Wingspan Board Game Rules

If you’re a bird lover looking for the ideal game to play, then look no further than this guide to the Wingspan board game rules for a game that should suit you.

Often board games such as Spyfall and Pandemic are designed to require high energy, but Wingspan is often described as more relaxing for players looking for some chilled, friendly competition.

Although the game is slightly more challenging than other games due to how involved, the Wingspan rules and setup are, after a few rounds, the game gets easier to play as you learn the assorted mechanics.

Fortunately, we’ll cover all these mechanics and more in our detailed guide below on how to play Wingspan. 

What Is Wingspan?

Wingspan Board Game Info image

Wingspan is the board game for the ultimate bird-watching fan – although you do not need to be a bird enthusiast to play and enjoy this game.

Players compete to build the best aviary possible by accumulating different bird breeds and using tokens to nurture them. 

Number of Players Required: 1 – 5 players. 

Who Can Play It: Recommended for ages 14+. 

Difficulty: Medium-Hard difficulty. 

Length of Play: 40 – 70 minutes. 

Similar to: Unstable Unicorns; Catan; AzulLords of Waterdeep

Main Objective: Be the player who has accumulated the most points at the end of the game. 

Why We Love It: With such a wide variety of birds that you’re required to collect, WIngspan lets players do this without the need for waiting around for ages or donning specific equipment. The game is also a step-up in terms of difficulty as there is a lot you’ll need to consider while playing. 

Playing Wingspan – What You’ll Need.

Everything you’ll need to play Wingspan comes in a handy game board set that contains:

  • 1 scorepad
  • 1 goal board
  • 40 wooden action cubes
  • 170 bird cards
  • 103 food tokens
  • 1 bird tray
  • 26 bonus cards
  • 8 goal tiles
  • 5 player mats
  • 75 egg miniatures
  • 1 first player token
  • 1 bird feeder dice tower
  • 5 custom wooden dice
Our Pick
Wingspan Board Game - A Bird-Collection, Engine-Building Stonemaier Game for 1-5 Players, Ages 14+
$65.00 $47.69
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10/12/2023 02:07 pm GMT

For even more bird collecting fun if this set doesn’t sound like enough, consider adding the European expansion to your game as well. 

Our Pick
Stonemaier Games: Wingspan European Expansion Board Game
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10/16/2023 02:37 pm GMT

How To Set Up Wingspan

There is a fair bit of setup players will need to do before they can begin playing Wingspan.

Start by grabbing the bird cards and shuffle them into a deck. Put this next to the bird tray, then populate said tray with 3 face-up bird cards.

Next, put all the food tokens and egg miniatures into the supply. These are accessible to all players during the game. Toss the food dice into the bird feeder dice tower.Set the goal board up by first deciding which type of goals you and the other players would like to play with, and put the game board the side up that you decide upon.

Shuffle the goal tiles and place 1 goal tile on each of the 4 blank spaces on the goal board. Any left over, return to the box. 

Also, shuffle the bonus cards into a deck and place them on the table between the players.

Now set up each player with the gear they’ll need to start playing. Ensure that each player has: 

  • 1 player mat; 
  • 8 action cubes of a specific color; 
  • 2 bonus cards picked randomly; 
  • 5 random bird cards; 
  • 5 food tokens, 1 of each type. 

Wingspan Board Game Rules

Wingspan gets played over 4 rounds. Play goes round in a circle, and players turn ends once a player has used their available action cubes. 

Starting the Game

WIngspan has 2 modes of the game for you to choose from, decide on this before you begin playing.

If you decide on the default green side, this promotes more competition for each goal. Players get ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd after each goal.

If you’re new to the game or playing with newcomers to the game, select the blue side of the board. This mode, each targeted item gains players 1 point.

Players then decide which of the 5 bird cards they would like to keep.

They can keep all 5 or discard the ones they don’t want.

For every bird card that players keep, they must discard 1 food token.

This means that players in total must have 5 bird cards and food tokens in total when they begin playing.

Players must also look at both bonus cards they have and discard 1.

Select 1 player at random to begin the game, give them the first-player token to signify that they are the starting player. 

How to Play Wingspan

On each player’s turn, there are 1 of 4 actions they can undertake. Players can either:

  • Play a bird from their hand if they can.
  • Gain food and activate a forest bird powers.
  • Lay eggs and activate a grassland bird powers.
  • Draw bird cards and activate a wetland bird powers. 

If a player wishes to play a bird from their hand onto a habitat, simply place an action cube on the Play a Bird slot where they would like to play the card.

They will also need to pay the bird’s food and egg cost, and if they can afford it, that player can place the bird on their mat. This also triggers the birds ‘when played’ power if it has any.

The other 3 actions follow the same process, which is:

  • Start by choosing a habitat on your player mat and place an action cube on the exposed left slot of that row. Also, gain the benefit of that slot.
  • Move your action cube from right to left, activating any birds with a brown “when activated” power in that row. Note that each power is optional.
  • Once the action cube reaches the far left, you can leave it there. This also ends the player’s turn.

Once all players use their action cubes, the round ends. Players should end each round by removing the action cubes from their mat and nominate a player to score up that round for everyone.

Discard all the face-up bird cards that are on the bird tray, replace these with new cards from the deck.

The player to the left of the starting player starts the next round as the new starting player. Players lose 1 action cube per round, so each player has fewer turns as the game progresses.

After 4 rounds are over, the game ends, and scores get totaled up.

Scoring In Wingspan

Scores in Wingspan get worked out based on how many birds or eggs players have in their habitats or nests.

For players to indicate points scored from each goal, everyone must place an action cube on the goal board to signify their score.

As the game board is double-sided for different versions of Wingspan, scoring is different for both versions as well.

The Green side of the board scores the game based on the majority of the targeted item. This uses the game spaces that contain 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

At the end of each round, each player counts the quantity of the targeted item. Players compare their results and get ranked from first to last. Players must register a bird to get ranked, so players cannot get ranked with 0 goals achieved.

In the Blue version of the game, each player counts their quantity of the targeted item. Each player scores 1 point per item up to 5 points.

At the end of the game, each player adds together the following:

  • Points for each bird card, with each birds, score displayed on the card;
  • Points for each bonus card, with this score displayed on the bonus card;
  • Points for end-of-round goals, with these scores displayed on the goal board;
  • 1 point awarded for each egg on a bird catch, food token cached on a bird card, and cards tucked under a bird card. 

Naturally, the player with the most points wins the game. In the event of a tie, whichever player used the least food tokens throughout the game wins. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good score on Wingspan?

A good score to achieve while playing Wingspan will be a score that exceeds at least 70. 

Is there a hand limit in the Wingspan rules?

What differentiates Wingspan from other board games with cards is that there is no card limit while playing.

Unlike at the start of the game, throughout Wingspan players do not need to discard a food token when picking up a new card either. 

Can you play Wingspan alone?

Wingspan is not only designed for multiple players, you can also play the game solo as well.

After playing solo, record your total victory score, and challenge yourself to beat that total on subsequent plays.

Alternative Games to Wingspan

If you enjoy games such as Wingspan that are slightly more complicated than the norm, then we’ve got some more suggestions for board games that are also harder too.

Wingspan’s themes may be a tad too tame for some players, so have a look at some war based strategy board game ideas.

Check out the Risk board game rules or the Scythe board game rules for some great examples of this.

Related: Best War Board Games

If Wingspan has whetted your appetite for more strategic board games, then be sure to take a look at the Gaia Project and the Terraforming Mars too. 

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