Like the title says, didn’t get much gaming in this week as I return to basically full-time in the office. After a year of semi-telework it’s a bit of a shock to the system but, honestly, I love to be back at the grind.
Leder Games does it again with another YUGE Kickstarter campaign; Root: The Marauder Expansion (Leder Games). As I finalize this post they have already passed 14,000 backers and over $1.3 million. I have to admit I went for the “All the New Stuff” pledge level – but only after some real deep thinking. The “All the New Stuff” pledge level for Root: The Marauder Expansion is US $110. OUCH! Yes, there’s alot of content there but it’s all expansions, for the root Root game. That’s a heaping pile of dinero for just new “bits!”
I looked at maybe going for the “Marauder Expansion” pledge of $50 and possibly adding in The Clockwork Expansion 2 because I want to access solo play but together that’s $90. So maybe that $110 ain’t that bad. It’s still a big number to process, but maybe?
On the other hand, a great deal of the attraction in Root for me is not playing the game, but studying it. In some ways I have a streak of Systems Analyst in me. I deeply respect Root for its ability to take many different game play mechanics and make them work together. It’s an incredible design and one that is worthy of further study. Add to that the fact The Marauder Expansion adds “Hirelings” which are not full factions but, well, hired help that adds another tool to your kit to mix with a faction ability to make a victory. Again, very interesting from a system mechanics perspective. From that perspective an investment of $110 is a bit steep, but (somewhat?) justifiable.
I’ll freely admit this is a first-world gaming problem. I am very fortunate we don’t have a financial problem backing games. I can financially afford them; my real risk in ordering is not from the bank but the questioning from the RMN CFO.
Looking at Root: The Marauder Expansion number made me reconsider my entire preorder and Kickstarter listing. The first to fall was another Kickstarter campaign;Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition (Stronghold Games). I got to thinking – the RMN Boys and I sorta fell off the boardgame bandwagon this winter. As the family returns to full employment leisure time is lost and boardgaming suffers. We like Terraforming Mars and a shorter version would be nice but the truth is I don’t think we are going to be bringing new games to the table anytime soon. With delivery forecast for September, well, I just don’t feel the urgency to back this game when I will probably be able to find it at retail later if we want to buy it. I also don’t see any “Kickstarter Exclusives” here that are appealing enough to sway me back towards a KS purchase. Indeed, most of the add-ons are not game, but accessory items. While I like to play Terraforming Mars it’s certainly not a lifestyle game for me.
“If a reader makes it about them then of course it won’t fit.” Well, I’ll just repeat what I wrote over at Armchair Dragoons, “At the end of the day it doesn’t actually matter. We are a community of gamers – full stop.”
Feature image courtesy Root: The Marauder Expansion Kickstarter campaign from Leder Games.
The local school district here chose online (virtual) school for this year. I’m not going to go into the absolute disaster the superintendent and school board have wrought upon our youth, but instead try to find something positive to say using boardgames and wargames. I will try my best to keep political rants out of here but, oh boy, things here are so screwed up it’s hard!
Mrs. RockyMountainNavy, who is an Early Childhood educator, strongly believes that learning comes from doing. Unfortunately, as we observe our own high schooler (11th Grade), a friends middle schooler (6th Grade), and another friends elementary schooler (1st Grade) in their online classrooms we are disappointed in the amount of actual learning taking place. In response, we have looked for games to support learning.
Mrs. RMN and I strongly believe that games help educate in many different ways. First, there is the social aspect. I am proud to say that my kids actually look at your face when they talk to you not down at a phone screen. In great part we believe this is because we always push the most important social aspect of gaming; playing with others. Just the other day, Miss A, the 1st grader, lost a game of Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020). She immediately declared she didn’t like the game AT ALL. We reminded her that she actually won the previous three games, and asked her to remember those. She sheepishly smiled and challenged us to another game (which she won).
Mrs. RMN believes that when learning is made tangible it means so much more. We are fortunate to live in the Washington D.C. area so we take advantage of the many museums and historical sites to help teach. In these COVID times and online schooling, finding the tangible is so much harder. We see the younger grades losing the most as they are unable to really learn from passively watching a checkerboard of faces on a small screen for hours on end. To learn they need more than listen; learning from an interactive experience is often the strongest way to imprint something in the brain.
