In the forest of Root there is an air of change, the evil cat marquise is subjugating the forest in an attempt to exploit its resources, but the other peoples of the forest do not want to stand by: the noble community of eagles wants to re-establish the now lost dominion; the alliance of the forest plots in the shadows, collecting the dissent of the inhabitants of the forest; the lizards want to establish their domain by exploiting the lost souls of the wood; the people of the river saw the opportunity to get rich thanks to their propensity to trade; finally, there is the vagabond, an opportunist who can help or hinder others for his own gain.
This is the setting for Root by Cole Wehrle, the latest title published by Leder games, already famous for "Vast: The Crystal Caverns”, Born from a fruitful kickstarter campaign at the end of 2017 and delivered to the backers in this period. It is a totally asymmetrical adventure and war game for 1-6 players in which each plays the role of one of the factions of the forest, trying to earn more points than the others. The side that first reaches 30 victory points will decide the immediate end of the game.
The base game includes 4 factions while the Riverfolk expansion adds two more, in addition to the solitaire mode.
What the factions have in common
Root is set in a forest made up of 12 clearings linked together by paths. Each clearing has a specific color that represents which animals live in that place: rabbits, mice and foxes.
One of the main elements of the game is the common deck consisting of cards of the 3 different animals mentioned above plus wild cards representing birds; cards are used differently by each faction in play. Glades are controlled by players via a majority mechanic; There is a strong direct interaction thanks to the dynamics of the fight, which is resolved simply with two dice.
The different factions
Marquise de Cat
The marquise cat leaves with the domain of the forest. In the setup he places his own warrior in 11 of the 12 clearings, which makes him an easy target for everyone: in fact, he will never be able to control his vast kingdom and will therefore have to concentrate on a part of the map by building his buildings, his main way to get victory points. This is certainly the simplest faction to understand; he must produce wood and use it to build buildings, even if it is not at all easy to master.
The faction of the eagles has a very particular game mechanic: at the beginning of the turn it must assign one or two cards as orders and these cards will then become actions (recruitment, movement, battle and construction of a nest) that the player will be forced to perform during the round and all subsequent rounds. The eagles therefore become very strong from the start of the game because in a few turns they will have to perform a lot of actions; but this soon translates into a problem because on the first occasion in which the player fails to perform even one action, the faction will go into turmoil, a circumstance that will cause all the orders given so far to lapse and lose victory points: the eagles will find themselves therefore having to start over.
This faction immediately gives the idea of strength as, unlike the others, it pays nothing to carry out actions and potentially has an unlimited number of them; however, the player will often find himself forced to carry out an action that does not serve him, such as starting a battle without hope for the sole purpose of not causing a tumult in his people.
The alliance of the forest is the leading faction of the guerrilla, it starts with nothing on the board and gradually begins to spread "Token sympathy" for the map. On the one hand, this gives her ever increasing victory points, on the other hand, tokens are an obstacle for opponents as whoever moves towards a token or whoever attacks it must give cards to the player of the alliance. These "supporter" cards will be used to spread more tokens or generate riots that will wipe out other factions from clearings by establishing alliance bases. In addition, she has a combat bonus that makes her a very difficult target to attack.
The alliance of the woods is a very fun faction to use, its guerrilla and obstruction tactics are very annoying for opponents who will tend not to face the alliance if not forced. Using this faction has the idea of spreading a virus on the map (the sympathy tokens) that the opponents will try to escape and contain.
The wanderer plays on the sides of the conflict, his pawn goes around the map taking advantage of the opportunities left by the opponents to his advantage. Unlike the others, it can also move out of clearings and collects objects to be able to do more and more actions during the turn. The wanderer can also carry out quests for additional victory points.
The Riverfolk expansion contains a second wanderer board that allows you to play games with 2 wanderers on the pitch.
Playing this faction you always find yourself choosing how to use the items at your disposal to maximize their potential: you need to find a balance between the development of your character and the increase in victory points. It is not easy to move through a forest full of warriors when alone but the wanderer is able to do it very well.
The lizard cult faction harnesses a new "resource": its warriors fallen in battle or sacrificed (acolytes) to make powerful offensive moves. The cult also acts by revealing cards from one's hand to place one's warriors and buildings on the map; these actions are free but very limited.
This faction is certainly among the most complex to play. Although recruiting and construction cost nothing, the lizards struggle to score. Furthermore, the acolytes are an important and very limited resource, without which the cult cannot even move and attack.
The River People is a trading faction, selling services to other factions and demanding payment from them for some of the warriors not yet deployed. This faction is also the only one to take advantage of the river that runs through the forest by treating it as if it were a path. The people of the river set a price for each of the
their services and any other player may, at the beginning of their turn, pay for an advantage: a card chosen from the (public) hand of the Riverfolk, the riverfolk warriors on the map as their mercenaries or the possibility to use the river to move. The player will then have warriors at his disposal as funds for his actions, he will be able to commit some of them to make the simpler actions (and will have them available again in the following turn) or he can spend them (returning them to the owner) to make stronger actions.
The river people are undoubtedly very complex to use, the player who uses them cannot sell off their services and risks being greedy in the eyes of others; but the riverfolk needs to get a lot of payouts from other players to get its engine running. For players like the cat or the lizards paying even 4 warriors for the services of the river people is certainly advantageous at the beginning, the services are an additional boost to their development, moreover the riverfolk will probably be grateful towards them by spending (returning) the their warriors to do the best deeds.
Root it is certainly a very innovative game that hides a very strategic and tactical soul under its carefree and captivating graphics; the game balances itself, in fact the players must be able to understand who is taking over in order to try to stem it.
The dependence on the language is strong and the rules are written in English that is anything but simple.
The game is certainly very long-lived given the peculiarity of the factions and this longevity is accentuated by the second map (this time modular) which is located on the back of the game board. Some combinations of factions are unbalanced but this is helped by the regulation which recommends different combinations as the number of players varies.