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Subject: Designer Diary - Lizards, the Mechanical Marquise, and the Final Development of Root rss

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Cole Wehrle
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Last week I submitted the remaining files to our printer, and, with a few days left before we all head to Pax East, I'm finding myself with a massive reserve of anxious energy. It's probably a good time to hammer at my keyboard a little.

I had planned on writing several shorter updates over the course of the last month, but, as you might imagine, things get busy towards the end, so I'm going to try to collect my thoughts about my final topics in a single—perhaps long—design essay. First, I'll be taking a look at the Lizard Cult, the last of the factions. Then, I'll say a word or two about the design of our automated player, The Mechanical Marquise and how I went about designing it. Then, I'll round things out with a little discussion about the final adjustments to the game's balance.

Another Faction?

As the campaign began to really take off last October, Patrick and I had regular meetings about what we'd like to do with the extra budget. In some campaigns, the extra money just gets poured into cosmetic improvements, but because of Leder Game's full-time staff, it was possible to funnel that budget directly into development.

In terms of development, the obvious expansion of the game could be made by adding more factions. The flexibility of the core system permitted a huge range of combinations—so each new faction would compound the number of setups available to players. Based on our development schedule, I figured we had enough time to develop two additional factions. One, I insisted, should be a merchant faction that would enable me to inject some economic problems that I was thinking about into the game. But, we didn't have a clear idea for a second faction. We tossed out a lot of ideas but nothing seemed to stick.

At one point Patrick suggested that we should have a faction of druid gardeners—an oblique reference to another, yet to be published, studio project. I wasn't sold on the idea at first. Despite the fantastic setting, the factions in Root are meant to map on a variety of real-life political organizations. If the game is sometimes silly (okay, it's often silly) the game also has things to say about power and many ways it can be projected and stifled. It was hard to imagine gardeners giving me much to work with.

But, whatever my own reservations, Patrick kept bringing them up. As we batted ideas back and forth, gradually this faction took on a more insidious nature. It wasn't so much that they were gardeners in the traditional sense as they imagined themselves the cultivators of a new order. The gardens they plied were both literal and metaphoric. While the Eyrie was positioned as area's ancien regime, the Druids were something like a paleoconservative religious cult, attempting to get the forest to revert to what they imagined was it's natural state. Originally, we imagined them able to destroy clearings and to collapse paths, effectively shrinking the board over the course of play. Now I had something to work with. (Aside: it helps here that I'm am absolute fanatic about games where the board collapses as you play it, espeically titles like DVONN.)

With the other factions, I did my best to avoid coding each with a specific ideology. This is was partly because of my own position that ideology ultimately grows after material or geopolitical circumstance. (I'll stop myself here from going into a very very very long embedded essay about why that is and what precisely I mean by that statement.) Suffice to say, you can play the Alliance as Marxists or Anarchists or or small “r” republicans. They could be extreme or moderate in position. Players were welcome to project their own political feelings on to any faction.

But, with the Druids, I wanted to remove some of that freedom. I imagined the new faction as a highly ideologically bound and extremist political unit. This line of thinking lead me to look at a lot of games and a lot of history that I hadn't really considered with respect to Root. I reread the rules to Ed Beach's still magisterial Here I Stand and Virgin Queen, paying particular attention to how the games treat religion and it political vectors. I watched a handful of Frontline documentaries about religious extremism and read some academic articles about how the emergent Isis state was formed and how it functioned. After a few weeks, I had a pretty good idea of how I might graft a politically ambitious cult on to game's engine.

Here, a little reminder is in order. In the game, the deck of cards represents the actual creatures who live in the forests and clearings of the game. When you have cards in your hand, it represents the loyalty of a group of those creatures. The hand management game then is really about coalition management. All of the different factions use their hands in different ways, which allowed me to fold a lot of cute political concerns into the play of factions. This was always an element of the theme which tends to be lost by players in their first few plays but nonetheless finds ways of creeping into how they think through their problems. My kingdom for a few good foxes!

