Wingspan: Oceania Expansion - Spotlight Series
Board game luminary Wingspan gets its first mechanical expansion! In addition to beautiful new bird cards, the Oceania Expansion also introduces a new resource: Nectar. This potent asset works with the other types of food in the game, and opens up new strategic possibilities for an already excellent game. Check out what else is new in Wingspan’s Oceania Expansion!
As the name implies, Wingspan’s Oceania Expansion features birds from Australia and New Zealand. The bird ecology in that part of the world is a little different, as well. And, in what appears to be a trend in the designer Elizabeth Hargrave’s games, the subtleties of the subject are reflected in the game’s rules and strategies. The trees in Australia tend to produce more nectar and lerp than trees in many other parts of the world. Consequently, this extra sugar in the food chain has effects on many other parts of the ecosystem. Not to mention how different birds in Australia and New Zealand can be, such as flightless birds, and how these are represented in the new bird cards. See, we’re learning more already!
Most of Wingspan’s Oceania Expansion components primarily focus on using this new Nectar mechanic. The expansion comes with a selection of wooden Egg miniatures that come in a new color, yellow, but that’s mostly it. However, the new Nectar-centric components are pretty exciting.
Of course, there’s a bunch of new cardboard Nectar tokens that go alongside the Seed/Insect/Fish/Fruit/Rodent tokens. To match this, there’s also 5 replacement Food Dice, that feature Nectar icons on some of their faces.
There are 5 replacement Player Mats as well. These are mostly the same as the original mats. There are two important differences, though. On the left-hand side, each of the Food, Eggs and Cards rows has a spot to put spent Nectar tokens. Spending more Nectar tokens on one of those rows than your opponents gets you a neat 5 victory points at the end of game.
The abilities in the second and fourth columns have a new Rest action, as well. When players trigger this action, in addition to getting Food or Cards, they can discard a Food token or a card. If the player triggers the Food reset, they can reroll the dice in the Birdfeeder before picking dice. If the player triggers the Card reset, they discard the bird cards in the bird tray before drawing new cards.
There are new Scorepads, as well, with a new row to help players calculate bonus points from spending Nectar tokens. There are a handful of new goal tiles and bonus cards, as well.
And of course, there’s a big ol’ stack of new bird cards. A lot of them require or interact with Nectar, and some have a new Game End power. Interestingly, the birds that are native to New Zealand use their Maori names instead of their English names.
So this is the new thing that the expansion revolves around. Nectar is sort of like a “wild” food type, but not for every purpose. Nectar can be spent to pay for any other type in a food cost. Likewise the original 2-for-1 rule applies to Nectar as well. The original five-segment wild food icon also includes Nectar.
However, Nectar is different from a wild in a couple of important ways. Firstly, Nectar isn’t the same as a wild food. It’s still its own food type. So when a bird card checks for a specific food type, it’ll count the name type and wild icons, but not Nectar.
Lastly, spending Nectar can bring you closer to victory! At the end of the game, players check each Habitat row on their player mats - Forest, Grassland, and Wetland. The player who spent the most Nectar on each Habitat gets an extra 5 victory points. (With a possible maximum of 15, if a player spends the most on all three habitats.) This may not be a huge amount of points, considering all the different ways players can get points, but it’s just a little extra bonus that can put you over the top to achieve victory.
Game End Powers
Some of the new Oceania birds have a new kind of power. This new power uses a yellow stripe at the bottom of the bird card, and they’re pretty easy to use. They only trigger once, at the end of the game, and almost provide victory points in some way. Some Game End birds let you tuck cards or cache food for extra points, or even let you get new bonus cards or play new last-minute bird cards.
Obviously, birds with Game End powers are late-game plays. They don’t do anything during the game, and those slots are better used for When Played, When Activated or Round End powers. Instead, if you find a bird with a Game End power, it’s best to hold on to it in your hand until the late game. When finally added to your player mat, Game End powers can be random, exciting, and powerful, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat for you.
They Come From The Land Down Under
The base Wingspan was lauded for its design and balance; it’s a thinky game where players need both planning and versatility to do well. The European Expansion only added Round End powers, and was mostly a roster update for Wingspan. However, Wingspan’s Oceania Expansion includes some pretty drastic changes to the formula.
The Oceania Expansion looks like it’ll raise the power level in Wingspan, giving players more flexibility and end the game with more victory points than otherwise. The Game End powers can add a level of randomness and unpredictability, as well. Strategic-minded Eurogame fans may not appreciate the surprise factor. There are players out there who would appreciate adding a little more spice to a pretty mechanical game.
At any rate, Wingspan’s Oceania Expansion adds a lot to a game, and looks like a great purchase for fans of the original game.