Wingspan – When Birds Get Intense

Have you ever wondered about the mental strain of hearing your partner say ‘Yeah, I think I’m gonna grab that penguin’? 

All jokes aside, I will confess right from the start: yes, this game is simply charming. That comes as no surprise, considering the quality of the components, the illustrations that show a very detailed artwork and the theme that feels both universal and original.

Seeing the beautiful or, at times, peculiar birds, the adorable eggs and food tokens, as well as the cute bird feeder simply steals one’s heart.

But how good is the gameplay?

Well, considering it’s one of my favourite board games, I would say it’s almost flawless. In short, you are building a welcoming environment for birds to come and hunt, feed and nest. Each turn, you select one of four simple actions: play a bird card down to your board, by paying the right food tokens and complying with the bird’s habitat restrictions; gain food, by choosing one or more rolled dice from the bird feeder; lay eggs, by taking some adorable egg miniatures and placing them on your bird cards; and draw bird cards, either blind from the deck or by selecting from the bird tray.

It might seem easy to do, but in the later rounds you take fewer and fewer actions, which means that you need to identify strategies and empower your actions early on, in order to make sure that you are still competitive by the end of the game. One of my favourite strategies involves using cards like the Ravens (Common Raven, Chihuahuan Raven) or Crows (American Crow, Fish Crow), that allow you to take food from the supply every time you activate them. But then again, there is also some randomness involved, as you cannot simply choose what birds you would like to play out of the whole deck, which brings us to another aspect of the game that I very much enjoy: there is so much diversity and potential strategy to pull off, that I cannot wait to see what combos I can come up with on the next play.

And talking about diversity and new scenarios, if you are (or become) a Wingspan fan like myself, I recommend you to also try out the European, Oceania and Asia expansions, as they provide a bunch of new abilities to experiment with.

Did I mention that this game was also educational?

It contains unique species cards filled with real-world information, life-like illustrations. I can honestly say that I have never learned so much about birds in my life. And what’s even more interesting is that the powers and characteristics of each bird card represent their behaviour in real life: Brown-headed cowbirds, for instance, earn players points by adding eggs to other birds’ nests, which is a commonly manifested behaviour by the species in the wild. Another example is that of the Northern harriers that boost players’ scores by preying on smaller birds. At the end of the day, you never know when these ‘random bird facts’ may come in handy in a Slumdog Millionaire-like situation.

All in all, Wingspan is absolutely charming and I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not enjoy playing it.

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