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Let's Talk About Root
This is an excellent summary of how I feel. My favourite faction was the Eyrie as at least they made the fact that this was a partially scripted programming game an explicit part of the faction mechanics.
Gary Sax wrote: I find Root very thematic and I like it... but I don't find the play of it especially creative and that's what limits its top end for my gaming tastes. Putting it next to the absolute openness and creativity of a play of Oath really nails down what limits Root's appeal to me to "would play it almost any time someone suggests" but it not being a top tier pick for me.
… because the clockwork machine of your faction is doing part of the work for you by guiding your strategy.
Jackwraith wrote: dysjunct, I've known a lot of people that were unimpressed with their first play but got talked into a second one and discovered some of the brilliance in the design. I'm one of them.
I really think you'll enjoy it if you try it again; caveat being that there's no telling what games will appeal to whom and there's no wrong or right in it, either.
Something else that put me off trying it for so long is that, every time I take a look at it, it seems like the rules have gone through several iterations since the last time I took a look. Apparently it's up to six "printings" for the English version, which aren't quite like new editions? But the rules are tweaked? Plus there's expansions that have gone through their own iterative process? It makes me want to pass on the whole thing, rather than pick up some outdated version that is probably fine but might not be the best version, or represent the designer's truest vision. I dunno.
There were two small balance changes I think in the 2nd printing to the woodland alliance and the lizard cult, you could get stickers to update your copy and there were other ways to update it. I doubt those problems are in the retail pipeline at this point though after so many years.
Both Cole and Leder Games tend to be extremely open about their process, so your head might spin if you go looking at in-development stuff or BGG chatter. Things oscillate wildly there, but it's all just typical bullshit. Once the game is locked down for printing, it stays really stable.
Root isn't like High Frontier with endlessly shifting "Living Rules" in that regard. It doesn't really matter what edition you have (aside from first Kickstarter, basically), and the expansions are mix-n-match. Use the rulebook from the newest expansion you have, and nothing else matters in your copy.
Root might be a top twenty game for me, but still can't crack my top three of Wehrle designs.
Also, we decided we didn't want a vagabond in our third game because it feels like if no players attack the vagabond, they'll win, but at the same time nothing is gained from attacking them. In other words you don't get to improve your own game by impeding theirs as you do with all other factions, and that's somewhat frustrating. But without the vagabond to remove ruins and lizards, moles, cats, otters, and woodland alliance in play, the board quickly became too crowded for especially the cats and lizards.
Have any of you tried simply playing without the ruins in games without the vagabond? Or maybe a rule that says you can spend a card or an action to remove one? We discussed that it might help all the builder factions spread out a bit more which in turn would have helped the alliance a bit, but we weren't sure it would work.
I've become adjusted to the idea that the Vagabond is the clock on the game. If you leave it alone, the game will end and not in your favor. The problem you describe (someone has to hit him, despite no reward for doing so) is an essential aspect of that clock and is, I think, one of the more interesting design aspects of the game, since it compels negotiation at the table, as everyone has to be involved in dealing with the opportunist at some point. But it's certainly viable to play without the Vagabond and many people do it for exactly the reasons you describe. We haven't tried playing without Ruins, though. IIRC correctly, Cole mentioned that they'd found that restricting those spaces was a restraint on the more militant factions that they found to be necessary to slow them down, but it's certainly open to question as to what the game is like with them in play for the whole session.
The corvids, also, are considered a lower tier factions because it is always viable to winslay them. They have no hidden/difficult to block point scoring mechanisms, so no matter how well they do they can always be guessed out and/or just wiped off the board because they usually have scattered thin stacks.
On the crowded board thing, it is sometimes advantageous for especially the cats to consider their buildings totally expendable and put them in risky places you know someone will gobble the point from them, because it allows you to rebuild them for the point spike with your limited actions if you come back through with a stack and fight back. I tend to get way too precious about cat buildings in my play. It beats trying to go and take some other player's stronghold to find the slim building slots on the board.
On the other hand I was the lizards in the final game it it was a lot of fun. I figured I was out of contention early on precisely because the moles, a mass of otters, and ruins meant I couldn't really expand. But nonetheless I had fun with a weird faction and ended up being one round from winning.
I get the idea of the vagabond as a game clock, but I still don't like it. Almost everything else in the game you can do - regardless of faction - are things that help you win. Attacking the trash panda does nothing except hindering another player, and it also risk painting a big fat target on you because a hostile vagabond will attack you and give other players cards. I love the vagabond as a faction. But I hate that you can almost only beat it by leaving the story of the game in favor of the meta.
Jexik wrote: The Lord of the Board recently did a faction ranking on his youtube channel, and (spoilers) Vagabond was strongest and his least favorite. While Corvids were considered weak. So this matches others experience. Now you might enter the “let the corvids have fun so they can blow up other people” phase.
I don't particularly mind a faction being strong or weak. The problem for me with the corvids was that I had very little room to actually play the game I wanted. It was far too easy for other players to remove my plots because giving me a card to guess wrong was no big deal since I couldn't really use it for much. That is very much unlike the alliance where giving them cards for moving into their clearings or removing sympathy directly impacts the likelyhood of them making a revolt in their next turn.
I like the feel of the corvids, but I think they should have some extra stuff to use cards for. Maybe being able to spend a matching card to recruit an extra warrior would be enough to allow them to sacrifice plots for board presence.
Then again, some moderate house ruling is probably okay if your group is on board; some of the earlier factions had rules changes already.