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A Big Year

Updated: May 26, 2020

A Big Year is a personal challenge or an informal competition among birders who attempt to identify as many species as possible by sight or sound, within a single calendar year. All evidence is marking a big year for Wingspan, the board game.

When we first heard about Wingspan, we were excited because it is published by Stonemaier Games which is high on the playlist at The Garage for their diverse games (Scythe and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig are house favorites) and then thrilled for the theme because we are longtime birders. Wingspan is a card-driven, engine building board game where players are bird enthusiasts, researchers, and collectors working to attract the optimum birds to their wildlife preserves. The strategy and mindful approach to these cards can swing a game in your favor. There are difficult choices to make in the declining turns knowing that time is limited and moving swiftly.

In the pursuit of your personal and common goals, players will work to attract the best birds to their habitats. Each bird can provide a particular action which bolsters a chain of combinations in the habitat they reside. Play begins, players are dealt a hand of five random bird cards, two random goal cards, and one of each food types. Before you start, you choose a goal and which birds to keep. Choose wisely because the birds offer bonuses that building early and crafty will turn to points at the end. There are three different habitats available for players to attract birds: forest, field, or wetlands, and each habitat allows players to focus on optimal areas of growth: gain food, lay eggs, or draw bird cards.

The winner of the game is the bird enthusiast with the most points after four rounds. We have repeatedly denoted that we wanted another round but wanting more makes the game addicting. The backbone of strategy is predominantly based on luck and timing due to initial draws and player actions. There can be a scarcity of resources and unlucky draws. Smart engine building begins from step one of the game. Each of the four rounds offers alternative goals for end round bonus plus diminishing mechanism of leaving a cube on the goal board. The declining turn component lends to an unmistakable sense of urgency and difficult choices knowing the end of the round is evident. I relished the declining turns and the maximizing the potential turns towards the finish.

Unboxing Wingspan. Opening a Stonemaier game is a gift that never disappoint. This one included rulebooks printed on linen that is sharp and accessible to follow. The storage in Wingspan is savvy, and the game pieces are charming. They added a dice tower that is a birdhouse! Top notch inspired game pieces that you expect from Stonemaier games. There are 170 unique bird cards, and it has to be noted, the time and effort put into each card. The illustrations are stunning and the factual information: what they consume, their habits, wingspan and that their bonus actions are related to that individual bird.

Our house rules are when you play a bird, you announce the name, where it is from and if you have seen IRL. I heard an interview with the designer, Elizabeth Hargrave, and that she is working on potential plans to enhance the base game with continent-based expansions in the future. Where do I order!!!

What We Liked at The Garage Satisfying Engine Building Impressive Game Pieces Replay-ability THE BIRD CARDS!

What You May Not Like The theme (however, you need not be a birder to understand the game) The Scorepads (not enough)

1–5 Players Playing Time- 40–70 Min Age: 10+ Designer Elizabeth Hargrave Artist Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, Beth Sobel Publisher Stonemaier Games Mechanisms- Dice Rolling, Hand Management, Set Collection

Art Prints: The lead artist for Wingspan, Natalia Rojas Gomez, is now offering art prints of the birds she illustrated. Ana Maria is doing the same on her website (different birds).

You can find Wingspan at

Wingspan Facebook group gave a challenge to post a BirdBox variants due to the timing release of the movie and the game.

The strategy and mindful approach to these cards can swing a game in your favor!

Challenge accepted. Wingspan BirdBox Variant. Will they make it to safety and play? #wingspan #BirdBoxNetflix #bgg #boardgames #nerdzgarage

SuZann Smith

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