Sure. So to preface, I liked John Company alot, and KS’ed Root based on that. Was very excited.
Super basic version incoming, passing over specificity. So at its base (minus the rich theme) it has 4 base factions, plus 2 added from the expansion. The board itself is separate territories each based off 1 color - yellow, orange or red. Each player gets hands of cards matching those colors, plus a blue wild color, that, if you control the matching territory colors on the card, you can play for combat actions or faction specific things. These are connected by distinct paths that dictate movement between each territory. There is a river in the middle that you can’t use unless you buy boats, but more on that later. Each faction uses the same core turn order broken into Morning, Day and Night, but each’s mechanics are significantly different. Winner is first to 30 VP, or 10 VP plus a completed domination card.
For example, you have the Birds/Eyrie, who at the beginning of the game use their deck to build an initial ruling class on their board which directly influences how which actions they can take, i.e. if I put a card in move and build, on my turn I can only move and build, unable to attack because I don’t have a ruling class card slotted in attack. They have to spread nests to increase their power, and spend turns adding cards to the different actions other factions take for granted. On top of that, their empire can break down into turmoil if you ever can’t perform the actions you’ve promised the ruling class, causing everything to reset. I haven’t played them, but both games the players were incredibility frustrated and how they basically were playing a game inside their own faction, before even interacting with the board.
You’ve got the Marquis Cats who want to build as much as they can, you’ve got the Racoon/Vagabond, who’s only a single character and wants other factions to craft items so he can pay them cards and gain more actions and take over your armies if he becomes enough of a “friend”, you’ve got the Woodland Frogs who represent the people and play like propaganda spreading zealots, and the expansion adds the Lizards who eat the dead and fuel their powers by eating sacrifices and other peoples discards, and then the Beavers who are traders who sell the other characters abilities, like boats to ride aforementioned rivers. To the games credit, they are each distinct enough to be their games. But I feel that’s the problem - Birds are playing Twilight Imperium, Cats are playing Scythe, Frogs are playing Shadows over Camelot, and the Racoon is playing solo mageknight or runequest. Add the Lizards and Badgers, it becomes an extremely complex system.
But thats all asymmetric games right? The problem I saw in both games of Root is even when the players get past the nuances of who their faction is and how to play them, the game seems entirely reactive, not proactive. The only player agency is hoping others don’t do something so you can. On top of that, on my second game with 5 people who understood the basics of what every other faction wanted to do, it was far too easy to just stall each other because everything you can do is so transparent, limited and projected. Worse still, this turgid pace means you can easily dog-pile on a faction…everyone knows what they want to do, and can make their turns completely pointless because they can’t pivot within the limitations of what their faction does. It’s not me playing, its me reacting. IMO, that’s not a good territory control game.
Look, its two games for me, and I appreciate the art direction and how each faction is so unique and the interplay they can create. I’m sure my betters will illustrate its secret nuance down the road, but for me, once you get over the new-ness, the game itself just isn’t that fun so far. It’s like everyone trying to solitaire a different game in their collection and can periodically flip each others table. God forbid you play with a group with heavy AP too…ooo boy, thats a 3 hour game at least.
Maybe you’ll love it, I hope you do!