When Birding and Board Gaming Collide

Top 20 Thursday

On Thursdays, I take a look at a game in the top 20, talk about one aspect of the game that I believe helped it secure its spot in the rankings, and then mention a few titles you may enjoy if you liked the game of the day.

Today’s game includes flock building, egg collecting, and synergizing your way to victory.


I’ve been a Stonemaier fanboy for a long time and for a while I just auto-ordered Jamey’s titles because they have some of the best production quality in the industry. Not to mention, I have nearly one hundred cumulative recorded plays for Viticulture and Scythe. But, I’ll be honest, when Jamey announced a bird-themed board game, I was extremely skeptical. In fact, it was the first Stonemaier title that I didn’t preorder. But, ironically, I think this is the very reason that Wingspan has catapulted into the top 20.

I am fully aware of Wingspan’s many merits. The gameplay is fluid, straightforward, and engaging. It falls into the thinky but not too long category. And it is beautiful. But there are a lot of good games that have similar qualities, so what makes Wingspan special?

I’d argue that one of the main contributing factors to Wingspan’s success is that its unique theme targeted an untapped niche so effectively that it converted them into board gamers.

The Wingspan facebook fan group is one of the most unique board game related groups I have seen. Most facebook board game groups focus on just that, the game. The unique thing about the Wingspan group is that it focuses on their other main hobby, birdwatching. The feed is filled with cute bird memes, side-by-sides of card art and real life captures, and bird watching advice with just a bit of game strategy and highs score comparisons to mix things up.

What Wingspan does so well is that it beautifully melds theme with game in a way that is rarely accomplished in the hobby. This really shouldn’t be a surprise because the designer, Elizabeth Hargrave, made a game that she knew she would love. It combined two of her passions, birding and gaming, and it just so happens that many others find it compelling too. It makes you wonder what other untapped niches are out there.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I’ve done some asking around in the facebook group and it’s amazing how many people were introduced to modern gaming through Wingspan and my guess is that it is because of the theme. So when you have a mechanically solid game that can woo gamers and non-gamers alike, it’s no surprise that Wingspan is in the top-20.

Other Games To Consider if You Like Wingspan

If you like the main mechanic (engine-building), then you should check out Res Arcana. I always joke that Res Arcana’s biggest pitfall is that it was released in the same year as Wingspan. Res Arcana is a fantastic card-driven, engine-builder. It is quick, streamlined, allows for fully knowing the cards that you will have access to throughout the game, and it features a victory point race end game condition, which I really enjoy in quick games.

If you like the theme and production quality, then you should check out Parks. Parks is gorgeous. The card art is in that classic travel poster motif and all the way down to the insert, the production quality is top notch. In parks you are out on a hike, capturing pictures, and gathering resource on a one way trail. Low rules overhead and another unique theme makes this a great family weight game.

If you like the designer, you should check out Tussie Mussie. Tussie Mussie is another game by Elizabeth Hargraves and for being a flower-themed game can be quite thorny. It’s built on the I-split-you-choose mechanic, which makes for some delicious decisions and makes it a really solid game at all player counts. Not to mention it has a great solo variant and is very cheap to pick-up from Button Shy Games.

99 Days of Blogging Challenge

I’m trying to get my blogging legs under me, so I’ve taken up the challenge to blog every day until the end of 2020. Just one of the ways I’m keeping my sanity in the midst of the dumpster fire this year has been. If you liked this content and you are interested in following along, sign-up below to suggest topics and vote on content.

If you can’t see the form, click here to sign up

Blogging Schedule

  • Mechanics Monday
  • Trains Tuesday
  • Wired Wednesday
  • Top-20 Thursday
  • Freeform Friday
  • Collection Strategy Saturday
  • What I’ve Been Playing Sunday

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