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  • Posted on
  • By Bubba Sadowsky & Katie Williams
  • 0

Play hundreds of unique birds, lay eggs, and collect food in this gorgeous game of Ornithology!

Hey there everyone! Bubba (and Katie) here!

So this is a first for us as we're going to have 2 separate reviews for a single game! Why, you ask? Well this game has a solo mode as well as a competitive mode and we felt that both were worth reviewing! For this one, Katie will be reviewing the solo mode and I'll be reviewing the competitive mode. I suppose I should start actually writing about the game. I tend to ramble on a bit...

The Game: Wingspan is not only pretty, it is also a pretty unique game where you are trying, as you usually do, to get as many points as possible. You gain points by building the best engine you can to gather resources and those resources are eggs, food tokens, and bird cards. But especially eggs. (I'll tell you more later).


Let's start this off by taking a look at one of these spiffy bird cards to get a better idea of what's going on:


The upper left corner tells us a good bit of information about the bird. It shows what habitat/s it can be played to and what the food cost to play it is. Some birds have multiple habitats they can be played into, but this particular bird can only be played into a Grasslands habitat. Below the habitat insignia is the food cost to play the bird card. If the food cost shows two symbols with a plus icon between them, you need both. If the food cost shows two symbols with a slash icon between them, either one will suffice. When you see a wheel with color wedges as a food cost that means you can use any food. For example, the Red-Backed Shrike above needs one invertebrate, one rodent, and one more food of any type. 


Here are the habitat types and icons:


And here are the food types and icons:

Below the food cost requirement and habitat icon/s is more info for the bird card. The number next to the feather tells you how many victory points the bird is worth at the end of the game. Our sample bird will be worth 5 points at the end of the game. Below that number is a nest type icon that shows what kind of nest the bird uses and the number of eggs shown beneath that icon is how many eggs you can store on that bird. For example, the Red-Backed Shrike above has a bowl type nest and can hold two eggs.


Here are the type of nests:


On the other side of the card from the nest information is the average wingspan of the bird pictured. (Get it? It's like the name of the game!) Below that is where most bird cards have their abilities listed. Some birds don't have abilities and that's okay. We love them just the same. There are several types of abilities in the core game and each is denoted by a different colored band. Abilities with no colored band are "when played" abilities. These abilities trigger when the card is played and that's it. Abilities with brown colored bands, like the Red-Backed Shrike, trigger when the card is activated. Since the Red-Backed Shrike will only ever be in the Grasslands habitat, you would trigger it's ability every time you lay eggs. I'll explain more about that in a bit. Abilities with pink colored bands trigger "once between turns." This means that you can use its ability one time between each of your turns when an opponent triggers the conditions for the ability. 

Finally, at the bottom of the card, you can see on a map where that bird's natural habitat is and a small fun fact about that bird in particular. You're still with me? That's good...

Now that we've gone over what the cards tell you, let's go over actual gameplay. 


You have the selection of a few actions you can do on your turn; play a bird card to your one of your habitats, gather food, lay eggs, or draw bird cards.  There are three different habitats to play your birds to and each one can host a different selection of birds.  Playing birds to your Forest habitat helps you when you gather food, playing birds to your Grasslands habitat helps you when you lay eggs, and playing birds to your Wetland habitat helps you when you draw bird cards. When you take the "play a bird card" action, you pay all applicable costs and place the bird card in an appropriate habitat as far left as that card can be played. 

When you gather food, you take an appropriate number of food dice from the bird feeder. (The bird feeder is a super cute dice tower and I love it.) You get a food token of the same type that was on the face of the food die and add it to your supply. If multiple icons are pictured, you get to choose which one you get. When only one type of food remains in the feeder, you can re-roll all the dice and now get to select from those resources.


When you take the "lay eggs" action, you take an appropriate number of eggs from the supply and put them on your bird cards that can still hold more eggs. When you take the "draw bird cards" action, you can select from either three face up bird cards, or draw a face down bird card if you don't like your options. 


When you take an action in one of your habitats (gather food, lay eggs, or draw bird cards), you trigger all the "when activated" abilities of the birds in that habitat. You do this in right to left order. For instance, if you have the Red-Backed Shrike played to your Grasslands habitat and you take the "lay eggs" action you would do the following: First you'd take an appropriate number of eggs from the supply and place them where you still have egg capacity. Then you'd look at all of your bird cards in that habitat and see if any have "when activated" abilities. Oh look! The Red-Backed Shrike has one of those! (I never thought I'd type out the words "Red-Backed Shrike" so much [I'm not actually typing it out, I have it saved on my clipboard so I can just Ctrl+V it]). You'd then use the Red-Backed Shrike's ability and steal an invertebrate food token from an opponent and store it on the bird. That opponent would then get to take a food from the bird feeder.


Every round you have a number of action cubes and when those are depleted, you're done taking actions for the round. While the number of cubes you have goes down every round, you have the advantage of the engines you've been building to help you do more. The more abilities you have in a habitat, the more helpful it eventually becomes to take that action. 

Scoring is a little complicated, but you get the hang of it after your first play. At the start of the game, you are dealt 2 secret bonus cards and you get to pick one to keep. This is something that will effect your play throughout the game, if you choose to pursue it. As an example, my goal was to have 5 or more bird cards with a wingspan over 100cm played to my habitats. At the end of every round, bonus points are awarded for meeting certain conditions. 

When the game is over, you check to see how many points your birds are worth, you see if you've managed bonus points, and you count eggs. Did I mention any eggs you have left on birds are worth one point each at the end of the game? I DIDN'T!? Well, that makes sense as I'm only talking about scoring right now.