Lords of the Discard Pile

Based on my reading, an insurgent radical cult with political ambitions was usually a consequence of some kind of political tumult—especially if that tumult had discarded a whole class of people. I was happy to find that this insight could be easily snapped into the game's card system. When this faction (now called the Lizard Cult) was in play, they would be responsible for maintaining the games discard pile. Instead of cards getting directly discarded, they would be routed through the Cult's “Lost Souls” stack. Then, at the start of the turn, they would examine this deck and discern if a single suit has been discarded more than the others and then move all of those cards to the actual discard pile. Critically, for the Cult, birds were not wild and so couldn't be used to tip the scales here. The most-discarded suit was labeled the Outcast suit. If they gained this title twice consecutively, then they moved to the more radical state of “Hated Outcast.”

The Outcast status has two big effects for the Cult. First, they can only take military operations with pieces in Outcast clearings. Second, only their crafting pieces in Outcast clearings can be used to craft. This means that even if they have one of those destructive favor cards, they can only trigger it if they've got the right kind of popular support.



Critically, it's somewhat hard for the Lizards to discard cards from their hand, so, while they can manipulate the makeup of the “Lost Souls” stack, it's a costly venture. This is because, unlike almost all of the factions, the Lizards don't really want to discard cards themselves. They are, at their core, a hand-drafting faction.

During daylight, they reveal a number of cards from their hand to perform rituals. The core rituals are recruiting and building. While their military operations are highly depending on both the location of their warriors and which suit is outcast, in recruiting and building they aren't limited by worries of adjacency or position. This was because at the operational scale of Root (a small kingdom with about 12 communities), news and ideas spread quickly.

So, if you reveal a rabbit card, you can recruit any any rabbit clearing. I can almost hear the cries of new players. Broken! Unfair! Ahh! Well, that warrior isn't of much use to them as often it won't be able to attack. And, to this, they can only build in clearings where they rule, so, instead of using battles to get majorities, the Cult instead usually tries to flood their believers into clearings and then build gardens.

Garden building is critical for the cult. Once the first garden is built, the Cult will rule the clearing until it is destroyed. This represents the massive influx of pilgrims and the welling of popular sentiment. Though we had to get rid of their map-destroying potential, this rule allowed the Cult to create massive logistical headaches for the other players as big armies can become easily marooned.

Most critically, gardens increase the Cult's potential for scoring. The more gardens on the board, the more points are scored during daylight. However, scoring is a destructive process for the Cult, forcing them to remove cards from their hand rather than picking them up again. This, by the way, is one of the ways they can manipulate the discard pile.

The other way they often discard cards is through crafting. Unlike most other factions, the Cult crafts after they build. This is a powerful advantage that makes many hard-to-craft cards eminently possible. Of course, those crafted cards can't be scored, so the Cult will often face tough choices between outrageous card combos or big piles of points.

At least, it will be that way for while. As soon as they get going, other players are liable to try to tear them down. Here the Cult has it's biggest vulnerability. The Cult needs it's hand. Bad. Without cards in its hand it can't take actions. And, with every garden destroyed a random card is pulled from their hand. If the Cult is explosive in potential it can also deflate quickly.

But, other factions have to be careful not to antagonize it too harshly. Every warrior that is lost in defensive combat becomes an acolyte. This represents the the further radicalization of a besieged faith. For every police action, the governing faction should expect reprisal. Managing that reprisal is one of the chief difficulties of playing against the Cult and it's one of the reasons they are one of my favorite factions to put into a game.

One of the things I'm most proud of in the design of Root is how each particular faction mix demands radically different strategies. A game without the Eyrie allow for really destructive long-game strategies since they often serve as a kind of game-clock. Without the Marquise, the forest is a harsher, more lawless place, with little fiefdoms in place of hegemony. The presence of the Cult is likewise transformation. The other factions will find themselves with startling new vulnerabilities and curious advantages.

Robotics Club

The moment Patrick told me that we'd kickstart Root, I realized that that would probably mean I would have to put together a solo and cooperative variant of the game. Crowd-funding is wonderful for a small creative entertainment industry like boardgames, but sometimes the demands of eager fans can be tiresome. Folks too often want a game that can do everything. I don't mean to cast shade on players who really like cooperative games or solo games, but 's not a space I often design for and I worry sometimes that we are placing too many demands on a design. I mean, just look at this:



Wut. How could we, as players and backers, expect a game that did all of that also to be good? It seems an outrageous demand on a system.

