Is Wingspan really that good?

It seems to be sweeping a lot of the awards, and is high on the BGG rankings. It’s clearly a very well made and pretty game, and the theme does interest me. But I’ve also heard some people say it’s a bit underwhelming, suggesting it might be more style over substance. I’d love to hear from people who have played it to see if there’s any truth in this and if it’s worth a punt.

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Well, it isn’t the most innovative, best strategy, best family, best card game of last year, I can tell you that. (Board game of the year seems reasonable though, given its popularity).


As you’ve seen, opinions differ. Here’s mine.

If you’ve played several tableau builders already, it’s not doing anything particularly new. But it’s not doing it badly either; it’s an enjoyable game in itself.

The physical presentation is superb (thus, alas, the high price), and it’s a good gateway game, particularly for people who find themes with generic fantasy / tentacles dull and want something a bit less male-culture-coded. (Not that it’s a particularly thematic game.)

I don’t own a copy and it’s not a game I’d seek out to play again, but if friends were playing it at a convention I’d be happy to join them.


It’s not a bad game. It’s alright. It’s actually the only Stonemeier game that isnt infuriating to my senses - mainly because it wasnt Stegmeier who designed it.

Get it if you want it for the production and theme. Otherwise, if you cant be bothered with the theme, there are better card tableaus out there.


It’s definitely the theme that makes it for me, although I think it’s a fine tableau builder. I wish I could say I’ve learned lots of bird facts, but the only one I can reliably remember is that turkey vultures can defend themselves by projectile vomiting…


The bird theme is really cute. Im interested on what Hargrave’s future stuff since Wingspan. While, I dont expect old school Euro design, I’d like her future stuff to be more refine and more immersive than her first work.


I don’t play enough board games to tell you if it deserves any of those awards, but I think Wingspan’s greatest strength (aside from its production values) is its purity. It’s a game that feels incredibly streamlined with no unnecessary rules or mechanics, while maintaining a significant amount of strategic and tactical depth. I think a good contrast is with Race for the Galaxy; RftG is a deeper game, sure, but it’s steeped in confusing iconography and rules that don’t stick in the brain easily, and it can feel clunky as a result. Wingspan strips away any “inefficient” rules, and results in a game that would be a worse game if any rules were added or if any rules were removed. I think that sort of effiency can make it feel a little sterile to some people, and people who love to get lost in a quagmire of mechanics might feel it’s unsubstantial, but I always love a game that creates a lot of depth with a minimum of rules.


I would recommend San Juan 2nd edition if you liked both of those. Im in the minority on one meetup group where I prefer Race and they prefer San Juan’s simple english text, but still provides good depth.

But if you dont like beige games, avoid it :joy:


Have you tried Tussie Mussie?


I have it, but havent played it yet. Curse you, Corona!


I think Wingspan is the “best” tableau builder like Heroes of the Storm is the “best” MOBA. It has taken a concept that was already there and polished it to make it friendly to more casual players who will shirk away from something like Terraforming Mars. It’s quite streamlined, easy to start playing and pretty with a theme that will speak to gamers (because novelty) and non-gamers (not “weird” genre stuff) alike.

Myself… I prefer other tableau builders but it has clicked with everyone I played it with and so gets played again and again and for me that is worth a lot. And among “games that people will actually play” it ranks quite highly in my collection


San Juan is in a sort of unplayable valley for me. My partner (who loves Wingspan) probably wouldn’t like it due to its beigeness and similarity to RftG (which she hates). I would probably like it, except you can’t play it solo, and I like the scifi theme of RftG much better, and I wouldn’t be able to play it with anybody. It’s the curse of having one person you play board games with… who doesn’t really like board games.


I was considering the PnP version with the solo expansion


I would love to see a game akin to San Juan but with less beige.

Wingspan has always intrigued me, but the people I mostly play with are “nerds” like myself, so getting games with SciFi/fantasy themes to the table is never an issue.

I feel like one day I’ll break down and pick it up, but I’m in no rush (currently). There are just too many others games I personally want more, that I could get played just as easily.

I also have both Jump Drive and 51st State: Master Set on my shelf of shame, so I’m not sure I need another tableu builder right now.


