Tuesday, January 17, 2023


My number 17 favorite game of all time is Wingspan. I remember writing a rather involved review of Wingspan on Facebook back when we ("we," being myself and my wonderful wife, Julie) first played the game. So, I have decided to share that here.


Wingspan (from a Facebook post on October 18, 2020)

If you are a board game enthusiast, then you have heard of the board game: Wingspan. Wingspan has been the object of a lot of positive hype over the past year or so. It won the German hobby game of the year award in 2019 (the Kennerspiel des Jahres.) It also won the Board Game Geek board game of the year award (the Golden Geek Award) and the Dicetower Game of the Year Award for 2019. These are just a few of Wingspan's accolades.

The thing about hype is ... it can be misleading. Take the above mentioned awards. In 2019 the Dicetower award for best family game went to: Point Salad. I purchased Point Salad based on this, and Julie and I like Point Salad well enough, but is it award winning? I don't know. Not for me, I guess. So, hype: Wingspan gets so much of it, that I almost don't want to play it, just to be contrary. But, I gave in to the peer pressure and purchased Wingspan while on vacation in Michigan.

I don't know what I was thinking. Nothing can live up to the amount of hype that Wingspan has been getting. So, with ridiculously inflated expectations, I opened up Wingspan, and Julie and I played it last night.

And, then we played it, again ...

And again ...

And again.



In Wingspan, players attract birds (a.k.a. cards) to their own personal bird sanctuaries (a.k.a. player boards.) You do this by putting out food (a.k.a. dice) in bird feeders (a.k.a. really cool birdhouse shaped dice tray.)

Each player's sanctuary (player board) is made up of three distinct habitats: woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands. Birds will only move into the habitats indicated on their cards, and each habitat will hold a maximum of five cards.

These three habitats are arranged on your player board as three rows of five columns each, creating a 3x5 grid. When you add a card (bird) to your player board, you place the card in the left most open column for the habitat (row) where that bird belongs.

The first card (bird) in a column must be purchased using the food cost shown on the card. (Food resources are rolled on dice in the aforementioned really cool birdhouse dice tray.) After that, later cards in the same row (habitat) will also cost you some eggs. (One egg for columns 2 and 3; two eggs for columns 4 and 5.) This reflects the growth of your habitats as the birds living there lay eggs and their populations grow.

This brings us to the actions that you can perform on your turn, and this is a really cool part of the game. Each row that represents a habitat also corresponds to a specific action that you can take on your turn.

The top row hosts the "Gather Food" action, which allows you to take food from the bird feeder. The middle row hosts the "Lay Eggs" action, which allows you to place a few eggs (cool little miniatures in Easter colors) onto some of your bird cards. The bottom row hosts the "Draw Cards" action, which allows you to put more cards in your hand, thereby increasing your options for attracting birds. (There is no limit to the number of cards you can have.)

Now for the cool bits: When you choose an action, the strength of that action (how much food, how many eggs, how many cards you get) is based on the information printed in the left most open column of that row. This means that as you add cards (birds) to your habitats, you automatically make these actions stronger.

But, wait ... there's more.

Many of the bird cards include special text that say, "When activated, do this thing ..." A bird card is "activated" when you take the action in the row of the habitat where that bird lives.

Let's say you take the "Gather Food" action. This action aligns with the top row of your player board which is the "Woodlands" habitat and you have two birds (cards) living here. Since the two birds occupy columns one and two, the strength of your "Gather Food" action comes from the first open column, column 3. This says that you can gather two foods.

However, in addition to getting the two foods, you now work your way from right to left back tracking in this row and performing any "When Activated" powers on your bird cards. Maybe one card allows you to get additional food when activated, and another card lays an egg in their bird nest when activated. All of this happens as a result of your single "Gather Food" action, because of the cards you have placed in this row (habitat.)

The engine building in Wingspan is cool and intuitive. Every bird that you add to a habitat has the potential to make the action in that row exponentially better. Perhaps best of all, the layout and design of the player board is such that the game play seems simple, while the vast variety of cards and special powers available is such that your options seem limitless. (There are 170 unique cards each featuring a different bird.)

The theme is so awesomely realized here. A bird's special power may be to lay eggs in another bird's nest, and this is based on the actual bird's behavior in nature. Birds of prey might capture mice or fish or other birds, and the mechanics of the special powers allow you to do this seamlessly. Carrion eating birds like Vultures have powers that activate when another player successfully hunts with their birds of prey. It all just makes so much sense. Every card featuring every bird has flavor text that describes something special about that bird.

Wingspan earns every ounce of praise and positive hype that it has received. To be honest, I am a little bit in awe of it. Wingspan is something of a masterpiece. In a year or so, should I get around to posting a board game top 100 again, I expect that Wingspan will land very near the top of the list.


And it has, landing at number 17!

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