Root interested me months before its Kickstarter campaign launched. Cole Wehrle—the designer—writes extremely engaging designer diaries on Board Game Geek and it was fascinating to watch how the game unfolded during Cole’s process. As mentioned above, Root is an asymmetrical game—this means that each faction that players assume the role of have unique rules. So unlike most games where each player has the same options before them, Root is a vastly different experience depending on which faction you choose to play.
My second play saw the The Marquise de Cat, the Eyrie (me), The Vagabond and the Riverfolk Company vying for victory. The Marquise de Cat starts with control of the board and is trying to build a machine of sawmills, workshops and recruitment—enlistment—camps. The Eyrie—birds—used to rule over the woodland, but have fallen into political disarray. The Marquise de Cat’s rise to dominance has spurred them to attempt to regain control. Players must build and follow a strict decree of actions each turn and if they cannot achieve this they fall into turmoil and have to rebuild. The Vagabond is a lonesome traveller who wanders through the woodland building and breaking alliances, exploring ruins and completing personal quests. The Riverfolk are a trade based faction and they control the rivers in the woodland. They trade cards, passage on the rivers, and mercenary warriors with the other factions.
The interplay between the factions was a lot of fun to watch play out. The Marquise de Cats and the Eyrie were at loggerheads almost instantaneously, with The Eyrie causing some early casualties. The Vagabond was busy exploring in the early phase of the game, keeping themselves to themselves. The Riverfolk Company were busy trading with the other factions, selling plenty of cards to the Marquise and the Eyrie.
Midway through the Eyrie were looking good with 4 roosts on the board and a decree that was made up almost entirely of bird cards—which are a wild suit—meaning turmoil was unlikely for them. The Marquise was still getting to grips with having their forces spread so thin across the woodland. The Vagabond had acquired a good selection of items, either by trade or exploration. They had completed a few quests and were starting to build momentum. The Riverfolk Company were quietly in the lead at this point, setting up trading posts, selling cards and generally being helpful.
Even though we all watched the Riverfolk push into the lead, I don’t feel that we ever saw them as a threat. I was too busy trying to second guess the Marquis and keep the Vagabond on side. The Marquis was doing likewise. In the final turn of the game the Eyrie made their move, playing a Dominance card that meant they could win the game on the next turn if they could hold on to all of their clearings (territory). My excitement was short-lived however, as the Riverfolk exclaimed “I think I can win in this turn”. And proceeded to build enough outposts, destroy enough rival buildings and craft enough cards to snatch a potential victory out of the hands of the Eyrie.
It was an exciting finish to an extremely entertaining game. This was the first time I had played with the Riverfolk Company on the board and they are a fantastic faction to have on there. They must remain useful to the other factions, while trying to stay off the radar just enough to not represent a threat.
I was on the fence about Root for a long time. The first game I played of it was fine. It seemed interesting, but I wasn’t champing at the bit to play again. After this last game I would say that I feel excited by the game and am eager to get another play in as soon as possible.
The one caveat with Root is that you need to have read the rules—and probably watched a playthrough—for every faction, not just your own, to truly enjoy it. Once you understand what makes each faction tick the game really starts to sing. Root has definitely gone up in my estimations and I am itching to get another play in as soon as I can manage.
22 Jan 2020