Occasionally board games come along, but board games designed by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, break the mold and reach a wider audience. One of our greatest success stories. Created by first-time designer and bird enthusiast Elizabeth Hargrave, this game of building a wildlife sanctuary has sold well over his one million copies in multiple prints and is one of the most successful and best of recent years. It is one of the board games of
what’s in the box
Wingspan packs a lot of content, most of it designed to evoke the theme of ornithology. There are many cards, most of which represent bird species, and are decorated with glowing art and educational factoids along with relevant game information. It can be stored in the included plastic storage tray.
Foods such as grain and rats are printed on wooden dice that roll into an amazing dice tower and tray that looks like a birdhouse. There are also matching food tokens to hold until consumed when taking dice. The game includes four plastic he trays that can hold these tokens and a huge array of three-dimensional pastel colored bird eggs.
Each player has their own board representing a bird sanctuary with three columns corresponding to three habitats: forest, grassland, and wetland. The contents of the box are rounded out with various extras such as cubes for tracking player turns, score sheets, rules and reference material. It’s a fun package, and a lot of thought has been put into production and overall design. Stacks tightly in the box.
rules and how to play
This is a prime example of circular dependency, an old design concept for tabletop games. To play the bird card, you need food, an egg, and the card itself. However, to increase access to these three resources, you need to place bird cards in forests, grasslands, and swamps respectively. It’s all about trying to match the sanctuary’s growing ability to support birds with the special powers of the birds that live there in order to score points in the most efficient way.
Birds have specific habitat preferences and specific food needs. On your turn, you can either play into the habitat if it has the required food, or “activate” the habitat instead. This will get some of the matching resources. In the forest, you can pick food dice from the Birdhouse Dice Tower to get matching food tokens. Grasslands provide eggs needed to play beyond the habitat’s first slot. Swamps offer new cards selected from a face-up selection or random face-down cards.
Importantly, activating a habitat also activates the special powers of the birds you play there. They are very diverse and combined with a wide range of game mechanics in all sorts of interesting ways. For example, Common Grackle allows you to shove cards back from your hand, worth more points, and gives you bonus eggs. Crested flycatchers can acquire invertebrate food tokens if they have matching dice in their hive. You can see how forces like these force you to think about the order of your choices and what other resources you have available to ensure you get the best out of each activation.
Oddly enough, this is basically building bird sanctuaries as an economic engine. The more birds you have, the more resources you get and the more special powers you can fire with each activation. It’s really satisfying to watch the reserves grow and thrive and come up with the best combination of plays before seeing them come into full effect. There is also the expectation of seeing the plan come together, as well as seeing if it helps or hinders the overall strategy.
There are few ways to interact. This is very important in how you plan and execute your strategy compared to other players’ success. Most of the time you just need to worry about what they’re doing in terms of getting you any food or cards you might want before it’s your turn. cards rely on other people’s effects. However, such cards are relatively rare and are more spectator sports than head-to-head duels.
But your semi-solitaire dance is incredibly mesmerizing. There are so many different bird effects, some of which are on play or between turns rather than activation. And that’s before considering the competing demands of each habitat that offer better rewards as they grow. You’ll need to get all of this in order to play with more birds, and finally, for some extra spice, on each of his four turns in the game, having the most birds in the grassland, etc. , the bonus point mini-goal is hotly contested. Each player also has one or more secret goals, such as collecting a certain number of grain-eating birds to gain more points.
The ultimate goal is to get various resources and convert them into points in the best possible way. Most of your points come from the bird card itself, and it’s very easy to tie yourself up trying to get expensive card prerequisites in the most cost-effective way. Every decision you make in Wingspan is so well interwoven with multiple other aspects of the game that balancing it out seems impossible. But it’s also pretty transparent when mistakes are inevitable, making each play an addicting learning experience that should make you do better next time.