This review discusses the latest Wingspan: Asia expansion, particularly as a stand-alone two-player game. Should you add it to your collection?
Introduction to Wingspan Asia Review
I have to admit that I’ve been a bit late on the Wingspan bandwagon. Frankly, I thought the game was overhyped and it was only last year that I had a chance to play it. Well, I was wrong. All the popularity is thoroughly deserved. It’s a brilliantly produced and designed board game and I have played dozens of games so far. Most of it with only the base game rented from a friend.
As the game immediately gained popularity in our household, I became highly interested in the latest expansion, Wingspan Asia. We mostly play at 2-players and so I thought it will be a great standalone addition to our 2-player board game repertoire. So that’s the perspective I’m reviewing the game from.
Traditionally exceptional looks
As you open the box, you’re greeted with the usual top-notch Stonemaier components. Everything is of the highest standard, from card quality to the artwork on the cards. Even plastic bags are biodegradable! The eggs now only come in red and there are enough food tokens for a two-player game. Unfortunately no bird feeder dice tower, but since that was one component from the base game that lacked durability, it’s probably better that it’s left out.
There’s really nothing bad to say about the appearance. Maybe the holder for food tokens/eggs could be slightly larger, but most players will probably use a separate tray or a cup for that anyway.
Wingspan traditionally makes a great presence on the table, and together with the appealing theme, it works wonders in introducing new players to the hobby. With its looks, they won’t need much convincing in the first place …
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Easy to get into
The rulebooks are mostly the same as in the base game and if you just include the deck to your existing one, you can start playing right away. The duet and flock modes have some rules slightly altered, but you’re still playing the same game. The same goes for the solo mode – pretty much the same as in the base game, except that you’re now playing on the duet board.
If you’re new to Wingspan, they have you covered as well. Learning from the rulebook is easy and the “only 4 actions to choose from” approach allows you to enjoy the game truly quickly. But if even this is too much for you, there’s also a quick start guide included, which explains the basics with an exemplary playthrough.
If you have any dilemmas with bird powers, there’s a reference guide included, as well.
Unfortunately, I haven’t tried the Europe or Oceania expansions, so I can’t comment on how the new birds compare, but I can compare them with the base game.
The abilities of the birds feel slightly less straightforward than in the base game, meaning it takes more effort to make them work. There are less simple actions (“Lay one egg”), and more advanced ones (such as a triple push-your-luck hunt or abilities that are dependent on other birds on your board). Consequently, you can reap bigger rewards if you build your tableau right. Other than that, the deck fits right in and retains the Wingspan feel.
There are also new goal cards included. I particularly like the new ranger goals. These demand that the birds in a certain habitat are settled in ascending/descending order, victory points wise. I find this goal especially challenging and rewarding.
The new duet board is different enough that it offers a good alternative to a standard green round goal board. This time, you get to place a token on it, each time you place a bird on your board. The location of the token must be according to the bird’s habitat and also according to the bird’s properties. For example, if you want to put a token on a wheat icon, you have to have spent a wheat token when placing that bird. But you can also place it on a nest icon, or any other icon it fulfills the criteria for.
This means you usually have several options when placing tokens, which transitions us nicely to new round goals, which are based directly on the placement of your tokens on the duet board. One goal may demand to have tokens on food icons, while other demands to have tokens in a horizontal line. On top of that, some spots offer bonuses (free food, a card, or an egg) and the largest contiguous group is scored at the end of the game.
As all the goals are based on duet tokens, there are no egg-laying goals, for instance. The dynamic is therefore slightly different compared to the base game round goals and offers a different challenge, yet similar enough so that it retains the familiar 2-player experience. But it’s not just a great alternative, it works great as a standalone 2-player game, as well.
On the other side of the spectrum, rules and components are included to allow for a 6 and 7-player game, the so-called flock mode. You do need the base game here, of course. The expansions are welcomed too, as the new player boards are double-sided, with one side featuring nectar icons. To reduce downtime, two players on the opposite side of the table play simultaneously and there is more food and cards on display.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about the flock mode, because I didn’t try and, frankly, do not intend to. If I have 7 players around the table I would much rather play a game that is better suited for such a player count or even split the group into two games. But your mileage may vary and if you wanted to play Wingspan with 6 or 7 players, you now have that option.
The solo mode uses the proven automa system, which works fine, as usual. Although all the iconography takes a bit to get used to it, especially since the deck is designed to also work with other expansions. Therefore a lot of icons are redundant if you only play with the duet board.
The same could be said about the automa rulebook – it contains plenty of information, but only a part of it is directly relevant to the duet board. So, if you want to play the solo mode with just the Asia deck and the duet board, there’s some separating the seeds from the chaff required.
But once you get the game going, automa is light maintenance and very smooth to manage. There are variants and different difficulty levels available so that you can suit the challenge to your desires.
Wingspan: Asia is another great expansion, as well as an excellent standalone 2-player game. The question is whether you should get Asia over the base game if this is your first entry into the Wingspan world.
Honestly, they’re both excellent choices and you can’t go wrong with either. If there’s a chance you’ll play with more than 2 players, then buy the base game. Either way, once you get to know Wingspan, you’ll probably end up not only with the base game and the Asia expansion but also with all the other expansions.