The step-by-step rules to how to play Wingspan. This bird aviary title is a gorgeous and entertaining engine building board game released in 2019. You really have to give it up to the designer for creating something so deep and so immersive in the theme of aviaries. This is a really well put together game and deserves all the acclaim it is getting as one of the best games of the year.

Wingspan relies on an engine building core which is where you start with very little and have to build up piece by piece to get bigger and better. The game is incredibly unique, not just in its many special birds, but in how it executes this function of gameplay. Take the time to learn how to play this one, it is a great game that will give you hours of fun. This is our step by step guide to how to play Wingspan.

FOR MORE: Wingspan Page | Wingspan Review | Games Like Wingspan | Buy Wingspan on Amazon


You are bird enthusiasts—researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors—seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your network of wildlife preserves. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats. Each habitat focuses on a key aspect of the growth of your preserves:

  • Gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower
  • Lay eggs using marbled egg miniatures in a variety of colors
  • Expand your bird collection, drawing from hundreds of cards

Wingspan is a 1 – 5 player game that takes place over 4 rounds and around is each player taking several turns in a clockwise fashion. One turn for each of the 8 action cubes. On your turn, you choose one of four actions to take. In between each round, you score a goal that loses you an action token. So in round 2 you only have 7 actions to take, round 3 you have 6 actions and round 4 you only have 5 things you can do.

The winner is the player with the most points accumulated from birds, bonus cards, end-of-round goals, eggs, cached food, and tucked birds.


Time Needed: Approximately 40 – 70 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play Wingspan the popular bird themed engine building board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Put Out Bird Cards
The first step to kick off how to play Wingspan is to get into the massive stack of unique birds. Grab the 170 bird cards with the cloud, criss-cross back. Shuffle theses into a facedown pile. Put out the blue tray and put 3 of these bird cards face up on it.

2. SETUP | Put Out Bonus Card Stack
Find the cards with the green, leafy back. These are the bonus cards. Put these in a facedown pile near the Wingspan tray.

3. SETUP | Put Out Egg & Food Tokens
Using the included clear trays, put out supplies of the lavender egg pieces and the food tokens so they can be accessed throughout the game.

4. SETUP | Bird Feeder Dice Tower
Take the complex cardboard for the dice tower and follow the instructions to fold it into this amazing Wingspan tower. Put it somewhere in the center. This is where you will put all of your dice to roll.

5. SETUP | Food Dice
Grab the five food dice. Throw them into the back of the dice tower to have them display a random result.

6. SETUP | Put Out Communal Goal Board
Take out the two-sided goal card and choose the side you want to play with. For less competitive go with the green side and for more competitive go with blue. Once you decide, shuffle the goal tokens and randomly put out four in the blank spots on the board.

7. SETUP | Give Each Player Starting Items
Each player gets: (1) player board (2) 8x action cubes of player color (3) 1 each of the 5 food tokens (4) 5x facedown bird cards and (5) 2x facedown bonus cards

8. SETUP | Choose Birds
From the 5x bird cards given, each player now chooses which ones to keep (0 – 5). For each one you keep, you need to turn in a food token. It can be any combination of your food tokens. Used tokens go back to the supply and unchosen cards go to a communal discard pile in the center.

9. SETUP | Choose Bonus Card
From your 2x bonus cards, choose 1x to keep. All others get discarded to a communal pile in the center (separate from bird pile).

10. SETUP | Choose First Player And Go
The last step of how to play Wingspan is just to choose a first player. Do this randomly or however your game group does it. That player gets the first player Wingspan token.

11. GAMEPLAY | Choose Action | Option 1 | Play Bird Card
With this option, you can spend food tokens to put a bird card into a habitat on your player board. The three habitats on your board are the three rows – forest, grassland and wetlands. The top left of the bird card will show you what a bird eats and where it could possibly live. To officially perform this action, take one of your action cubes and play it in the top “play bird” row above the column where you want to place your bird. It has to be the leftmost empty column. Then you pay the mentioned food cost and put it in the chosen spot on the board. If you are in the second or further column, there may be egg pieces to pay. Any “When Played” effects on the card are triggered and optional. Slide your action cube to the far left to signify you are done.

12. GAMEPLAY | Choose Action | Option 2 | Gaining Food
This lets you gain additional food tokens. It is not contingent on having any birds in your “gain food” row but it helps because the more you have the better the food bonus. To take this action, place your action cube on the leftmost open spot on your “gain food” row which is the same as your top forest habitat row. Then you gain the bonus for that space. For a pictured food die, you may remove a die from the bird feed dice tower and gain that food token. If there is a card to die symbol, you may also discard a matching card to grab and additional die. When the feed tower is empty, reroll the dice into the feed dice tower. If there is only one resource die left, you may choose to reroll all the dice before choosing. There is no max to how many food you can have. The further right you go the better the space, that is why it is good to have bird cards here. The last step is that you move your action cube one space to the left at a time. If it hits a bird with a “when activated” effect on them, you may use that if you want. You go all the way across the row, hitting each bird as you go.