There’s likely no surprise to anybody who’s read about my adventures in the “Last Game You Bought” thread: I, on a whim, preordered Wingspan, so I had it on my shelf (and actually played!) by this time last year when stock-standard-retail copies of it were going for $200 on eBay.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t sell mine, even though I totally could have scalped my copy, waited a few months and grabbed up another copy from a future print run.

“Oh, well, then it must be a great game!”

Eh, well, no. It’s a really good game. It’s the best “good” game I have. If you ask me, the only categories it should have won were maybe artwork (it was a really competitive year for that category) and Family Game.

Wingspan doesn’t do anything “the best”.

  • Production quality - It’s phenomenal but could have been better (cubes instead of food chits is my biggest gripe).

  • Engine building? - Well, I prefer it to Terraforming Mars; TfM doesn’t have enough repetition in the card selection for my tastes - if you’re planning a strategy around specific cards, chances are you won’t see them in Terraforming Mars. That’s not the case in Wingspan; sometimes I see it listed as a negative but I really enjoy that there are multiple cards in the deck that can do any given thing. At the end of the day, however, it’s actually difficult to get a good engine to run right. And then, as is usual, the game ends before you get to see it fire on all cylinders.

  • Rich get Richer - Maybe not as pronounced as in some engine-building games, there’s definitely a common situation that comes up whenever somebody keys into a great combination early on: there’s not enough player interaction to be able to slow them down. So maybe it’s not directly a “rich get richer” problem, but it’s certainly a “Rich don’t get Poorer”

  • Unexciting - I’ve very rarely encountered truly exciting, emergent gameplay in Wingspan. Because the system is meant to be soft and accommodating to players of all skill levels, all of the edges and corners have been rounded over in a way that you can never really get an edge. You’ll rarely experience extreme “highs” for the same reason you’ll hardly find extreme lows - there just isn’t enough grip and leverage to pull of really interesting combinations.

However, here are some positives that I feel make it the Goodest family game:

  • Visually Engaging - the cards are beautiful. The birdhouse dicetower is visually arresting. The GameTrayz card holder is a great centerpiece (that gives the illusion that you’re playing a game together rather than sequentially-solo). This game has the table presence to really get the attention of non-gamers or casual/family-gamers

  • Approachable - It’s not intimidating! I’ve introduced the game to people who, surely, though to themselves, “It’s a cute little game about birds… it’s probably not one of those complicated games that pillbox always plays” - Ha! Haha! It’s both, but they don’t see it until they’re already ankle deep with their shoe sunk in the mud - but they’re hooked! They feel their shoe come off but they don’t care, they keep wading in further and further.

  • Well Paced - The cute little bit where you use action markers as scoring markers for each round, leaving you one fewer action to complete each consecutive round is probably the most brilliant ([sigh] ‘Innovative’) thing this game does.

San Juan is sooooo good. It’s currently my “go-to” engine/tableau builder. I feel in some ways it too could have some sharper, more interesting corners but I do enjoy it for what it is.

I’m so envious right now. My wishlist has been consistently shrinking (both from me buying things and me reconsidering things that were on it); as the list grows shorter, both of these stand out more and more.


I played a turn and a half of a 4 player game. We all got bored and stopped for food and didn’t want to go back to it. Maybe doesn’t help that we were 4 veteran gamers at the end of a weekend’s convention of gaming.

The other thing that gets me is I don’t think it looks nice. I really dislike the game trayz plastic thing, the dice tower does nothing for me. While I like well enough the bird paintings used I don’t like the overall look of the cards.

It’s not for me though, so not sure my criticisms are particularly relevant.


Lucky for you it’s on Yucata! (As Puerto Rico (Cards))


Do you have a solution for colour-blind players?


It’s a good point and it’s fair to say cardboard chits are great for a number of reasons.

I have big, dumb fingers and I swear picking up food tokens is the bulk of time spent on my turn.

I would have to look at it again to determine whether a colorblind palette could be worked out.


Wooden cylinders with stickers can work very well.

But back to the OP’s question: “it depends on your group”. If you have lots of borderline-casual gamers it’ll probably go over well; if you have people who focus more on the mechanics, less so.