The Board Dame Reviews: Wingspan


“You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves.”

Wingspan is a 1-5 player engine builder designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and published by Stonemaier Games with artwork by Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas and Beth Sobel.

Box Game Length: 40-70 Minutes

Actual Playtime: 60-90 Minutes (I can see this eventually getting to under an hour even at max players)

Setup time: 5 minutes

Player Count: 1-5 Players

Game Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Hand Management and Set Collection.


Game Weight: 2.44/5

Thematic Integration: High! So pleased with how well this game integrates the theme with mechanics. Here’s a few things that stood out for me.

  • The direct relation of eggs a bird can have in its nest is proportionally related to how many they can lay in real life.
  • Birds of prey will “eat” smaller birds and tuck them under their card. Which simulates how they will hunt a variety of prey, including other birds. I really got a kick out of this one.
  • Though realistically, this can be any resource, the fact that you have to have eggs to hatch new birds made me squee. So dang cute!

Objective: Your objective in Wingspan is to build the biggest and birdliest of tableaus. Each bird will have a different ability that you will use to create an engine of birdly domination. At the end of each round, you will gain points based on end of round objectives, but in the end, there can only be one crowned king/queen of birds!


Game Round Summary: You will start the game with 8 action cubes, with those cubes, you are able to select one of the following 4 actions:

  • Play a bird: Play a bird in your tableau in the appropriate habitat by paying the required amount of food depicted on the card and eggs depicted on the board.
  • Gain food: Select the a number of food from the bird feeders and gain their respective tokens. This food will be used to play new birds.
  • Lay eggs: Add the appropriate number of eggs from the supply to a bird/s of your choice making sure not to exceed how many eggs that bird can have in their nest. These will be used to play new birds as well as worth victory points at the end of the game.
  • Draw bird cards: Draw the appropriate amount of cards from available birds in the trade row, or draw blind from the face down stack and add them to your hand.

Turn continues clockwise until everyone has played all of their cubes (8 actions). At the end of the round, you will score points based on end of round objectives, use one of your action markers to denote which space on the scoring track you obtained. This means the following round you will have one less action.

The game ends after 4 rounds, tally up all victory points from birds, eggs left in nests, food collected on cards, and birds tucked under cards.

Artwork: Just wow, if you’re a fan of birds, or even if you aren’t a fan of birds, the artwork in this game is stunning. So much love went into each card to ensure they were accurate to real life.

It reminded me of this beautiful animals of North America book I had when I was a kid. I always admired the beautiful watercolour paintings of each of the animals, and this really did something for me.

Not to mention the awesome little tidbits of information about each bird species on each card. Guys, did I mention that each card has a different bird on it? That means there were roughly 170 different illustrations made for this game. Even the player board are stunning!

Stonemaier doesn’t skimp on their games, and this one isn’t any different. As I mentioned above, the artwork is top notch, but it’s also printed on a beautiful card stock. Even the rulebook is super high quality paper and has a really nice tactile sensation when reading/touching it.

Then the eggs, my gosh, so stinking cute. These could have easily been cardboard egg tokens like the food, but this is easily one of the most visually satisfying things about the game and so glad they went with mini eggs and not cardboard.

Each time you lay eggs, you add these cadbury mini chocolate looking eggs to the board in 5 different colours. No seriously, they made me want to eat them. But more important than look, is functionality, not only is this really satisfying to look at and touch, but much easier to visualize how much of something another player has.

They’ve even included a beautiful dice tower to roll the food dice. Another item that really didn’t need to be included, but sends the quality and thoughtfulness of this game over the top.

Last but not least as it is important to some folks is the inclusion of a Game Trayz. Not only does this serve as a storage unit so that cards don’t move around, but it’ll act as the trade row during game play to display available birds.

Seriously huge props to Stonemaier for doing all this. Impeccable production value, it’s not just pretty to be pretty, but serves an important function to game play in so many ways.


Scales Based on Player Count:

Solo: The solo AI is an awesome edition for people that like to do it solo. There’s a total of 11 automa cards of which you draw one each round and complete the actions in that round space on the card. As these draws are random, eac game will be completely different. At the end of the round, you do a round scoring, reshuffle the cards and start again. Seeing as the game isn’t highly interactive to begin with, the automa in this game is really great for learning and playing.

2-3 Players – Private objectives are easier to accomplish as the birds you need are less likely to be taken quickly from the trade row, so you are less dependant on blind draws.

This also makes your engine building a bit better in the sense that you can choose birds that pair well together. IE. a bird that generates a resource, and another bird that spends that resource.

The same can be said for the food availability from the bird feeder.

End of round scoring is less competitive as you won’t have multiple way ties happening very often.

4-5 Players – This player count is more interactive in the sense that more birds with pink banners will be in play. Birds with pink banners interact with other player’s turns, so you’re not always sitting there doing nothing when it isn’t your turn.

There will also be more brown banner birds that have abilities that cause other players to gain actions/abilities in play as well.

The downside to this player count is that the competition for end of round scoring is going to be much higher as will be the ability to get the birds you want in the trade row as the trade row doesn’t increase or decrease in size based on player count. So you’re less likely to get that bird you want by the time it makes it back around to you, which also in turns means that your engine won’t always be as optimized as you’d want.

It’s worth noting that downtime really isn’t an issue at any player count as game play is incredibly fast. Before you know it, you’re up again.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 5.59.23 pm

Replayability: With the ease of playing/teaching, speed of game play and large variety in birds and abilities. Replayability is great. We also only have had North American birds made available to us. With the addition of future expansions that will include birds from different regions, the replayability will only get better.

Overall Thoughts: It is a beautiful, fun and light game with a fairly unique theme. I mean, how many bird games do you have? I don’t have any, unless you count a couple cardline games that have birds.

The fact that it’s light but also quick makes it a must have in my collection. Far too often we have light games that take too much time to play for what they are. That, coupled with it’s accessibility to a broad array of board gamers is a huge selling point. Not to mention it’s educational aspects will certainly make it a hit for families. I’ve yet to play this with my 7 year old niece, but I know that she will enjoy it just as much as I did.

It’s not too often that games can make you excited about Zoology, in this particular case, Ornithology. I’m certain that you don’t need me to tell you that this game is worth every penny, but I’m going to anyways. Go buy this game! Like now!

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