As promised I’m going to occasionally review how games I’ve played tie in to learning and/or leadership development in one way or another. Some will have leadership demonstrated in game. Others will help improve skills that I feel are important to leadership. I suppose an example would be beneficial here. In Werewolf you will see people step up and use their leadership skills both to deceive others and/or to help them make decisions. You clearly see the First Follower concept showing up in Werewolf. In Escape: The Curse of the Temple people will enhance their quick decision making skills. There are many more aspects I could use for those and other games but wanted to use that as a quick example.
So today’s game? Wingspan by Stonemaier Games, designed by Elizabeth Hargrave.
I won’t be providing a traditional review for the game nor a how to play. There are others that can do that much better than I can so linking to them will have to prove to be enough for me for that. Instead what I want to provide is how I see this game being used for educational purposes, and in particular for leadership. Before I get there I will say a few words about the game.
Wingspan is an engine-building game for 1-5 players. The game focuses on attracting birds to your wildlife preserve. I’ve played several two player games, one three player and one five player game. I’ve found it excellent at all player counts (though better in person than the one time I played on Tabletopia, but I think that can be said for most games). Wingspan has proven to be extremely popular every time I’ve played it. The most recent time was the five player game I played this past Tuesday with members of Miami’s Strategy Gaming Club. Not only did the group playing the game enjoy the game, many other members of the group stopped over, watched and wanted to play. Wingspan is beautiful, has a unique theme, and they could tell we were loving every minute of playing it. Wingspan, in my experience, has also been a very balanced game. There are games I thought I was getting destroyed in that would come down 5 points or less either way.
So-how can Wingspan be used in an educational setting and how do I see leadership being developed through Wingspan?
For the first part I can go the easiest of potential ways first. When we were playing people were reading and occasionally sharing the facts about the birds. Each bird in the game is unique and they all have facts on them to learn about that bird. They all have different nest types, number of eggs, preferred or required food and habitats and more. People were discussing the behavior of the birds (My owl sure is eating a lot.) This can lead to great discussions about the birds. However, as I mentioned, that is the easy and most obvious aspect of learning that can be done. It is a very important part as Elizabeth Hargrave clearly put in a lot of time and effort to work on making this game and it shows in these details. She did the research and it comes through. I never thought of the varied number of birds in North America until I saw just how many cards there were in the game.
I think the more important educational or training benefit (and how it ties to leadership) is the strategic planning the engine building requires. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made in the game that require you to think sometimes 10 steps ahead with limited knowledge. That is what leadership is often. You have to make decisions and set a plan with only part of what you need to know and adapt as you go. Repeated plays of this game help you develop those skills.
When I was introducing the game Tuesday I said that it was “easy to learn but tough to master” and that is true. Tuesday was my second lowest scoring of the six games I’ve played of Wingspan and it leads largely to me not planning properly. Whereas Abbey, the player to my immediate right developed a plan from her initial hand of cards and plotted out a plan for how to play her birds she kept that took two rounds to fully develop but lead to her winning the game (by the biggest scoring margin I have seen in the game) I gave my plays less thought and it showed in the final scores.
The decisions and risks that must be taken are easily transferable to leadership. “Do I put this bird that gives me eggs in the grasslands which produce eggs to increase egg production even more or do I place it in my forest so I may never have to visit the grasslands?” “Playing this bird that requires an egg to trigger an effect and immediately after playing a bird in the same habitat that gives me eggs will help me tremendously.” “Should I focus on my goal, the public goals, eggs, points from large birds, or another strategy?” Working through these decisions (and the discussions I saw about the strategies throughout the game and after the game was completed are critical practice for real life leadership in any area.
Wingspan is an excellent addition to any game collection and I dare say schools and libraries should consider adding this to their collection. Not only is it a well made game that is fun to play, it is a great tool for skill development and helps people learn and be more interested in learning more about birds (which admittedly outside of knowing we had a bird watching club – Birders of Miami University– I had never given much thought to).