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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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The Root of the Familiarity Problem

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12 Mar 2020 00:04 #307916 by Jackwraith
My first...

Without a regular group, is Root worth the effort?

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12 Mar 2020 09:21 #307917 by Gary Sax
This is a really good article!

To begin, I pretty much agree with your assessment.

BUT, I think Root comes as close to being accessible despite these things as you can. Play time is short. The player aid is really good at taking you through even unfamiliar factions step by step. The shared rules are pretty simple. Most of the factions strategywise have a pretty succinct and intutive inital explanation. Despite all the complications, the game is a VP race that you can watch occur on the board.

To me, I think that's why it has been popular despite completely agreeing that the real meat is in playing it a number of times against similarly experienced opponents.
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12 Mar 2020 09:45 #307919 by Jackwraith
Thanks!

Absolutely agree. I think Leder did a really good job of breaking down how the game functions in their player aids. The experience that I've had with new players is that they're kind of lost in the descriptions of factions. You know how with more symmetrical games you can pick up rules tips from other people's questions? In Root, you often can't because explaining to the Eyrie player how to work the Decree has nothing to do with how the WA spread Sympathy. So that "extra" teaching time that often occurs during play is lost on a lot of players who are still trying to figure out how their unique faction works.

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12 Mar 2020 09:46 #307920 by hotseatgames
It is a good article. I hope that the day comes where I am playing with at least 4 players and we all know what we are doing. Once we got to that with Cthulhu Wars, it was really great.
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12 Mar 2020 09:59 #307922 by Jackwraith
Cthulhu Wars is another good example. Even though all of the factions play the game the same way, the depth of the strategy becomes more evident when you start planning for spellbooks to come out at the appropriate times, which means at least being familiar with all six spellbooks for each faction, which is a tall order for newer players.

"Do I have to be concerned about that cluster of Goat cultists over there if he gains Frenzy? Or will he go for the implicit power boost of Thousand Young, suddenly flooding the map? What if he picks Ghroth...? Wait. No one ever uses Ghroth."
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12 Mar 2020 10:28 #307925 by hotseatgames
These issues help to make a nice cutthroat game of Lords of Hellas so attractive. Players' abilities diverge a bit during the game, but for the most part everyone can do the same things, and you really get to drill down on how you will win, and how others are trying to win.
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12 Mar 2020 10:47 #307927 by Jackwraith
Right. I had to stop myself from expanding on the point about inaccurate use of the term "asymmetrical", because I wanted to go on a rant. Some people on BGG and Reddit have been claiming that ANY variation in abilities (the fabled "Variable player powers") makes a game "asymmetrical", which is decidedly not the case. If everyone has different powers but is still playing the game the same way, it's not Root.

sigh... I've still only played Lords of Hellas once. I want to play again, but just haven't been able to manage it.
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12 Mar 2020 12:22 - 12 Mar 2020 12:23 #307938 by Shellhead
I don't find the extreme asymmetric design of Root to be an advantage. Yes, everybody is playing a different game, in part because no single player is allowed to play the full game. The divergent roles are each scripted to the point of having a personal flowchart for how each turn is executed. That feels more confining than a game where each faction has different advantages or disadvantages.
Last edit: 12 Mar 2020 12:23 by Shellhead.

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12 Mar 2020 12:42 #307940 by Jackwraith
I've never run into the scripting problem that some people have complained about. I think one of the game's more remarkable qualities is that, despite each faction feeling like it should be played a certain way, there's actually a lot of room to try different things based on board state and opposing factions, as I was mentioning with my Builder-first approach with the Eyrie.

Part of that may be random chance, but part of it may also be the fact that I end up playing a lot of games with new players, who tend to do, um... odd things sometimes. But those odd things can still sometimes work!
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12 Mar 2020 12:45 #307942 by Jexik
I'm up to around 30 plays of this now, and many of them have been with new players. What I've found lately is that letting the new player take the Vagabond (if there's only one new player) is often the best way to handle it, despite it being listed as "moderate" in complexity. A newbie stuck in the middle as the cats or floundering as the birds might walk away with a wholly different experience. I've also found that 2-player cat v. birds games are good ways to ease someone into the game, and they only last about 30-45 minutes. When teaching a whole new table, I walk through the factions and try to get people to offer up what they'd like to be based on the descriptions. Regardless, I almost always pick my faction last, usually resorting to either cats, birds, or my dear Riverfolk Company.