With the first grader suffering the most, we try to find games that challenge her to think logically. She is an emergent reader right now and pretty good at math, but ‘putting it all together’ is a bit harder. Recently, we introduced her to Dragomino (already mentioned) and Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeples, 2019). She likes both, but Mrs. RMN wanted to gift her a copy of Dig Dog Dig because it is one of the rare games that really engages a 5 or 6 year old child. When the game arrived, we sat down to teach her mother how to play so they could play at home. We need’t have worried because Miss A quickly took control and taught the game to her mother! Sure, her teach was not perfect but she got all the gross mechanics correct. This was all the more impressive given she had played the game with us maybe a half-dozen times. Most importantly, it showed she engaged with the game and internalized it. She ‘learned’ how to learn, and teach, the game.
The sixth grader is much more challenging. Miss C came to us because she was falling far behind in math. RockyMountainNavy Jr. actually tutored her as his summer job since she had so many negative experiences with older tutors that she was rebelling. With a focus on math we tried some math games we had around, like Math Dice (ThinkFun, 2003), but it is too ‘school-like’ and she refused it. Digging deeper into the drawers of the gaming collection, we found a copy of Top Dogs (Playroom Entertainment, 2005). When we first brought the game out, she was immediately taken by the cute artwork. For us, the fact you need to do three-factor multiplication meant it hit exactly at a weakpoint of her learning. When we played the game she enjoyed it, even though she was a bit slower at calculating than others. Unlike Math Dice, she continued to play Top Dogs because she saw it more as a game and less as a lesson.
More recently, we discovered that Miss C actually is very weak at quickly adding and subtracting numbers. We tried increasing her speed by using flash cards but, again, she rebelled because that feels too much like school. Digging through our shelves (again) I came across Sumoku (Blue Orange Games, 2010). This game hit several needs for Miss C; she needs to know factors of certain numbers and she needs to add groups of numbers. More importantly, she likes to play the game, especially against RockyMountainNavy Jr. (I admit there is a certain degree of ‘puppy love’ in play here too).
Speaking of RockyMountainNavy Jr., boardgames and wargames fully support his learning environment. He first real learning of American geography came fromTicket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) to Air Force (Battleline, 1976) where he learned the very basic of flight. This school year his US/Virginia history class started with an online quiz of the 13 colonies. The teacher challenged the class to beat his time of 14 seconds. RockyMountainNavy T quickly clocked times of 13 and 12 seconds. He also freely admitted that the reason he knows his colonies so well is the many times we played 1775: Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013).
Just the other night RockyMountainNavy Jr. was talking to me about learning vectors in his Physics class. Not only was he learning about vectors in Physics, but Miss C had asked him a question about her science homework earlier in the day (the question concerned movement is space). As he talked to me, I calmly walked to the game shelves and returned with a copy of Triplanetary: The Classic Game of Space Combat – Third Edition (Steve Jackson Games, 2018). I proceeded to pull out the contents and we sketched a few vectors about. He instantly grasped the basics of 2d vectors (and asked that we add Triplanetary to the Saturday Game Night rotation).
In these COVID times boardgames and wargames serve as a very helpful coping mechanism not only for the immediate RockyMountainNavy family but also for our ‘extended’ family of students and friends. I don’t see that ever stopping.
Scythe Complete Rulebook (Stonemaier Games, 2020): Publisher-direct Preorder.DELIVERED.Having recently started replaying Scytheand nearing completion of our The Rise of Fenriscampaign its good to get all the rules in one organized place. Email Update 28 Aug – “To-date we have not found a single instance of a rules error impacting gameplay in the 136-page document. Except in one section. The Automa rules need some work. I apologize for this and we take full responsibility. We believe these errors are large enough to justify a reprint. The good news is that many of you don’t play using the Automa (solo mode), and may never reference this section of the rulebook. But if you use the Automa or plan to in the future, we will send you a new spiralbound Scythe Complete Rulebook for free.” Here’s what we’ll do. Simply fill out this form and we’ll send you another Scythe Complete Rulebook when it’s reprinted in a few months using the mailing address from your previous order.”
