Wingspan is one of the more popular games out there right at the moment, with it arriving in January 2019 by sitting on a wire and crapping onto a whole bunch of tables.
No, sorry, that’s taking the bird metaphor a bit too far. It’s actually an excellent game that I’ve played three times now (twice at Dice Tower West!). It would probably have made my Top 25 Games I’ve Played list if I hadn’t played it shortly after doing that list.
This game, designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and published by Stonemaier Games, is a tableau-building game where each card is a unique bird in North America (unless you’re playing with the European expansion cards).
And now it’s coming to digital form, as announced last year.
Over last weekend, the beta was opened up and I was a part of it.
I think it may be unusual that a beta for a game is only open for 4 days, but that’s the way that developer Monster Couch wanted it.
(Please note that all images are screen shots taken from the beta, so it’s not necessarily final graphics. Also these impressions are from the beta, so the interface and stuff might change too)
It’s looking pretty good even in beta form!
Single-player play is easy to set up. You can either play the Automata (the single-player from the board game) or you can play against multiple AIs. You can also play hot seat with other players.
There is, of course, online play and it appears to be asynchronous! That is a godsend and I can’t wait to play this when it comes out completely. I already have some friends lined up for it.
However, it also appears that (at least for the beta, so maybe this will change when the game actually comes out) there is no “friends list” and you just have to send invites to people (hopefully you know their names!).
Another issue is that you can’t identify who your opponents are and what colour they are (I only did a 2-player game so I knew who it was, but if I didn’t already know who invited me, I wouldn’t have been able to tell).
The artwork is kind of rough, but I think it’s supposed to be that way. It’s not crisp and clear or vibrant at all. Maybe that’s the way nature intended it, though.
Everything is certainly recognizable, though I do wish the flavour text from the bird cards in the tabletop game had been included. Maybe that’s another thing to be added before it comes up officially.
That, or they’re saving that for the card gallery, which appears to only show you the birds that you’ve played with so far (or something like that). The card gallery does show you the description when you click on the card.
So maybe that’s enough.
The interface is actually pretty easy to use and I like it a lot. I didn’t actually play the tutorial and I would guess that will help navigating.
I figured it out pretty easily, though, which is a sign of a good interface if somebody like me can do it without the tutorial. It helps that there are tooltips whenever you click on something.
You can click in the top right corner to see all of the end-of-round scoring cards. It is momentarily confusing that your bonus cards are shown on the left in your hand, but that goes away quickly.
Turn-order can be randomized or you can go first. It sometimes seemed like the other players went even when I was first player, but I couldn’t quite tell and it may have been my imagination.
All in all, I think Wingspan is an already brilliant game and Monster Couch has done a great job with it so far.
I didn’t notice any major bugs (other than maybe the turn order thing unless I’m just nuts) and the online multiplayer could use a little work (a friends list is really necessary, but I can see why they might not have put that in for a beta that’s only going to be there for four days).
If they can do better than Asmodee Digital in regards to async multiplayer, and it seems like they will (maybe lengthen the turns to 48 hours and I hope it doesn’t automatically kick you if you miss your turn like Star Realms does).
I don’t think Monster Couch has announced when the game will be officially published. Apparently the beta went really well, they got a lot of feedback and bug reports (I couldn’t find any but I’m not always the best to judge if things like certain cards aren’t working the way they’re supposed to) and they’ll work to get the game in tip-top shape.
Hopefully this will include the asynchronous multiplayer which is already pretty good.
Keep an eye out for Wingspan on Steam when it does come out.
If the beta is any indication, it’s going to be a great adaptation of an already great game.