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Wingspan – Digital Review

Wingspan is a resource building card game based around birds. That may not sound like it’d be the most exciting thing to take place as a 1-5 player game but Wingspan is a surprisingly wholesome and well crafted card game that has been adapted for PC gamers with some beautiful artwork and music.

Building up your bird machine is key – go for food or go for eggs – its your choice!

I will only provide a brief overview of the game for newbies, as I was a newbie too – coming to the game from an ‘I like digital board games and want more’ stance. The idea with Wingspan is to score as many points (feathers) as possible over four rounds and you do this by creating ecosystems of birds doing things to do this. It is like you are a building a points machine to feed birds, lay eggs and add new birds to your environments. Each card is a bird and they have food and habitat preferences as well as special abilities to potentially trigger.

In the forest area, you can feed the birds food to gain feather points. In the savannah area, the birds lay eggs which generates more feather points. In the wetland area, you buy new cards with the feather points. Once a bird is placed, it cannot be moved from that area and you’ll be looking to build the most efficient machine with what you have. You do this by paying attention to the birds’ stats and what their special ability allows them to do either per turn, between turns or whilst activated. It is like an avian flowchart of point production!

Whilst you are doing that, each round has a goal to aim for additional bonus points for who does best. Of course, everyone else playing is doing the same thing with whatever cards they have. You largely play alone building your own machine of point generating birds but if you are sneaky, you can also cultivate birds of prey to swoop in and ruin someone else’s well-oiled machine. Doing so means you’ll also be slowing your machine down too but it is a very viable option. Your preys abilities come down to their wingspan – the bigger the better! As a result, Wingspan has lots of different tactics on hand depending on how detailed you want to get into the game. That is because, with randomly generated round targets – you’ll never quite know what the best strategy will be and whether you’ll get the cards to make it work.

In the forest, you’ll be matching food types to birds to store the food away for winter.

Graphically Wingspan is beautiful, although I found it very busy during my first few games. As each area has its own screen, it is slightly like having form over function but the more I played, the more appreciated the space. That’s because there is a lot to convey in Wingspan – like how you’ve used your birds’ abilities and what markers mean what on their bird sheets. The watercolour and hand-drawn warm shines through and makes it feel like an Etsy store of gaming. Add to that the acoustic music and bird song and you have a hippy fever dream – but in a good way.

Multiplayer is handled in a variety of ways. You can play online and locally up to parties of five. You can shuffle between everyone using the trigger buttons to see other players’ hands which is fine so long as you remember that its there to use! You can also do asynchronous multiplayer too which can work a treat if you are new and don’t want to feel like you are holding up the progression of a game. Outside of that, AI bots are very challenging for newbies (I very much suck at this game despite enjoying it thoroughly) for single-player or mixed AI/multiplayer experiences. There is also an extensive encyclopedia of all the birds in the game with entries unlocking as you discover the birds in your decks.

The savannah is all about laying eggs. Paying special attention to bird abilities will see you take the advantage.

The only word of caution I’d give to Wingspan is that it isn’t a game that you’ll pick up immediately in a ten minutes. There are a lot of systems at play and all of them feel like viable tactics to win. You can pick up the basics and get going but in some ways, you’ll want to practice alone with AI for a while before bringing friends and family into the fold. Take the time and introduce it to people slowly and I think you’ll get a much better experience with it.

That mild cautious word out of the way, once you are into Wingspan, it is a game that gives and gives. There are tons of birds to play with and hours in I’m still finding new quirks and strategies to try. This will be a game that grows with you as your mindspan and knowledge of the game grows with it.

Final Thoughts
A superb card game vividly brought to life in a digital format.
Engrossing game mechanics with tons of depth.
Varying end goals means that you can apply loads of strategies and still be in with a shout of winning.
Beautiful artwork and soundtrack.
Variety of ways to play online or locally.
Bird encyclopaedia is lovely.
Some initially steep learning curves if you aren't used to in depth production machine based games.
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