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Wingspan! Great board game for birders, and board game enthusiasts

Wingspan Game - Review

We had a very nice relaxing day with the family at home today for Easter. A delicious meal of cheesy shrimp risotto, some coconut cream pie, and a day of games. Today was the day we broke out the new “Wingspan” game! The game has gotten incredible reviews and quickly sold out the first few printings. When I saw a new printing becoming available, I ordered right away.

I’m glad I did! The game is a 4-round strategy game, where you’re stockpiling birds on your “network of wildlife preserves”. There are 170 different birds, with cards for each detailing that species food needs, nesting capacity, habitat needs and “special abilities”. It’s a turn-based game, where a player chooses whether to:

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  • Gather food from the “feeder”, making sure to select food items that support the bird species in your preserves (if that food is available). The different categories of available food include “invertebrates”, “seeds”, “fish”, “fruit”, and “rodent”.
  • Select new bird cards, providing additional species options for placement in your preserves
  • Place a bird in your preserve, making sure that you have the proper food to support that bird. Birds require anywhere from 1 to 3 food resources, and you must have those food items in your possession to be able to place the bird.
  • Having an individual species in your preserve lay eggs
  • Carrying out any actions. Some species provide rewards as the game proceeds, depending upon the action the player takes that round.

The game itself is deceptively simple once you understand the rules. Your choices don’t go far beyond the options outlined above, but once you play it you realize the need for strategy right from the start. For example, the game is played in four rounds. Each round has a specific scoring goal. For example, Round 1 may focus on providing points to players who place the most wetland habitat birds in their preserve. Round 2 may focus on cavity-nesting birds that lay the most eggs. The priority for each round is chosen at the start of the game, so long-term strategy comes into play. You want to maximize your points for the current round, but if you don’t also set yourself up for scoring priorities in future rounds, you’ll likely do poorly.

By the end of the game, scoring is tallied as followed:

  • Individual round scoring. During each individual round (4 rounds total), you are ranked against your competitors. In the first round example given above, for example, the player who had the most birds in their preserve who used wetland habitats would have gotten the most points for that round. More points are awarded in later rounds than in the first round, so the fourth-round 1st place scorer gets more points than the first-round 1st place scorer.
  • Points from birds in your preserve. Different birds are worth different scores. For example, I placed a Bald Eagle in my preserve, which was worth a very healthy 9 points (the highest point total for a bird, I believe). Point values for each species are partially related to how difficult it is to place that bird in the preserve. For example, to be able to place that Bald Eagle in my preserve, I had to stock up on 2 fish resources and 1 rodent resource before I could place him on the board. Other, lower-point birds are easier to place, with some birds that are only worth two points only requiring one food resource for placement on the board.
  • Eggs – Players receive one point for every egg on their final board.
  • “Bonus” cards – During the game, each player collects unique bonus cards. Bonus cards include titles such as “photographer”, “prairie manager”, “wetland scientist”, “backyard birder”, and much more. Each card rewards points at the end of the game based on certain characteristics of the birds in your aviary. For example, there are four types of nests birds build in the game: 1) platform nests, 2) bowl nests, 3) cavity nests, and 4) ground nests. My bonus card provided +4 points for having four different birds who build platform nests in my preserve.
  • Food on bird cards – Some bird species “cache” food on their cards. For example, the American Kestrel can collect rodents! If you can use it during a turn, it can collect one or more rodent tokens that are placed on the species card. Each cached food item counts as a point for the final scoring.
  • Tucked” cards – Some birds can form flocks! For example, the American White Pelican can effectively form a flock, with other bird cards tucked behind the pelican card in your preserve. Each bird in a flock counts as a point.

After four rounds, you add up the final scores using the 6-category scoring system. From what I’m seeing online, final scores for a winner are typically between 65-85 points.

