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We've commented before on Board's Eye View about the breakout success of Wingspan (Stonemaier Games). Thanks in no small part to its ornithological theme and some great artwork, Wingspan has attracted to it players who might otherwise have been put off by the rules and mechanics which are way more complex than the more commonplace roll & move mechanics familiar from most mass market board games. Stonemaier Games have already published several expansions migrating over birds from other continents, and even a Fan Art Pack. Where next? The answer is back to the skies, but this time with dragons!

Boardgamegeek lists Wyrmspan as a 'reimplementation' of Wingspan but that really doesn't do justice to Connie Vogelmann's design. Wyrmspan builds on the core mechanics of Elizabeth Hargrave's game but it isn't a mere re-skin substituting scales for feathers...

For anyone who has played Wingspan, there's much you'll recognise, and it's a game that can be very quickly learnt. Players start each of the four rounds with six coins, and these are used to mark each of the six actions you have in a round, tho' there are various ways you can trade resources for or otherwise earn an extra coin (ie: extra turn for the round) and there are a few cards that cost you an extra coin to play them.

Instead of different nesting habitats, players have boards with three caves: so a similar three rows to those in Wingspan. It's not as clearly marked as we would've liked but the first space in each cave can immediately accommodate a dragon card, which you can play from your hand by paying the card's requisite resources and taking an Entice action (ie: you Entice the dragon to take up residence). Before you can Entice dragons to the other spaces in the caves, you must first take Excavate actions to place a cave card overlay on the space. Again, you play the card from your hand, but the card will give you additional benefits: usually one or two resources (gold, amethysts, milk or meat), an egg or movement on a roundel, which gives you further benefits. Eggs aren't a 'resource' but they score extra points at the end and they are an additional currency in the game as you need to pay an egg to take certain actions and to Excavate the rightmost spaces in each cave.

To draw more dragon or cave cards and to collect the resources you'll need to Entice dragons, you'll have to take Explore actions: moving your Explorer meeple along the cave. The more dragon cards you have out in a cave, the more you will collect for taking an Explore action. So, like Wingspan, Wyrmspan is an engine builder but it's one that feels more streamlined than in the earlier game. There's no dice rolling for resources; tho' cards that give you resources may specify which you receive, more often than not you're given free choice over which resources you pick up - so you can plan ahead to collect the specific mix of resources you need to Entice specific dragons from your hand. There are various points bonuses each round, so you'll probably have an eye to meeting those round requirements ahead of other players, but interaction is otherwise fairly minimal. Of course someone may nab a dragon or cave card you want from the market display but there are no overt 'take that' actions: this is a game where you can usually expect to plan your actions ahead with a fair degree of certainty. As a result, Wyrmspan plays quickly: even with a full complement of five players you can realistically expect to complete a game in 90 minutes.

Wyrmspan may be a successor to Wingspan but does it replace it? Well, yes and no. In our plays at Board's Eye View we've found it a more satisfying game: an efficient fast-playing engine builder where you can plan and repeatedly run your 'engine' without worrying about other players throwing a spanner in the works. There's beautiful dragon artwork from Clémentine Campardou. However, even in our post-Game of Thrones era, dragons don't have the same broad universal appeal of birds: Wyrmspan may be easier to teach and learn but it's unlikely to appeal to as wide an audience as its predecessor. This game may be about Enticing dragons but if you're trying to entice non-gamers to the table, we think Wingspan has the edge. You should probably try to find space on your shelves for both games.

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