Five reasons Wingspan is the most fantastic boardgame ever created
One of our first games using the original Wingspan pack.
I have a low tolerance for board games and learning all the rules (usually leading to an evening of tedious reading and not much game playing), so when Linton bought me Wingspan for Christmas, I was suspicious, but intrigued - it did involve birds afterall! Fortunately he is a games rules-lawyer so it didn't take too long to get playing and to get the hang of it. Since then, Wingspan has completely captured our imaginations and we play nearly every night over dinner (props to the inventors that gave the pieces a slip-coat cover, that so far has mostly resisted red wine, chili sauce, and greasy cheese). So here are my top five reasons why I think Wingspan is the best game ever invented!
It's the perfect two-player game. With only two people in our household, most boardgames don't work, but Wingspan is a fabulous two-player game, with the right mix of random and skill-based aspects to keep us on our toes. We haven't played multi-player yet, but one of the best features is that no-one goes out early and then has to sit watching others have fun (those games suck).
Every game is different, requiring you to contemplate your strategies and tactics for the hand dealt. Each game of four rounds has round goals and bonus card challenges that give endless variations. Can you get combinations of birds to work with each other in symbiosis to power the eco-system without wasting resources? Those games are especially satisfying.
It's educational, but subtly. Each bird has a "super power" usually relating to their behaviour. I laugh at the parrots who give other players food - if you've ever seen a parrot eat you'll know why. I also laugh at the ibis - fondly known as a bin chicken - who goes through the discard pile looking for goodies. So much love and thought has been put into this game!
It's gorgeous! The artwork is incredible, each bird is beautifully hand-painted and realistic. One of the artists, Natalia Rojas, worked for a while at Zealandia, which is why New Zealand birds in the Oceania expansion pack are so well-represented.
It's as competitive or as cooperative as you want to play it. We usually try to be both. Even when you lose, you can still take great delight in the beautiful sanctuary you've created.
A more recent game playing all the expansion packs and the Oceania board with nectar. Linton got a huge bird total (70) so we took a photo for posterity.
I must admit that in our household, we call this game not Wingspan, but a Game of F***s. Most of the cards are referred to as Little Sh**s or Useless F***s, because they don't help the current goals. But some birds are totally awesome like the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Great-horned owl, Puffin, Little Penguin, and the Black Noddy. Worth loads of points, these birds also look gorgeous on the board.
Having played so many games, we've developed "House Rules" including:
1. If you get the Spangled Drongo, you must call out "Spangled Drongo!" loudly using your best Ocker accent. What a name for a bird!
2. The galah is called "Vinny" after YouTube's Marlene McCohen's gangster - he's even striking the gangster pose on the card.
3. The kākāpō is called "Sirocco" as the big-green-budgie-of-love was undoubtedly the reference bird for the illustration
4. When the Little Penguin is fishing, you need to call out "Fish!" if you catch one, just like Cat does when using the fish vending machine in Red Dwarf.
5. And finally, for those with the Oceania expansion pack, one of the round goals is "No goal" which we think sucks because it decreases the total points achievable. [Updated July 2022 - the kind people on the Wingspan Facebook group let me know that I've been play "No goal" all wrong LOL - but our house rule is still fun to play regardless]. Instead, we have a house-rule that it's for "NZ birds played" but as you will have likely guessed we call it the "NZ F***ks" round. We use NZ Birds Online as the adjudicator as to whether the bird is "NZ" or not, and refer to looking up a bird as "Consulting Colin" after Colin Miskelly, who created this amazing resource. It's turned into our favourite round goal. It's fascinating to see how many vagrants we get (did you know NZ has kookaburras?).
I can't wait for the next expansion pack to come out - yes I'm addicted! Do you play Wingspan? Do you agree it's the best game ever? Do you have some fun house rules too?
P.S. This is not a paid or solicited review, I'm just a dedicated fan.