I finally got a chance to play Root (the core game, no expansions). It lives up to the hype, it’s a stunning work of game design combined with excellent production.

If it were just the cats and birds it would be an impressively balanced asymmetric wargame. But the Woodland Alliance takes it to another level, and then the Vagabond throws it off the charts. Three things that surprised me:

  • Root has a reputation for having a deep strategic learning curve until you get a handle on what each faction’s goals are. So in a group of four with two people having played a couple times before, I expected us newcomers to get crushed. But it ended up a close game with only a ~6 point spread and the winner having come from trailing behind until the very end.
  • The rules are surprisingly short and comprehensible, it’s all pretty elegant and straightforward. Definitely not casual, but the mechanical complexity is modest compared to many many other games.
  • It plays fairly fast. With four players I did not feel the interval between turns to be onerous at all, I had just enough time to figure out my next steps. And even with two new players and another playing a new-to-them faction we were done well within 2.5 hours.