I am not unique in being a fan of Wingspan, so I have been looking forward to playing Wyrmspan. Because who wouldn’t want to play a dragon version of Wingspan? Except that Stonemaier goes out of its way to make sure everyone knows that Wyrmspan is not just a dragon reskin of Wingspan, I mean not so far as naming the game uniquely, not labeling it a Wingspan game, or choosing a completely different box color or different design for the box or eggs or… but I digress, they are different games, the way each Fall Out Boy album is a different album
In Wyrmspan, 1-5 players build a sanctuary for dragons on their own player mats across three Caves: Crimson Cavern, Golden Grotto, and Amethyst Abyss. Players can only play a dragon on excavated spaces in the Caves. The goal is to be the player with the most victory points at the end of the game.
The game is played over 4 rounds. During each round, players take turns performing the following alliterative actions:
- Excavate: Pay one coin to play a cave card to excavate a new space in one of your three Caves from left to right, there are three spaces to excavate per Cave with an additional cost of 1 egg for space three and 2 eggs for space four. Cave cards have “when played” bonuses and the fourth space has a “when covered” bonus.
- Entice: Play a Dragon card from your hand to an excavated space in one of your Caves by paying one coin plus the resource cost on the Dragon’s card. Receive any “when played” abilities listed on the Dragon card.
- Explore: Pay one coin to enter each Cave the first time per round, each successive visit to the same Cave during the same round has an additional egg cost. (Enter 2x’s pay 1 coin and 1 egg, 3x’s 1 coin and 2 eggs) Once your explorer enters the cave he activates all “when activated” abilities/benefits as the explorer walks across cave from left to right until they walk onto a stop sign. The Excavate and Entice actions build the engine that the Explore action activates.
Players continue performing these actions in clockwise order, starting with the player with the beautiful giant dragon starting player token, until each player passes because they don’t have sufficient coins or resources to perform an action or they decide to save coins and/or resources for the next round. Throughout the game, players also earn Dragon Guild advancements which moves their marker along the Dragon Guild board gaining immediate benefits or places a marker on one of the limited spaces that result in either immediate or end game benefits.
At the end of Round 4, the game ends and the player with the most victory points wins.
Wyrmspan is one of the best designed board games I have ever played. It is a very accessible game for newbies and people who preferred it when Gen Con was in Milwaukee. All of the rules are printed somewhere visible, in case a player forgets. The round tracker has the reminders of the round end/Upkeep actions. The player mats have reminders of all available actions and their corresponding costs, the two player resource cards detail all of the ways to earn VP and provide quick start suggestions to insure that new players don’t make early decisions that cost them the game, which can occur in other engine building games.
We only had to look back at the rules once to insure that you can place eggs on the nests or the dragons when you earn an egg in a manner that does not say “lay an egg.” (You can.) Additionally, the cards, mats, boards, eggs, and resources are all high quality and the dragon art is great.
As far as the game play, it flows quickly with the excellent mechanic of each player taking only one action per turn in the four rounds. This keeps the down time for each player to a minimum. With so many ways to earn VP, there are many strategies to consider, do you concentrate on the early objectives, the later objectives, fill one Cave completely to create the most efficient “engine” for exploration, focus on high VP dragons with increased costs, or go for quantity of dragons, rush to advance on the Dragon Guild track to secure the best bonuses with limited availability, or concentrate on caching resources and tucking dragons.
From my early plays, I have not found a strategy that is overpowered, but the luck of your initial dragon draw combined with fortunate early objectives can get you a head start on the objective scoring. This can be annoying if, for example, the first two round objectives are dragon specific and you don’t start with any of the appropriate dragons and they don’t appear on the display board, while your opponent started with those dragons in hand. But, this is a game with 183 dragons, so randomness will always be a part of this game.
The use of coins as the turn limiting factor is unique, in that each player may have a different number of turns based on whether they earned a coin on one turn, spent an extra coin on a different turn, or saved one from a previous round. Another interesting mechanic is the additional costs of a coin plus 1-2 eggs, (both are worth VP at game end) to repeat the exploration action in one Cave and to excavate the third and fourth spaces in each Cave. This makes players, especially near the end of the game, weigh whether the cost of the action is worth the VP you have to lose to perform it.
When enticing dragons, you are limited in where you can place them based on their habitat, but it is important to pay attention to their abilities, because players need to decide if it is more valuable to have “when activated” abilities to create an improved “engine” during exploration, “once per round” abilities, or “end game” abilities. A combination is probably the ideal choice, but again due to the randomness of the dragons this may not always be a choice.
Ever since I was introduced to Tiamat the five headed dragon in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, I have enjoyed the mythology of Dragons. That being said, the 183 Wyrmspan Dragon Facts is even a bit much for me. However, any game that pays that much detail to an appendix you know spent attention to every detail of the game, and it shows. This game is excellent. As an added bonus, there is also a solo mode if that’s your thing.
If you don’t own Wingspan, this game is a must purchase. The question is, if you already own Wingspan do you need this game? That question is harder to answer. I think Wyrmspan is probably a better game than Wingspan, with more strategies, more options for VP, and for me a slightly more interesting theme (although I love how much I have learned about birds). Stonemaier games really wants you to think of this as a completely new game, which it is, but it is hard not to see the bones of Wingspan inside this game. Again, the design is excellent, the components are top notch, the game is fun, and a very important selling point: it is both complex and easy to explain so you can always bring it to the table with any crowd.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – If Wingspan did not exist, this would be my first 5 Star game, but it does and I can’t ignore that this game builds heavily upon a great game. If you love dragons or don’t own Wingspan go buy this game. If you can find someone to pay face value for your used Wingspan go buy this game.
• The accessibility and reminders of all rules printed on mats, boards, and cards prevents you from needing to refer to the rulebook.
• The variety of ways to score VP creates many different strategies to win.
• Lots of replay value.
• The art and components are very high quality and make it worth the money.
• 183 Dragon Cards increases the randomness of the game when trying to score the round objectives and can heavily tilt the game in one players favor.
• While not a miss for me personally, some players may be turned off by the complete lack of player interaction. It is very much Multiplayer Solitaire.
• If you own and love Wingspan, you might just want to miss this game so you don’t stop loving Wingspan.