13. GAMEPLAY | Choose Action | Option 3 | Lay Eggs
The Lay Eggs option works exactly how the Gaining Food option works except it works with the middle grassland row. You gain the bonus of the leftmost open space and then you move left hitting each bird with a “when activated” effect. This action lets you get eggs. You take the number shown on the bonus space and you then put them on any birds you have out. You can put them anywhere and in any number, you just cannot exceed a birds limit which is shown in the left-middle with little egg icons.

14. GAMEPLAY | Choose Action | Option 3 | Draw Bird Cards
The Draw Bird Cards option works exactly how the Gaining Food and Lay Eggs options work except it works with the bottom wetlands row. You gain the bonus of the leftmost open space and then you move left hitting each bird with a “when activated” effect. You draw the cards equal to the bonus space. To draw a card, you either take a face up one from the three (do not replace it right away) or take from the top of the deck. There is no max to cards.

15. GAMEPLAY | Repeat Until All Action Cubes Are Used
Moving one player at a time, each player uses one action cube on any of the four actions above. This continues until all action cubes (8) have been used. Then there is a scoring and reset phase.

16. GAMEPLAY | In-Between Clean Up Phase | Take Back Cubes
Each player takes all of their color action cubes off of their board and moves them back to their supply to use again.

17. GAMEPLAY | In-Between Clean Up Phase | Score Goals
Look to the goal card you randomly set up at the beginning of this how to play Wingspan tutorial. After each round, you are going to take one of your action cubes and place it on a position (1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th+) on that goal card in the corresponding row (4 rows, 1 for each round). Depending on the goal, there will be a condition. For example, something like “most birds in grasslands”, whichever player has the most put their cube in the “1st” position, second most in the “2nd” position and so on. Ties goe in the same box and you need at least one or you put your cube in the “4th+” spot. You now have one less action cube for future turns.

18. GAMEPLAY | In-Between Clean Up Phase | Replenish Bird Cards
Discard any remaining face up bird cards on top off the communal blue tray. Flip 3 brand new bird cards and put them on the tray to be used in the next round.

19. GAMEPLAY | In-Between Clean Up Phase | Move the 1st Player Token
Pass the 1 person active player token clockwise to the next player to adjust who will start first in the next round. This is an easy step to miss when learning how to play Wingspan that could have a big effect, do not miss it.

20. GAMEPLAY | Repeat
You repeat the process above for a total of four rounds. Each turn players go clockwise using actions until they are out, a reset and goal scoring round takes place losing you one cube, then you take the next round with one less action. You start with 8, then have 7, then 6 and finally 5 in the final round.

22. GAME ENDS | After 4 Round Complete
After the 4th round, instead of replenishing the bird cards and passing the 1st player marker, you just end. Use the included score pad and move to scoring.

23. SCORING | Total Bird Points
You get points for each bird in your aviary. This is the number next to a circular feather on the middle left of each bird card. Total all these up.

24. SCORING | Score Secret Objective Cards
Flip over your green leafy secret goal card(s). Score points if you met any of the conditions it says.

25. SCORING | Score Goals
Look to the communal goal card that was filled up after each round. Score points equal to each space you have an action cube on. If there is a tie in that space, the cubes split the points, rounding down.

26. SCORING | Score Leftover Piece
Score 1 point for each egg you have on a bird card. You score 1 point for each cashed food token. And score 1 point for each “tucked” card under any bird.

27. WINNING | High Score Wins
Add up all these scoring components and the high score wins. In case of a tie, the player with the most unused food tokens wins. If that doesn’t do it, then everyone tied shares the victory. Yes learning how to play Wingspan is complex, but follow these steps and you should be fine.



  • 1x Rulebook
  • 1x Appendix
  • 170x Unique Bird Cards
  • 26x Bonus Cards
  • 1x Goal Board
  • 1x Bird Tray
  • 5x Player Mats
  • 1x Birdfeeder Dice Tower
  • 1x Scorepad
  • 75x Orb Egg Tokens
  • 5x Custom Wooden Feeding Dice
  • 40x Wooden Action Cubes
  • 103x Food Tokens
  • 8x Goal Tiles
  • 1x First Player Token

SEE ALSO: Wingspan Bird Cards


We hope you can now say that you know how to play Wingspan. This is an incredibly special game that excels in all areas. Engine builders tend to be long to give you ample time to build up. Wingspan is still very robust but keeps it tight on time. All while still being very satisfying. It is that perfect medium engine building board game. We could go on and on about the greatness that is Wingspan, but why don’t you do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself.