Calvin’s Commentaries: Root

It was only last week the top-five reviewed games in 2018 filled this space, and while this is the first game of 2019, we have a contender for this year’s top-five in 50-weeks’ time.

Yes, folks, Root is that good a game that I can go out on a limb and suggest it will be in the conversation around our gaming table in a year as one of the best games.

So what makes Root such a stand out?

Well to start with there is some outstanding art here, in particular, the game board, and the key critters. They are rendered in a whimsical style that might suggest to some a game for younger players but rest assured this is a game for adults because beyond the joyful art there is some definite depth to play.

But first, a little of the flavour of the game.

“Root is a game of woodland might and right,” states the game’s Kickstarter campaign page, a campaign which ultimately raised just over $630,000. “Stalk the woods as one of the Vagabonds, seize the initiative with the Eyrie birds of prey, rule over your subjects as the Marquise de Cat, or command the Woodland Alliance to create a new order. With creatures and cunning, you’ll rule a fantastic forest kingdom in the ultimate asymmetric game of adventure and war.”

Again in the use of cats and birds and the like, you can see there is whimsy at play here, thanks to designer Cole Wehrle and brought to life by illustrator Kyle Ferrin.

The Kickstarter campaign suggests “Root is the next step” in the group’s “development of asymmetric design” which in this case means the four core ‘factions’ in the base game of Root all have decidedly different rules and the goals that must be achieved also differ from one group to the next.

Each player in Root has unique capabilities and a different victory condition.

It was interesting on how in the initial play through one player after another in our group was lamenting perceived inequalities in the factions, but by the time we were at the halfway point of the game, (15 point mark as 30 wins), only three points separated the four players.

There was again an ebb and flow over the final run to 30, but as the Marquise de Cat player eked out a win, there was again only four points separating the group.

To have four rather distinct factions in terms of in-game mechanics, each actually has its own distinct rules, and then adding differing paths to victory, and still maintaining such game balance is frankly brilliant.

As gamers we often want to have unique abilities, yet when those are provided in a game, there is almost always arguments over one character being over-powered, or another being too weak to compete. Those arguments started with Root but the game quickly quelled them.

This is a game with surprising balance, a major mechanics’ achievement.

If there is a flaw, it is that a player does have a rather specific path to victory. That path may be a little too sharply defined, leaving players with few choices in terms of what to do to win. It is pretty clearly defined to do A, B, and C.

Yet, in-game it didn’t feel restrictive because each player was trying to impose their will on the game to achieve their goal, and you needed to stay focused on what each other player was up too. The game does allow for lots of player interaction too, which helps keep everyone engaged.

Root also incorporates a range of mechanics although area control is key for at least three factions, the single Vagabond player going about winning is a wonderfully different fashion.

It should be noted since all factions play differently, the learning curve for some is higher than others, although a seasoned gamer will figure things out after a play through.

Overall, this is a very easy game to highly recommend as a virtual must own for an avid board gamer. Check it out at

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