Love board games? Join Becca Scott every week on Game the Game where she plays exciting board games with fantastic guests every week!
Asymmetrical games offer players interesting choices as soon as they open the box. Each player is essentially playing a different game at the same time, and when the different games clash against each other, that’s when even more interesting choices can be made.
Leder Games created a big hit with this style of board game a few years ago with Vast: The Crystal Caverns. It combined great art, quirky themes for the players (you can play as the cave!) and different ways for each player to play. Leder Games premiered their newest game, Root, at Gen Con 2018. Root comes with a lot of the same design sensibilities that made Vast a hit; each player plays a different style, a quirky theme and standout art that catches the eye. We were able to try it out upon returning home from the convention and really enjoyed our experience!
Root features a forest full of anthropomorphic creatures at odds with each other in an adorable but tense Game of Thrones–styled setup. Unlike Everdell, which features a mellow backstory of preparing for winter, the animals of Root have war on their mind. The Marquise de Cat currently controls the forest and looks to exploit its raw materials to build a feline empire. She’s opposed by the Alliance of woodland creatures who are slowly spreading ideas of rebellion and democracy throughout the villages to rise up against the Marquise’s iron-pawed rule. On the outskirts of the forest, the Eyrie of birds that were deposed have come together under a new leader to take back what once was theirs. Finally, the Vagabonds try to quietly profit off of all this war and tension by collecting shiny items in exchange for action cards the other players can use to power their empires.
Three of the four-player choices are playing a wargame-style area control game. The cats want to take over and exploit resources to build their empire. The birds build an action order engine through placing cards that allow them to do a lot of things in a turn at the risk of wrecking their empire if they run themselves into a corner. The woodland creatures start out weak and must gain sympathy in cat and bird controlled areas early. If they survive, they can cause a lot of late-game chaos by causing those enclaves to revolt and turn to their cause, destroying the carefully laid plans of the bird and cat players. The Vagabond’s job is to quietly collect items and help out the other players until it’s too late and the Vagabond starts racking up victory points like candy because of all the alliances it has.
The tricky part of asymmetrical games is how they reward multiple plays. Playing each different faction once usually gives a greater appreciation for the game, which means playing once can be frustrating because it can feel like only seeing part of a picture. Root factions are generally able to be grasped by the end of the second turn. this allows players to start watching how the other players are playing and figure out what they need to do to put those empires on their heels. It also helps that the game comes with cards that directly say what each player needs to do to win and what they need to avoid to lose. Each player gets a set of these cards at the start of the game and while many players might be a little averse to more reading, reviewing these cards during downtime can help players strike other’s weaknesses and protect their own. The one downside to these cards is that they don’t include the two additional creatures from the expansion.
Thanks to the success of Root’s Kickstarter, some backers already have their hands on the Riverfolk expansion due out in 2019. Not only does it add two more player factions in the mercantile otters and the creepy lizard cult, but it also expands the player count to six. The otters are similar to the vagabond in that their success relies on players turning to them to help with their agendas. The otter currency is made up of the meeples that most of the other players have sitting around idle, making it very easy for the big players to spend a resource they weren’t really using to bolster the otter player. The lizard cult acts much like the alliance in that they burrow into already built structures on the board, but their engine runs on everybody’s discards. More players often slows down gameplay, but the games we played with the expansion didn’t feel slower, which is vital.
Gamers looking for a game that rewards replay with a great theme should dig into Root when it hits stores this fall.
What games are currently on your table? Tell us about them in the comments!
More Board Game Goodness!
- THE CITY OF KINGS is an Engrossing Fantasy Epic
- EVERDELL Is A Board Game That Looks Cute But Plays For Keeps
- DISNEY VILLAINOUS Is More Than Just A Family Board Game
Images Credits: Rob Wieland, Leder Games
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs with the Theatre of the Mind Players here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.