Wingspan Asia Expansion

The Wingspan World Tour continues…

Wingspan Asia expansion review by S vs J Board Games

1-7 players
40-70 minutes

Stonemaier Games

Note: Stonemaier Games sent us a copy of Wingspan Asia so that we could write this unbiased review

The Wingspan World Tour continues, and this time it’s landed in Asia, a continent full of stunning, exotic and interesting birds. The excitement that comes with any new Wingspan expansion is palpable, as those of us who are obsessed with the game try and second guess what new features it might bring.

Some elements of Wingspan Asia are possible to play as a standalone game, but if you do wish to check out my review of the original game to get a jist for the rules, you can do so here.

Whilst there are some people (myself included) who would buy any Wingspan expansion irrespective of what other people may have said about it, times are hard and people have less disposable income these days so have to be ultra scrutinous of potential games. So with that in mind, is Wingspan Asia worth your hard earned money?

What’s included?

  • 90 new unique bird cards
  • 14 bonus cards
  • 1 Duet map board and Flock round-end goal board (double-sided)
  • 1 Flock turn-order dial
  • 6 Duet end-of-round goal tiles
  • 30 Duet tokens
  • 5 Food dice
  • 1 Birdfeeder board
  • 1 Bird Tray
  • 2 Player Mats (double-sided)
  • 16 action cubes
  • 30 egg miniatures
  • 81 food tokens
  • 1 reference tile
  • 1 scorepad
  • 2 swift-start guides for Duet mode
  • Automa rulebook, main rulebook and appendix
  • 18 Automa cards

I’ve put some of that list in bold as these represent things you won’t need if you have the base game, they aren’t really new stuff but of course, as with everything in this series of games, the new player mats are beautifully illustrated (differently to the ones in the original game or in the Oceania expansion), and the red eggs are lovely too.

But what is new?

Duet Mode

Arguably the biggest addition is the new Duet board, which allows for a standalone 2 player game. Initially I thought it was a co-operative variant which would have been super cool, but I still think its awesome there’s a version specifically designed for two, because so many people (including us) primarily play games as a pair, so it just increases that replayability a little more.

As you set up a regular game, players place their 15 duet tokens on each of the bird spaces on their mat. Each time they play a bird, they take that duet token and place it somewhere on the map. It must match the habitat you played the bird into, and also meet the criteria of the space you placed it on. The criteria can be a type of food or nest that bird uses, or its wingspan etc.. At the end of the game each player will score 1 point per contiguous group of their tokens on the map. Be careful not to get blocked off as those extra points could be crucial.

The new Duet board. When you place a Duet token after playing a bird, you must meet the requirement of the space you’re placing it onto.

In addition to the map there are new end-of-round bonuses. In Duet mode, only the winner of each end-of-round goal gets the bonus, the other player getting 0.

The Duet mode didn’t offer too much of a difference from normal gameplay for me to get excited about. When you first see the Duet mode map, you think “wow, this is going to massively shake up the game, are we going to be moving pieces around the board?” and although it can offer crucial extra points (and some additional bonuses for well placed tokens), it’s fairly easy to get 8 or 9 tokens adjacent each. Personally, I wanted a little more to happen. The tokens are very satisfying as they tesselate so nicely, but one would expect them to occupy the same space (otherwise why have them in that shape?) but only one player can occupy each space, so it seems a little odd.

The Duet end-of-round goal tiles do make it more interesting, but often we found ourselves trading points as one of us would focus on one round goal while the other gave up and focussed on the next one.

Midgame you can see some examples of the new bird cards, the new eggs and of course the Duet mode in the background. Every time I play a bird into a habitat I add another Duet token to the map.

Flock mode

Admission time, I have not played the Flock mode yet as we haven’t had enough people around the table to play it, so won’t go into full review mode. However my main two thoughts are, firstly I love how they’ve made it so two players can take their turns simultaneously and they’ve allowed for multiple players to win end of round goals, this would allow for much smoother and faster gameplay than if one person took their turn at a time (which would be very boring!). Secondly, whilst I appreciate the effort of allowing people to play up to 7 players, I don’t ever see why I would choose to play Wingspan if I had 6 or 7 players at a game night. If we’ve got that many players around a table, we’re looking for shorter games with more interaction and ideally simultaneous play (personal recommendation would be Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig).

As I said though, I haven’t tried it, so your guess is as good as mine.

Wingspan Asia comes with this handy little turn dial for Flock mode, which indiacates which players take their turn at any one time, so the most you’re ever waiting for is three players to take their turn.

Extra “stuff”

The 90 new bird cards offer an array of new powers (although admittedly they’re still either brown, teal, pink, yellow or white), but most importantly they aren’t just the same powers as the previous versions of the game and do offer different strategy options for players. So they’re good enough to use as a set on their own, or to combine with the vast quantity of cards from the previous versions. And we love Wingspan, we love the ever expanding deck of bird cards, and we’ll never get bored of unwrapping new additions to that deck. The illustrations are perfect and I enjoy reading the little factoids about the birds as I play them onto my board.

One of the other interesting things I found with Wingspan Asia is that because the Duet mode is a standalone game, they wisely included a full rulebook for the game, it doesn’t assume knowledge of the base game. The first time I realised this I panicked because I didn’t want to have to read all the way through the book again just to find the Duet mode and Flock mode nuances and rule changes, but thankfully these are very well signposted so any experienced Wingspanners (kinda like that word) can just skim through to the relevant sections.

Another extremely welcome addition, this time to non-experienced Wingspanners (and even total newbie Wingspanners), is the swift start guides for the Duet mode game. This signposts some starting cards and first moves to take so that you can get to grips with gameplay faster. The starting cards have simpler powers and can get the engine going nicely, without being too intimidating to those playing for the first time (I believe the correct term is newbie Wingspanners).

The standalone game has a cardboard bird tray (instead of the plastic one from the base game) and dice board, which are obviously not needed for anyone who owns the original game, but do take up significantly less space on the board and table, and the bird tray is more eco friendly too.

Instead of the bird feeder dice tower (which you can still use if you have the base game, of course), you get a simple cardboard tray, much more compact. Also check out the non-plastic trays for the food tokens.

Eco friendliness is clearly something they’ve thought about here, much more than other games as there has been a notable switch in materials for the bags and components. It’s something we were very pleased to see and we’ll see more and more of it as board game publishers get on board with greener initiatives.

Fully aware that anyone who has read my reviews of the base game and European & Oceania expansions (hello Mum) will be sick of me gurning over the production quality and looks of this series of game. But seriously guys, wow. Few games please the eyes as much as Wingspan, and the Asia expansion, especially with the Duet mode in full swing, is an absolute delight to look at.

One of the best table presences you’ll find in gaming. And this is without the birdbox dice tower or bird tray from the original game. Takes up considerably less table space though!

Overall thoughts

Back to my original question of “is this expansion worth my hard-earned money” I shall answer with an annoying vagueness. Yes and no.

Yes, because it’s Wingspan, it’s gorgeously made, you can play with additional players and the extra bird cards are great. No, because the Duet mode isn’t as interesting as it promises to be when you first lay eyes/eggs on it.

If you love Wingspan and all its expansions, chances are you’ve already got this expansion (what are you doing here?), but in case you haven’t, you’ll still enjoy it and if you primarily play two players then Duet mode might well be for you.

However if you like Wingspan and are unsure whether to get an expansion for it, I would personally go for the Oceania version over the Asia one, as I think you get more bird for your buck.

That said, if I didn’t own Wingspan, I would more than happily pick up a copy of Wingspan Asia and play it as a standalone game.

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