One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020) – Kickstarter Boardgame.UPDATE from August 7– “The container ship Seaspan Raptor is currently off the coast of Mexico and will arrive at the Panama Canal today. It is expect it to arrive in Florida August 10th! Your games will be shipped to you by Quartermaster Logistics, located in Orlando, FL hopefully by the end of next week.” NOTHING SEEN/HEARD SINCE.
The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020) – Kickstarter Waro.August 10 Update:“I also have some bad news. The shipping date from China has been pushed back further – to September 7. Just as you all have shown patience with me, I know I have to show patience with the folks manufacturing the game. But it is still extremely frustrating. And, unfortunately, airmailing the games here is truly cost-prohibitive – sink the company, never to be seen again level of cost-prohibitive. So this means it won’t be in anyone’s hands until October.”
French & Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Publishing): Kickstarter Wargame. From aJuly 29 Update – “The ship carrying both CRUSADER KINGDOMS and FRENCH & INDIAN WAR will hit the port in New York August 13. We should expect for us to receive the games within 2 weeks of that barring a customs snag. Thats means it is possible we may be shipping the last week of August, and if not then the first week of September!!!”
“Build the most awesome fort while making friends and eating pizza.” – BGG description
This month the card game Fort (Leder Games, 2020) joined my collection and the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself had a chance to try it several times during our week-long summer vacation. We enjoy the game, in no small part to the excellent marriage of theme and game mechanics.
In Fort, players are the leader of a neighborhood club of kids. Your club starts with two best friends and eight other friends. The objective of the game is to ‘play’ with your friends to collect ‘stuff’ to build a fort and earn victory points.
The integration of theme and game play in Fort makes the entire play experience most fun. Every turn (day?) you start by gathering friends you didn’t play with but are in your Yard and move them to your Discard (telephone friends?) pile. Then you get to ‘play’ one friend from your Hand (your club can have as many as five friends in your hand). Each friend has two actions; a Public action and a Private action. You can do one, or both, actions as long as at least one of the actions is fully completed. You can also add other friends of the same ‘suit’ to play to increase the action. So if you play Patch (Add one Toy to Stuff for each Book) and add in Bones (both Book Suit) you get two toys. Regardless of if you played the Public or Private action, other players have the option of discarding a friend in their club/hand of the same suit and ‘following’ the Public action. Your club of friends may have been the first, but you are being mimicked by others! The actions you take will often lead to increasing the Stuff you have (Toys and Pizza) or can be used to build a bigger fort. Building a fort takes Stuff; the larger the fort the more Stuff needed. Larger forts also have more room for keeping Stuff in your Pack and more space for Look Outs (friends always available in your fort) that add cards to actions based on their suit. Sometimes that action might call for you to let a friend go because just like in real life sometimes that friend just isn’t right for you (or your game engine).
Next, you get the chance to ask new friends to join your club. Each turn you can recruit one new friend, chosen from either the Park or from another players Yard. This is the real deck-building aspect of Fort as you try to build a group of friends that power your ‘game engine’ strategy to victory.
After recruiting a new friend, you have to ‘go in’ for the day. Your Best Friends go to your Discard pile for they will never leave you except if you choose to Trash them like they moved away. Any other friends in your hand go into your Yard because you didn’t ‘play’ with them. Remember, friends in the Yard can be recruited away during other players turns! Finally, you replenish your hand from your Draw deck; these are the friends that will be with you as the other clubs execute their actions. These friends are going to be the ones allowing you to ‘follow the leader’ during other player’s turns and (hopefully) advance your scoring. End-game scoring is triggered when one player reaches Fort Level 5 or when their score passes 25 on the Victory Track.