I try to get the game going as quickly as possible, with the cat taking the first turn and basically having to coach people through their first turn or two- there really isn't any way around it. It's far preferable to 5-10 minute explanation _per player_ when they don't even have any context for what they can do yet anyway. You have to be ready to stop and answer questions at any time, but I've gotten my "play a 4-player game with 3 newbies" time down to just under 2 hours, set-up and all.

My 3 player games with experienced players are typically 45-60 minutes now, 4 player games a little longer.
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12 Mar 2020 15:30 #307957 by Disgustipater
I played a 5-player game last week with 3 new players, and the host used some question flowchart to assign them factions. He gave one of them the Lizards, which I thought was a terrible idea. Luckily I was sitting next to him and was able to coach him through his first few turns. After 2.5 hours, the Vagabond was leading at 15 points and the Cats and my Crows a little behind that. We called the game as it was getting late. I’m pretty sure the Lizard player (at 3 points) probably wont look at the game again.
Needless to say it wasn’t a very satisfying experience.

I think it would be amazing to have a Root group similar to a Twilight Imperium group I play with. All veterans with our 6-player games usually only lasting between 3.5 to 5 hours.

I’m attempting to get a regular group up and running, so hopefully that will pan out. A man can dream...
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12 Mar 2020 15:58 #307960 by Msample
There was a series of posts in a thread awhile back about how some groups were refusing/resistant to new players learning ROOT because it "slowed down" the game/experience for the rest. And I can see that - there are some games I resist involving new players with ( Eklund type games for instance ) for the same reason.

And while the base rules are very easy, once you throw in the faction specific rules it can present a steep learning curve. The good thing is that the game is relatively short, and from what I've seen most people learn at a rather geometric rate- not just their own faction but what the other factions can do as well. I think part of the learning curve is that the game doesn't rely on traditional mechanics - some people have trouble grasping novel stuff like this.

Its an interesting dilemma - how do you separate difficulty from "novelty" when describing a game's complexity ?
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12 Mar 2020 16:31 #307964 by Jackwraith

Msample wrote: Its an interesting dilemma - how do you separate difficulty from "novelty" when describing a game's complexity ?


I think that's a big part of it and it was definitely an issue in my first experience. I had never played Vast and most of the other "asymmetrical" games that I'd played (like Chaos in the Old World) were still not at the level of Root. I was sitting there thinking: "This is a DoaM... but not like anything I've played before." But when you get down to it, the mechanics aren't really that complex. They're just different.
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12 Mar 2020 17:34 #307966 by Jexik
When explaining the rules, I point out pretty early that everyone gets points by removing buildings or other "pieces of cardboard," how the combat dice work, and then say that each faction has some other way of getting points.

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15 Mar 2020 14:44 #308080 by Jackwraith
Right. One of the biggest hurdles I've found with regular gamers is crafting. A lot of them have real trouble with the fact that that sword they just crafted is basically just 2 points, unless they're the Vagabond... who typically doesn't craft. I get a lot of: "OK, but now what do I do with this sword/hammer/boots/tea?" And I'm all: "Nothing. You just scored 1/2/3 points and now it sits on your board, waiting for the rodent to come by and hand you a card for it." The blank look I usually get is telling, since most DoaM players are like: "Hey, I just spent a resource to develop this tech!" and they're expecting to climb a tech tree like in TI4 or something like that.

But, yeah, no. You're just closer to winning the game. I'll usually try to follow up with a story about how I've won more than once by holding on to some key crafting cards and then suddenly bursting forth with them in the last turn for 5 points or something like that. Then they look at their cards and you can see the light bulb go on.
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