Root is a game we’ve played a lot here at BGQ HQ. It was our Game of the Year for 2018 and deservedly so. For those unfamiliar, it’s an asymmetrical war game that’s both very accessible, has great art, and features four unique factions. If you want get up to speed quickly, you can read Andrew’s full Root review here, but the quick of it is that he loved it and gave it 5 stars.
And now for the gamer on the go, developer Dire Wolf Digital has released a mobile version of this beloved wargame. You and now play Root on iOS, Android, and Steam. For those curious, we played the iOS version for this review.
In Root, you will control one of the games four factions: The Marquise de Cats, The Eyrie Dynasty, The Woodland Alliance, or the Vagabond. No matter what faction you control, the goal remains the same: be the first to 30 victory points.
Each faction’s gameplay is a little different than each other. The cats score one time points by constructing buildings in forest clearings, while their main rival, the Eyrie, uses action programming to move warriors around the forest and build roosts that earn them points every round.
The other two factions, Woodland Alliance and the Vagabond, are much more unique. The Alliance are the resistance fighters who must place sympathy tokens, which earn them VPs, that will eventually bet used to revolt a clearing, destroying all pieces there and building a stronghold. The Vagabond has but one lone piece who will move around the forest, exploring ruins and crafting items to use. He earns points by questing in different clearings and making alliances with other factions.
No matter which faction you play, there are some common rules. Such as having the most units in a clearing mean you “rule” it. Combat is handled via two dice (numbered 0-3), with the higher roll going to the attacker.
And that’s the quick of it. Build, recruit, move, attack—all in a race to 30 VPs.
Digital Game Experience:
Root isn’t one of those games that has tons of bookkeeping that really begs for an app to be made. It was already a fairly streamlined game. That being said, Direwolf Digital did an absolutely bang-up job creating this app. From the graphics to the music to the gameplay, we had very few issues creep up during testing.
To start with, the app features a guided tutorial that walks you through not only how to play the game, but the ins and outs of each faction. The tutorial does a really good job of getting new players up to speed and making them feel comfortable with playing the faction. Nothing is worse than a tutorial that explains the how but not the why. After running through the full set, I felt pretty solid on each faction.
One thing I really liked about the app is the multitude of ways to play it. For offline play, Root offers Solo play vs 3 levels if AI, pass and play, and Challenges. I thought that challenge mode was particularly inspired. It helps change things up by creating games that break the rules in some way. Such as Castle Siege where you play the Eyrie and can’t win unless you destroy the Cat’s castle or Riverway Warfare that turns the rivers into an accessible path.
For online play, you can do both real-time or asynchronous play. You can also password protect a game if you just want to play with friends instead of random opponents. In addition to that, you can throw AI opponents into your online game so you always have a full complement of factions.
Speaking of the AI, here is where things aren’t as shiny. Overall, the AI has been a mixed bag for me. I’ve seen it play its faction really well, and I’ve also seen it do some really dumb stuff. Like ignore the leader, who is pretty far ahead, to attack me in a random clearing with its battle actions (for no tangible benefit). Another time it passed on destroying an undefended Alliance building (and earning a VP for it) to attack my lone warrior standing there.
Asymmetrical games like Root require a bit of manual balancing between players for it to succeed. While the factions themselves don’t have issues, most games require people to know who is in the lead and stop them from running away with the game. It’s in this area I’ve seen the AI struggle. Now I will say that Direwolf Digital seems to be actively working on improving the AI as I’ve seen at least on patch mention tweaking it. But it’s still not quite there yet in my opinion.
My only other gripe with Root digital is the criminal lack of an undo button (at least at the time of this writing). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screwed something up in-game—either due to my sausage fingers or lack of understanding of how something worked—and had no option to take that move back. Now I understand not being able to take a card draw or dice rollback, but anything that doesn’t reveal any new information should definitely be able to be undone. Come on developer, this is low hanging fruit here.
Root itself is a pretty fantastic board game and the digital app is a worthy version for players looking to get in a game on the go (or when game night is canceled). The developer took artist Kyle Ferrin’s excellent artwork and adapted them to a pseudo 3D feel. Even the soundtrack has a catchy tune in the app.
The only thing keeping Root from being a 5-star app is the lack of an undo button and an AI that really needed to spend more time in the oven. Other than that, I can easily recommend this app to any fan of the game, or something who was always curious about the game and never had a chance to try it. If you want to give it a go, it’s currently available for iOS, Android, and Steam.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A stellar offering from Direwolf Digital that is a near perfect offering of this award winning game.
• AI could use a little TLC
• No undo button