I could name only a few board game releases from the last 5 years that have really broken through to gain ‘modern classic’ status. With a wife who works in a board game store, modern classic, for me, means a game that will be an evergreen, there is no board game store that shouldn’t have this game in sock because people will be buying it for years and years to come. I’d put Azul in that category, along with Codenames and perhaps a few others, but one of the heavier games to make it is Wingspan.
Wingspan is not the most simple game, it has relatively advanced engine building mechanisms and yet its theme is so refreshing to modern board games that it really caught people’s attention, and for most people it was a real winner. For me personally, I did not get into the game. I respect it immensely, but the engine building just never quite clicked for me. No matter what I did, the game always felt like a grind that only rarely resulted in a satisfying engine. However, the Wingspan Digital Edition looked so beautiful that I had to try it. It had an early preview release for a couple of days and I was hooked, and now it’s available on Steam and soon to be on Nintendo Switch.
If you’ve never played Wingspan before, here’s a brief explanation. The game has three rounds and in each round you’ll have fewer actions you can take. Actions can be; playing a card from your hand onto your player board, obtaining food, laying eggs or taking new cards. Your player board is laid out in three zones; forest, grassland and water and birds are matched with different habitats. Each habitat is also associated to one of the actions and playing birds into that habitat strengthens the action. For example, if you put more bird in the forest you’ll get stronger and stronger ‘take food’ actions. Every time you activate a habitat, all birds in that habitat will also activate, allowing you to chain together your actions. Each round has a variable scoring objectives, allowing you to earn points during the game and at the end of the game you’ll also score for eggs on your player board, and birds on your player board.
With most board game app implementations, the first thing I do is turn off the annoying music. With Wingspan, the music is a huge part of the atmosphere. The game is all about pure relaxing fun for me. From selecting an adorable player character (yellow puffin every time!), through to the music and the accurate noises that the birds make when they’re placed on your board, there’s so many lovely touches in the game. The only thing that I find a little challenging with the interface is a lack of promoting when cards on my player board are activated. I sometimes miss an opportunity to spend an egg or tuck a card because the prompt to do so isn’t all that obvious. For seasoned Wingspan players, you probably won’t miss a thing, for new players, needing to flip between multiple screens to understand your full player board might be a little less user friendly.
I think that the key to why I love this app far more than the physical game is that I get to play the game in around 10 minutes. It’s possible that I’ll still have a game where I don’t get the combos that I want, but it’s so easy to start a new game and play again. As a result, I’ve played some great games where, all of a sudden, I am trying so hard to make the food I need to be successful. My scores have been higher, my bird powers have been triggering more often and I’ve been having a great time. It might also be possible that the AI is rather easy and not as good as the real life opponents that I’ve encountered, but I love to win and it’s not so easy that it’s boring to play. Being able to win quite frequently just adds to the relaxing nature of the game to me. I’m happy to sit back, listen to the bird sounds and simply try and play my best game.
You Might Like…
Wingspan Digital Edition is such a relaxing app to play.
The user interface does a great job of combining functionality and looks.
You get the chance to play a really satisfying game in 10 minutes.
You Might Not Like…
Both ‘Normal’ and ‘Easy’ AI seem pretty easy to consistently beat.
There’s a lot to keep track of on the screen for new players, having to dig into deeper levels of the interface to find information.
Wingspan Digital is not only a beautiful and easy to play implementation of a hugely popular board game, for me it blows the physical game out of the water! Being able to play so quickly means that I can finally see more of the game and find that there are combos within the game that I just didn’t find while playing it on the tabletop. It’s quite easy to beat, but for a game that is just a great way to relax, that’s perfect for me.
A Steam review code for Wingspan Digital was kindly provided to us by Monster Couch.