Wingspan is the digital implementation of the multi-award-winning board game of the same name, originally designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and released in 2019. A birdwatching enthusiast for most of her life, Liz has a great story to tell behind the design of this game, but unless you’re already a fan, you don’t want to know anything about that, you want to know how it plays, right?
For those already familiar with the board game, I can say this is a very faithful representation of everything included in the core game, and takes a lot of the fussy admin out of the equation, too, allowing players to focus completely on feathering their nests, so to speak. Ahem.
Apart from the usual solo mode against a computer AI and/or the Automa (which seems very hard to beat, frankly), this digital version allows you to set up a custom game with multiple players and/or a combination of Automa, computer AI and other players all using the same PC. Alternatively, you can just go online and play directly against other players (either real-time, or asynchronously – allowing players up to 24 hours between turns). So, with no shortage of playing options, how does this stand up as a standalone game?
Surprisingly well, actually. Of course, it helps if you have the slightest interest in birds, but it’s certainly not necessary to enjoy the game – the gameplay itself is relatively simple and mostly card-based, and the game prompts you throughout. And while the bird cards and artwork throughout are very pretty and I dare say even quite relaxing, the added bird trivia and tweeting bird song in the background are also a welcome diversion, and a pleasing addition to the whole.
Real-time games do not take that long, either, but it does depend how many players there are: each player will always get exactly 26 turns, and part and parcel of the game is trying to maximise every move by stringing moves and card combinations together, thus creating an ‘engine’ of sorts – ideally, one that will generate points every turn.
After the initial set-up in which you choose from a selection of bird cards and bird foods (berries, fish, worms, etc.), every game of Wingspan is played through 4 rounds, and each round has its own End-of-Round scoring, thus making every game different, and automatically defining initial goals and aims for every player. How you choose to proceed after that is completely up to you…
There are three main habitats in the game – forests provide food, grasslands allow you to lay eggs, and wetlands allow you to draw cards; and in each turn you can visit and activate any of these habitats, or alternatively play a bird into a particular habitat to make future actions in that habitat stronger. Many birds also have additional bonus abilities of their own, so that each time you visit a habitat to activate the action associated with it, the birds you have in that habitat will also activate. It’s all classic engine-building and point-generating territory, and as such, will resonate with players familiar with games of that ilk, either digital ones or those around a tabletop.
The really nice part about this version, however, is that you can play this on your own and at your leisure, without feeling in any way hurried or rushed (as you might around a table, or competing directly against other players, for example). If anything, the system is designed to hold your hand throughout, and although this is invaluable at the beginning when you’re just learning the ropes, it can prove a tad frustrating when you know what you’re doing and just want to get on with it. Moreover, there’s no obvious way to skip each ‘confirm’ step, and there are literally confirm steps with every click of a button!
With varied gameplay, plenty of different goals available for each round, and beautiful presentation throughout, it’s hard to fault this really, and at less than a third of the price of the physical board game, some may well find this a choice investment. It might be a bit of a ‘vanilla conversion’, but since the original game plays so well, anyway, it’s easy to see why the creators felt little need to improve on the original. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the tabletop expansions incorporated into this in due course.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
With varied gameplay, plenty of different goals available for each round, and beautiful presentation throughout, it’s hard to fault.
- Has a pleasant, relaxing look and feel, and a great interface.
- Plenty of variety in the form of bird types, round-to-round options, etc.
- A faithful recreation of the original boardgame, without the admin.
- Good value, especially if you are trapped at home and keen to scratch your boardgaming itch.
- Overly helpful UI can sometimes feel like it is slowing you down.
- The Automa feels particularly challenging to beat.