Root Digital Review

Once More Unto The Breach

Sep 06, 2020
root digital title screen.jpg

Here at Sprites and Dice we’ve excitedly covered everything Root to date. From the base game to expansions and everything in between, we’ve loved this adorable, brutal woodland wargame. We’re also no strangers to the wonderful works of Dire Wolf Digital, covering such awesome digital releases as Sagrada or their head-to-head card game Eternal. Naturally, seeing the amazing work of these two blending together to give us a digital edition of Root was something we couldn’t keep our hands off.

And what a work it is! Let’s take a look.

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Look at that cheesy smile! How can you not love the cat warriors?

Root digital header.jpg Root Digital

Developer: Dire Wolf Digital LLC
Designer: Leder Games
Publisher: Dire Wolf Digital LLC
Platforms: PC (coming soon to Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch)
Number of Players: 1 - 4
Price: $14.99 (early access)
Copy Provided By Publisher

Lookin’ Good

From the moment it hit game store shelves, Root captured many a curious eye with its cute and cuddly look. Nevermind the fact that such appealing, adorable imagery belied the absolute deviousness of getting in opponents’ faces and pulling some of the meanest moves in board gaming. So believe me when I say that all of that has been preserved in the digital release. Perhaps even taken up a notch!

While the game is a perfect representation of the cardboard version, containing all the cards and artwork of Kyle Ferrin that have done so much to give this setting life, there are now all sorts of adorable animations giving new life to this woodland world. Fights erupt in little clouds of dust. Eyrie warriors rush from one clearing to the next, spears brandished before them. Structures are set on fire after successful battles. The Woodland Alliance even has a little mouse with a megaphone that gets laid out when sympathy tokens are attacked. Perhaps you’ve always had a little narrative like this playing out in your head if you’ve enjoyed the tabletop version, but now the world of Root has truly become poetry in motion! Personally, it’s everything I’ve always imagined and I’m thrilled to see it given new life.

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A battle resolution. Quick, clean, thematic, and enjoyable to watch every time!

Play How You Like

The digital release of Root comes with the base game only, though of note it runs with the rules errata of the most recent reprint (for example, adjusting the point track the Woodland Alliance gets for spreading sympathy). While we won’t get into how to play here, a topic I cover more in my strategy guide, it’s good to know that everything matches with the up-to-date rules of the tabletop game. That’s a huge plus for fans of the cardboard version looking to carry their love for Root onto their PC (and coming soon to Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch).

Local play comes loaded with challenges, solo play, and pass-and-play, and there’s also an online mode included as well. The challenges are a nice touch that I can see getting much more play out of fans looking for something extra in single player: preset games against mounting AI difficulties, an objective to win with dominance cards only, or even a mode that opens up rivers as normal pathways for armies. While the AI in the regular solo mode is perfectly capable, I found it a bit one-track minded. Root veterans may find themselves quickly outwitting it, though your mileage may vary. It was relentless in its pursuit of me which still made for some good tension, if not predictability. Great for fast games if you’re craving some Root, but pass-and-play and an online mode are where you’ll likely spend time if you have friends who want to play too. Not that there’s anything wrong with the solo mode. I still can’t wait to grab this game once it’s on Google Play just to have while I’m traveling away from wifi.

Finally, there’s a robust set of tutorials, so if you’re new to Root with the digital edition you can ease yourself in with a basic gameplay tutorial as well as more in depth “how to play” missions with each of the game’s factions.

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It's not all daytime fights. The Alliance does stuff during the evening phase, and the game's visuals take that into account.

How Clean Is Too Clean

Let me be frank here. I’m biased when it comes to Root. I love it, and I think this digital adaptation by Dire Wolf is top notch stuff all around! If you love Root as well and you’ve been waiting for a digital version, there’s really no reason to hold off on picking up a copy. You can absolutely stop reading here and go grab it! However, for folks who aren’t front-and-back familiar with the board game, I will say this. The game, while it makes sure everything is included, from the player boards to the hands of cards, automates much of the gameplay (as you would expect of an app) and hides many of the smaller details in favor of a sweeping view of the forest. This is both a blessing and a curse.

I enjoy a little automation as much as the next gamer, not having to manually tally up points or calculate combat resolutions, but the details can go flying by if you’re not paying attention. You’ll want to check in on your player board, and possibly those of your opponents, just to keep track of how close they are to certain goals. It’s easy to lose track of exactly which point bonus the Woodland Alliance is about to score on the next sympathy token or how much lumber the Marquise needs for that next recruiting station. I could see this early chaos stumping newer players until they come to terms with the game, and veterans of Root will know that those little details are where games are won and lost. Sometimes you just need several minutes to take in the board and calculate how to score 7 points now because you know the Eyrie is going to win if you give them one more turn.

The streamlining in the digital version of Root pointed out to me just how accustomed I’d gotten to constantly taking in all the info from everyone’s faction boards with no more than a sweep of my eyes. I miss that with the app, having to click in for those fine details. It’s not hard to get to that info, but those are valuable extra moments you’ll spend hunting after the details. Or ignoring them completely, as I did in my early games, much to my own peril. That is, perhaps, my one big criticism and one I think will largely affect Root rookies over others. Then again, they may never miss what they didn’t know was there in the first place. It’s possible I’m completely overthinking the interface of this game. Let’s just pass it along with a grain of salt and all that.

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So. Much. Personality!

Wrap-Up

Digital adaptations of our favorite board games are ways for us not only to get online with beloved titles, they’re opportunities to bring their worlds to life with new visuals, animations, music, and style. They’re taking the book and making it into a movie, and the finished product is going to depend heavily on the vision of the director. Dire Wolf, as that director, continues its trend of releasing stellar work. Any fan of Root will be thrilled seeing their beloved characters charging once again into this familiar fray. New players will likely be turning heads to look at this release just as board gamers did in their local stores when the physical game first hit shelves. If this sounds like your cup of tea, go ahead and give it a spin. You’ll be glad you did!