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Wingspan – Setup and How To Play

Wingspan has taken the board game world by storm since winning the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres for best connoisseur game of the year. Designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and published by our friends at Stonemaier Games, this 1-5 player game will have you placing birds in specific habitats to score points, with the winner having the most points after 4 rounds. Let’s talk about the setup, and then look at how Wingspan plays.


Setting Up The Game

After you’ve punched out all the cardboard pieces and built your included bird feeder dice tower (instructions available with the game), it’s time to lay out all the components for the game, using the following guide to help you.

  1. Remove the player boards from the box, and assign one to each player. Also give each player one each of the food tokens, and the 8 action cubes in their desired colour.
  2. Place the remaining food tokens in two of the included plastic storage trays within reach of all the players; do the same with the eggs, noting that colour doesn’t matter in Wingspan (all eggs serve the same purpose).
  3. Setup the bird feeder dice tower within reach of all players, and drop the 5 included dice into the tower so their faces are displayed in the tray.
  4. Remove the 170 bird cards from the box and shuffle; shuffle the hidden objective deck as well. Then deal 5 bird cards and 2 objective cards to each player.blank
  5. Place the remaining bird cards face down on the table in a stack, and the objective cards, also face down, beside it. Turn up three bird cards and place them in the included tray.blank
  6. Find the public objective pieces and randomly choose 4, placing them face up on the objective board. It is now time to decide whether you want to play a more ocmpetative game, or a less competitive game.
    1. In a more competitive game, use the green side of the board. Who ever scores the most for that objective will go into slot 1, and so on (check rule book for what happens in a tie).
    2. In a less competitive game, use the blue side of the board. Here, you can only score the objective a maximum of 5 times, with players placing their cube on the number that corresponds to the number of times they completed an objective. Ties do not matter.

Now you are ready to play!

How To Play

From the 5 bird cards that you were dealt at the beginning of your turn, keep as many as you want, discarding at least one food token for each bird you decide to keep. Then look at your two objective cards, keeping one and discarding the other. Now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the symbols that appear on card.


The Habitat is where on your board that bird can be played. The food is what you will need to spend to place the bird on your board (in addition to an egg cost, if placed in columns 2-5). The feathers represent how many points each bird is worth at the end of the game. The nest type – one of many in the game – will come into play when satisfying some “Activation” rules, public and private goals. Star nests are wild, and represent all other types of nests. Finally, the Egg Limit is the maximum number of eggs that can be placed on any one bird.

The game comes with a handy appendix that will aid with any other questions players might have while playing the game.

Using your Action Cubes

After selecting bird cards and choosing one of your private objective cards, the person with the first player token will begin their round by choosing one of 4 options, all of which costs one action cube to do.

  1. Play a Bird – players can choose a bird from their hand and place it on their player mat, in the leftmost open column, following habitat rule placement. Players will then pay the required food tokens (located beneath the habitat symbol), and any eggs that are required if placing a bird in columns 2-5. Some birds will have an action item when the bird is played, and that should be resolved after placing, if the player wishes.blank
  2. Gain Food – players will place one of their action cubes in leftmost open space on their board, and acquiring the goods printed on the board (one or more food tokens from the bird feeder). blank
  3. Gain Eggs – players will place one of their action cubes in the leftmost open space on their board, and acquire the eggs printed on the board (one or more eggs).blank
  4. Gain Bird Cards – players will place one of their action cubes in the leftmost open space on their board, and acquire the designated number of cards listed. If choosing a card from the three face-up cards on the table, do NOT replenish the take birds until after the players turn is complete.

When performing actions 2-4, players then, after placing their cube, work their cubes towards the left side of their player board, activating any bird powers along the way (shaded in brown). Once your cube is on the left side of the board (and off your board spaces), your turn is over and play passes to the next person.


There are action items on cards that allow you to gain benefits when someone else does something, and players should be aware of those powers when others are taking their turns. Remember, all of these cards can only be activated once between turns, so don’t activate it again until after your next turn.

End of Round

When all players have used up their action cubes – all players should have an equal number of turns – the round ends. First, look at the public objective card and assess the objective for that round, using one of your action cubes to denote your placement. This means you will have one fewer action cubes to use during the next round (8 cubes in Round 1, 7 cubes in Round 2, 6 cubes in Round 3, and 5 cubes in Round 4).

Remove all the face-up birds from the tray in the middle of the table, and replace them with three new birds.

Pass the start player token clockwise to the next person, and begin the next round.

End of Game Scoring

Once 4 rounds have been completed, players will use the included score pad to calculate their scores. First, reveal your personal objective(s) and count of those points. Look at the public objectives and scores those as well. Then players can turn their attention to their boards.

First, add up all the feathers shown on their various birds. When that is completed, scores one additional point for every egg on your board, every cached food token, and for every card tucked beneath one of your birds. Should there be a tie, the player with the most leftover food tokens will considered the winner. If there is still a tie, the tied players share the victory.

And that is how to play Wingspan! Look for our full review of the game soon!



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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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