I have lost to the Wingspan solo automa more times that I want to admit. Wingspan is a card-driven engine building game where players are attracting birds into their wildlife preserves. If you need a basic game-play rundown, there are loads of reviews and play-throughs on YouTube you can check out — here I’m just talking about how the solo variant plays and how well I like it.
The solo game is set up like the base game, placing out the bird feeder/dice tower and food dice, bird cards, the food tokens, and the eggs. You take a player board, two random game-end bonus cards, one of each food token, and five bird cards. Set up the goal board — the rules recommend using the green side (the more competitive side), but you can use either. As usual, discard one game-end bonus and choose how many bird cards to keep, discarding one food for each one kept.
In addition, you need to set up the automa. It gets a set of action cubes for marking its progress on the goals, a game-end goal card, and a small deck of automa cards that you’ll shuffle and put in a stack nearby. There are also several helper cards for the automa – ones outlining its actions and another set with the game-end goals for each round of the game. There’s also a card to help you track which round you’re in and which action on the automa card to pay attention to.
I played recently with both the European and Oceania expansions, so I had nectar, too. There was some additional set-up for the nectar majorities.
The automa will score points from eggs and bird cards only. Some of the cards will be face-up, which they’ll get the face-value points. Others cards will be face-down, and they’ll get 3, 4, or 5 points for, depending on the difficulty that you choose.
The game is played as usual, with you taking your turns as normal. However, after each of your turns, the automa will take a turn. This is done by playing the top of the automa’s deck and applying the symbols for the current round.
The automa’s actions include resetting the bird cards in the market and taking a face-down card, taking cards from the market that help with their game-end goal, taking food from the bird feeder, adding/removing round-end goal cubes, and triggering between-round pink abilities.
At the end of the round, you go through the normal end-of-round steps. The round’s goal is evaluated for the automa by adding the number of their cubes on the goal plus or minus the base number it gets for that goal (using the goal reference card). As usual, you place a cube for both yourself and the automa on the goal board.
At the end of the game, you calculate your score as usual and compare it to the automa’s. The automa gets one point for each egg, 3-5 points for each face-down bird card (based on the difficulty you chose at the beginning of the game) and face value for all their face-up bird cards. That’s it — if you beat the automa’s score, you win.
How did it work?
I was a little worried before my first play of this that the automa was going to be too much overhead. But I’ve found that it’s fairly streamlined. After each of your turns, you draw an automa card, place it next to your round tracker so you read the right row, and then activate the icons as shown. That’s it.
The first few plays I had to check the icons a few times, especially the two that have to do with drawing cards for the automa. But even having to look those up once or twice per game, it’s not too annoying. It also has the benefit of moving some of the cards along from the market … of course, that can be annoying if there was something you really wanted, but it also means that you see more cards throughout the game. Similarly, the automa keeps the bird feeder dice moving, which can be good or bad, but simulates what you might expect from other players.
I really enjoy the solo version of Wingspan. It has my favorite scoring mechanism for solo games, where you are trying to beat a variable score — a score you might have some control over. In my last game in particular, I knew that the automa would take up to two cards from the market worth 3 or 4 points each time a certain icon came up for them. So, when I was taking the cards action, I often took those cards from the market, since I was often looking for cards to tuck and didn’t care which cards those were. That often meant that there was only one card in the market for the automa to take, instead of two, reducing their end-game score.
I’ve lost more than I’ve won, but I did win my last two games against the automa, so maybe I’m getting better?