I really enjoy the fact that the theme in Fort and game play build a natural narrative. We often find that in playing, we drop into using non-game terms for actions, like “Choose a new friend” instead of ‘recruit’ or “Send the friends you didn’t play with outside” instead of ‘discard.’ The use of toys and pizza for Stuff is brilliant. Indeed, the entire game builds upon the narrative of friends at play in a very natural way that makes playing Fort feel as if we’ve been playing it since we were little kids.
If there is a drawback to Fort, I have to say it’s grokking the iconography in your first play. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit getting used to it. Just like joining a new group of friends they already have their own ‘language’ and you need to catch up – which you will do quickly. The first play (or two) of Fort also can go on far longer than the 20-40 minute playtime on the box. That’s because all your friends are unique, and figuring out how to play with them takes a bit of time as you get to know them and see how they can help your club.
Finally, you can have fun in Fort by trying to pick which friend you are. Personally I feel like Bones. His Public Action of “Trash a card in your hand or discard pile Then Score VP times the number of Books” is like the friend who forms a study group that eventually helps you get better grades (VP?) but takes friends away from play. I can also see myself as Einstein (Public Action – Add a Pizza or Toy to your Stuff) but his Private Action (Score VP times number of Books Then Trash this card) seems a bit harsh. Then again, it sorta fits the nerd stereotype of the friend everybody wants to have in class but doesn’t really want to play with around the neighborhood (or maybe they can’t play with because he’s too busy studying).
Title quote (slightly modified!) from the movie Stand by Me.
My family was fortunate enough to escape away for a bit. We went to a location a long days drive from home. As an added bonus, Gavin, the best friend of RockyMountainNavy Jr., and his family also vacationed in the same area. Our two families got together quite a bit and a good deal of boardgame play ensued.
The next game we introduced them to was Here to Slay (Unstable Unicorns, 2020). This title was THE HIT of our 2020 vacation gaming! The RMN Boys and brothers Gavin & Skyler played my Kickstarter Exclusive Edition of this game too many times for me to keep track of. Skyler in particular was taken with game and is seeking a retail copy as soon as it is available.
The newly released game Fort by Leder Games arrived the day before we traveled and made the trip. The RMN Boys and myself played the game twice. The initial play was a bit slow as we all learned the iconography. Our second play was much better as now, understanding the iconography, we could start developing strategies for play. Thematically the game is pitch-perfect and will surely regularly find a place on our gaming table.
It was also very fun to talk to Gavin’s family about the hobby boardgame segment of the boardgame market. They had a bit of some insight, but really have had only a peek. We resolved to invite Gavin on occasion over to play with us in our Saturday Family Game Night which will make us an even four-players; thus opening up many more titles to play beyond our usual (and sometimes a bit awkward) three-players. It’s a bit unfortunate (but ultimately for the best) that Skyler is leaving for tech school shortly for he is the more ‘gamer’ of the two brothers. Nonetheless, I am sure the RMN Boys and Gavin & Skyler will be gaming buddies for a long time to come.
Which brings me to a moment of sadness, and joy. Sadness because the RMN Boys have found a gaming group that does not include me. Joy because I passed along to them a love of gaming that they are spreading to their friends.
Is that not what we play games for?
*RMN Jr. considers himself some kind of a superior Kingdomino player as he is usually the winner in our house. It drives him crazy that Gavin’s mom not only regularly beats him, but beats him handily!
It looks like the boardgame/wargame publishing industry is coming back, but at a bit of a slower pace. Let’s look at my forecast and then discuss the reality.
One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020) – Kickstarter Boardgame. An update from mid-May stated that shipping in July was expected. I have not seen an update since. Academy Games does not have the best track record for keeping to timelines but that negative is more than compensated by the top-quality game that usually ends up being delivered. UPDATE from July 8 – “August 11, 2020 Arrival Date: Jacksonville, FL, USA. Note, that shipping to Florida takes 10 days longer than to our normal shipping destination in Cleveland. To Cleveland, the product is shipped to Seattle, WA and then transported by rail to Cleveland. Whereas to Florida, the ship needs to steam to Panama, cross through the Panama Canal, and them make its way up to Florida. USA and Canadian pledges will be shipped from Quartermaster Logistics, which is based in Orlando, FL.”
