Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Players: 1 – 5 players
Recommended Age: 10+
Time to Play: 40 – 70 minutes
BGG Ranking: 8.1
My Ranking: 9/10
Game Level: Intermediate
In Wingspan, you compete against other players to collect the best birds for your three different habitats: forest, grassland, and wetland. Most birds have interesting and powerful actions that add to your turns either when played or when activated. For each of your turns, you get to pick one of four options: add a bird to a habitat, collect eggs, get food, or select more cards. Three of the four options are tied to a habitat. Food gathering allows you to activate any birds in your forest habitat. Egg collection allows you to activate any birds in your grassland habitat. Card selection allows you to activate any birds in your wetlands habitat. Your goal is to get the most points by adding birds to your habitats, gathering eggs, working towards your bonus card objectives, and earning end-of-round points.
In Wingspan, there are four rounds and each round builds on the others. As you make it to the third and fourth rounds, you’ve likely gathered a robust group of birds. This expanding collection through the rounds leads to a cascading effect where each turn becomes more powerful as you play more cards. When I play, I’m quite proud of my birds and habitats by the end of the game because it feels like I’ve created a well-oiled machine!
Multiple ways to win and overall variety
Each game of Wingspan will be different. You’ll see a variety of new bird cards, round objectives, and bonus cards. Along with the changes game to game, there are plenty of ways to gain points. Because of this, your strategy can change dramatically each time you play. You can focus on many things including playing cards that allow you to tuck cards or cache food, gathering eggs, getting first place for round objectives, and playing high-value birds. Based on the cards that you pull and the objectives you need to achieve, you can tailor your strategy.
Solo mode option
Wingspan has a 1-player option where you compete against Automa. Automa is a game-generated player who has a set deck of cards to help guide the decisions that it makes. It can be a bit of a challenge to get used to playing for yourself and completing the actions that are taken by Automa. With that in mind, once you get used to the game-generated play actions, it can be a fun option if you don’t have someone to play with!
Limited player interaction
This applies to Wingspan in two ways. First, there are few times when your actions impact other players resulting in little needed interaction. Some bird cards have abilities that reward you when other players do certain actions. Also, you could select food from the bird feeder that other players want. Outside of those two situations, you don’t need to interact very often until the end of the rounds. Secondly, the game does not have any bird card actions that allow you to hurt other players’ habitats. For me, this is something I look for in games.
I’ve played Wingspan quite a few times now and the bonus cards are rarely worthwhile. For me, this is the part of the game that feels the most impacted by luck. There’s not much you can do if the cards you need don’t appear throughout the game. It often ruins my strategy when I try to fulfill my bonus card objectives. Even when I fulfill them, the bonus points don’t make it worth the effort.
I highly recommend Wingspan! It is a great engine-building game with lots of variety and ways to win. Plus, the game is simply beautiful. The game materials are well-designed and well-made. I do wish there were more rounds in each game and that you could get through more cards… but that just means you need to play twice each time you bring it out.