Game Review:  Root

Root is a great game that unfortunately sat in the plastic for a long time on our shelf from fear of complexity that it doesn’t really have!  We finally spent the time unpacking it and learning the game, and it was surprisingly quick and easy to learn.  This game will definitely get some replay and we might even buy the expansions!

Starting Setup for Two People

Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right!

What kind of game is Root?

The game has more than a dozen awards and an 8.1 rating on Board Game Geek (BGG).  It is ranked 29th overall on BGG (considering thousands of games), 32nd for strategic games, and 12th for war games!  The BGG complexity rating is 3.78 out of 5, so there is some luck in the game, but it is definitely strategic, and not too hard to figure out like some games that are rated over a 4.0 on the scale.

At its heart, the game is a conflict between woodland factions, represented by the cats and birds at first, and later a woodland alliance of foxes, mice, and rabbits, and finally influence by the raccoon.  It might sound complicated, but this asymmetrical wargame is easy to follow with walkthrough cards and a walkthrough booklet that leads you to complete the first few rounds and learn how each faction plays.

Each faction has different victory conditions as well as skills and abilities.  Victory points are counted throughout the game and the first to reach 30 wins!

Faction: The Eyrie Dynasties

How many can play Root, how long does it take to learn, and how long is a game?

The basic game is for 1-4 players, although there are expansions that let you play with up to six.  

With two players, you really have to play the factions of the Marquise de Cat, and the Eyrie, although there is a method of playing all four factions with two players so that you can choose the more difficult factions, which include the Woodland Alliance and the Vagabond.  There are more factions if you get the expansions, but we have not delved into that yet.

It took us about an hour to learn how to play by reading rules and slowly working through the walkthrough booklet and cards.  I think that if you watched one of the video tutorials, you could self-teach in about 5-10 minutes.

We found that a two-player game can be completed in a half hour, which is wonderful because you immediately want to try again with a new strategy or even switch factions to see if you could win where your opponent failed, or improve on what they did!

I think the dynamics of the game change drastically when you add a third and fourth player.  The game probably becomes more adversarial, since someone getting close is jumped on by all of the other players.  That means you have to either be sneaky and sit in second place until you see your moment to foment an uprising, or you have to convince everyone that you are weak and they need to band together against another player.  

Like many games, the two-player dynamic that Cally and I see is different from the multiplayer version!

In fact, online reviews say that multiplayer games of Root can last for more than 2 hours, which seems crazy once you learn the factions.  The problem is probably that you need to know the other factions really well and be able to anticipate what they will do to get points on their turn since that will affect how you end your own turn, or even how you act during the turn to prevent being overexposed for example.

In our second game, Cally was able to look ahead a couple of rounds and see a strategy that I could have prevented by consolidating my forces.

Faction: Marquise de Cat

Will Root be a once a year game or will it appear on the game table regularly?

Since this game sets up so quickly and plays quickly for two people, I think it will come out often, at least until we are comfortable with each faction.

We will also have to try playing the Alliance and Vagabond to give this a truly fair review, but in short, the game is fun!  It looks cool, has nice wooden pieces, and it is fun to consider what you would have done differently, then reset the game and try that!

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. Have you played Root?
  2. If you played with 3 or 4 players, did you still enjoy the game?
  3. Do you think the asymmetrical factions are balanced enough?  Can you win equally with any of them?
  4. Do you have any of the expansions and what are your recommendations concerning them?

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