Philadelphia 1777 (Worthington Games, 2020) – Kickstarter Wargame. A late June update reported the game is arriving at the freight-forwarder and Worthington expects to take possession early in July and start shipping immediately. UPDATE: Delivered July 17.
The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020) – Kickstarter Waro. Coronavirus delays have pushed this one back from April, but it looks like July is seriously in play. UPDATE from July 21 – “My post-pandemic expectation was that our print run would be ready to ship from China in early July. Because of a bottleneck at one of the factories (our manufacturer, Panda, uses three different factories for our game – one for the dice, one for the wood pieces and one for the printing and final assembly), the games will not be ready to ship from China until mid-August. The slow boat from China takes five to six weeks, so I am looking at alternatives – mainly, having enough copies airmailed to our distribution points (we are using Quartermaster Logistics and their overseas partners) so we can ship to all of our backers before the end of August. If it is not cost-prohibitive, that is the plan. But if it is cost-prohibitive, then we are looking at delivery in late September. Ugh, I do not even want to contemplate that. As I know more, I will keep all of you updated.”
Heights of Courage: The Battle for the Golan Heights, October 1973 (MMP, 2013) – Sale Wargame. Bought as part of an amazing MMP sale in June. Having never ordered before from MMP I don’t know how fast they usually fulfill orders and realize coronavirus restrictions may be slowing them down. I had hoped to have these games in hand before July but it looks like they will not arrive until after the new month starts. DELIVERED JUNE 30.
It appears to me that shipping, not actual production of games, is a new long pole in the tent. Not surprising given the lack of air transportation worldwide. I know that many games are not airshipped, but the maritime shipping, rail, and truck industries are picking up other cargoes that air shipping used to handle leading in turn to a general slow down of those transportation modes. If you look close even Amazon Prime is sometimes backordered.
How about the look ahead to August? Here are what games may be in play (pun fully intended).
First, my Preorder & Kickstarter GeekListsits at 23 games. Of the three carry-overs from July (One Small Step, Shores of Tripoli, and Undaunted: North Africa) there is a good chance that all but Shores of Tripoli will deliver in August. Of the remaining 20 games:
French & Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Publishing): Kickstarter Wargame. From a July 29 Update– “The ship carrying both CRUSADER KINGDOMS and FRENCH & INDIAN WAR will hit the port in New York Auugust 13. We should expect for us to receive the games within 2 weeks of that barring a customs snag. Thats means it is possible we may be shipping the last week of August, and if not then the first week of September!!!”
Looking ahead to the end of the year, it is possible that as many as eight or nine of the games on my current Preorder & Kickstarter GeekList could deliver. Like I said before, that would not only be good for me, but more importantly good for the gaming industry.
LETS ADDRESS THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – ROOT IS A GREAT GAME THAT WARGAMERS and boardgamers alike can both play. It is not a straight Eurogame or Ameritrash, nor is it a straight wargame, but a very well done hybrid that I call a ‘waro.” Part of the reason I so like the game goes beyond the game mechanics. The multitude of play combinations means the game never feels repeated. The base game alone comes with four factions and two mapboards (Fall & Winter) for several combinations of play. Since first published in 2018 by Leder Games, the Root series has added three boxed expansions (The Riverfolk Company, The Clockwork Expansion, The Underworld Expansion), an Upgrade Kit, and two smaller expansions (Exiles &Partisans Deck , The Vagabond Expansion) as well as customized playing pieces (Resin Clearing Markers). This weekend I pulled out my entire Root collection to play. In doing so I created a Root Solo Randomizer to help myself play as many different combinations as possible.
