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  • Writer's pictureL. Sahara McGirt

Review: Wingspan - Oceana Expansion

I've seen Wingspan around when browsing tabletop games at some stores and, as a friend of nature, noticed it, but it's not a game my baby brother or nephew would play, so I never picked it up. However, when I was offered the chance to review the digital game, I decided to take it because I wanted to check it out, and sometimes, playing against a computer is enough. Especially on days when I want to play a tabletop game but have no one to play with.

Since I have never played Wingspan, I was going in with no knowledge of how to play. I played through the tutorial and got the gist of how the rules go, but despite that, I quickly learned that Wingspan has a learning curve. It's not an easy game, being just challenging enough to keep me interested while relaxing enough for evening gameplay. It took multiple rounds for me to get accustomed to the rules and figure out a strategy.

The point of the game is to attract the best combination of birds to your wildlife preserve and accumulate the most points from the cards you play. Points are counted up from the birds, bonus cards, meeting round goals, eggs, and cached food. The challenging part of Wingspan is in the luck of the draw. Players start out with any combination of up to 5 birds and food combined, so you can start with 3 birds, 2 food, 4 food, 1 bird, etc. Choosing the best combination of birds (some of which have useful powers) to start with will give you a leg up in the overall game, so choose wisely. However, the luck of the draw also means you can end up starting with birds who are not a great combo.

The rest of the gameplay depends on dice rolls in the bird feeder and drawing bird cards and placing them throughout your network in the best combos, along with gathering resources to allow yourself to play more birds throughout 4 rounds. Your ability to assess the best combinations with what is available and what to lay down when will somewhat determine whether or not you gather the most points by the end of the game. After quite a few rounds of playing, however, I think if you're playing with a pretty competitive group of people, there's still no saying who will win by the end. Even the best strategizer can be defeated by the randomness of the gameplay.

As for how the game plays in its digital form, overall, it plays decently well. I did not encounter any bugs or such. However, it suffers from some control issues. While playing with keyboard and mouse went okay, playing with controller took some getting used to. The controller setup is not intuitive and requires a lot of checking the controller mapping to memorize. The computer players are good opponents and aren't so easy to beat that they're boring.

Where Wingspan stands out is in its aesthetic. If you love birds and nature, the game is full of bird sounds, and the artwork of the bird cards and backgrounds have a lovely watercolor aesthetic. The cards include little factoids about the birds on the backs. There's a narrator that tells you about them, and that adds to what makes the game soothing, despite how challenging it is.

As for the expansions, Europa adds "round end" powers to the game, which are useful for playing the long game. Meanwhile, Oceania adds quite a bit more to Wingspan's overall gameplay by adding the new food supply item: Nectar. Nectar acts as a food that can replace any other food types, giving players an option for when they're out of a specific food in their supply. Nectar has to be spent during the round they're gathered in, or it expires at the end of the round. Some new birds now have a "game end" ability, which are very useful for the long game and gaining extra points in the final round.

Overall, Wingspan and its expansions costs around $40 on Steam. However, I think it's a game better left for a sale, especially in terms of the expansions. Wingspan and all of its expansions are now available Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PC and Android.

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