So, as I worked on Root, I found myself just pushing off the design of the cooperative and solo modes until the end. I just didn't want to think through those problems. But, eventually, there was simply nothing left to design and I had to jump in. So, all that said, I was surprised both by how much fun I had working on these problems and how well they worked in the game.

There's no point in designing these modes until the game is 95% done. So it was somewhat reasonable for me to hold off for as long as I did. By the time I got around to it, the game was undergoing a lot of development and polishing that was less demanding on me personally than the development sprint that I had just finished. We were, at this point, still about a month away from preparing the files for pre-press, so I had something of a breather.

From the start, I wanted to be as economical as possible. The best way, it seemed to me, to build both cooperative and solo modes into the game was simply to build an automated player. This way players could play 1 on 1 matches with the automated player (solo mode!) or could play against a “harder” version in groups of two or more players to get a cooperative game. And, if the bot player worked well, it could even be dropped into competitive games to fill out player counts. This last point was something that really intrigued me. I play a lot of two player games with my wife and, while I like Root with two, it's a little unforgiving and sometimes can get lopsided. With a good automated player, tons of new player combinations would work just fine.

As with most design questions, there were lots of perfectly viable ways one could build an automated player for Root. If the choice of a bot itself was economical, I also wanted the design of the bot to be as clean and easy as possible. I just didn't have time to design a new deck of cards and I didn't want to rope Kyle into yet another art intensive project. Also, we were running dangerously close to our component limits on the game. There just wasn't going to be much room in the box.

On the other side of the question, I didn't want my avoidance of new components to lead me to create a byzantine flow-chart driven bot. I wanted something simple, with a turn that could be resolved in less than a minute, ideally less than 30 seconds. I also wanted the entire rules for the bot to be considerably shorter than the rules for anyone one faction. The bot should behave not like a real player, but in a way that would produce an interesting tension among the other players.

Here, I was saved by the core simplicity of Root’s system. Both the placing of new warriors and the resolution of battles was simple and granular. I also had other useful concepts at my disposal, such as “rule” which I could use to qualify certain courses of action.

Instead of using dice or a flow-chart to generate the course of action for the bot, I opted to use the cards with a single, static sequence of events that would occur each turn. A card would be drawn, called an “order,” and it’s suit would be consulted. Then battles would happen in clearings matching the suit. Then, under certain circumstances, some warriors would move out of those clearings. Here I had to build a very basic prioritization system, which directed the bot’s troops to concentrations of other players.

Originally, I had all of the actions keyed to the order card’s suit, but this tended to create some very boring game states and the bot was pretty weak. After a couple tests, I decided to link recruiting to the order card’s crafting cost—and allow the cost to also inform how many new recruits get placed in each clearing. The added influx of new warriors made the but considerably more formidable and also created odd situations where a fox card might trigger recruits in bunny clearings. But what about the cards that don’t have a cost? Well, inspired by Pandemic I decided that card’s without cost would lead to additional draws of new order cards, allowing the bot, which I was now calling the Mechanical Marquise, to get double and triple turns every once in a while during the game.

I knew from John Company though that I had to temper the disruptive power of this automated player by providing the players with foresight. So, instead of drawing orders from a deck, I opted to use the card holders as a reverse card rack that would hold a hand or “schedule” of orders. Since I wasn’t using the dominance cards in the cooperative game, I could replace them with four spy cards which would provide persistent powers that let players reveal and rearrange the bot’s actions.



At this point, I put the bot through a lot of testing in a competitive setting. Our standard mix was the bot plus any two other factions. We played a lot of Bot + Alliance + Vagabond. The bot had an interesting effect on gameplay wholly in keeping with the spirit of the game. Sometimes it would jump out to the lead and whomever was in first among the human players would have the task of beating it down. As players established spy networks, they would even manipulate the bot’s schedule of orders to attack their rivals.