Variant Setup (based on The Law of Root Appendix C)
Step C0 (RSR Variant): Choose Solo Play Faction
Roll 2d6 to determine which faction you will play:
If the faction rolled is Vagabond, roll 2d6 again to determine which Vagabond:
2= Vagrant (Riverfolk Expansion)
3= Arbiter (Riverfolk Expansion)
4= Scoundrel (Riverfolk Expansion)
5= Tinker (Base Game)
6-7= Thief (Base Game)
8-9= Ranger (Base Game)
10= Adventurer (Vagabond Pack)
11= Ronin (Vagabond Pack)
12= Harrier (Vagabond Pack)
Step C1: Choose Map
The Underworld Expansion adds a second two-sided map with the Lake and Mountain. To determine what map is being played, roll 1d6:
1= Winter (Base Game)
2-3= Fall (Base Game)
4-5= Lake (Underworld Expansion)
6= Mountain (Underworld Expansion)
Oh yeah, don’t forget that on many mapboards the Clearings are unmarked; you use the random set up to determine which ones are which. Even more randomness in set up!
Step C2: Choose Deck
Roll 1d6. Even roll uses the Standard Deck while an odd roll will use the Exiles & Partisans deck.
Step C3: Choose Bots
This step determines not only what Bots from The Clockwork Expansion you will play against, but also the order of play for them. Roll 1d12 to determine order of Mechanical Marquise 2.0 (M), Electric Eyrie (E), Automated Alliance (W), or Vagabot (V):
For each selected order randomly insert the Human player anywhere in the order.
For the Vagabot roll 1d6 for character: 1-2= Ranger, 3-4= Thief, 5-6= Tinker.
For another level of variation roll 1d6 for each Bot to determine Difficulty. 1= Easy, 2-4= Default, 5= Challenging, 6= Nightmare. Difficulty cards are found in The Clockwork Expansion.
Oh yes, each of the Bots can add from zero to four Traits also found on cards in The Clockwork Expansion. All those combinations of Difficulty & Traits is almost too much to handle!
[Comment: The Bots are pretty easy to handle as they basically are graphic flowcharts of actions. Adding the Difficulty is easy as it is only one thing to remember off-board. Adding Traits escalates the workload as each extra Trait must also be remembered. Cards near the boards help but as one works their way through the flow of the board it is very easy to forget even when right in front of you.]
For example. I am setting up a game and first rolling 2d6 I see I will be playing the Underground Duchy. Rolling 1d6 next I get the Lake Board. Rolling 1d6 again I will use the Exiles & Partisans Deck. Now rolling 1d12 (and 1d6 for each faction) I see my opponents are Electric Eyrie (Default Difficulty), Mechanical Marquise 2.0 (Nightmare Difficulty), and Vagabot (Tinker/Default Difficulty). Inserting myself randomly in the play order we get Electric Eyrie – Mechanical Marquise – Underground Duchy – Vagabot.
Solo Play Experience
It’s hard to put into words my experience playing Root solo using my randomizer. Not only do I get to explore many different factions, but the variations that come from the different maps and different decks makes every game unique. Add on top of that a set of Bots that are actually pretty easy to execute (but not beat) and you get a great gaming experience with (truly) endless variations.
Oh yeah, in my Root Solo Randomizer game the final scoring was Mechanical Marquise 2.0 = 30, Vagabot = 23, Underground Duchy = 20, and Electric Eyrie = 18. Yes, the Nightmare Mechanical Marquise were really just that!
**Upon further investigation I am not sure you can play The Corvid Conspiracy with the Bots. The Corvid Conspiracy has the Trait “Exposure” which allows an enemy to guess the type of facedown Plot Token in a clearing they also occupy in their Evening before drawing cards. To guess the enemy needs to show a matching card of the clearing. I do not find an official rule as to how the Bots could guess since Bots don’t have cards (Poor Manual Dexterity).
**(Continued) One option I thought of might be: (WARNING – Off the cuff and not playtested)
Take the extra Plot Tokens and form a draw pile by removing the same tokens that are face-up on the board. Remaining extra tokens are placed in an opaque container.
On a Bot turn, if that Bot is ahead in VP compared to the Corvid Conspiracy they randomly draw one token from the container.
If the drawn token matches the Plot Token in that clearing the Plot Token is removed from the board and the Bot scores 1 VP.
If the drawn Plot Token does not match, the player draws the next card of that suit from the Draw Pile, discarding any non-matching cards until a match is made.
