9 Card Wingspan – Mechanics and a Name

The last two posts in this series looked at the Cards and the Components in the 9 card game inspired by Wingspan. This post will examine the Mechanics.

Aim of the Game

9 card Wingspan, like the original, is primarily about attracting birds to the habitats in your Wildlife Sanctuary. The winner is the player with the most points, which you gain from the birds, their eggs, cached food and end of round goals. The original game also has the mechanic of “flocking”, whereby you gain points for tucking cards underneath birds in your habitats. This isn’t an easy thing to duplicate when bird cards don’t physically play into the habitats. So for the moment it will not appear in this 9 card version.

However, an important part of the original Wingspan is the engine building that occurs. Almost all of the bird cards have a bonus. Some of these are one off bonuses, that you get when you play them. But the majority are ongoing bonuses, that trigger during the rest of the game. Cards with pink bonuses trigger when another player does something; “When another player takes the “lay eggs” action, this bird lays 1 egg on another with a bowl nest.” But the most common bonus is a brown activation bonus. And stringing these birds together in your habitats can build a very nice engine.

Activation Bonus

Wingspan Card

When the Spotted Sandpiper from the original game is placed on your Player Board, it gives you two advantages. It increases the ability to perform the action of that habitat, which we looked at in an earlier post. And it adds an Activation bonus when you do the Draw Card action. You would draw cards as per the number of occupied spaces in that habitat. AND then the Activation bonus would trigger, which would mean that all players draw a card from the deck. Two birds with an Activation bonus in the Wetlands, will get both of the bonuses when you choose the Draw Card action. Playing the right combination of birds to the right habitats, allows you to build some nice engines.

However, in the 9 card version that I’m building, we can’t have Activation bonuses on bird cards. It is impossible to keep track of them, because the bird cards aren’t placed in the habitats. But Activation bonuses are an important part of the game, so I thought about the best way to implement them. It seemed like the obvious solution was to print them directly on the Player Boards.

Player Boards

Player Board with Activation

The Player Board has two spare spots in each habitat for an Activation Bonus. To try and keep the balance, I’ll match bonuses with the habitat on the Bird card I borrowed them from. After you place a bird cube on a habitat space with a bonus, it will activate whenever you perform that habitats action. So, the first bird placed in the Grasslands, will trigger “Lay 1 egg on any bird” when you choose “Lay Eggs”.

We want variety among the bonuses, so they will be different on each of the 4 sides of the 2 double sided player boards. I thought about how they might get chosen during the game. I came up with the following.

Each player will roll a dice. If both players roll the same number, they will roll again until they show different numbers. The player that rolled the higher number will take the “High” Player Board. The player with the lower number will take the “Low” Player Board. Both players will then turn then board over to the side that reflects whether they rolled and “Even” or “Odd” number. This will be the board they will use for the game.

As you can see above, this is an image of the “High Even” Player Board. There is a higher chance of playing it, and the “Low Odd” Board, because of the way dice rolls work. I don’t think it will make too much difference, but we shall see.

Card Drawing and Dicarding

The deck of bird cards is the biggest game mechanic which we are messing with. There are only 5 cards in the deck to draw from, after each player gets their starting card. Each card has 5 birds on it, which is the hand limit in the original game. I needed to think about drawing more cards AND discarding cards for food, and the following options came to me.

Wingspan Bird Cards

Drawing Cards

1. You can draw a second card to attract birds to your habitats. BUT the birds only become available from a position you have used up on your first card. If you play the Kookaburra to your Bush Habitat, you mark this space with a Cube. You then have the ability to play the bird in the bottom left spot of a second card you draw.

2. As your Drawing cards ability increases along the Wetlands track, you get the ability to choose between 2 or 3 cards from the deck. You would discard the unused cards, to the bottom of the deck.

Discarding Cards

1. You can choose to “Mark” an unplayed bird on one of the bird cards in front of you, by placing an Egg token on that bird. This will indicate that you have removed your ability to Play it into you Habitats, in exchange for the extra Food.

2. A Marked bird is used, similar to a Played bird. Marking a bird on your first card, makes the bird in the same position on your second card available for Play.

3. You can only have 2 bird cards to choose from at any time, so as you repeat the Draw cards action, you must choose one of your current cards to discard. This may be a card with one or more Played birds and/or one or more Marked birds.

Play testing this mechanic will give me an idea of how well it works, and how easy it is to follow. But before that can happen, I need to make all the required cards. With that in mind I’ll let you know that I have found a great resource for the art required. I will be using the wonderful illustrations of Elizabeth Gould, from her husbands book, Birds of Australia (1840-1848). The illustrations were digitally enhanced for a 1972 edition, and are available for free under the Creative Commons 0 license.

Red Cap Parakeet

The Name of the Game

Finally, I put a call out on the Boardgamegeek thread to get suggestions for a name. I wanted something that reflected the name of the original, but evoked the cut down version, in the same that Tinyforming Mars and Settlers of Catiny do. With thanks to Adrian Pillai, this game will be called Wingtip.

Continued in Wingtip – Bird Cards

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