Released earlier this year Wingspan has taken the board game industry by storm. In just one year the game has already risen to the top 50 board games of all time and currently sits as the best family game of all time. This was topped off by Wingspan winning the 2019 Kennerspiel Des Jahres. With so much hype I wanted to try out Wingspan. I was a little hesitant though because games that climb the rankings so quickly can usually attribute it to recency bias and generally come back down after a while. While I am not much of a birdwatcher myself I thought the theme was really interesting as I have never seen a board game that has utilized a bird watching theme before. Wingspan may be a little overrated but it takes a bunch of interesting mechanics and combines them with a surprisingly good theme to somehow make a great board game about bird watching.
How to Play Wingspan
- Shuffle each type of card separately and sort the tokens by their types.
- Insert the dice into the back of the birdfeeder so that they are rolled into the tray.
- Choose whether you are going to use the green or blue side of the goal board.
- Shuffle the goal tiles and randomly place one tile with a random side face up on each of the four round spaces.
- 1 player mat
- 8 action cubes of one color
- 2 random bonus cards
- 5 random bird cards
- 5 food tokens (one of each type)
Anatomy of a Bird Card
Each bird card in the game has various pieces of information that will be used throughout the game.
Habitat: In the top left corner of the card there will be one or more symbols. These symbols represent the different habitats on the player boards. A bird can only be placed in one of the habitats shown in this area.
Food: The symbol(s) below the habitat are the food requirements for the bird. In order to play a bird card to your player mat you must pay food tokens equal to the symbols displayed here. A wheel displaying five different colors is a wild food which can be fulfilled by any type of food. A crossed off symbol indicates that the bird requires no food.
Points: The number next to the feather on the left side of the card indicates how many points the bird will be worth at the end of the game.
Nest Type: The nest type indicates what type of nest the bird uses. This is referenced by bird cards, end of round goals, and bonus cards. A star nest will act as a wild for all of the types of nests.
Egg Limit: The number of eggs shown indicates how many eggs can be placed on a bird card.
Ability: The bird’s ability will be displayed along the bottom of the card. There are three different types of abilities which are handled differently. See the Bird Powers section for more information.
Wingspan: Along the right side of the card is the bird’s wingspan. This number is referenced by some of the bird abilities in the game.
Wingspan consists of a total of four rounds. In each round the players will take turns performing an action.
For each turn you can choose one of four different actions.
- Play a bird card from your hand.
- Gain food from the bird feeder and activate forest bird powers.
- Lay eggs and activate grassland bird powers.
- Draw bird cards and activate wetland bird powers.
Play will then pass to the next player clockwise. Players will continue taking turns until all of the players have used all of their action cubes. When you reach the end of the round you will take the following actions:
- Take off all of the action cubes from your mat.
- Score the current end of round goal.
- Discard all of the bird cards from the bird tray and restock them with cards from the draw pile.
- The first player marker moves one space clockwise. This player will start the next round.
To score the end of round goals you will compare the bird cards and eggs on your mat to the tile for the current round. If you have chosen to use the blue side of the goal board players will score one point for each instance that meets the goal. They will place one of their action cubes on the corresponding space.
If the green side was chosen the players will compare how many instances of the goal they have. To be available to score points you need to have at least one instance of the goal. The player who has the most will place their action cube on the first position. The player with the second most will place their token on second place and so on. If there is a tie the tied players will put their token on the higher position and place no tokens on the next position.
Playing A Bird Card
The first action that a player can perform on their turn is to add one of the bird cards from their hand to their player mat. To begin you will place one of your action cubes on the top column of your player mat to indicate that you are taking this action. You will then choose which bird card that you want to play and in which habitat you want to play them. A bird can only be played in one of the habitats shown in the habitat section of the card.
To play the card a player has to potentially pay two different costs. The first cost that you will have to pay is the bird’s food cost. In order to play the bird card you will have to discard food tokens equal to the food shown in the food section of the card. If there is a food token that you need but don’t have you can exchange two food tokens for the type of food you are missing.
After you have paid the food cost you will place the bird in the leftmost unoccupied space in the habitat that you plan on placing the bird. You will then look at the top of the column that you placed the bird card in to see if there is a cost to place a bird in that column. If the column has a cost you will have to take the corresponding eggs from your other bird cards and return them to the supply.