But, if the bot was working in competitive games, I hadn’t yet figured out how to use it in cooperative scenarios. The trick here was scale. I could make the bot stronger, but, ideally, I wanted to use the same bot for any cooperative player count—one to four. I also didn’t want to add any variant cards or rules exceptions for different player mixes. Players had to beat the bot using only the rules of the game, and, ideally, I’d want the highest player count to be the most difficult too.

It was during plays with our new graphic designer during the day and with my wife in the evening that the answer to this problem emerged. Three rules changes were required. First, the new victory condition would require that all players had scored 30 victory points before the bot managed the score. Normally the bot scores two victory point each turn for every clearing it rules with at least 3 warriors, but now I needed to make sure the bot always scored victory points so it could serve as a game timer. Here a simple “score one point per player per birdsong” rule did the trick and scaled nicely. Finally, I need to make the bot a persistent threat to the other players, so I removed the restriction that he had to rule to recruit. Now he would always recruit everywhere, meaning that he could come back from an early defeat and vex players in the late game.

Once we had the cooperative mode, playtesting in the office heated up. I want to thank Jake especially for taking the bot through the pacing and figuring out some very clever wins. It was Jake too who had the idea for a cooperative campaign mode following the structure of Agricola. So, if victorious, you can make the bot a little harder next game but also carry over one of your crafted special powers. My own record with my wife is a 3-game streak with Alliance and Vagabond.

Final Balance

While I busy working on the bot, I also activated a few new playtest groups and started gathering data to make some final balance decisions. Because the project was on schedule and everyone was generally quite happy with the progress of the game, I wanted to keep changes minor, so anything that required a big change to the rules was only considered if there were dramatic improvements. Like a lot of big creative endeavors, games are abandoned more than they are finished. One could simply tinker forever.

Because of the interactivity of Root, we knew the players themselves would be the greatest force for balancing. If one faction had a slightly easier time getting to thirty points, the other players should shift their footing and make that path a little harder. Now, I don’t want folks to get the wrong impression. We spent a lot of time working on this game’s balance and testing a huge range of faction combinations. But, in certain combinations, some factions will have an easier time. This was entirely okay in my thinking. The core engine that powers Root is quite robust and can tell a huge range of narratives. I didn’t want to circumscribe the game to any one particular shape.

So, as I went into final balancing, I tried to keep this objective in mind at all times: keep the game dynamic. This goal offers a new way of thinking about balance. The problem with one faction becoming a favorite isn’t that it makes the game broken—it’s that it makes the game boring for that one player. If there’s an optimal strategy for the Vagabond, then heck, he’s just going to do that game after game after game. That’s no good.

The Vagabond role was one player that we did see break away pretty consistently. Mostly this was the fault of players who didn’t smack him around a little in the early game. But, even among experienced players there was emerging an ideal vagabond strategy around turning hostile in the midgame and then tearing it up across the map. Even when other players tried to stop him, he could score so many points killing warriors that it would carry him across the finish line. Games were ending in just six turns, and, as someone who really likes the late game of Root, I didn’t want to see it shortened.

To fix this we made a very simple change, we moved the reward for killing hostile warriors from +2 points to +1 for all pieces (so a building or token is a +2). Now the aggressive strategy could still be attempted, but it needed to be started earlier and fought harder. There would also usually be a lull in the fighting where the Vagabond would run off to the woods to lick his wounds. This gave the game an extra couple turns in games where the strategy was attempted.

Not all changes impacted victory point values or came from a desire to improve the game’s balance. From its first introduction, I had championed the crafting system—even when many folks on staff and elsewhere lobbied me to ax it. However, even now at this late date, I was always confused by the reticence of players to craft as much as they were. I didn’t have a clear solution to this problem. But, when I was deciding on the final piece counts for the game I had a moment of inspiration. If I lowered the item supply to one fewer (in most cases) than the number of items in the deck and limited players crafting to only what was in supply, I could create scarcity. Now, when you held on to that Root Tea and only one remained in the supply, players had an immediate, desire to get it crafted as soon as possible because it would hurt the crafting potential of others. Suddenly, players were crafting a lot, even in games without the vagabond and a lovely little race was added into the design with almost no rules overhead. (Indeed, this change actually made the game more playable, as it made crafting into more of a universal system than one that only impacted the vagabond.)

