There is no doubt that Wingspan is a popular board game. We loved it when we reviewed it, it’s got reprint after reprint and it won most awards possible for a hobby board game. Elizabeth Hargrave and Stonemaier Games have since released two expansions for Wingspan adding birds from two new regions of the world. While the European expansion brings in the likes of Warblers and the common Blackbird, the Oceania expansion sees the quirky Kiwi and colourful Finches shuffled into the deck. However, are these expansions just for the new birds? Let’s find out!
The smaller of the two expansions is the European expansion, adding 81 new bird cards, 5 new objective cards, 5 new double sided round goal tiles and a second bird tray. As for the new birds, the major difference on an abilities front are the new teal “Round End” abilities. Unsurprisingly, these trigger at the end of each round, prior to when the round objectives are scored. The timing is important as some help or hinder the player towards the round objectives, though like all other abilities these are optional. Ranging from new ways to tuck cards, lay eggs and more, these are often relatively powerful abilities – certainly in comparison to the brown “When Activated” abilities.
Included is a new custom market tray, featuring the same design as in the base game but in a purple/lilac colour scheme. This is just about needed with the new cards from the European expansion, though only really becomes necessary when you also own the Oceania expansion too. Note that without this custom market tray you can just squeeze the European expansion content into the base game box. With it however cramming it in becomes impossible without lifting the lid.
Being from the UK there is something nice about seeing birds in the deck that you see when out and about, rather than those only seen on holiday or in a zoo. As with picking your favourite birds in the first few plays of the base game, these can be a fun distraction from getting points – as players look to pick up and play the new birds. After a few games the buzz of the newness slightly wears off and players will be back to picking bird cards primarily for their powers and points, not what bird they depict. This is where new combos and such become apparent and I look forward to continuing to enjoy learning new ways to exploit the card combos to great effect.
Of the two there is no doubt that Oceania makes more of an impact upon Wingspan. Introducing new player boards, dice, and an additional resource – all before the large deck of 95 Oceania birds. From the new birds the new twist are yellow Game End abilities, naturally only triggering after the final turn of the game. These can see vast numbers of eggs laid (depending on the habitat or nest types), unspent resources cached onto cards and even additional birds played. With the potential to gain easily 5+ points these are strong powers that players can work into their plans.
On the surface the addition of nectar, the new wild resource, looks in line with the rest of the game. In some ways it makes the game easier, with the wild resource making playing birds that bit easier. There are additional choices involved as a result though that make nectar a more thinky element of the game. Firstly, nectar is discarded at the end of each round – so you need to plan ahead of how to use it or you’ll lose it. The main way to get it is from the new dice, though a number of card abilities allow players to obtain it. Then, bonuses are awarded at the end of the game for how players have spent the nectar. With up to 15 points on offer these aren’t bonuses to be ignored either, thus the choices instantly become meaningful.
The new boards feature a few new symbols and boost the majority of the actions, at least in the initial columns. For example, on the original board the first gain food action is simply to take a dice from the birdfeeder. On the Oceania boards the first space is still to take a dice from the birdfeeder but with the option to also discard a bird card to take a second. This speeds up the first section of the game with players able to quickly get more resources, eggs and cards. The new symbols are on the food and card action rows, with some spaces allowing players to pay to refresh the birdfeeder/market tray. This very much feels like a conscious choice to give gamers more options rather than always having to put up with what has been rolled or drawn from the deck.
Akin to the European expansion to fit all the content into the base game box there is a compromise to make, and not a small one either. While the cards fit into the trays of the base game and/or European expansion, with new boards and dice the only way would be to ditch the original player boards. Most will not be happy with this though so it’ll be another box for your gaming shelf.
It’s a bit of a shame that neither of the expansions fit into the base game box, for those that have limited storage space. Both expansions also include a new colour of layable egg to add into the mix. For the European expansion they are purple and in Oceania they are yellow. Whilst they are a fun addition, they are completely unnecessary and will have bumped up the cost of both expansions.
The base game of Wingspan came with 170 unique bird cards. Each adding another ~50% on top of that, both expansions make what was a big deck bigger. The added variety though not just from the amount of cards but the new abilities and even new types of abilities opens up more choices and options for players. Balancing the new potentially strong powers by making them only trigger at the end of the game or only each round works well and it’s clear that the designer has paid attention to the old objective cards, as to make sure they don’t become under/overpowered.
Base Wingspan did have a small egg spam strategy that could generate a huge amount of points. Part of this was the way that a number of the round goals could also award points for laid eggs on specific nest types, effectively doubling up the value of eggs. Having additional round goal tiles from either of these two expansions goes some way to alleviating this. With all of the round goal tiles from the base game and the two expansions it’s almost rare to see egg based goals. If there is one tile that impacts this the most it’s the “birds with no eggs” round goal tile, which can completely change players’ strategies.
Both expansions are clearly designed for fans of Wingspan. Of the two the European expansion is the easier to recommend as, while it adds a few new elements (such as the teal round end abilities) it’s a more of the same style expansion. Therefore, if you’re a fan of the original game it’ll shuffle in and just give you more of what you love. The Oceania expansion literally changes more, from swapping out the player boards to introducing a wild resource. Some that like the lighter gameplay of Wingspan may not 100% enjoy the slightly more gamery logic that needs to be applied to score bigger than ever before. Either way the variety that is added to the mix means Wingspan will stay fresh for even more plays!
(Editor’s Note: Wingspan European Expansion & Oceania Expansion were provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The expansions are currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)