Hey hey folks! Wow, so yeah, that Wingspan game is pretty popular huh? We’ve even covered it in a few lists and videos here at Game Kings. But what is it about this game that gets everyone so excited? It’s not like there are any foxes in it. Popular opinion seems to be that the theme is what appeals to so many gamers and that Wingspan is responsible for bringing so many new players to the hobby. Today I’m looking at the Top 10 Games That Aren’t Wingspan in the hopes that gamers who love this foxless game can find other similar titles that might broaden their palette. The measure of whether a game is Wingspanny enough here is if it shares more than one of the following, a similar gameplay experience, art style, theme, complexity, approachability or a sense of peace. So, let’s get started!
10. Four Gardens
In this set collecting, hand management game, players are competing to construct the most beautiful garden at the foot of the pagoda of the four gods to win their favour and attain the crown. Featuring an eye-catching 3D pagoda, Four Gardens brings with it a sense of beauty and the satisfaction of completing sets as players go about their work gathering the necessary resources to complete the next stage of their gardens. Just as Wingspan provides the endorphin rush associated with a series of actions culminating in a flood of new birds and eggs, so too does Four Gardens replicate this same tingly feeling whenever a player manages the hard won finishing touch to complete their set of garden cards. Using elements of Korean culture throughout, Four Gardens manages to strike the balance between fun and mindfulness.
I’ll be honest, I almost placed Photosynthesis in this spot, but upon revisiting Bosk, I found it to provide a more fully realised gameplay experience than it’s tree-themed brother from another mother. Bosk is a game of growing magnificent trees in an untouched forest, cultivating them through the four seasons before finally scoring up points based on how much ground you covered. Bosk could almost take place in the extended Wingspan cinematic universe, after all, where do all those birds roost? That’s right, in the wetlands and the glass lands, but also in the trees! Bosk has more than its share of bird real estate on offer. Featuring a colour palette that harkens the four seasons themselves, from bright summer greens, to autumnal yellows and reds to the striking whites and browns of a leafless winter, players can take pride in the environments they create.
Of all the games on this list, Petrichor is perhaps one of the most uniquely themed games I’ve come across to date. In short, you play as a cloud. Yep, a good old fashioned rainbringer itself! The purpose of the game is to rain on crops in just the right quantity to influence the next harvest. All the players are trying to be the ones to bring the next crop to harvest, so everyone has an interest in watering them at just the right time and in just the right amount to be the one to score. A fun and oddly thematic euro game, Petrichor takes the mindfulness of Wingspan in a different direction, well, technically a similar direction since birds can often be found in the skies too, but you know what I mean. The graphic design of Petrichor manages to balance the stylistic beauty of clouds and nature and the clean, no nonsense minimalism of science and combine them into a game that works far better than it should. This is definitely one to save for a rainy day!
7. Machi Koro
After all the high concept themes, components and artwork of the other titles on this list, Machi Koro could appear somewhat underwhelming by comparison. But what it lacks in flash it makes up for in simplicity. Taking its cues from Marie Kondo, eliminating that which does not spark joy and leaving itself only with what is needed to feel happy and fulfilled, Machi Koro shares much with Japanese culture, which is appropriate to the theme of building a functioning card engine based on Japanese city planning. Purchasing cards and adding them to your city, expanding gradually and as needed and collecting new rewards each round never seems to get old. While both games are primarily engine builders, resisting the urge to over-engineer the gameplay is one of the strengths underlying the experience provided by Machi Koro. Simple, neat and concise.
6. Mandala Stones
Arguably the most abstract title on this list, Mandala Stones provides a wonderfully colourful experience, having players move pieces called artists between stacks of vibrant mandala stones and collecting all the stones from the tops of the stacks that match the symbol of the moved artist. Like any good euro game, the winner is the player who scored the most points by the end of the game. Scoring is based on the colours and the variety of stacks of stones. While there isn’t much in common between Wingspan and Mandala Stones, the latter is arguably more approachable to a wider audience, making for a memorable gateway to modern gaming. Collecting and stacking the tiles feels great and the colours! Oh the colours! How I wish I could see them, but we foxes have dichromatic vision.