At first it’s a bit confusing, but once we watched this short YouTube video on the rules of the game, it really is quite straightforward. Straightforward, but rather elegant! While the rules themselves may be straightforward, there’s definitely quite a bit of strategy involved! In the first game we played, the winner ended up with 65 points…on the low end of a winning score from what I’ve read. But now that we understand the rules and the strategy more, I’m sure our next game will be higher scoring.

Great game! It’s also very well put together. Materials are solid, and the artwork on the cards is absolutely beautiful. I love the “bird feeder”, a device you construct that allows you to roll dice that represent foods available in the feeder. A few times I caught myself just looking through the cards, as it’s fun not only to look at the beautiful artwork, but to see the special attributes and abilities the gamemakers assigned to each species. A really enjoyable game, and I can see a lot of replay value, given that each game’s goals and birds will be different.

Highly recommended, if you can get a copy! And hey, if my non-birding teenage son can get a kick out of it and ask to play again tomorrow, it’s a great indication that the audience for this game goes far behind just birders!

Wingspan Game - Closeup
A closeup of the game. Note the eggs on the gameboard here…did you know the Yellow-headed Blackbird laid such shiny eggs? Well, it WAS Easter Sunday! We did happen to have some candy “glimmer eggs” laying around! So we augmented the game with candy eggs, and some liberal rules about when a player could raid a nest and eat those eggs. ūüôā

My first ever endorsement of, well…anything

Scleral Contact Lens

A cross-section that demonstrates the idea of a scleral contact lens. The edge of the lens rests on the sclera, the white of your eye, while the lens “vaults” over the cornea and maintains a thin liquid bath against your cornea. For a dry eye sufferer? It’s heaven-sent.

I had a visit to¬†my ophthalmologist this morning…not exactly earth-shattering news for most people. ¬†Even for me it’s been almost a year since I last visited the eye doctor. The reason today’s visit was notable is because of the contrast of where I was one year ago compared to today.¬† With Sjogren’s Syndrome, I have incredibly dry eyes. ¬†It goes well beyond simple irritation and the need to periodically use eye drops. ¬†The discomfort is often unbearable, but even worse, the dryness impacts my vision. I have about half an hour after waking in the morning before I start to see double. ¬†I can’t see well enough to participate in my hobbies of photography and drawing, but even worse, I can’t read or work on a computer. ¬†Sjogren’s Syndrome and my dry eyes were strongly impacting my ability to do my job, or participate in what makes life “fun” for me.

A little over a year ago, I started working with a local ophthalmologist. My experience is documented in this very long blog post from last October, and I won’t repeat the entire story here. My eye doctor fit me with scleral contact lenses, a special class of “hard”, gas permeable contact lenses. ¬†They are larger than normal contacts, “vaulting” over the cornea with the edges resting on the whites of your eye. ¬†That vault is designed to provide a tiny gap between your cornea and the lens itself. ¬†When you put the scleral contact lenses in, you look straight down into a mirror, hold the contacts upside down, and fill the bowl of the contact with saline solution. ¬†When the lens is placed in your eye, it effectively seals around the white of your eye, leaving a thin cushion of fluid between your eye and the lens.

As the October post details, it was a long process getting the lenses to fit. Given the extreme astigmatism I have and the odd shape of my eyes, my ophthalmologist said there’s little doubt I’ve been he’s most challenging case (in terms of fitting scleral lenses). ¬†And that’s aside from my Sjogren’s! Checking in a year later, it’s made me realize how much I’ve come to take the scleral lenses for granted. ¬†Perhaps it was just the passage of time and going back to the place I spent so much time a year ago. Perhaps it was having my scleral lenses out for an hour this morning while I was poked and prodded and tested (I am miserable¬†without them). ¬†No matter the reason, today I’m feeling incredibly grateful that at the very moment my happiness and well-being depended upon a solution to my¬†dry eyes, a company just happened to be introducing a new product that was a perfect solution for my difficult case.

