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Wingspan Game Overview

Wingspan Game Overview

Wingspan Game Overview

Welcome to our Overview of Wingspan!

In our overview you will find a description of the game along with details of the components and how to play. Our Game Overviews aim to be informative and impartial. If you are interested in our opinion check out our Wingspan Review

The Game – Wingspan

Do you have a love of nature? The birds, the trees… ok mostly the birds? If you are a bird enthusiast or someone who wants a relaxed engine building game, this is the game for you. Stonemaier Games has partnered with designer Elizabeth Hargrave to create a fun game called Wingspan. This game came out in 2018 and it has proven to be very popular! You will be trying to attract all sorts of birds to make their homes in your three habitats and scoring points.

Game Components

The quality of the Wingspan game components is excellent. Everything from the wooden action cubes to the egg miniatures and even the wooden dice show how much care has been put into the components. Even the paper in the rule book is beautiful.

  • 1 rulebook – contains the rules and is supplemented with the amazing bird illustrations found throughout the game.
  • 1 appendix – This acts as the quick start guide with a list of every bird species and all the details about the bird card.
  • 1 goal board – this game gets payed in rounds and this board tracks how well you do towards the round goal.
  • 1 bird tray – holds the 3 bird card display.
  • 5 player mats – These boards are fun to look at and have three habitats on each board, each player gets their own board.
  • 1 bird feeder dice tower – This dice tower looks cool. It has a nice tray at the bottom so the dice stay in the feeder.
  • 1 scorepad – this is a pad of score sheets that you will use oner per game to tally up the score.
  • 170 bird cards – These cards have 170 different bird species and are the primary cards in the game.
  • 26 bonus cards – Did you ever want to be a wetland specialist? These cards provide you with secret goals to score extra points.
  • 75 egg miniatures – Every bird can lay eggs and yours is no exception. You can place these miniature eggs on your birds.
  • 5 custom wooden dice – these dice determine what food is available in a given turn.
  • 40 wooden action cubes – each player gets their own set of cubes and these are used to track what a player does in a round.
  • 103 food tokens – your birds need to eat… and these tokens must be spent to put birds into play.
  • 8 goal tiles – these tiles provide unique round ending goals.
  • 1 first player token – who goes first each round? This marker is perfect to help the players remember.

Setup

Wingspan takes about 10 minutes to setup the first time, most of which is constructing the Bird Feeder dice tower (or maybe we aren’t good at following the directions). Future set up for games is quick and easy, just shuffle the deck of bird cards, deal the cards and hand out food tokens and you are ready to play.  

During setup, shuffle the decks of cards and tile then lay everything out within easy reach of all players. Place 3 bird cards face up in the Bird Display. Toss the five food dice in the bird feeder, this is the starting food available. Determine how you will score the game, the goal board is double sided, green for direct competition (ranking players 1st, 2nd and 3rd) or blue for a less competitive point counting approach. Randomly select 4 goal tiles, one for each round of the game and place them on the goal board. We love the ability to easily vary the way the game is scored and the random goal selection, it keeps the game fresh and new every time we play. 

Player Setup

Each player takes a player mat, 8 action cubes of their chosen color, 2 bonus cards, 5 bird cards and 5 food tokens, one of each type – invertebrate, seed, fish, fruit, and roden).

Each player must decide which bird cards they want to keep and which cards they want to discard. Now this is important. For every bird card a player keeps, one food token must be discarded. By the end, each player should have a combination of bird cards and food tokens that add up to 5.

Then each player should look at the 2 bonus cards and decide which to keep and which to discard. It is a good idea to look at your bonus cards before you decide what to do with your birds and food – never let an opportunity to strategize go to waste!

Finally randomly select a player to go first and give them the “First Player” token.

Game Play

Wingspan is played over the course of four rounds and in each round players are trying to score as many points as possible. Within a round, each player is taking turns and on each turn can do one of four actions. A player can:

  1. Play a bird
  2. Gain food from the birdfeeder
  3. Lay eggs on birds
  4. Draw additional bird cards

When choosing an action to play, each player takes a action cube and plays it into the leftmost exposed card slot for the action they want to do. The exception to this is the “Play a bird” action, here each player places it into the leftmost spot at the top of the board where the player wants to place the birds in the habitat. So for instance if a player have no birds on the board, they place it above the first column, for each new bird they place in a specific habitat, they place the action cube in the next available column.

Playing a Bird

Let’s dig into this a little more, so a player has decided to place a bird and the action cube is placed at the top of the player mat. It now costs the player both the egg cost under the action cube and the food cost shown in the upper left of the bird they want to play. Also, birds are tied to their habitat and that is shown above the food cost. Players can only play a bird into a habitat they can live in, some birds have more than one habitat listed.

You pay the egg cost comes of the birds you want to play from the nests of the birds already in your sanctuary. The food cost is played from the store you have gathered. Also, if a player doesn’t have the correct food token, they may play two tokens of any type as a substitute for the missing food token.

For example, the “Painted Bunting” bird can only be played to the grassland habitat. It can be played into any slot in the habitat, but only if the player can pay both the egg cost at the top of the column and the cost of 1 invertebrate, and two seeds.

As the game progresses, the players will be filling in their bird sanctuary with more and more birds. These birds provide additional benefits to scoring points.

Gaining Food

As you see above, players need food to be able to play a bird into their sanctuary in Wingspan. So how do they get food? If a player plays their action cube into the top row in the leftmost exposed slot, they can gain food. The number of dice shown in the slot is equal to the number of food they can pick up. If in addition there is a bird card with an arrow to a die, the player may discard a bird card to gain an additional food token.

