Wingspan is possibly the most soothing-yet-confusing strategy game about birds you will ever play, and I love it so much.
The original board game was designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, and features nearly 180 beautifully illustrated bird cards, along with dice, feed tokens and gorgeous eggs. Setting up a game requires care and patience, as does putting it away. That’s one of the many reasons why I was thrilled to see Wingspan release on Steam recently. (It’s also available on Switch.)
Somehow, unbelievably, the game manages to be even more beautiful on Steam. There’s delightful new avatars and backgrounds for each player to choose from. The music is so soothing, like going to a spa next door to an aviary with inadequate sound proofing. The mildly robotic voice that tells you bird facts every time you play a bird is delightfully unsettling.
The game has four rounds, and the goal of that round might be to play more birds in a particular habitat, or lay more eggs. The aim of the game changes each time, depending on which goals you draw at the beginning, which keeps it fresh. This also means you have to change your strategy up each time, which gives it a lot more replay value.
Replay value is extremely important in the Clarke household. My wife and I have an unfortunate tendency to get addicted to digital board games and then play them obsessively until all the joy has been sucked out of them. It all started with the Ticket To Ride app. Then came the Carcassonne craze. The last quarter of last year and the first half of this one was overtaken by the Paperback and Hardback apps. Things get vicious. It’s glorious.
Sure, it could use a better tutorial, because it took us a few games to properly work out what on Earth we were supposed to be doing. And sometimes clicking things does something completely different to the expected thing. But once you work out the quirks, it reveals itself to be one of the best realised video game versions of a board game I’ve seen.
Wingspan really is the ideal, quiet game to play with your family before bedtime. The repetitive guitar, gorgeous pencil drawings and simple love of nature is a great way to separate you from the horrors of the news, and the competition of the other games you’re playing. Unless you play Wingspan as a bloodsport, which I can respect too.
What have you been playing lately? What’s been your favourite digital board game?