Back again with another Brian’s battery review for Root, played solo using the Better Bot Project. The Better Bot Project originated as a print and play AI system to recreate the multiplayer experience of Root in a single player model. The Project was so fantastic and well done that the designers actually incorporated the system into an official expansion for the game.
Normally I’m extremely hesitant to use print and play variants. I find that the printing portion never turns out quite right and ends up being distracting as the quality is so poor. I’m also too cheap to actually spend money to have them professionally printed (I also that kind of defeats the purpose). But in this case the game is worth suffering through the distractions. Because It. Is. So. Good.
For those unfamiliar with Root: Root is an extremely asymmetrical war game hidden under beautiful, lovable, phenomenal art. The art belies the true nature of the game - it can often be cutthroat and tense; each round is suspenseful. The base game contains 4 factions, all of whom play almost like their own board game. (There are multiple expansion factions for this game but I was only able to acquire the base game)
The Marquis de Cats use euro-style engine building to maintain control of the woodlands while the Eyrie uses action programming in their bid to win the forest. The
Rebel Woodland Alliance uses Guerilla warfare and ambushes to win support while the Vagabond feels like Link from the Zelda games going on his own adventure amongst it all.
Despite how different each factions play, all players each have the same goal: to earn 30 victory points and win control of the woodland.
Let’s pounce on in to the review:
Component quality (+++): Wow. Just wow. Look at those stunningly cute wooden Meeples. Gaze in wonder at the beautiful art in the cards and on the game board and player boards. The card quality is phenomenal. The cardboard for the tokens is excellent. No complaints at all about the components.
Rulebook (+): The rule book is great. It’s done in that newer style where you have a learn to play booklet as well as a rules almanac. This style is great because once you become more familiar with the game you only need to reference The Law of Root and not mess around with the learn to play portions. The paper used for the rulebook is great and the art and examples are fantastic.
Box size (-): As much as I love this game I am really annoyed with the size of the box. It’s JUST barely big enough to hold everything and I think that the included insert is worse than just using the box. I actually took my insert out and decided to store the game without it. For all the greatness of this game this is a minor quibble.
Faction Asymmetry (+++): The diversity of the factions is incredible. It really feels like they took 4 unique games and mashed them together. And yet it still feels balanced. I can’t imagine how much fun this would be multiplayer because it’s so great solo.
Multi-Use Cards (+++): Despite the incredibly varied play styles all factions utilize a common shared resource: cards. Cards are a precious resource and you never feel like you have enough of them. The cards also have multiple uses that lead to agonizing decisions. Do you use that card to craft a powerful ability? Do you save it to use during combat? Or do you spend it for a faction ability? Delicious decision making.
Better Bot Project (++): The Project is a stroke of genius. It hits the trifecta of AI abilities: 1. Easy to run. 2. Realistically simulates a human player 3. Challenging. Very well done.
Root is phenomenal. I can’t wait to add some of the expansion factions in the future. I also look forward to the day when I can play it multiplayer. An excellent game with an excellent print and play variant.