In terms of faction balance, the Lizards, the Riverfolk Company, and the Alliance both got last minute tweaks. For the Lizards, their crafting ability was simply too strong and so by limiting their crafting pieces to just gardens OF THE OUTCAST SUIT, the Lizards couldn’t clear the board with a lucky hand. The Lizard’s sacrifice ritual also got adjusted slightly so that they had to pull their warrior from the board, not their supply (This was a little change with some big ramifications in the early game.) Of course, the Lizards were still quite strong and especially in games with the otters, the Riverfolk Company has to be careful about its prices or they will hand the game away. But, even if they are powerful the Lizards never felt scripted and their strength allowed for some really interesting narrative arcs to unfold. That’s the kind of asymmetry that I wanted to make sure Root had in spades.

For the Riverfolk and the Alliance, two very different tweaks were made to address a similar problem. Both could become runaway leaders without liabilities if fed in the early game. For the Alliance, the fix came in capping the supporter stack if there were no bases on the board. This mean that they could only have their dramatic rebounds and revolutions IF they had some base of military operations and they had to defend that base at all costs. For the Riverfolk, there was a similar problem that was fixed by adjusting the value of their trade posts and making it so that if a trade post is lost it could never be rebuilt. This meant that the Riverfolk couldn’t rely on trade posts alone for the win and had to court dividends, crafting, or war.

Though it has less to do with balance, it’s worth mentioning too that our editor Josh Yearsley spearheaded an impressive amount of usability testing during this last wave of balancing. This yielded many small improvements to the player boards, dramatic improvements to the Learn-to-Play guide, the addition of a guided walkthrough, and a few UI improvements to the cards themselves.

There were a few other changes too, but I won't burden you with an itemization here, and folks will be able to see for themselves when I put together the final print-and-play kit in a few weeks.

The Final Game of Development


A few days ago, I sat down with the game’s core development team for a game in office. It was myself, Patrick, Clay, and Jake playing, respectively, the Marquise, the Lizard Cult, the Riverfolk, and the Vagabond (Scoundrel). At this point I still had a few files to send off to the factory, but our printer had well over half of the materials. I wanted to play one more game just to make sure the game was absolutely, 100%. What a game it was.

With an opening hand of high value cards, I opted for a crafting heavy strategy, thinking that I could outsource my military needs to the Riverfolk. I built workshop after workshop, funded mostly by Overtime cards. I rocketed to the lead but found myself unable to beat back the attacks of the Vagabond or the growing Lizard threat. By the midgame, my strategy had collapsed. I had only a few clearings under my control and few cards with which to craft. The battles against me had depleted my hand. (Another last-minute tweak: the Marquise’s field hospitals only work if the card matches the clearing of the removed warrior.)

The Otters had filled the power vacuum but showed little interest in reigning in the Lizards who were beginning to score in earnest. We threw ourselves at Patrick’s mighty cult and were able to temporally halt its growth. With the lizards in check, I was poised for a rebound. Then, suddenly, the Riverfolk shifted strategies, playing a dominance card and marching it’s mercenaries to all four(!) opposing corners. With the Lizards short on acolytes and unable to strike back, I ran to one corner and did my part. The Vagabond cleaned up the other corner, threatening to use his special power to completely destroy one of the clearings. With the Otter’s victory averted, I thought I’d be able to refortify and once again generate victory points. Even though the lizards had an 8-point lead, I could potentially still be in contention. However, the lizards then played Favor of the Mice, the majority of warriors on the board—including the Riverfolks central mercenary army!

At this point the board was a desolate waste, with few buildings and warriors strewn across it's many empty clearings. The Lizards moved in for the win, inching themselves forward each turn while batting off the Otters from a dominance victory two more times. They notched a victory on turn 11. Here, on a cold St. Paul day, four folks who had poured their hearts and souls into this game and who had been playing it constantly for months on end still found reason to get excited. Speaking for the table, I’m quite sure that we each would have played a second game in that moment. But we had work to do. After all, we had to get the game to all of you folks out there.
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Fabian
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Awesome news, and I'm digging the final balance adjustments. Those fix pretty much all the issues I've had with the game. Except the Riverfolk, where I guess we managed not to run into any issues to begin with.