I know that's a lot, but it's pretty easy and intuitive once you've played a few rounds.

My Playthrough: For a long time Wingspan was a bit of a goal for me. It's one of the best selling games we carry and has sold more than any other strategy game this year so far. It's SUCH a popular product and one that I've wanted to play. One that I own. That I've owned for over a year and a half. Sitting on my shelf... One with a solo version. I have no excuse. BUT!! I finally played it! (All thanks to Katie)

One of my co-owners hosts a board game night every week that I'd never made it to before, even though I've had a standing invitation for over a decade, but Katie has always gone to. Katie suggested we use that time to learn how to play Wingspan and I figured that that would be a great way to do it! I asked my wife if she wanted to come and play with us and of course she said yes. She's wanted to play it for a good while too.

One of the regulars for this game night had a grand return to playing after a while of not attending so there was cake. Cake makes everything better. After reveling in the fact that I /finally/ showed up to a game night, only to play our own little game instead of playing with everyone else, we sat down to get started.

I think I was a little disadvantaged here because I came straight from a 9 hour work day to play a game I've never played before. And I'm not just excusing a poor performance. Really, I'm not. Katie's pretty great at explaining rules but, I admit, I drifted a little... My attention span is just not that great. Certainly not as great as an ostrich's wingspan! (Did that joke land? No... Ostriches are flightless you say? Ah phooey). 

This was really the first game I've ever played with Katie and it was delightful! She's a great opponent and BJ and I both had a really good time! Even though she stomped us. Into the ground. And then buried us. 

Next time, I'm gonna win. 

My Thoughts: Even though Katie did a great job of explaining the rules, there were SO MANY rules. I didn't really "get" everything that was going on until about three-quarters of the way through our playthrough. Which makes sense, it's dense. What I wish I had done was to look at the "swift-start pack" that comes with the game and gives a good run-down of a few turns by playing through them.

I feel like that little pack is included just for casual gamers like me who might have trouble digesting a lot of rules at once. All of this said, I had a good time and I'm glad I played it, even happier that I own it.


Pros: This game is PRETTY. I love the theme, I love the design, I love the components. Once you get the hang of the rules, it's a very elegant game too. Not too much about it that I'd call clunky. I love the birdfeeder dice tower. I really like that I had to make some good choices without ever being overwhelmed by any of them. The game usually gives you ways to make things work so you're not stuck, like, when you're playing a bird card you can spend two of any food tokens to make any one other food token. I like that it doesn't leave you entirely at the mercy of random dice for that.


Cons: I'm not going to lie here, the bonus cards made me just the tiniest bit salty. The ones I had to choose from were entirely too luck based for my tastes in a game where there wasn't much other randomness. Don't get me wrong, I love luck based games, but those in those games you tend to know what you're getting into. They're usually luck with just a hint of strategy. This seemed like a little bit of luck that you then try to base your strategy on. It feels silly and petty typing it out, but it was a bit of a "feels bad" at the time. That said, the fact that I don't have more substantial things to gripe about should tell you what a solid game this is.

Phew... that was a lot... So now I'm going to hand the mike off to Katie! YEET!

"Thanks, Bubba!

Like Wingspan, but don't have any folks around? Never fear. Wingspan can be played solo! Squawk!

In the solo version of Wingspan, the player is competing against a solo bot called an automa; its controlled by a deck of cards. Additionally, the difficulty of the automa can be set based on the player's choice. These have the adorable names of eaglet, eagle, and eagle-eyed eagle! The automa also gets a bonus card. The automa and the player alternate turns, starting with the human player.


On the automa's turn, an automa card is revealed. The automa cards have four lines of text, one for each round. The text corresponding to the current round is activated. These automa actions include:
1. Removing a food die from the feeder. Yum!
2. Collecting eggs.
3. Collecting cubes, which count towards the end-of-round goal.
4. Activating the human player's once-per-round powers. Yay!
5. Collecting a facedown bird card that scores end-game points [5/6/7] based on the chosen difficulty level. The face-up bird cards will also wipe. It keeps you on your toes/talons!
6. Collecting a face-up bird card from the card row that matches their goal card's criteria. The automa never needs to pay food or egg costs. Powers and when-played abilities are never activated. It is worth its printed point value.


At the end of the round, the player counts the items that qualify for the end-of-round goal. They compare that number to that of the automa, which is the sum of the cubes collected this round plus a round-dependent number. End-of-round scoring is then awarded as normal. Good luck!

At the end of the game, the player scores their points as normal. The automa will get points for collected eggs, face-up birds that met their bonus card, face-down cards based on chosen difficulty level, and points achieved for the end-of round-goal. The automa never has cached food or tucked cards.

My thoughts:


Pros: I enjoy this game solo almost as much as the competitive game. The automa deck is easy to use; it has low up-keep compared to automas in some other strategy games. Despite its ease of use, it still provides competition for the bird cards and food dice. I also like that is scalable in difficulty.


Cons: My only minor complaint is the awarding of the end-of-round points. I find it inelegant and sometimes slightly frustrating. However, this is a relatively minor complaint.

Overall, I highly recommend playing this game solo. It is enjoyable way to spend an hour and reasonably replicates all of the great gameplay of the multi-player game.

Are you an eaglet, eagle, or eagle-eyed eagle? Find out in the solo version of Wingspan! Squawkkkk!"


Thanks Katie!


Wrap Up: I am definitely happy that I own this game and I'm really glad that I finally played it to see what all the hype was about. While I feel that my first play could have gone better, I'm excited to see how my second play though goes! Show me an elegant game with a great theme and I'm a sucker every time.


Catch you on the flip, Zip!


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