tl;dr Ooooh damn it’s good!

We played two 4-player games of Root today, swapping out factions for each game. Very happy to see that there are lots of ways to play each faction, lots of variability, and it’s not a “solved” game at all.

The premise of the game is that each side is a faction in a war over a stretch of forest. The Marquise de Cat is clear-cutting and industrializing the forest, and gets victory points for buildings. The Eyrie Dynasties are trying to take back their ancestral rulership of the forest, and gets victory points every turn based on how many “roosts” they’ve built around the map. The Woodland Alliance represents the smaller animals, united against their oppressors, earning victory points for gathering sympathy and eventually building an army. The Vagabond is a solitary war profiteer (there are six variations) who earns victory points by clearing old ruins and aiding the other factions. Everyone also earns points by destroying buildings and other tokens, but it’s nobody’s main method. First faction to 30 wins.

I got to play the Marquise and the Alliance today, and played the Eyrie in a solitaire game last night. Haven’t played the Vagabond yet but both player who did said they looooved the faction (even though it didn’t win).

The things I like about Root are the things I like about GMT’s COIN series: the factions not only feel different to play, they evoke different emotions through their play. At least where I was sitting, the Marquise grinding out her industrialization plans while war and chaos swirls through the forest is a whole different deal than the Eyrie constantly expanding its decree until it can no longer live up to it, and then deals with a revolution. And those are way different than my tiny little woodland animals, who aren’t even on the board for the first third of the game, quietly feeding goods to the Vagabond and sneaking sympathy onto the board hoping nobody notices.

The games ran 2.5-3 hours each, either due to rules looksups (the longer game) or struggling with incredibly difficult decisions. Because it’s so asymmetrical, I didn’t think anyone felt especially singled out for mistreatment. And in both games, they were super-tight battles right to the end, with the sides in contention each one turn away from victory.

I really dug it and I’m looking forward both to more basic game plays and adding the other factions from the expansion. Five out of five voles.

4 thoughts on “Root”

  1. I was discussing Root, and its similarities and not similarities to COIN in another post with Brian Train, and he pointed me to this article – Affective Networks at Play: Catan, COIN, and The Quiet Year by Cole Wehrle (designer of Root) in which he explores game design in terms of the emotional experiences created by play. It sounds like he was very successful at following that line of design, based on your report.

  2. Wilhelm Fitzpatrick that’s a super interesting article! And impressive that Wehrle is so well studied. Sometimes it seems like new folks haven’t really paid attention to much besides their own project.

  3. I love COIN and asymetric games and the idea of a heavy-ish game in that style but with cute woodland animals and art is really compelling. I have to see if I can buy this anywhere close by.

  4. Frustrated that I somehow missed the cool Mouseguard COIN kickstarter. My Gossip/Hype network seems to be failing me. Does anyone know when this will be available to the general public? I’ve seen October thrown out as a possible date, but if anyone knows of a quicker way to lay hands on this game I’m all ears. I guess I could track down backers somehow.

    Thank you for sharing the article as well! The fact that there are traces of Quiet Year gets me even more excited.

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