Boardgaming in 2018!


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!


Thank you very much for the elaboration. When I first heard of and got interested in Root it was a four player game. Do you feel that it might be better with only the four core factions?


Portal games and Ignacy remind me of Peter Molyneux and his games. They talk a good talk. Have interesting ideas, cool themes, but ultimately fall completely flat and never deliver on the promise.


Hah, very true. I give them credit though…the games are always good, its the execution that’s always off.


It’s possible it might be better with just the core 4. My games were 6 player and 5 player, so the expac races made it in each time.

I guess my thought is since each faction is so symbiotic on the others to do anything, I don’t see it being a core vs. expansion issue, but it’s possible.

Writing that novel post made me realize I need a 3rd game before I sell my copy away, got a game set-up Sunday to see if time and reflection change my mind.


Dungeon Alliance is back on Kickstarter.


Thanks for the great write-up. I wasn’t questioning your opinion at all, just wanted to hear more.


My expectation for Root is tampered a bit after reading @Pharaoh AAR since I’m quite looking forward to it too. However, my experience with Cole Wherle’s designs is of mixed feelings.

My first Wherle’s game was his second game to be published, An Infamous Traffic. I gave Pax Pamir a pass because I wasn’t that interested in the theme and I was super excited with AIT because an upstart game designer has finally given Opium War a game treatment. The game IMO suffered from an analogue version of Chick Parabola in which once you got over the learning curve (just within 2 game sessions), you can kind of predict who’s going to win at around middle of the game. I have played this more than 5 times with 3 different groups and sorry to see the game revealed itself entirely too early. The main problem of AIT is when 2 players entered trade war among themselves even for a turn (over monopoly of Opium, Shipping, and I forgot what is another one), they’re kinda hosed and the unaffected players could just cruise to victory as long they can manage to bag the prizes as well.

John Company on the other hand is very group dependent. My first game with JC was one of the best gaming experience in my life. We were just trading with Indian provinces, vying for office positions, etc. and just chilled while exploring the game mechanics. My second game with JC was a nightmare. I happened to play JC with a group of hardcore hypercompetitive cutthroat gamers who are into economy games like Splotter series (Indonesia, FCM, Antiquity, etc. you name it!) and 18XX games. Boy, I still remember I lost executive position early on thanks to attrition die roll and barely retained an office that managed shipping IIRC. What followed was players took turns to stop me from gaining higher office positions and I could only rely on my writers and hope the best. It didn’t help that the chairman of the game survived multiple attrition rolls and played a very hard position to accumulate wealth and making my life harder. Every single player move didn’t escape long winding negotiation just to gain marginal profit or position. The game lasted 6 hours because of incessant negotiations and min maxing from each other (We didn’t finish that session because by turn 7 of the game one of the players have gotten away with too much money from stock trading there was no point for rest of us to play catch up). I got so burned out with that session and vowed to stay away from JC for a long time. It’s still a solid economic game to me and I don’t really blame the dice rolls. But be caution with who are you inviting to play with.


Lovely. As if it wasn’t enough for this thread to cool my enthusiasm for Root, it’s gotta also cool my enthusiasm for John Company? :(



I played this last night and really liked it.

As my friend was getting the box out, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. Ugh. Flower set collection? A few minutes into the rules explanation, I came around. It’s similar to Iello’s Kanagawa, but not as fiddly and more interactive.



I’d still urge you to try JC out as I thought the game has several clever mechanics brilliantly and intricately chained. But all of these will be overshadowed by incessant hair tearing hard bargaining negotiations IF you sit in a table of min-maxers as if you were negotiating in NAFTA trade agreements and non would compromise till some sweet deals were agreed. It’ll be a game about office or political struggles writ large if you’re playing with “serious” gamers.


Played Tzolkin and Santiago for the first time today. I liked Tzolkin although the whole gear deal is kinda weird, it’s not really any weirder than a typical Feld game. Santiago was advertised by my group to me as cutthroat and it definitely was, but the nicest and least manipulative/traitorous player ended up winning. I liked both and would consider them in my category of “good games that I don’t feel obliged to own but will happily play.”


Shut up and sit down discuss Detective in their latest podcast. It’s the first game discussed by the panel (you need to skip a few minutes in to go past the introductions).

It’s fair to say the writing didn’t work at all for them.

Matt reads an “inspired by” card on detective work (to avoid spilling a real card) which, if it is anything like the real thing, explains why the writing didn’t impress. It’s funny though.


Miniature Market is having an, uh … “back to school sale”


Argh Cthulhu Wars for $96. I don’t really need it, I wasn’t really planning on getting, but less than a hundred bucks? Argh.


I hope I am not the only board gamer out there that sees what looks like 3lbs of minis and says… no. Zombicide pretty much hits my mini limits…


There’s actually way fewer minis in Cthulhu Wars than Zombicide, if that’s the issue. They’re also way more excessively huge, though.


I played Massive Darkness today and it’s interesting to contrast it with it’s cousin, Zombicide: Black Plague. Similarly streamlined mechanics and scenario layout, with Zombicide having more feeling of pressure from the Zombie hordes but Massive Darkness having more tactical variety and (slightly) deeper character progression. Similar in many ways, they scratch somewhat different itches IMO.

I think all things considered I prefer Zombicide, but my friend and I are now planning to play a whole campaign of Massive Darkness, and that’s going to be fun.

I think between all the many minis on a map games floating around amongst my friends and I, I am going to restrain myself and purchase Cthulhu Wars. As a consolation prize, I might pick up the Wulfsburg expansion to Zombicide Black Plague. I’ve heard the move-3 wolf zombies are pretty nasty to deal with.


You made the right call. It’s a horrible design. Next time you’re in the area, I’ll blow the dust off my copy and we can play so you can see firsthand!



Recently got my kickstarter copies of Brass: Lancashire and Brass: Birmingham. They are such beautiful games, though Lancashire’s board is a tad bit dark. I’ve played both already, and its hard to decide which is better. Lancashire is tighter and reminds me of Martin Wallace’s train game Steam. Birmingham is more like Railways of the World – more open and forgiving, though just as fun. The poker chips that came in the kickstarter version are also amazing and certainly improve the experience. These were my most anticipated games this year, and so far they haven’t disappointed.

I also got the reprint of Dominant Species, another awesome heavy game. Probably the best area control game i’ve ever played, but certainly a brain burner. A tad bit long as well, which makes it hard to get played.