Two beautiful expansions to one of our favourite games- but which one should you buy?
Wingspan is one of the greatest games to come out of Stonemaier Games over the years and that’s no mean feat. It’s gathered a lot of hype and understandably the expansions did too. First the European expansion in 2019 followed by the Oceania expansion in late 2020, both add their own twists on the original game. But which would we recommend buying? And if you weren’t a fan of Wingspan before, will either of these change your mind? Read on to see what we thought of each one and hopefully you’ll be able to make your mind up.
Focussing on the amazing birds from Europe, they feature a variety of new powers which increase player interactions and also include some “round end” powers. You’ll also find new end of round goals and bonus cards, and what expansion would be complete without more eggs?!
– 81 new bird cards
-15 purple egg miniatures
-5 bonus cards
-4 automa cards
-new custom tray and lid (to fit all the new bird cards!)
-5 double-sided goal tiles
-38 food tokens
So the main feature is the new bird cards and their abilities, notably the new teal cards which are activated at the end of each round. It goes without saying these are very useful to get early on so you can activate them as many times as possible. Others have variable costs which offer you an alternative way to pay (such as discarding cards instead). There are even cards which allow you to “steal” resources from another player (the designers clearly didn’t want Wingspan to get full-on aggressive because the player you steal from gets to pick a new resource as compensation).
The new end of round goal tiles offer a refreshing twist on the tiles from the base game which tend to relate to birds/eggs/nests. The European Expansion adds tiles that reward resources in your supply, birds over a certain points value, your total number of brown power birds and more.
The European expansion doesn’t fundamentally change much from the base game so there aren’t many new rules to grapple with. In that sense it’s certainly a “more stuff” expansion. I like the addition of the end-of-round powers as they add another dimension to the game, but my favourite feature is the new end-of-round tiles as they really do mix up those bonuses. The eggs are, as ever, very aesthetically pleasing but I honestly don’t see the need for the additional food tokens. I think it’s because a lot of the new birds have resource caching abilities, but we’ve played it with 5 players a few times and never used half of a resource before.
It’s very impressive to add so many birds to the deck without losing the balance of the bonus cards from the base game seeing as they all mention what % of total birds match the bonus and still hold true with the expansion.
So despite not adding much other than more of the same, I am a sucker for those bird cards so am very glad I bought the expansion, but if you didn’t like the base game this expansion won’t change your mind.
The beautifully colourful birds of Oceania! There’s a lot going on with this expansion, including birds with game-end powers, new bonus cards, end of round goals, a new resource and new player boards!
-95 new birds (so 176 across the two expansions!)
-5 bonus cards
-4 new goal tiles
-15 orange eggs
-5 new food dice
-69 nectar tokens
-5 new player mats
WOAH there’s a lot going on here. First thing’s first, there’s a whole bunch of new bird cards. Lots have similar abilities to the ones you’re used to from the base game, but some of them have new “end of game” abilities which can really turn the tide in your favour if you can make the most of them.
The biggest change however is the introduction of a new resource, nectar. The 5 new food dice replace the ones from the base game and contain some nectar options alongside the 5 regular food types. You can use nectar as a wild food and some birds even have nectar in the cost. Whenever you spend nectar you don’t put it back in the supply, you store it in the habitat that you spent it. Whoever has the most nectar stored in each habitat scores 5 points at the end of the game, so a maximum of 15! 2nd place gets 2 points and 3rd+ place get 0, so don’t ignore nectar, it’s a very important resource (although you can’t carry it over between rounds!). Last time Jess and I played, she won by 1 point, having scored 15 points from nectar to my 6.
The new player boards not only allow for the storage of the nectar you spend, they also change how many dice/eggs/cards you earn at each level compared to the base game. As soon as you play 1 bird into your forest habitat you are then able to take 2 food dice each time you gain food (compared to requiring 2 birds in the base game). In the grassland habitat however you lay fewer eggs for each additional bird you play there (it goes 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4 eggs in the expansion compared to 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4) in the original. And in the wetlands the draw bird cards action is slightly kinder as you get an extra bird card sooner.
There are also more options to upgrade your actions on the player boards, through spending cards/eggs/resources/nectar, giving you a whole new way to influence the game. The better your engine is, the more stuff you’ll have at your disposal to upgrade your actions (for instance once you have three grassland birds you can spend up to two resources/cards to lay up to two additional eggs).
This is a perfect expansion. There’s more stuff (and who doesn’t love more stuff), new mechanisms which work really well and add an extra layer to the game (birds with end of game powers and the nectar), but without making it unnecessarily complicated.
The fact that nectar can benefit you in such a huge way means you really shouldn’t ignore it, especially as it is a wild food type, and the balances to the board reward you for having excess resources/cards. One of my slight frustrations with the base game was that it can be quite hard to access food early on because you need two woodland birds in order to gain two food dice each time, so your first round is almost always ensuring you do that. But here you only need one bird to do that, then you can move onto other things- getting one bird of each habitat early sets you up nicely to do what you want and focus on the goals.
Having both expansions means there are now 346 unique, beautifully illustrated & annotated, finely balanced bird cards in our deck, a ridiculous amount. You may only get through 40 in a 2 player game! Think how much replayability that adds…! You only use four end of round goal tiles each game and there are 17 of them, all double sided!
So the questions I always ask when getting expansions are:
- Does this game need an expansion in order for me to play it over and over?
This is a game that was already very replayable, and with the additional expansions I will never get bored of playing it. So in a sense no you don’t need the expansion but it certainly massively improves the replayability.
- Does it add unnecessary complication to the game?
No. The European Expansion only adds more of the same (the teal power cards are new but are very simple). In the Oceania Expansion the addition of nectar is the only really new rule but that is explained very simply and is very easy to integrate into gameplay.
- Does it enhance the core gameplay enough to justify me buying it?
Well by the fact that I bought both expansions clearly the answer is yes! But if I was being completely critical I would say that the European Expansion doesn’t add that much to the gameplay and therefore I should say no, but I enjoy Wingspan so much that I was always going to enjoy a “more stuff” expansion. Oceania without a doubt adds enough to justify its purchase.
So in summary, if you are only going to buy one expansion, 100% go for the Oceania one. You’re getting more game for your money, there’s plenty going on and lots of replayability, could not recommend enough. But if you’re like me and you’re a massive Wingspan fan, you’ll also love the European Expansion even if it doesn’t add as much.
Get the European expansion
Get the Oceania expansion
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