Can you tell us in what way their trading post values were adjusted? All the other fixes seem easy to implement except this one.
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Cole Wehrle
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Zlarp wrote:
Can you tell us in what way their trading post values were adjusted? All the other fixes seem easy to implement except this one.


Sure, it's pretty easy, each is worth +2 vps .
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Zlarp wrote:
Can you tell us in what way their trading post values were adjusted? All the other fixes seem easy to implement except this one.


Sure, it's pretty easy, each is worth +2 vps .


Yay! I'll try to get a TTS game of the final version of Root going today! Thanks so much!
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Thanks for this in depth look into your design process. Love your designer diaries.

Can you tell us how the Mechanical Marquise items for sale work?
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Cole Wehrle
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McChew wrote:
Can you tell us how the Mechanical Marquise items for sale work?


Sure!

The Mechanical Marquise doesn't craft or have a proper hand but they do start with some items. This items deplete the supply and can be taken by aiding Vagabonds. Vagabonds have to be careful though because every card given to a the Mechanical Marquise is exchanged for a victory point.
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Every time a new one of these comes out I can't imagine how it will make the game sound cooler...but somehow it always does. Can't wait to get my hands on this! Cole, really appreciate all the designer diaries, it's been so much fun getting a behind the scenes look at the game's development.
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Hey Cole,
How did the design of the alternate (winter) board go? How does it change up gameplay?
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Even with these changes I don't see why I would ever try to score dividends. I get that crafting is limited, but trying to score dividends is just way too much risk for almost no reward. Trading posts are already a juicy enough target just for the 1 point than you add on top of that a way to take half of the unused actions from the player. Why would I not just take more actions now and offer more potential value to my customers (Drawing cards or crafting more vagabond gear)? If I leave 4 funds exposed I am giving up 4 potential actions where I could: draw a card that a player may want to buy, draw a vagabond item I can craft, craft a vagabond item for points, craft an upgrade for more funds, craft an upgrade to be more efficient, place a trading post to score points and get pieces on the board, or I could risk being able to do half of those actions or potentially 1/4th of those actions for the right to gain 2 points (Of which I will get none and be permanently gimped now that you can't rebuild these trading posts) and plopping a massive target on my trading posts in every territory. It makes it difficult that your trading relationships are identical for every player as you can't put trading penalties on players who attack your post without ruining your prices for players who don't attack you (I know that player loses a single opportunity to trade with you but it's not that big of a cost to permanently hinder the Riverfolk Company). I know that you're way beyond the point of making major changes, but I have handily won with the Riverfolk Company several times and scoring dividends has never once crossed my mind as a remotely good idea. I don't see these last minute balance changes rectifying this situation (though I think it will make the Riverfolk Company a much more manageable faction to fight).
The vagabond changes are welcome because in many games they often run away with leads. The games that the Vagabond have won are almost never won by infamy. Usually the Vagabond just plods along completing quests until they pick up 2 or 3 quests on top of a craft for a 10 point turn to win. The penalties for starting hostilities far outweigh the benefits of playing under the radar. On top of that most players don't want to attack the vagabond unless he is a turn or 2 away from winning as giving up actions for a battle which has no effect on Rule or scoring points is generally not an optimal play strategy and the player who bites on this is likely not pushing himself towards victory.
Which all gets me back to the Lizard Cult. Maybe everyone in my group is playing them wrong, but I have never seen them score about 23 points in a game (mind you this is with their pre-nerf crafting power). I love their ability to control the map and perform many actions, but their conspiracies abilities are massively underused and easy to mess with depending on player order. Speaking of easy to mess with, my criticism of dividends scoring is amplified massively with the lizard cult. On top of being just generally nuisances and many times being placed by blowing up an opposing building (which puts a massive target on your back, especially when being used on the Woodland Alliance or using it to push the Eyrie into turmoil). Please tell me I'm playing this wrong but we have only been adding acolytes from units killed defending in battle (no crossbow kills, no event card kills, no Woodland Alliance revolts, etc...). Most games players just ignore the lizard cult, and the tax for a lizard player to actually crusade to move into a Sympathetic clearing is massive. I find that the cult just falls behind massively early and never has any chance of catching up in every game they have played. Than top this all off by losing cards when you lose gardens or having the player before them edit the outcast nation to prevent you from operating conspiracies effectively makes them a very difficult faction to play competitively. It's my opinion that they were the faction least in need of nerfing, but I'm hoping the other balance changes made in the final version will help balance this out.
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Thanks for the fantastic read! It still amazes me how, with the right set of base rules, so many mechanics can fit on a single 12-space board!

