Wingspan by Stonemaier Games
Players: 1 to 5
Playtime: 40 to 70 minutes
Perfect for: Groups and families who enjoy strategic set collection, resource allocation, a hint of engine building, and birds!
Wingspan is a game of getting feathered friends to flock together! Or more specifically, the collection of specific kinds of birds while considering their diets and desired habitats.
To begin Wingspan, each player receives some personal bonus objectives, one portion of each food type, five bird cards, and their personal player area which they will eventually populate with birds. On a turn, a player will expend an action cube to perform one of the following: 1) place a bird card in its correct ecosystem by paying a resource cost; 2) collect resources; 3) lay eggs (a necessary resource); or 4) acquire new bird cards. The round proceeds until all players have used all their action cubes.
When a round concludes, players determine who achieved the associated bonus. For example, a round bonus could be the awarding of points to the person with the most eggs on bird cards that have a particular nest symbol. After four rounds, everyone tabulates their victory points across several factors: the value of their played bird cards, secret objectives met, collected round bonuses, and other items (cards, eggs, and resources) added to player mats. The individual with the most points is the winner.
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What works in Wingspan is the brilliant theme fused with the mechanics. Notable are the 170 unique bird cards illustrated by Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez. Each card features accurate information about the featured bird including what it typically eats, its size (wingspan), where it lives, nesting habit, and the average number of eggs it produces. These characteristics form the basis for many of the set-collection bonuses. Furthermore, the engine-building and resource acquisition facets of the game keeps play highly engaging. Individuals must think critically a few moves of ahead to optimize their strategy. This is especially true given that the food supply has a randomness component: players roll die to determine what is available and it is possible that opponents could snatch up desired resources.
Wingspan has a very specific competitive flavor that individuals may enjoy more or less than others. There are some actions that benefit other players, like the instant awarding of resources when a particular bird gets activated. But still, players could easily get into resource “wars” as they go after round bonuses or even certain types of birds. Most people will be happy with the very light jockeying, but it is important to know it exists when sitting down to play.
In 2019, Wingspan won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award (also known as the Connoisseur-gamer Game of the Year) and for good reason. Wingspan has an incredible amount of depth, creativity, and accessibility. This combination means that the game has super high replay value and thus comes with the highest of recommendations.
Recommended if you like: Terraforming Mars, Everdell, Through the Ages
Final Grade: A+
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