Wingspan: It’s Got the Birds You Crave

Do you like birds? Of course you do! Everyone likes birds! Take a moment to think about your favorite bird before continuing.

That was nice, wasn’t it? Excellent choice, by the way–I also love that bird.

If you’re as big a bird fan as me and Borat voice my wife, you’re probably looking for more ways to get birds into your day. One avenue you may not have explored for spontaneous daily bird injection: board games!

I know what you’re thinking. Board games are all about, like… candy, or money, or beating up supervillains with your friends. And you’re mostly right! But what if I told you there was a board game about birds? Side note: I accidentally typed ‘bird game’ instead of ‘board game’ back there. I almost left it because it was thematically on-point, but I thought it might be confusing.

Anyway, my point is, there actually is a board game about birds! It’s called Wingspan and it is, for reals, a game about competitive bird-watching.

In Wingspan, each player is trying to see the coolest birds. You do this by playing bird cards onto your habitat board. You can then take different birdie actions, which can activate different birds and score you points in a variety of ways.

First, let’s talk about the habitat board. Each player has one, and it’s got three different habitats: forest, plains, and water. Most birds can only be played in a specific habitat, and each habitat is associated with a particular action. The forest habitat is focused on gathering food; the plains allow you to lay eggs; and the water habitat lets you draw bird cards.

On your turn, you can take one of four actions: play a bird, gather food, lay eggs, or draw bird cards. Playing a bird requires you to pay the bird’s listed food cost, and depending on where you play it, may also require you to spend an egg or two.

Gather food allows you to gain food tokens, which are used to play birds. The gather food action also allows you to activate any birds in your forest habitat, using their special abilities. Laying eggs allows you to gain egg tokens and activate birds in your plains, and the draw bird cards action has you draw cards from the bird deck and activate your water birds.

You can only take one action on your turn, so things move pretty quickly. There are four rounds, each consisting of a handful of turns per player, and each round has a different goal; one round might give you points for having eggs in your water habitat, while another one might have you prioritize birds with a particular type of nest.

The goal, essentially, is to stack up your habitats with useful birds; that way, whenever you need to take one of your actions, you’re activating a slew of rad flyin’ dudes.

You’ll need to plan those actions carefully, too. A lot of end-of-round scoring is egg-based, so it’s a good idea to fill up your plains quickly to maximize your egg turns; on the other hand, you need a lot of food to play a lot of birds, so don’t ignore your forest. And, of course, to get the primo birds you’ll probably need to draw a few times, so setting up your water habitat isn’t going to hurt.

As I’ve talked about in my Marvel Champions posts, I’m a fan of building engines in card games. I love setting up a board that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Wingspan takes that concept and soars with it. The whole game is about building a feather-fueled bird-machine–one that will stomp your opponent’s hollow-boned attempts at birding.

(Real talk, though, one of the things I like about this game is that it’s competitive without being, you know, competitive. You’re trying to score points, but you’re not working to screw over the other players, so the chances of hurt feelings are pretty slim. Also, in the first few rounds we’ve played, the winner was only ahead by a single point—it’s not a game where one player is going to completely dominate.)

It’s a game that’s easy to pick up, plays relatively quickly, and has over a hundred beautifully illustrated bird cards. Oh, hey, that reminds me: the production values are excellent. The cards are lovely, with great art and interesting facts about each bird; the tokens are pretty, especially the little eggs; even the rule book is made of a higher-quality paper than I’m used to seeing in board games. It even has wooden dice, and an adorable birdhouse dice tower to roll them in!

Basically, this is a great game for any bird enthusiast. And since everyone loves birds, it’s a great game for everyone!

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