Blogs New to the Table Reviews

New to the Table: Wingspan

What is not to love about birds? They are fluffy, pretty, graceful, and amazing. Granted, they do pepper your car from time to time with the reminisce of whatever bug was on the menu recently. They may wake you from a late morning slumber with the song of their people. Every so often they attack you while you are on a stand-up paddleboard, minding your own business, trying to learn. Birds are great – fluffy, pretty, graceful, amazing, and trauma-inducing death harbingers. So great. Now you can have your very own habitat just filled with them. Welcome to Wingspan.


All joking aside, birds are pretty awesome, even the ones who are bent on my demise. I often find myself stopping the car, pulling over, and taking pictures of an unknown bird. I’ll spend the next few hours pouring over Google image after Google image in search of the bird so I can identify the majestic creature. You maybe thinking to yourself that this doesn’t sound like me: You don’t care for these feathered friends. No worries because we aren’t here to talk about birds but a game about birds and this game doesn’t need your admiration of birds to appreciate it.

Wingspan player board in action

Wingspan is something of a marvel when it touches the table. I’ve heard many voices of desertion upon players seeing the cover and learning its theme. Those voices quickly dispelled upon witnessing the production. every little piece in the box shows a level of love that is almost unprecedented. No expense was spared here: 170 unique linen finished bird cards, linen finished rulebook, birdfeeder dice tower, egg miniatures, resource containers, and a custom vacuum-formed card tray. It’s simply beautiful.

Vacuum-formed card tray

The gameplay is another wonder to behold. I would categorize Wingspan as a card-driven engine-building game. Stonemaier Games, the publisher of Wingspan, even defines the game as such. Each card play will trigger an effect at a certain time and will often chain with other card effects played previously. This produces that all too familiar feel-good moment of satisfaction that most engine-builder games do. That moment when all your plans come to fruition.

The card tray has some in game functionality as well

This, however, unlike many other engine-building games, doesn’t bog the players down with excess card text. The complexity of Wingspan is right in that sweet spot: medium-weight. Its true complexity comes with its card play which can truly get players minds cooking: a cornucopia of card combos flows from these birds. A seemingly simple game at first glance with loads of replay value for any player with a desire for mastery.

Custom dice with the birdfeeder dice tower

All these card effects will inevitably roll into the end game which is just as dynamic as its gameplay. Scoring in this game is very robust with not only the birds themselves scoring you points, but the eggs they lay too. You will also receive points from personal objective cards, public objectives, flock size, and cached food. How and where you choose to score these is dependent on the birds you play, when they are activated, and how many times they were activated. A true testament to Wingspans replayability.

The five different food types: fruit, seeds, rodent, invertebrate, and fish.

With all these card play and effects, one might think this is a rather unthematic experience. This couldn’t be farther from the truth as most bird cards effect ties into the depicted birds traits. For example, the Northern Mockingbird card repeats a card effect of another card in its habitat. The Golden Eagle card draws the top card from the deck and eats it if its under 100 cm in wingspan. Some of these thematic ties may have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for the little nuggets of flavor text at the bottom of each card giving fun facts about the bird. These little touches really pull you back to what makes this game special which is a passion for its subject matter.

Egg miniatures

I don’t think I would be doing my due diligence if I didn’t have a few complaints about the game, as minuscule as they might be. After several plays, I find the game to have some randomness and balance issues. This game is very hinged on the abilities of its players to make an effective point engine. That may not be in the cards as you only have so many actions to do so. Often a fortunate player will receive the exact cards needed to do just and others may find themselves in the dust. This I find to be a minor problem as most players are handed a mixed bag and forced to make the best of it. The “golden goose” hand is rarely found.

Wingspan has something to offer almost all gamers at the table. Bird enthusiasts to avid indoor board gamers will unite under the flag of Wingspan. I strongly recommend that you try it for yourself as this may very well be the game of the year. I understand its only February but you will understand upon playing this game. You will not cry fowl.

Traverse City Board Gamers Opinions

Wingspan is unique in part because of the joy of discovery. Every card is different. Each illustration of each unique bird is simply beautiful. During a game with hobbyist birders, each card reveal sparked bird happy noises, as if spotting the bird in the wild, and an animated discussion of the real-life attributes of the bird and how those were reflected the bird’s mechanics.

David Noller

A fun and thought-provoking game of intermediate complexity. Enjoyable even if you have no interest in fowl.

Robert Kneisel

I love the theme of the game and how all the components, from the bird feeder to the eggs to the information on the cards, all enhance the game. The premise seems simple. You build an engine to create your aviary. But there are so many aspects and factors that take it beyond a simple game. It warrants multiple plays with multiple strategies. Wingspan is on my must play again list.

Kate Homminga

It’s rare to find an engaging board game that can give you useful information. The first time I played Wingspan, I learned the name and habits of a visitor to our feeder that I had been meaning to look up, and was delighted. The game is challenging, but very approachable. Like some Euro-style games, it can feel a bit like playing by yourself (while having to wait for your turn), but with more plays, and learning how to leverage the special abilities of bird cards played by others, I expect the feeling will lessen. It also is great that a game themed on natural history can get the popular. I look forward to playing Wingspan again!

Jim Muratzki

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