5. Sleeping Gods
This isn’t the first time Sleeping Gods has been mentioned in one of my lists, and it likely won’t be the last, it’s a great game! But how does this deeply narrative exploration game compare to Wingspan? The first thing that comes to mind when I play each of these titles is the sense of peace I anticipate from them. Where Wingspan offers a front seat to bird enthusiasts, Sleeping Gods evokes the same feelings one may experience when sitting down with their favourite book in the summer sun. Sure, there are monsters to be fought and dangers to survive, but they are always approached in a way that leaves players feeling like they engaged in an emotional experience, furthered a story and came a step closer to unlocking some greater mystery. Wingspan fulfils my sense of discovery of the natural world, whereas Sleeping Gods does the same for my sense of adventure in a land undiscovered.
This one is an obvious choice for several reasons, first of all, Mariposas is the brainchild of Elizabeth Hargrave, the creator of Wingspan. Secondly, it too embraces the gentle beauty of the natural world, this time, choosing butterflies as it’s focus. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, however. While Wingspan is a solid engine building card game, Mariposas instead tasks players with guiding monarch butterflies along their migratory path from Mexico to North America and back again incorporating elements of hexagon movement and set collection. Stylishy produced, Mariposas provides a vastly different gameplay experience than Wingspan while still managing to echo Hargrave’s previous title though its themes of beauty, and serenity.
Stepping away from the natural world and into the world of wine making, Viticulture has what it takes to appeal to the bird watching crowd. Rolling green Italian fields, lined with neat rows of grape vines, cosy vineyard buildings and workers gently stomping grapes into the pulp that will soon be bottled and heading to store shelves around the world. Perhaps that’s an oversimplification of the winemaking process, but as far as board gaming goes, Viticulture is the master class in winemaking as a tabletop experience. While decidedly animal free, Viticulture fills a similar space to Wingspan in that it offers a sense of tranquility and peace, evoking the imagery we’ve come to expect and enjoy around the winemaking tradition. Wile away the hours tending your fields, harvesting and ageing your grapes and fulfilling orders to make your vineyard a success, all from the comfort of your dining room table.
PARKS, hailed as an exploration of US National Parks, is a 1-5 player set collecting game where players are hikers exploring the vast natural landscape of some of the US’s most breathtaking vistas. Along the way players collect resources, camp out with fellow hikers, take photos of the places they visit and generally take in all these national parks have to offer over the course of four seasons. So, what makes this a great non-Wingspan? The pace! Whether in group or as a solo player, PARKS encourages you to place value on the journey rather than the destination. Sure, you can skip your hiker ahead several spaces to get that precious mountain resource you need, but maybe you’ll miss capturing a special moment with your camera. PARKS, like Wingspan, rewards an awareness of the game’s environment and recognising when to make your next move.
A favourite of almost anyone who’s played it, Everdell is the Wingspan that almost was. In fact, until the bird-themed brute fluttered onto the scene, Everdell pretty much occupied the space of the beautiful, animal themed card game with its lavish production quality, enchanting artwork, set collection and tableau expanding gameplay. Like Wingspan, Everdell draws the eye but it’s not just pretty to look at, it’s also a truly excellent game. Players engage under the shade of the Evertree to build structures and entice critters to occupy their burgeoning towns in a whimsical forest inhabited by anthropomorphic animals that seem straight off the pages of a children’s fairytale. If you enjoy Wingspan but you’re looking to step up to a slightly meatier experience, then Everdell is an ideal choice. While it appears daunting at first blush, Everdell’s systems connect to the theme well, helping new players make sense of the mechanisms in play to create their ideal cosy forest towns.
So ends another week and another list; what are your thoughts on these picks for the Top 10 Games That Aren’t Wingspan? If your recommendations didn’t make the list, be sure to let me know in the comments below or share your best Wingspan-adjacent games over on our Game Kings Gamers page. Until next time, have fun everybody!