Fun fact: Wingspan was the very first board game I reviewed back in the day of autumn 2019. It is hard to believe that a whole year has passed, one that will undoubtedly go down in history as a trial of fire for us all. Anyway, it seems fitting bordering on poetic to celebrate this one-year anniversary of sorts by reviewing Oceania, the latest expansion to the world phenomenon Wingspan from designer Elizabeth Hargrave and publisher Stonemaier Games. Having played and enjoyed my time with the previous European expansion I was more than a little bit curious to see what Oceania would bring to the solitaire gaming table in terms of new mechanisms and content.
Full disclosure: a review copy of the Wingspan: Oceania expansion was kindly provided by publisher Stonemaier Games
By this point it is fairly undisputable that in terms of component quality few can rival the niche that publisher Stonemaier Games has carved out for themselves. The Oceania expansion is no exception, delivering the same attention to detail and overall high production values as we have become accustomed to. The expansion introduces a new lovely yellow egg colour that almost resembles sorbet and yes, I still have to resist the urge to eat them. Also included is a complete new set of the chunky, wooden dice which features the addition of the new nectar symbol. As is the case with the base game equivalent these dice are a joy to behold and roll, especially when using the birdfeeder shaped dice tray. And then there is the pièce de résistance: a selection of no less than 95 new colourful bird cards, plucked from the aforementioned geographical Oceania region. A big part of what makes Wingspan such a huge success lies in the art of the birds and this latest expansion further adds to the staggering beauty depicted in each and every card courtesy of artists Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, and Beth Sobel.
The only thing regarding the components that I am not entirely sold on are the new player mats, specifically the chosen colour palette which in my eyes makes them look a bit murky compared to the ones included in the base game where the colour palette served to better differentiate the habitats. This “criticism” of mine is entirely based on personal taste preferences and should therefore be taken with a substantial pinch of salt. Overall, the production quality that is on display is exceptionally good.
I almost forgot; the Oceania expansion even includes a dedicated score sheet for solo play which made me unreasonably excited!
THE SOLO EXPERIENCE
I still maintain that the solo mode for Wingspan, which was designed by the talented team at the Automa Factory, is amongst some of the finest ever created. The way the neutral player evolves over the course of the game to mirror your growing card tableau is such an enjoyable solitaire board gaming experience. That is not to say that there is no room for improvement, quite the contrary. One of the more prominently voiced criticism is a lack of interactivity between the Automa and you regarding the brown bird powers which affects another player at the table. Apparently the Automa Factory has listened to the feedback from the solo community as the Oceania expansion introduces the new Hoard mechanism. Whenever a brown bird power is triggered which would provide another player i.e. the Automa with any type of resource she instead receives a certain amount of hoard tokens. At the end of the game before tallying the final score these tokens are exchanged for eggs according to a conversation rate depending on difficulty level. It is a simple yet effective way of introducing an additional layer of interaction with the neutral player, mimicking the multiplayer experience to a certain degree and one I highly recommend using when playing Oceania solitaire.
But the biggest new addition to the formula is undoubtedly the nectar resource and how it affects playing Wingspan solitaire. The competition for majority over the number of spent nectars per habitat still remains intact, albeit in a slightly altered manner. Unlike yourself the Automa does not gain nectar tokens from the food dice. Instead, these wild resource tokens will be added and even subtracted from what is known as the Spent nectar collection card over the course of the game. Depending on the chosen difficulty level the Automa starts with a certain number of markers on each of the three spent boxes, corresponding to the three bird habitats on the individual player board. In order to simulate the organic structure of how the game progresses the number of nectar tokens in the neutral player’s possession will be adjusted at the end of each round. By using an Automa card and lining it up next to the Adjustment card each habitats number of nectar tokens will be adjusted according to the presence of the cube symbol as seen in the image above. This process is performed twice so as to assure that the neutral player does not gain an insurmountable advantage in the competition for the precious end of game points. Because this is a rather transparent design implementation it allows the solo player to pivot, either shifting focus to a less contested habitat alternatively going all in with the hopes of the luck of the card draw will be in their favour.
I liked the European expansion to Wingspan; I absolutely love the Oceania equivalent. There is just so much to appreciate in this new addition to the core game experience, which in and on itself still remains a personal solitaire favourite of mine a year after its initial release. If you count in the additional Automarazzi, which allows players to play a dare I say cooperative game against an automated opponent, the Oceania expansion adds three new solo modes or variants which makes this a solid addition to anyone who enjoys playing Wingspan solitaire and one that I wholeheartedly recommend.