I’ve never mentioned the company or the product itself on any social media. Given how it’s changed my life, and given the possibility that other people could potentially be helped, I do want give a shout out to company and product. ¬†The company itself is called “Art Optical“. ¬†They’ve been around since 1931, and have focused exclusively on contact lenses for the past 30 years. ¬†The product that I use is called “Ampleye“. ¬†It’s a product that allows for a lot of specialization…perfect for a guy like me with screwball, weirdly shaped eyes. A few tries with more traditional scleral lenses didn’t go well, while Ampleye was able to provide a good fit. ¬†I wore glasses for 43 years prior to trying scleral lenses, and was worried about comfort. However, once we obtained a proper fit, the contacts were so comfortable that I simply am not aware of their presence. ¬†Given how miserable I am without them, I wear them from dawn to dusk, with little issue. ¬†They do start to get a film on them over the course of the day, and sometimes in the late afternoon or early evening, I’ll take them out and give them a quick cleaning. ¬†Other than that, maintenance is simple, with traditional cleaning and storage as is done with other gas permeable lenses.

Other than the dry eye, my other major concern was my vision. ¬†With such extreme astigmatism, I’m functionally blind without correction. ¬†About 15 years ago, I tried traditional contact lenses, but they wouldn’t work. ¬†It was impossible to keep them in the correct rotation, and with such extreme astigmatism, a rotation of just a few degrees meant that my astigmatism wasn’t properly corrected, and I couldn’t see. ¬†With the Ampleye lenses, they fit “like a pringle chip” (my wonderful eye doctor’s term!). ¬†Because of their shape, they REALLY lock into position, and after I put them in in the morning, they don’t budge all day long. ¬†My horrible vision corrects to BETTER than 20/20, and I’m seeing with a sharpness I never got in wearing glasses for 43 years.

Why am I pushing this out on my blog? ¬†Ever since I started down this path, I’ve come across other people with Sjogren’s Syndrome, and people with dry eyes. ¬†Many have struggled to find relief. Eye drops, protective glasses, prescriptions to stimulate tear production…nothing has worked. ¬†I want to let people know that there IS a potential solution to their dry eyes. If they can find a solution for my dry, screwy eyes, they can help anyone!

One other issue that’s come up with people I’ve talked to is cost. ¬†First of all, note that I was VERY pleasantly surprised at the total cost. ¬†For me, given how many times I had to revisit to get a correct fit, the price was an incredible bargain. Secondly, don’t give up on insurance potentially covering some or all of the cost! ¬†For someone like me, Sjogren’s Syndrome is a disease, a disease with a systematic impact on the health of my eyes. ¬†Dry eye in general is a health issue. ¬†An issue of eye disease. ¬†As my ophthalmologist this morning stated, insurance companies are increasingly recognizing the benefits of scleral lenses and are covering costs. ¬†DON’T let a balky insurance company discourage you! ¬†Fight it!! ¬†And even should an insurance option fail, costs are quite reasonable for what I’ve found to be a incredibly durable, stable product. ¬†As weird as my eyes are and as expensive as it is for me to get regular glasses, the Ampleye costs weren’t substantially higher.

After one year, my ophthalmologist said I didn’t really even need new scleral lenses today. My prescription hasn’t changed, my eye health is good (thanks to these lenses), and other than a couple of tiny scratches that are imperceptible to me, my year-old¬†lenses are rock solid and good to go for quite a while longer! ¬†Today however I did go ahead and order another pair, not because of durability, but because 1) I’m completely sold on the product, and 2) I’m so dependent upon these lenses that I want 2 pairs on hand for “back up”.

Any dry eye sufferers out there who’d like more information, feel free to drop me a line! ¬†I’m NOT being paid or anything to endorse this product! ¬†There’s absolutely nothing I’m personally benefiting from by writing this blog post. I truly just want to share my story, let people know about this product, and let people know that help may be out there for you.

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