Finally if the bird card that you have played has a power that says “when played” you will immediately take that action if you want to use it.
Gain Food and Activate Forest Bird Powers
When you take this action place an action cube on the furthest space to the left that is unoccupied in the forest habitat. Depending on the symbol on the space that you place your action cube you will get to take one or more of the dice from the birdfeeder.
For each die symbol on the space you will get to take one die. If the space also shows a card with an arrow pointing to a die, you can discard one card to take another die. You cannot take advantage of this more than once in the current action.
When you have chosen which food you want you will take the die out of the birdfeeder and take a food token of the same type from the supply. If you pick a die that shows two symbols you will get to choose which of the two you would like to take.
The dice in the birdfeeder will remain on their current faces and will not be re-rolled at the end of the player’s turn. The dice will only be re-rolled in two situations. If all of the dice have been removed from the birdfeeder all of the dice will be re-rolled. If all of the dice/die have the same symbol face up the player can also choose to re-roll all of the dice. This only occurs when a player will gain food for any reason.
After gathering food you will activate bird powers from the birds in the forest habitat from right to left (see below).
Laying Eggs and Activate Grassland Bird Powers
When you want to take this action you will place an action cube on the furthest left space that is unoccupied in the grasslands habitat.
The number of eggs you will be able to lay depends on the number of eggs shown on the space that you placed your action cube on. The player will take one egg from the supply for each egg shown on the space. If the space also shows the multi-color circle with an arrow pointing to an egg the player can discard one of their food tokens in order to take an additional egg.
Once you have gathered up the eggs you will place them on the bird cards on your play mat. You can place eggs on multiple different birds. The only rule with placing eggs is that you can never place more eggs on a bird card than the bird’s egg limit. These eggs will remain on the bird card unless they are discarded for another action. If you can place more eggs than you have room left on your bird cards, the extra eggs will be returned to the supply.
After placing the eggs you will activate the bird powers from the grassland habitat from the right to the left (see below).
Draw Bird Cards and Activate Wetland Bird Powers
When a player wants to take this action they will place an action cube on the leftmost unoccupied space in the wetlands habitat. On this space it will display a number of cards that you will draw. If the space also includes an egg with an arrow pointing to a card you can also discard an egg from one of your bird cards so you can draw another card. There is no limit to the amount of cards you can have in your hand.
When drawing cards players will have two options. They can either take one of the face up cards on the bird tray or they can take the top card from the draw pile. If a player takes one of the face up cards from the bird tray the card will not be replaced until the player has finished drawing cards.
After drawing cards you will activate the bird powers from the wetlands habitat from the right to the left (see below).
In total there are three different types of bird powers. These different types of abilities will be activated at different times in the game. When an ability is activated the player has the choice to not to use the ability.
When Played (no background color): This ability is activated when the bird is added to a player’s mat. This ability can only be used this one time.
Once Between Turns (pink background): These abilities can be activated on another player’s turn when certain conditions are met. They can only be activated once between each of your turns though.
When Activated (brown background): These abilities are activated when a player chooses to use the ability associated with their habitat. These abilities will be activated each time the associated action is taken. Players will move their action cube from right to left stopping at each card along the path. Each bird that has a “when activated” ability can be used if the player wants to use it. After the ability is used the action cube is moved one space to the left.
There are two unique types of when activated abilities.
- Cache: When an ability says that a bird card can cache food, the player can take a food token and place it on the card. This food token will stay on the bird card for the rest of the game. The food will score a point at the end of the game. The food token can never be used to pay the food cost of playing a bird card.
End of Game
At the end of four rounds the players will count up how many points they scored during the game. Players will score points as follows:
Players will tally up the points they scored for each bird they played to their mat.
You will look at your bonus card(s) and see if you meet the requirements to score the bonus points.
Points earned from the end of round goals are totaled and added to your score.
Players will also score one point for each of the following that are on/under one of the bird cards on their mat:
Bird cards tucked under another bird card
The player who has scored the most points will win the game. If there is a tie the player with the most food tokens that weren’t used will break the tie. If there is still a tie the tied players will share the win.
*** For my thoughts on Wingspan, check out page two (link below). ***