Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Root is a terrific—and fully asymmetric—woodland wargame

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |

Uproot your enemies —

One of 2018’s hottest board games… involves birds, cats, and a little raccoon?

Charlie Theel

Hexbyte - Tech News - Ars Technica | Article intro image

Charlie Theel

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Root does something special: it breaks a conflict-heavy wargame with fully asymmetric roles into easily digestible chunks, then wraps these complex bits in stylized fur and medieval garb.

It’s a sophisticated design that owes as much to Brian Jacques’s charming Redwall series of animal books as it does to GMT’s COIN series of wargames.

Below the pleasant chirping of woodland birds and the rush of the river lies rot; the game’s forest is in upheaval and blood is about to be shed. Root may lull you with its relative simplicity and pleasant facade, but the game really models geo-political instability.

And the best way to learn the game is by exploring its truly unique factions.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | The Eyrie, a crumbling royal house

The birds of old ruled with integrity and pride, but the birds of now are a forgotten caste, swapping authority for tumult. Elder feathered statesmen are constantly bickering. Political promises are given and back-meadow deals are struck. The Eyrie is beset with challenges.

When you play this faction, on each turn you add cards from your hand to the “decree.” (The decree is a foe you will come to hate.) Cards consist of different suits that map to clearing spaces on the forest board. Mouse, bunny, and fox are obvious enough, while birds form a wild suit that offers flexibility. As the Eyrie, you will program these cards into your tableau, then execute those actions in a specific order.

Hexbyte - Tech News - Ars Technica | Some of Root's many cards.
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Some of Root’s many cards.

Perhaps you place a bird card in recruit, a bunny in move, and a fox in battle. You will then recruit units into any clearing (remember, bird cards are wild), then move a group of warriors from a bunny clearing to one adjacent to it, then finally battle with your squawking combatants in a fox space.

Each subsequent round you must add another card to the decree. Juggling this process becomes incredibly complex, and it must be done while also attempting to build roosts, which expand your empire and earn victory points. Yet you must keep a wary eye on your ballooning set of orders, because if you are unable to accomplish even one of the cards in your decree, your government falls into turmoil and your leader is deposed. This may occur if you possess no more units to recruit—or perhaps you lost your presence in that fox space and can no longer do battle there.

When this occurs, the weight of all those brokered promises squashes you like a filthy pigeon. You lose victory points and must begin your decree fresh with a new cabinet. This will happen and you will brace for it.

The Eyrie is a stressful lot. They’re also fascinating and one of the most rewarding factions, since a properly managed decree can result in explosive turns and an outrageous number of actions compared to your peers.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Marquise de Cat, the military-industrial complex

Described as “nefarious,” these fiery feline invaders are set on colonizing the wildlands. They construct buildings—continually earning themselves points—and are happy to chop down the forest to establish their militaristic order.

birds cats!” data-height=”1675″ data-width=”2500″ href=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Root_MarquiseDeCat.jpg”>Angry <span style=birds cats!” height=”201″ src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Root_MarquiseDeCat-300×201.jpg” width=”300″>
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Angry

birds

cats!

Charlie Theel

These cats are nothing like the birds of the Eyrie. They begin all across the board, having already succeeded on their initial push into the game’s territory. An enterprising feline will build out from their fortified stronghold, working quickly to throw down recruiters and sawmills to fuel their war machine.

These beasts are also efficient. There’s no “decree” or any bickering cadre of elders here; instead, the cat faction simply performs three actions on each turn. If playing with them, you’ll want to build as many structures as possible to keep up with the victory point race, but you’ll also worry about recruiting from your massive pool of warriors while aggressively pressuring your foes.

The Marquise is the most straightforward faction in terms of rules complexity, but like many things in Root, this is deceptive. You will struggle to close gaps in your supply line and to mobilize a dispersed army. You face continual pressure and counter-attack from every angle. Sometimes being a tyrant can feel quite oppressive.

Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | Woodland Alliance, a swelling insurgency

The Woodland Alliance are the insurgents of Root. They begin

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