As we convened at my neighbor’s house for our rescheduled game night, I unloaded what seemed to be an unending stream of games from my trusty, reusable grocery sack that is nearing the end of its usefulness due to a number of rips and tears. I had taken a number of games with me, including Wingspan, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Ethnos, Blue Lagoon (tropical Camel-Go (Through the Desert) without Camels or Go), HMS Dolores (Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Set Collection Game), Animals On Board (I-split-you-choose, or you-split-I-choose, or we all just take food while trying to not draw attention to the group we actually want), Broom Service: The Card Game.
My fellow gamenight-goers also brought games of various sizes, shapes, densities and viscosities; I believe within the mix was Multiuniversum, Smiths of Winterforge, Planetarium, Founders of Gloomhaven, and Yokohama.
Our host for the night had been eagerly anticipating Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, despite the fact that the name is so short; I suppose some amount of compromises were made to ensure that the entire title would fit on the front cover. So, though we all hoped for a game whose title would stand out a bit more, the three of us opened it up and started playing. None of us had played Castles of Mad King Ludwig, though two of us have a copy of it on our Shelves of Shame, and only one of the three of us had played Between Two Cities. I went through the rules explanation as quickly as I could and, once everybody learned the basic gameplay, the rest of the rules seemed unnecessary. I certainly enjoyed it but I knew early on that the castle on my left was doing very poorly, meaning the player on my right would likely win the game… and that is exactly what did happen. Regardless, I really enjoyed the game and now I have yet another reason to ditch 7 Wonders from my collection; i.e. a combination of Sushi Go and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig completely account for any scenario that would otherwise be satisfied by 7 Wonders.
Following the tied-61-point castle win of he-who-sits-on-my-right, we’ll call him D, we discussed our next endeavor, landing squarely on the much-hyped but largely-unknown quantity Wingspan. Both of my co-WingSpanners greatly enjoy Terraforming Mars more than I do; it’s a game that I will play but I probably cannot be accused of smiling at any time during the game (unless I’m discussing my PowerPoint presentation theory). Though, somewhat of a running joke at this point, D never seems to get the right cards when playing card-based, tableau-enging-building games (except in Terraforming Mars, for some reason), he was still game to give it a try.
Wait, pause there and rewind a couple of days…
<insert sound of tape playing in reverse>… I was stunned by the production quality of Wingspan when I unboxed it shortly after it landed on my doorstep this past Tuesday. There are so many things that could have been skipped or just never considered during the component design process. There’s no reason for eggs to be different colors, but they are and, additionally, they are wonderfully delightful pastel colors that, ultimately, make me want to eat Easter candy. The included component dishes/trays are absolutely amazing (recently, we played Alchemists which includes extremely similar dishes). The bird house is exceptional if not extremely gimmicky; still an engaging piece of presentation and certainly an attention-getter. The one nit I would pick in the entire production is the goal sheet; why… why is this flimsy cardstock? It would have been so satisfying for it to be chitboard with pleasant recesses for the scoring markers and the goal chits to sit in. I may pursue a 3D-printed replacement if I can get around to relearning OpenSCAD.
Okay, fast-forward again to last night: Wingspan is such a simple, pleasing, elegant game with a very clever mechanism for keeping the playtime short as you progress through the game. The engine-building is extremely rewarding without ever seeming like you’re just waiting around for the right cards to finally show up. At each turn, I was torn by which of the many interesting things I could do.
I think, after one play, my one criticism of the gameplay is that my last two turns were spent calculating how many bird-points I could earn with each of my bird-actions. Despite the wonderful art and graphic design and the lovely tactile wooden eggs adorning my personal player-board, I stared through all of that, down into the underlying cogs and numbers to find every last feathery point I could.
All-in-all, a great game night where Stonemaier Games took center stage and did not disappoint.