this case it will be the 3rd space across). The player can then gain food from the resources available in the birdfeeder, the action cube can be moved left and the player can activate any "WHEN ACTIVATED" abilities they want until they reach the end of their engine (bird cards).
There are also "ONCE BETWEEN TURNS" (pink) abilities than some birds can have, these are abilities that can be triggered outside of your turn usually by another player performing a certain action or failing/succeeding their own bird ability. So make sure you're always paying attention, even when it's not your turn.
End of Round:
During the initial set up of the game, end of round goals are picked by random and placed onto the goal tracker mat. While players are taking their turns and building their engines they should also aim for each round goal as well as it's a handy way to earn a few extra points. At the end of each round, all players should remove all action cubes from their play mat and place one on the goal tracker depending on how well they did. All face up birds being displayed should also be discarded and replenished and the first player token should rotate clockwise.
End of Game scoring:
The end of the game triggers at the end of round 4, all action cubes should be used. Add up each players score using the game pad provided to see which player is flying high with the most points and ultimately crowned the winner!
Points are awarded for:
Face up bird card on your player mat (the amount of points is printed on each card next to the feather symbol)
Points for each bonus cards (printed on the cards/dependent on how well you achieved the task)
Points for end-of-round goals (calculated from the goal mat)
1 point for each: egg on a bird card, food token cached on a bird card, card tucked under a bird card
Wingspan has gotten a lot of play on my table, I have played it in variants of 5, 3, 2 and 1 (whole section on Automa mode below). The first time it was with a total of 3 players, it was pretty much fresh from my local board game shop and the excitement to play this game was high. This first game was slow with regular intervals to go back and forth to the rulebook, there is a lot of information to take in and you kind of don't really know what to do with yourself when you first get stuck in. Hawkward!
Then after a few rounds everyone seems to be getting to grips with it and strategies are going off in peoples heads like light bulbs. The rounds were getting quicker and the flow of the game was great. Then it's the end of the game, scores are calculated, a winner is crowned and everyone involved was left wanting to play more.
The majority of time I've spent with this game is as a two player game and it's just one of the things I love about this game is that it works just as well with 2 than any other number. Most nights I find that myself or my partner is itching to get this game out, the setup is relatively straight forward once you've done it a couple of times and you work out your own system and the game flows wonderfully because you never have to wait too long for your turn. Playing with two is great because you can adapt your strategy to counteract what your opponent is doing (I find it harder to keep track of what everyone else is doing in larger games) and it definitely keeps things interesting.
Jump to a 5 player game with 3 people who have played before and 2 people who had to learn without knowing absolutely anything about this game. This was my favourite time playing Wingspan because the amount of people involved caused so many laughs and funny moments. It was also great to see everyone get involved in the theme of the game and think about things from an avid bird.. researcher, watcher, collectors point of view!
However, to go from 2 players consistently to 5, the process was a lot slower than normal and turns not flowing as well meant that I would lose track of what I was doing (which is more my fault that anything else) and couldn't decide on a strategy for my engine because there was so much going on. I'm hoping for a rematch with this group soon as I feel that if we were to play again it would be a lot better as everyone would know what they were doing and gameplay would flow a lot better. One thing I loved about playing with 5 is that it's hard to tell who the winner is going to be, it keeps you on your toes the whole time.
I wanted to play the Automa mode before posting this review so that I could give an opinion on every aspect of this game.
I honestly love that their is an 'AI' mode in this game. I know this is pretty common in other Stonemaier games, but it's the first one that I actually tried for myself. Luckily, I am fortunate to have someone to constantly sit down and play games with so I don't see myself playing the Automa mode too often but I know this isn't the case for everyone. The game pretty much plays out exactly like the 'core' game except you have an automa deck that is used for the AI instead of playing against a real life opponent. On the Automa's turn you draw a card from the deck and carry out the specific action depending on what round you are currently on.
There are 3 difficulty levels:
Eagle-eyed Eagle (hard)
I played on the medium difficulty and got totally stomped by the Automa (I should have laid more eggs, that's where it's at) but I had a lot of fun with it, it played out very quickly and threw out a lot of challenges to get me thinking about strategies more. It's a great mode if you are wanting to play Wingspan but can't seem to gather other players to your nest.
So the burning question is: Should you really give a flock?
Yes, you most definitely should. Wingspan has become one of the most loved games in 2019 and I can definitely see why, from the quality of the components to the gameplay it has been a big hit for me.. (I'm even happy with the theme). Don't get me wrong, I'm not the biggest bird enthusiast and I don't spend my evenings outside with a telescope looking for a Blue Tit BUT I really do enjoy the idea of role playing someone who does. All of the bird cards are also really informative usually displaying the bird name, the scientific name and a small fact about the bird. It's not a selling point for Wingspan but a nice touch nevertheless.
As much as I love this game, it's not perfect. The game is very tactical but also has an element of luck due to the mass amount of birds available in the bird decks, you could be unlucky and not get any birds that fit into your strategy. For this reason I also wish there was a way to clear the 3 face up birds that are displayed on the table without having to rely on someone else taking them or the round ending. The automa handled this well as the AI has an action to clear all birds from the tray and it came up quite a lot in my play through (I went through about half the birds in one Automa game). This feature in the core game relies on players heavily drawing cards and the supply constantly being refreshed but in a two player game it's likely that only two or three birds will be chosen from the display as it's usually beneficial to draw blind. Apart from that, no complaints from me.
It's seen a lot of game play from me already and it will see a load more as well. I'm always eager to play with new people just to show them how wonderful this game is. I think all age ranges will love this game and even if children aren't so keen on the theme, the colourful aesthetic will be enough to catch their attention.
Wingspan is 100% a top shelf game. Love this game and as you're reading this I'm probably setting up a new game!
Want to add this game to your collection? Buy it here!