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Let's Talk About Root

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12 Feb 2020 09:59 - 12 Feb 2020 10:16 #307056 by charlest
Replied by charlest on topic Let's Talk About Root
Another game with the Duchy and I felt much more comfortable. It was a weird one though where we had an Adventurer Vagabond, The Riverfolk, and me playing the Duchy. It's a weird combo but it was legal using that new power system in the manual.

We also played on the Mountain Pass map which was wonderful.

We congregated early in the middle space due to the fort and bonus VP every round if you rule the space. I recruited ministers much more aggressively and was more conservative in my building deployment. It helped that my opponents did not have particularly fighty factions (or chose not to be in the case of the Vagabond).

I beat both of them down and really retarded the Vagabond's progress. This allowed me the breathing room to get to 10 VP and claim a dominance card to rule opposite clearings in turn 4. They held me from victory for a couple of rounds but couldn't quite keep up.

Still, my appreciation for this game increases with each play. That was my 9th or 10th play and it's just such an enveloping strategic design that remains light enough to remove most barriers typically associated with these types of things.

I also feel like Underworld is a fantastic expansion. Much better than Riverfolk IMO.
Last edit: 12 Feb 2020 10:16 by charlest.
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12 Feb 2020 10:08 - 12 Feb 2020 10:15 #307059 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Let's Talk About Root
I agree on Underworld! It's a way better expansion both because of the map and such but also the factions are just more "core factions." The first expansion felt kind of like including 5th expansion Cosmic encounter aliens for experts.

My appreciation for Root is increasing too. Everyone has to understand their role and then the game isn't just playing itself which I think is the early complaint. This tends to be true of all Wehrle games which I think is why it surprises me so much he has been so successful... playing these games 10+ times with people who know what they're doing in the real world is rare. I certainly haven't done it.

My observation is that the Vagabond is a real problem for the moles if it goes fighty at all. It can sneak into your backfield and really have its way with your buildings. The moles can't garrison everything and hope to accomplish their goals as well. I could see crows doing this as well, though I haven't messed around with them.
Last edit: 12 Feb 2020 10:15 by Gary Sax.
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12 Feb 2020 10:18 - 12 Feb 2020 10:19 #307060 by charlest
Replied by charlest on topic Let's Talk About Root
Yeah I can picture the Vagabond being a huge nuisance. I think proactively beating him down to make him waste turns recovering may be your best bet. Possibly exploding out of your burrow on his space if it aligns with what suits you're holding.

Concerning the growth of enjoyment of Root - this is perhaps what baffles me most about the SUSD review. Their feelings on the game are a complete opposite to the Wehrle curve present in his designs.
Last edit: 12 Feb 2020 10:19 by charlest.
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12 Feb 2020 10:24 #307061 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Let's Talk About Root
Maybe there's a middle low point in the curve on this game? Great pleasure as you learn the factions, getting to an end of the learning point and thinking there isn't much more there, then an increasing focus on the game of competition for points between players as you play more.

I do think that a difference in this game is that Cole made that first period, just learning the factions, extra fun. So even if you never get into the meat of this game that's always there. Helps that the game is short and breezy.
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12 Feb 2020 12:06 #307063 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Let's Talk About Root
I respect SUSD for what they do, but I take a somewhat jaundiced eye toward their reviews. As I've mentioned before, they have been trending toward a "hipster" approach in recent times that often seems to carry a bit of confirmation bias. It's as if they approach the "new, hot thing" with a predilection in their minds to prove why it shouldn't be hot. Don't get me wrong: Those guys are firmly embedded in modern gaming and they play enough to be very aware of what works and what doesn't. But they're as prone to subjective bias as anyone else and I think that was present with Root.

I've been guilty of it, too. When I first played, I had a poor experience because it wasn't taught very well (Wehrle games are, of course, notoriously difficult to teach) and I kind of dismissed it as a fad for a while. But after playing a couple more times, I really began to see the depth of the game and really began to enjoy how the different layers worked with each other to produce the whole experience.

