Let’s face it, there are a lot of great games being produced right now, by a lot of different designers and that’s a wonderful thing, but there aren’t many games that have got me as excited as I am about Root. A beautiful combination of elegant wargame style mechanics and an ingenious theme, Root has ticked all the boxes and then some.
Designed by Cole Wehrle, somebody that I admire greatly, with a number of his games currently on my wish list and published by the imaginative Leder games, there was no surprise that Root was going to turn out so beautifully and my first impressions are nothing but postive for what’s to come.
Taken from boardgame geek, we can see that Root is a game of adventure and war in which players battle for control of a vast wilderness.
The nefarious Marquise de Cat has seized the great woodland, intent on harvesting its riches. Under her rule, the many creatures of the forest have been banded together. This Alliance will seek to strengthen its resources and subvert the rule of Cats. In this effort, the Alliance may enlist the help of the wandering Vagabonds who are able to move through the more dangerous woodland paths. Though some may sympathize with the Alliance’s hopes and dreams, these wanderers are old enough to remember the great birds of prey who once controlled the woods.
Meanwhile, at the edge of the region, the proud, squabbling Eyrie have found a new commander who they hope will lead their faction to resume their ancient birthright. The stage is set for a contest that will decide the fate of the great woodland. It is up to the players to decide which group will ultimately take root.
Now imagine that theme paired with the concept of the COIN series, that makes for some very clever game design. Of course ROOT isn’t a direct translation of the COIN series but it lends the idea of some of its seamless mechanics.
If you aren’t aware, the COIN series features Volko Ruhnke’s game system, a series designed very cleverly which means Counter-Insurgency and is specific to a type of warfare, the system includes a central “government” faction with 3 competing but different “rebellion” factions. The factions in Root definitely share some similarities to some of the COIN series. A series that can often seem overwhelming to most has been transformed into an enticing game filled with action and adventure. It’s easy to see which faction would take on which role.
Cole describes his reasoning for these similarities and so much more in his carefully constructed designer diaries on Boardgamegeek, which can be found here: Designer Diary – Some helpful symmetry and provide thoughtful insight and explanation into the games design and the whys.
Something that stuck out for me was the map, and behind that beautiful artwork, lays a cleverly designed wargame. Cole explains in these diaries that Root’s map is a pretty typical point-to-point wargame map. You have movement zones (called clearings) and paths that connect one clearing to another.
Early on I knew that the map should be claustrophobic-—a sort of anti-Twilight Imperium. I wanted the great forest of the game to be a dense, crowded space. To do that I needed a core movement system that would allow lots of different players to occupy the same clearing. At the same time, I didn’t want to woods to be overly porous. Players should be able to trap one another.
The map, combined with the different factions and single use cards, makes for a very interesting game. The game uses a single deck of mutli purpose cards, each player will use those cards in a very different way. This made for a very tense game, swapping cards, potentially knowing what card your opponent has, only wishing that it was yours. Being able to use those cards properly adds another layer of excitement to an already tense game.
Then there are factions, the thing that initally drew me towards Root. There’s something so fascinating about taking a game concept that I’m fairly familiar with and turning it into something magical.
The factions are so thoughtfully put together, down to the minor details, making for an immersive game. A game of clever cats, courageous hawks, the fierce woodland alliance and a vagabond that will do whatever it takes to get what he needs throughout the game.
Root is so much more than just it’s wonderful and creative cute characters, Root is a tense and somewhat cut throat story unfolding before your eyes as you fall deeper and deeper into a game of conspiracy and war, but not as we know it. A game that I can see no fault with, a wargame clevery disgused even though I don’t think that many can shy away from or will want to.
Although the game I played was a prototype and Root is still evolving, it’s definitely a solid game. Something I haven’t seen a lot of before and something I’m eager to play again and again. Such an accessible game, with all of the wargame qualities that I love but somehow offering so much more. Something new, something exciting and something that has given a whole new perspective to the way I percieve wargames.
Root is currently on Kickstarter, off to a flying start and I definitely recommend you take a look at this one. Truly a game not to be missed. You can find the kickstarter page here > Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right on Kickstarter
Thank you for reading my initial thoughts, I’ll be back with an update once I’ve had a few more plays but I needed to come on and tell you what I initially thought of the game.
Thanks for reading,