Game Buzz: Wingspan

I’m your only friend, I’m not your only friend, but I’m a little glowing friend, but really I’m not actually your friend, but I am…

image by BGG user jameystegmaier

Wingspan is the latest game to be published by Stonemaier Games, this one designed by Elizabeth Hargrave.  It’s a 1-5 player game set in the ornithological world – in other words, it’s about birds.  Players are trying to attract the best birds to their aviaries, and creating combo chains to score lots of points in order to win the game after four rounds.

Lots of stuff in this game – 170 bird cards, 26 bonus cards, 5 player mats, 75 eggs, 40 cubes, 103 food tokens, 8 goal tiles, a goal board, a bird tray, a score pad, a first player token, 5 dice, and a really cool bird feeder dice tower:

image by BGG user jameystegmaier

To set up the game, you’ll deal three face up bird cards into the bird tray, as well as roll the dice into the dice tower.  You’ll randomly select four goals for the game, placing them on the goal board – one per round.  Each player gets a player mat, 8 action cubes, and 5 food tokens (one of each type).  You’ll also get two random bonus cards, from which you will keep one, and five bird cards.  You can keep as many of the bird cards as you would like, but you have to spend one food token per kept bird.

image by BGG user jameystegmaier

As mentioned, the game plays over four rounds.  During each round, players will take turns placing one action cube on their mat until all action cubes have been used.  There are four options for actions:

  1. Play a Bird – Take a bird from your hand and play it into the leftmost spot of one of the three card rows.  Birds have a cost in food you need to pay, and there may be an egg cost as well.  Some birds have “when played” powers, and others will activate later.  Birds will also make the actions of their row more powerful.
  2. Gain Food – After placing your cube in the leftmost exposed slot, claim food by removing as many dice as shown from the bird feeder.  As more birds get added to the row, you’ll be able to take more food and possibly spend cards for even more.  If the bird feeder is ever empty, reroll all dice immediately.  If there’s only one face showing on all present dice in the bird feeder when you want to take food, you can choose to reroll all dice.
  3. Lay Eggs – After placing your cube on the leftmost exposed slot, take the number of eggs shown and distribute them to birds.  Each bird has an egg limit, but otherwise, you can put the eggs anywhere.  Different types of nests might score you points depending on the round bonuses.  You also might be able to turn food into another egg.
  4. Draw Bird Cards – After placing your cube on the leftmost exposed slot, draw the number of cards shown.  These can come from the face up array (and not replenished until the end of your turn), or drawn blind from the deck.  You may also be able to convert an egg to another card.

For each of these options, except for Play a Bird, you are placing your action cube on one of the card rows.  You place on the leftmost exposed spot, but at the end of your turn, you will move your cube to the left and start activating birds it crosses.  Birds with brown powers can be activated immediately.  There are also birds that react to something an opponent might do, but taking an action could generate a lot more things to do on a turn.

image by BGG user jameystegmaier

A round ends once each player has used all of their action cubes.  You then score the goal for the round.  One side of the goal board gives you straight points for fulfilling the goals, while the other gives points for 1st-2nd-3rd place (you decide which side to play with during setup).  Your score (even if zero) is marked by one of your action cubes, so you’ll have one less action in the next round.

After the fourth round, the game is over.  You score points as indicated on each bird, for completed bonuses, for end-of-round goals, for eggs, for food stored on a bird card, and for cards that got tucked under bird cards.  The player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user jameystegmaier

The game is quite beautiful, with some wonderful art by Natalia Rojas, Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, and Beth Sobel.  The pieces look fantastic, as we have come to expect from a Stonemaier production.  And it seems like it is incredibly thematic – sure, there are some abstracted parts of gameplay, but the behavior of the actual birds seems well suited for what they do in game.  This is definitely something for the ornithologist in your life.

As for me, I think it looks pretty fly.  You can play owl by yourself, or toucan play, or even a whole flock of five.  The rules are well laid out, which is good so you don’t do something ill-eagle.  The components are not cheeply made, but the bill for the whole thing doesn’t seem too big.  It looks like a game with a good amount of strategy – in order to pengwin, you wouldn’t want to just wing it.

So, that’s Wingspan.  Hope this overview didn’t ruffle your feathers too much.  Thanks for reading!

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