Root is a strategy board game of woodland conquest for 2-4 players, or 1-6 with expansions. The back story for the game is that the Marquise de Cat has taken advantage of the decadence of the Eyrie Dynasties (pronounced air-y unless you want scowls across the table in my house!) to conquer the woodlands and begin industrialization. Meanwhile, the Eyrie is trying to reassert dominance, the Woodland Alliance is rising up in rebellion, Vagabonds are taking advantage of the chaos, and other factions are stepping in with their own agendas.
What makes Root unique is that every faction operates with a different set of rules, objectives, and even components. The Marquise has a resource, wood, to manage so that she can build buildings, while the Eyrie has a programmed movement concept where they must complete actions in a certain order in certain forest clearings each turn or face a coup d’etat and the loss of victory points. The differing agendas bring a ton of replayability, as you can learn one faction well and then step over to one of the eight others and learn that.
Three games in, however (one 5 player, one single player, and one 2 player), the downside of different rules for all the factions is clear; I have yet to play one game correctly per rules as written. Learning the game is a significant challenge. The game comes with THREE rulebooks – a quick start guide, the Law of Root (complete rules), and a walkthrough. However, some rules are not easy to find and aren’t spelled out well outside of the Law of Root, such as what happens to buildings that are destroyed in combat.
With that said, Root has the potential to be a lot of fun. The components are beautiful, and the quirky forest animal art style is great. I particularly like the Ambush card with a rabbit wielding two hand-axes in a berserker rage. The wooden animal warriors and the beautiful board give the game some real table presence. The automated opponent for single player games is challenging enough to be fun, but definitely rewards combat-oriented opponents; I’m not sure how the peaceful Lizardfolk would hold back the expansion of the Marquise.
In sum, Root is a beautiful and complex board game that rewards or even requires multiple plays to learn. It’s not a game I would bring out for a board game get together unless I had a group of experienced gamers who were excited to learn something new, but I think it would be a lot of fun for a group that meets regularly and really wants to dig into a single game.