Geek Review: Wingspan (Board Game)

Talk about a bird brain idea! While modern board games have players building an amusement park, civilisation, or even an evil genius workshop, Wingspan has each player building aviaries to score the most points. Players do so through playing bird cards, each with a unique point value, and powering up their abilities at the same time. 

Wingspan’s gameplay is a mix of shrewd card drafting, clutch dice rolls, and careful long-term planning, all topped off with beautiful components.

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

Each player is armed with their very own player board, which they then have to figure out how best to get their machinery going from their opening hand of bird cards.

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Played over the course of four rounds, players start off relatively weak and slowly gain the ability to chain up combos once they hit the mid to late game.

Players would have to choose between four actions per round. At the most basic, players have the ability to gain more food (to play more bird cards), gain eggs (to expand the number of birds they’re allowed to play), and draw more bird cards (more birds, more luck!), and finally, play bird cards on the board. Being able to only take one action before passing over to the next player has the table wondering how much time they would have to see their master plan come to life, or become thwarted indirectly by others’ actions.

To play more bird cards, players will need more food resources. With more birds on the board, players need to generate more eggs to expand their empire. With more birds played, players will then need to draw even more bird cards, to keep the machinery going. 

In most instances, the player with the most bird cards played, and completes end of round objectives, wins the game with the most points.

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Seeing as to how all actions are interconnected with each other forms the “engine” as the entire game.

The added layer of complexity would be 170 unique bird cards each having an additional benefit allowing players to generate more food, eggs, or draw even more cards which helps economise their actions. As a player’s board slowly fills up, what might have gotten a player 1 resource from an action might result in netting 4 resources once they’ve hit the later rounds.

A late game player sequence would have them possibly gain 6 eggs, trade those eggs for resources, allow other players to gain eggs out-of-turn, and gain even more resources. This is in comparison to an early game action of only gaining 2 eggs.

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The strategy changes with every new game so there is a good level of fluidity how players interact and shift their strategy based on what bird cards have been played on the table.

A Bird In Hand Is Worth More Than Two In The Bush

For new players to board games, the high quality components and visuals are an eye catching aspect of the game. More often than not, board game components are always more functional than aesthetically pleasing. With Wingspan, it is safe to say that this is one board game which ranks high on the Instagrammable charts.

With a rule book which feels like it’s made of satin, individual player boards, bird cards all feel great to touch. If board games were made to counter the progress of video games, the tactile feel of Wingspan is the gold standard all board game designers need to achieve. It feels like a dream as players run through the rule book and thumb over each individual bird card.

The most awesome component, however, goes to the eggs with their glorious pastel colours. Each feels nice to hold on the hand, and it becomes a joy to seek them slowly accumulating on their individual board.

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With the combination of easy gameplay, approachable artwork, and attractive components makes Wingspan an easy game to approach after a tiring day at work. 

And of course no one can ignore the included dice tower which comes with the game as well. While dice towers tend to land on the upper echelons of nerd gear, having one in Wingspan allows players to appreciate the elegance of the tool. No more dice spilling across the pretty game board and knocking over a well planned aviary.

Time To Wing it

Having played a great number of sessions with three players, Wingspan moves relatively fast once everyone has well understood the rules. At three players, each game takes about 45 minutes to complete. The game is also likely to slow down quite a bit with more players but its mostly solitaire actions allows players to strategise their next steps out-of-turn. 

There are hardly any actions in the game which one can take to affect another player negatively. If anything, most bird cards in the game tend to affect the player, or benefit other players at the same time. Thus, this leads to relatively friendly moods at the table.

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The only area of possible contention would be the bird cards players would be able to draw to improve their engine. With all available bird cards up for grabs played face-up, turn order might be the crucial factor in acquiring the birds one needs. With most bird cards having powers relatively unique to each other, it does become a race to acquire those which help the early game as these decisions snowball relatively hard towards the final stretch of the game.

Seasoned board game veterans might school newer players at the onset but it’s really down to the luck of the draw at times with a little card drafting. While having a poor opening hand be detrimental, it largely depends on how one makes the best of everything else.

Don’t Be A Turkey

For all the praises lauded onto Wingspan thus far, the game is ultimately relatively light.

It’s not a gateway card as it’s clearly one step up in having to plan a few steps ahead. Due to the number of actions, one can take during their turn, it really does become relatively limiting when fabricating diverse strategies. For more seasoned board gamers, this is a title best played to introduce friends to more complex board game systems. However, one thing is for sure, if you do have the opportunity to play Wingspan, you’re definitely in for a good time. It’s hard to not fall in love with this game and tell their friends that you’d love to “go for one more round”.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

A solid entry to any board game collection, Wingspan is a relatively light game which will have new players clamouring for more while seasoned board gamers might consider this as a welcome break.

Overall
8/10
8/10
  • Design - 8/10
    8/10
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 8/10
    8/10
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User Review
4 (6 votes)


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