But it also may be a symptom of game type and gamer preference: Root is a wargame. You have to play it like a wargame or you're probably not going to enjoy it. Aggressive play is often rewarded (as the two of you noted about beating on the Vagabond) and, for some people, that's just not the way they want to approach their time. The SUSD guys like wargames, but I've found that they trend toward the more complex/grandiose types (TI4, War of the Ring, Star Wars: Rebellion, etc.) and Root is simply not that.
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12 Feb 2020 13:38 #307068 by Nodens
Replied by Nodens on topic Let's Talk About Root
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12 Feb 2020 15:04 #307070 by Msample
Replied by Msample on topic Let's Talk About Root
If it took them three hours to play the first turn, I bet only one person read the rules ahead of time, if that. Not all games can be grokked by popping the shrink and just playing. That is a very hipster MO with new games these days, but it won't work on a game like VQ.

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13 Feb 2020 18:18 #307098 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Let's Talk About Root
I just re-read this whole thread and reflected upon the three games of Root that I have played, and I feel like there is some Kool-Aid drinking going on here. The production values are good, the game is mechanically sound, and the overall package is very distinctive in a crowded market of modern games. But I feel like the asymmetry sharply constrains each player's strategy to a few programmed options. And maybe that's fine and the real game is above the table (as noted by someone previously in this thread) once players have enough experience. But I'm not there yet and each game feels like I am making a strategic choice between this faction's A, B, and C and then I am locked in. My other issue may just be a personal short-coming, because this game looks like it wants to tell a story (and I love stories), but there is just enough of a disconnect between mechanics and setting that I don't get a story so much as a sense that we are all following victory point collection procedures.

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13 Feb 2020 18:54 #307100 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Let's Talk About Root
I can't speak to kool-aid drinking, this game has actually grown on me in the last few months.

As for the just a couple preprogrammed routes/on rails thing, I guess I'd say that it feels like that the first few games. The real finesse comes in later when you know just when to step in and squash another player's buildup when it hurts the most with the fewest amount of actions. Crucially, you won't stop them or anything, but this isn't a game about stopping anyone entirely from scoring points, it's still fundamentally a race game. I haven't played a ton, but early it can feel like 4 people scoring points as quickly as possible while they grapple with their own engines.

I don't find the narrative a strength of the design, though it can be pretty thematic with regard to different political systems clashing.
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13 Feb 2020 22:22 #307103 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Let's Talk About Root
I agree with that. I think a sign of a game's design is whether factions play solely as mechanical constructs or whether they play as extensions of their thematics. I think Root does this well.

I don't agree that each faction is locked into a particular method. In my experience, each of them can play differently, depending both on which factions are opposing them, as well as the play style of the person controlling them. Just as an example, I almost won the last game by starting with Builder and running a decree that ignored battling until the last turn or two before turmoil. This is in direct contrast to the way most people feel inclined to play the Aerie and I think it's viable.
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13 Feb 2020 22:29 #307104 by charlest
Replied by charlest on topic Let's Talk About Root
I completely agree that your opposition has a large influence on your playstyle. This gives strong texture to repeated plays with different matchups. It keeps the strategic considerations fresh.

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14 Feb 2020 07:33 #307111 by Vysetron
Replied by Vysetron on topic Let's Talk About Root
What I love about Root's framework (specifically each faction having a "flowchart") is that you have to find a way to do what you want despite that rigid structure. It's kind of game-y sure, but finding ways to leverage your strengths and compensate for the mechanical straitjacket is incredibly satisfying. The Eyrie are the most obvious example but this applies to every faction to some extent.
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15 Feb 2020 13:20 #307139 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Let's Talk About Root
It has all of the trappings of a traditional take and hold dudes on a map but playing it that way can be a losing strat.
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16 Feb 2020 12:16 - 16 Feb 2020 12:22 #307160 by Jexik
Replied by Jexik on topic Let's Talk About Root
I didn't back the latest expansion because I had hardly played at that point when it was in the backing stage, but I have probably played 10-15 games since I last posted. It's often the only game I bring to game nights, and I can usually find people who are either interested in playing it for the first time or really like it and want to play again. I've got two close friend who really like it, so one night we played 4 games in a row in about 4 or 5 hours. I've gotten better at teaching it - recently finished a 2-hour game with 3 all new players including the teaching time.

I haven't played Underground yet, as I said I'm waiting on the local stores to get it, but I really like the Riverfolk expansion. I have yet to do anything with the Mechanical Marquise, but I think the Riverfolk Company is possibly my favorite faction to play OR have in the game. I think they do a great job of both foiling and facilitating the conflict between the Marquise and the Eyrie. The WA just kinda feel like a drag on the game, where people have to spend their actions and moves to contain them or just lose, and the Vagabond is just really hard to pin down. The Riverfolk's card sales and riverboats allow the Eyrie to do some interesting plays to avoid turmoil, while the Cats often need to pay into the mercenaries to get their wood through if you position your guys right, and they also like buying bird cards or certain crafting cards. This is one of my favorite 3 player setups.

