Playtime: 40 -70 minutes
Teach time: 20 minutes
Game difficulty: Moderate
Number of players: 1-5
Timespan: modern times
Key educational concepts: natural history, biodiversity, species adaptations
Overview and Review
Given and the limited breadth of academic use, I decided to not write a full review. With that said Wingspan could be used to reinforce curricula about natural history and biodiversity. However, both these concepts are quite digestible and I am not convinced that including this game in your curriculum would actually improve most learning objectives. In this case, spending time outside in nature (urban or rural) would be a better approach. This is in contrast to many of the more complicated or abstract concepts focal to most other games reviewed here. Humans are instinctively naturalists, and, to varying degrees, most people have all observed and classified birds.
With that said, I absolutely love this game and encourage anyone to own this game in its physical form or its digital form (e.g., on steam). Wingspan is a phenomenal game full of rich tactile and strategic decisions. The Audobon-style artwork perfectly illustrates more than 170 species of birds. Further, the gameplay mechanisms were carefully implemented so that a key aspect of the species natural history is emulated. For example, preditors attack smaller birds and the amount of prey eaten directly translates to victory points. This game is deservedly quite popular. Given Wingspan does so many things so well, I feared it would break my rating system and mislead people into concluding this game has a very high potential for academic use. Thus, I chose to not rate it here.
In short, it really is that good, just not for academic use. I love that Elizebeth Hargrave chose the bird theme and I applaud Stonemaier Games for choosing an all-women ensemble of artists. The game design world is hugely biased toward men designers/artists and it is clear the world welcomed a game about something thing other than dungeons, elves, and zombies. Wingspan is proof that including a more diverse ensemble of people dramatically improves the quality of ideas, which results in better games with topics that speak to a lot of people's interests. I would lose my mind if Stonemaier Games or Elizebeth Hargrave pursued a game about amphibian diversity! Here is to dreaming. Until then, try to chase down a copy of Wingspan. Last I checked the game was in its seventh printing - that's amazing.
Box cover (image credit: Stonemaier Games)
Some of the bird cards (image credit: Stonemaier Games)