Wingspan - In-Depth Review
- Amazing theme
- Relaxing gameplay
- Art and components
- Scarce turns make every move count
- Too many bird cards with limited drawing
- Limited player interaction
- Reactive - most of my moves were my only option
Wingspan is a puzzle game/engine builder. Wingspan is a beautiful game. Wingspan will teach you bird facts. Some birds have dirty sounding names that are fun to say.
Wingspan could be considered a gateway game. The first few rounds of the tutorial game are put on rails and demonstrate a different mechanic for each player. The player mat reminds you what potential actions you may take and helps you track which actions each bird can take. The rules make the game seem much more complicated than what it was; playing the tutorial game was all our group needed. We never had to reference the rules until a tie occurred.
This game has a hidden leader mechanic. Scores are tallied at the end. You can assess how well another player is doing based on their player mat, but there is a hidden objective that varies the final score. Who is winning does not matter much, because you cannot target them.
Each turn, you can take one action. You can either play a bird, gain food, lay eggs, or draw new bird cards. Birds and eggs give you points, food gives you more birds, and new bird cards gives you more birds to play. Whatever action you chose triggers the birds in your row and gives you bonuses based on their bird powers. There are limited actions per round, and I always feel like I can actually accomplish very few things before the round ends.
The object of the game is to lure a lot of birds into your aviary. The birds do not fight each other. While there are predator birds, they do not eat any birds you have already laid down. There are no direct attack mechanics in the game. The worst birds I’ve ran into gave out free materials to everyone or gave a player a bonus when another player did an action. This is not the game for you if you want to cripple another player’s production lines and exterminate their armies. We enjoyed the lack of direct action against the other players because it creates a more relaxing experience. No new blood feuds were formed during our play-through!
There are a lot of unique birds, and cards don’t cycle through quickly. You will never find the exact bird you need to set up a powerful combination. You will rarely find enough birds to get a lot of points from your bonus card. Most of the time, you will be reacting to what is available to scrape together a combination that works. The randomness of the game comes from the bird cards that are drawn. Most of the time you are reacting to what is available instead of seeking out combinations that you craft. Our tactician was not pleased.
The theme is fantastic. Most board games themes are somewhat repetitive, and artwork isn't always prioritized in game design. Wingspan’s theme is birds. Birds can be used to entice people to play who wouldn’t normally play engine builders. The theme is built upon both with mechanics and with outstanding art. I played this with someone who knows an annoying amount about birds; they assured me that most of the bird powers fit the birds pretty well.
The components are high quality, the art took an insane amount of work, there are a lot of unique birds, and there is a cute little dice tower. There is no insert, but there is a diagram to help you put everything back into the box in an organized manner. I was not seized with the need to build my own insert.
Wingspan is a solid game. It is a lightweight engine builder that is a good break from heavy, argument inducing games. The random nature of the cards frustrates those who demand high level strategy, but it also provides a level playing field.
Want even more bird cards for Wingspan? Try the two expansions, Wingspan: European Expansion and Wingspan: Oceania Expansion.
What About Remote Play?
Remote play score: 2 out of 4
What our remote score means: Works okay over Zoom or your remote video conferencing system of choice, but we believe the game loses something in translation. All households must have a copy of the game. There are a large number of bird cards, which are impractical to sync across households, so it's hard to keep track of what other players are doing or enjoy the beautiful bird artwork on the cards they are playing.