Wingspan doesn’t end up answering the question of whether strategy card games are the best fit for home consoles.
A successful award-winning card-based board game released in 2019, this adaptation to the Switch is technically excellent – but we’re unsure if it’ll find an audience on the console.
There’s so many rules to take in the average casual player will be put off immediately. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it another rule or wrinkle is thrown your way.
Problem is, the tutorial is well presented and couldn’t be made any clearer. It’s just without the physical cards and board in front of you it’s that bit harder to take in. We’d generally recommend playing Wingspan with someone else, at least at first.
Once you do get to grips with everything this is a sedate yet charming experience. You are the keeper of a nature reserve and have to gain as many points as possible from it. You do this by either drawing a bird from your hand, taking food from a birdfeeder, pushing out eggs, or drawing a card during each turn.
You then accumulate points by following each round’s special conditions – including how many birds you have in a certain habitat (grassland, forest or wetland), number of eggs laid, and so on.
There are eight rounds, and setting yourself up to succeed in one by following a certain condition is something to be considered carefully – as the conditions can change from round to round.
All the birds have different powers, and there are a number of other variables in play. Trust us, it’s a lot to take in – but once it’s sunk in you can then enjoy the game’s laid back sensibilities.
This even extends to matches played with friends, as you can’t directly attack your opponent – Wingspan very much asks you to focus on your own game.
That design choice might be divisive, but what can’t be argued is that this Switch port of the board-game couldn’t have been much better.
The presentation is superb, with hand-drawn artwork and a relaxing ambient soundtrack. This all adds to the feeling that Wingspan is well aware it is targeting a very small niche.
Even with that in mind we’re still not sure Wingspan needed a digital gaming iteration, and if you can get your hands on the physical version we’d recommend that as a first resort – even if it is triple the price. If not then this a more than serviceable alternative.