Outside of video games, another love of mine has been board games, a pastime that has been somewhat limited over the last year as we found ourselves unable to gather in groups – unsurprisingly something quite important when it comes to playing physical board games. As a result, I am always excited when a popular board game makes its way over to console, and even more so when its one I’ve yet to try out for myself. Wingspan is a relatively new release in the board gaming world but even in spite of its short time on shelves has managed to generate strong feedback and gain large popularity (even as I type, the game is currently out of stock at a number of retailers online).
In Wingspan, up to five players take on the role of avid bird enthusiasts competing to attract the best collection of birds to their network of wildlife preserves. The game is played over four rounds with the player scoring most points by the end crowned winner and all-round bird-guru. Collecting said points comes down to your use of bird cards, management of food resources, laying eggs and completing of objectives across a handful of different habitats each offering useful perks themselves.
Birds meanwhile – aside from offering measurements and beautiful illustrations – can also impact the game for example when initially played or between turns. In short, there is a lot going on and it’s something that when first presented with proved to be a challenging thing to get our heads around. This isn’t as simple as picking up on the rules of Monopoly or Cluedo. However, like any board game that requires you to focus a little more when learning its rules, the end result is well worth the effort.
Thankfully the game does also offer a rather handy tutorial that walks you through the basics of the game putting you in a better position when it comes to your first proper game. It also proves an effective and far more elegant method of introducing someone else to the game. I hate having to try and walk newcomers through a game, my words often jumbled and more confusing than anything. Here though, I could let the game do all that hard work in at least getting a total newcomer off the ground. It’s worth mentioning that the game also does a great job at displaying everything in a clear manner despite the amount that can go on and fill the screen at times.
Wingspan has you covered no matter your player count situation whether you’d prefer to sit down on your own and take on some AI opponents or compete against friends or even strangers. Local play allows for up to five, a much-appreciated feature and one I’ve found surprisingly absent in other board game adaptions on Switch. Sure, it’s definitely a little more cumbersome than playing a physical version of the game since you can’t really prep while you wait your turn slowing the pace somewhat and navigating the different terrains and options prove fiddly at times with a controller, but it’s certainly a viable alternative.
Online is also included too and not only that but also offers cross-play with those using the PC version. Unfortunately, if you wish to play online with friends, everyone will need their own copy of the game. It would have been great if the game included an option to take multiple people online on the same Switch lowering that barrier of entry.
I absolutely adore the relaxing vibe of Wingspan, from the water-colour aesthetic of its visuals to the nature sounds and tweets of birds as you’re pondering your next turn. It’s an absolutely perfect pairing with the slower nature of the card-based gameplay.
Wingspan is a fine adaption of the physical board game and a much cheaper way of playing it at that. Features like online cross-play, local play and well-explained tutorials make this one of the better board game adaptions to hit the console and hopefully allows Wingspan to reach a much-deserved wider audience in the video gaming world.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Monster Couch