Although I have owned Root (Leder Games, 2018) since I was a late backer, until this weekend I have only played the game solo or against my alter gaming ego, Mr. Solo. With a notice in my inbox announcing that my Kickstarter fulfillment of the latest expansion,Root: The Underworld Expansion, was shipping, I finally decided to bite the bullet and bring this game to the RockyMountainNavy Boys. For our first full-up play it had some rough points but overall the game shined.
To help introduce the game we set up the walkthrough. We found it not very helpful. I think as moderately experienced gamers it actually slowed us down. I think that with moderately experienced or more gamers can be given an explanation of the rules with an emphasis on what is the same across all factions (movement, combat, Crafting) and then a walkthrough of each board (Birdsong, Daylight, Evening) is sufficient at the start of play. Being able to describe the different root game mechanics (no pun) of each faction (engine building, programed action, deck building) also helped us understand how faction plays differently within the shared game environment.
We played a three-player game with the Marquis de Cat (RockyMountainNavy T), the Woodland Alliance (RockyMountainNavy Jr), and the Eyrie (myself) seated around the game table in that order.
Early in the game, the Fox Dominance card came out. Both RockyMountainNavy Boys became fixated on the card and very curious about what it represented. At the time it appeared, both the Marquis and the Woodland Alliance each ruled two fox clearings. So tempting was the card that both RMN Boys lost focus on their basic VP generation path. More experienced players know that going for a Dominance win in Root is difficult; newbie players don’t have the benefit of that experience. It therefore came as little surprise that one of the Boys (Jr – Woodland Alliance) grabbed up the showing Fox Dominance card as soon as he could. Nor was it surprising that very soon after the Fox Dominance was picked up that RMN T (Marquis) played the Bird Dominance card he had in his hand.
Not only did the playing of the Dominance cards totally change the character of the game, but the subsequent play (fully legal) of RMN Jr. almost derailed the entire night. Our general inexperience with the game allowed the Woodland Alliance to spread much Sympathy and accumulate way too many Supporters. RMN Jr used brought the hammer down and staged multiple Revolts with, alas, the main target of most of the Revolts being the Marquis. Thus, RMN T saw several clearings get wiped out. This was a major “take that” moment of the game, much more powerful than any of us expected. Now, RMN T is my Autism Spectrum boy that has challenges dealing with major changes in his environment. The multiple Revolts, all aimed at him, and the major reduction of his position on the board almost unhinged him. He was very angry – almost to the point I was ready to end the game. The only thing that kept hi in was that he recognized that the Woodland Alliance was now very near their dominance win condition and he swore vengeance. The next few turns there was a major ‘catfight’ with clearings bouncing back and forth between the Alliance and Marquis. Both came very close to their win condition only to be knocked back at the last moment by the other.
Meanwhile, my Eyrie kept plodding along. I went through several leaders as I repeatedly fell into Turmoil as I was unable to fulfill my Decree. Gradually, the Marquis and Woodland Alliance recognized that they had left me alone for too long. They both then turned their attention to me – and it was brutal. Fortunately, I had just enough Roosts out and a useful Leader with a good Decree that even as they knocked me back I still was able to satisfy my Decree and generate enough VP to reach the victory.
My winning was probably the best outcome on several levels. First, if RMN Jr had won after what he did to his older brother, I don’t think the older one would ever play Root again. Likewise, if RMN T had won his younger brother would likely never play again because he would feel ‘punished’ by this brother after what he did to him. Next, the fact that both lost when playing a Dominance card showed them that maybe they need to stay focused on their basic win conditions like the Eyrie did. Additionally, we all learned the lesson that you have to keep an eye on the other and understand their way of play to keep them in check. This is perhaps the hardest element of playing Root for not only do you have to ‘know thyself’ but you have to ‘know thy enemy’ too. In Root the fact that every faction plays differently creates a learning challenge that can only really be overcome by multiple plays with multiple exposures to the different factions. As it is, this first game of Root was rough and although I feel it will land on the gaming table again I will have to be careful about how the new factions are introduced.
On the very positive side, all of us agreed the art in Root is incredible. RMN Jr wants to explore the game and play different factions. RMN T is less positive, but will likely play again if done right. That’s my Root challenge.