So how do they actually win? In my experience, it is through crafting. Once you get up to 10-12 funds, which is doable with some good above the board play, you can explode and build a few trading posts at once, and then play Favor of the ____ out of the blue. Every other faction has to telegraph those cards a turn or two in advance, or have so much built up in those areas that they don't hurt others very much. I've seen this toss the Eyrie into turmoil or wreak havoc on the Lizards or Cats. Their action economy and turn order is so fluid that it can do very powerful things if you let it. Even in the absence of the Favor cards, I've won games on the back of massive amounts of fox and bunny-crafted cards. It's also kind of weird that unless you're sitting on funds, destroying their trading posts doesn't actually impact their crafting potential. In this way they can be as difficult to slow down as a Vagabond or WA player.

I've played 2 5-player games now, each with 1 vagabond, and I think it's really hard for the birds or cats to win there. It just gets too crowded and a few people attacking you just because you're there means that the WA, Vagabond or RC is going to win.

Even with the changes to Lizards which I've tried for 2-3 games, they still seem kinda weak, but I've got a friend who loves playing them regardless.

There's little things about crafting that you don't really get the first play unless you're paying a lot of attention- Bags and Tea which help the vagabond use more items are both Mouse; Crossbows, swords, and the hammer are all Fox; and the coins (highest scoring crafted card) and the action economy cards are all double Rabbit. This really matters for the Marquise, and can affect where a Lizard chooses to start if all 3 are in the game.
Last edit: 16 Feb 2020 12:22 by Jexik.
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16 Feb 2020 12:44 #307162 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Let's Talk About Root

Jexik wrote: Even with the changes to Lizards which I've tried for 2-3 games, they still seem kinda weak, but I've got a friend who loves playing them regardless.


One of the more interesting details in the Underworld expansion was the new copy of the Law. It has the same stuff as the previous copies, plus details on the new factions, but it also has some appendices. They're typical stuff like a component list and variants, but the first one is a system called Reach, to help determine what faction combinations will work with what number of players.

2: 17+ 3: 18+ 4: 21+ 5: 25+ 6: 28+
The values are: Marquise- 10; Duchy- 8; Eyrie- 7; 1st Vagabond- 5; Riverfolk- 5; WA- 3; Corvids- 3; 2nd Vagabond- 2; Lizards- 2.

So, right away you can see the original 2-player recommendation: Marquise vs Eyrie = 17. You can also see that the Lizards have the "least favorable" rating for fewer players than anyone else but a second Vagabond, which you basically can't do below 4. The Lizards also almost require one of the "big" factions, if not two of them, at 3 players. You could do Marquise, Riverfolk, Lizards and hit the Reach number, but you'd also run into a problem that Lizards frequently encounter which is lack of Acolytes because no one wants to fight them and fuel their conspiracies. (It's almost like a conspiracy against the conspiracies! Now I have to play a game with both Corvids and Lizards...)

Wehrle always intended the Lizards to be kind of a niche faction that, rather than be "competitive", kind of helped the game move in different directions. I remember his semi-grudging admission of this when he first announced the rules tweaks. This is where a designer has an image of how the game "should" be played and actually let that have free reign, but then realized that few people were going to meet his vision if it meant that someone would automatically lose every game before it had even started. That's a decent tragedy, but it's not much fun.

Even with the tweaks, I think the Cult is still somewhat stuck there, based on its niche design. If you want them to work as designed, they're almost utterly dependent on other factions to interact with them, in the same way that the Riverfolk are. The difference is that the Riverfolk can tempt others to interact with them for resources that largely (and immediately) benefit the other faction, while the Lizards basically have to be enough of a nuisance to force someone to finally do something, similar to the WA and their sympathy. The difference is that interacting with the WA also means keeping the late-game explosion from emerging, whereas interacting with the Lizards just means they're more of a nuisance.

Every game I've played has involved a Vagabond (we've always been 4 or 5.) I'm kind of interested to see how the game functions without one, such that crafting doesn't become a measured decision based on how much of an advantage one wants to give to the Vagabond player, but instead just a flat out use of cards for points.
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