When gaining food, a player must take a die from the bird feeder and remove it and take the corresponding food token. So if a die shows a seed icon, the players can only take a seed food token when removed from the bird feeder. Some sides of the dice have multiple food icons and then it is up to the player which token to take. If there is ever only one type of food left in there bird feeder (including if there is only a single die) then all dice can be rerolled through the bird feeder . For this purpose, the multiple food side of the die is considered a unique side.

If a player chooses to gain food, and they have birds already placed in the forest habitat, after gaining the food they move their action cube one slot to the left. This activates any brown actions on that bird card. They continue to move the action cube to each bird to the left and activating the special abilities on each until the cube reaches the first column. This is an engine and activating these birds is how a player can maximize the points they can score.

Laying Eggs

As mentioned in the “Playing a Bird” section, as players fill in their sanctuary they will need to spend eggs to play those birds. Laying eggs is how they get eggs into the nests of the birds in their sanctuary. If a player places their action cube in the leftmost slot in the middle (grassland) habitat, they can gain the number of eggs listed in that slot. These eggs are then placed on any bird in their sanctuary provided that the bird has enough room in their nest. The number of eggs a bird can have in it’s nest is shown on the bird card. If a player has more eggs to place than slots that are available throughout the board, they must discard any remaining eggs back to the supply. Some egg slots allow players to pay a food token to gain an additional egg. This can be any food token. Each egg in the sanctuary is one point at the end of the game, so make sure you get as many eggs as you can on the board before the game ends.

As with gaining food, once a player gets eggs, they may move their action cube to the left activating any special abilities for each bird as they go.

Draw Bird Cards

The final action a player can do on their turn is to draw more cards from the deck or bird display area. By placing an action cube in the leftmost exposed slot in the bottom row, wetland habitat, the player can gain that many bird cards. Some slots also have the added benefit that a player may discard an egg to gain an extra card.

Finally, as with Gaining Food and Laying Eggs, a player then continues to activate the special abilities on each card to the left.

Bird Card Special Powers

On each bird card in Wingspan, there is a section under the bird image with that bird’s special power. Birds either have a “When Played”, “When Activated” (brown) or “Once Between Turns” (pink) special action.

When Played

If a bird has this action, this is done immediately when the bird is played into the players sanctuary.

When Activated

When a player plays either “Gain Food”, “Lay Eggs” or “Draw Bird Cards”, these actions activate as the player moves their action cube back to the left. This is how a player can increase their score by strategically placing birds into their habitats for maximum points.

Once between turns

These usually are related to how other players are playing. If a bird has this as their special action, then once between turns a player can activate the special ability. It takes a keen eye to see how other people are playing and if that will allow a player to activate this type of card. But it is worth paying attention, these tend to be the most powerful in the game.

Anatomy of a Bird Card

We’ve talked a fair amount about looking at the bird cards to determine what a player can and can not do in a given turn.

Each card has a few main features:

  • Habitat – birds can only be played into the habitats shown in this area of the card.
  • Food Cost – the food listed in this section is needed to play the bird card. If there is a slash (/) between icons its considered an “or” but it its a plus (+) you must have each food tokens shown.
  • Bird Name – This is both the Language Name (in our case English) for the bird followed by the official Latin name.
  • Bird Illustration – The bird illustrations to show what the bird looks like – the artwork is beautiful.
  • Number of Feathers – This acts as points during the end of game scoring, the higher the value, the more that bird is worth.
  • Type of Nest – These are used in the end of round scoring. Some goal tiles specify what type of nest is needed to score points.
  • Number of Eggs – The maximum number of eggs this bird can have in their nest.
  • Wingspan – Some birds have special abilities that allow you to compare the wingspan to that ability. Most notably when a bird hunts it can only catch prey of a specified wingspan.
  • Special Abilities – These are listed in detail in the section above. We’ll just add that some birds have a bird icon here. This means other bird cards can be tucked under this one to create a flock. Each card counts as 1 point at the end of the game. Also some birds can cache food on their card this is also used at the end of the game to score points.
  • Region of the world bird inhabits – These tell the players where this bird is located.

Rounds

In each round of Wingspan players start with a set number of action cubes. In the first round they each have 8, in the second round they have 7, third round 6 cubes and fourth round, 5 cubes. The number of action cubes equates to the number of turns in a round.

At the end of each round, players remove all action cubes from their player mat. Then they score the end of round goal. To do this the players look at the goal tile for the round and count up how many times they have met the required condition. They then place one action cube on the scorecard.

If the players are using the green side, the player in first place for the round places their token there, If there is a tie, they both place their tokens on the place but do not award the next place. If the players are using the blue side, scoring is slightly easier. They each place a single cube on the total number of successes towards the goal. Even if a player scores 0, they must place their cube on 0.

By placing cubes on the scorecard after each round, each player ends up with one less turn in each subsequent round.

After scoring the birds, discard all birds from the bird tray and add three new birds for the next round.

Finally the players rotate the “first player” token clockwise to the next player.

Game End Scoring

Wingspan is scored after the fourth round and you have a convenient score pad provided to tally up the numbers. Points are scored in six different ways:

  • Each bird card on a players mat gets points for the number of feathers listed.
  • Each bonus card has a number of points printed on it and a player scores based on their completion of those bonus goals.
  • Each round score on the goal board gets added to their total.
  • 1 point for each egg in a player’s aviary.
  • 1 point for each food token cached on a bird card.
  • 1 point for each bird card tucked under another bird card.

The player with the most points wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the most food tokens left, wins. If it is still a tie, they share the victory!