Would you say the co-operative scenarios are a good way of introducing new players to the game? Getting to learn the factions as a team, rather than as opponents, that is. Or is the co-op better left for when you know the ins and outs of the game?
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Cole Wehrle
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Hank Pants wrote:
Would you say the co-operative scenarios are a good way of introducing new players to the game? Getting to learn the factions as a team, rather than as opponents, that is. Or is the co-op better left for when you know the ins and outs of the game?


The coop could be a fun way to learn the game. I haven't used it that way, but it's a good way to really learn the factions. In order to beat the bot you really have to push your advantage and know the ends-and-outs of your faction.
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Cole Wehrle
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pygamer wrote:
Hey Cole,
How did the design of the alternate (winter) board go? How does it change up gameplay?


Oh, I was going to say something about that. So the winter board is a both more symmetrical and less connected than the standard board. The river is also a lot more important which is great for games with the Otters.

The reason why it is less connected and more symmetrical is that because the clearings are randomized, there are some very odd map distributions. There are no rules to prevent the map from being all mice in one corner and all foxes in another. In fact, I really like it when the map looks like this. It creates a lot of interesting vulnerabilities.
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Cole Wehrle
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theghost1337 wrote:
Even with these changes I don't see why I would ever try to score dividends. I get that crafting is limited, but trying to score dividends is just way too much risk for almost no reward.


Well, the reward is victory points.

Edit: This is highly situational. In games with Marquise and Lizards, I can get away with very high prices and then sitting on just one or two well defended trade posts and scoring dividends for a round or two is a perfectly viable strategy.
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Patrick Leder
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As I commented to Cole earlier today the Lizards are fascinating to me. I think the Lizards wouldn't be as compelling in a system where every player had their own deck of cards. They exist on the back of having a single deck of cards for the players to work with and its a great space. Now when you give them a card you can feel the sting of knowing what is going to happen. Now when you take away a card you know what's going to happen.

No doubt about it though they will force you to change and adapt how you play and the game is stronger for them.
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But why wouldn't I want to trade with the Marquise or the Lizards? It gives me a level of control over how much they can expand and potentially gives me more options.
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Cole Wehrle
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theghost1337 wrote:
But why wouldn't I want to trade with the Marquise or the Lizards? It gives me a level of control over how much they can expand and potentially gives me more options.


Oh you definitely do. It's just fewer trade posts are easier to defend. What's more, they both have big stocks of warriors so you can jack up your prices and use them for dividends.
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Zlarp wrote:
Can you tell us in what way their trading post values were adjusted? All the other fixes seem easy to implement except this one.


Sure, it's pretty easy, each is worth +2 vps .


Wait, I just realized I think I misunderstood this. So now each trade post is worth 2 VPs? I thought at first you meant 2 VPs more than before. Luckily (and sadly) I didn't get to play today to misplay this rule.
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Yes you can jack up your prices but in my experience I know players won't pay high prices for fear of giving you that much control over the game state and putting your engine into overdrive. A new player might until they learn that those warriors can't be used until you spend them (Yet again giving them a huge incentive to bomb your trading posts).
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Cole Wehrle
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Zlarp wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Zlarp wrote:
Can you tell us in what way their trading post values were adjusted? All the other fixes seem easy to implement except this one.


Sure, it's pretty easy, each is worth +2 vps .


Wait, I just realized I think I misunderstood this. So now each trade post is worth 2 VPs? I thought at first you meant 2 VPs more than before. Luckily (and sadly) I didn't get to play today to misplay this rule.


Each is just worth +2.
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Hey Cole, thank you for that interesting read!

I agree with you how problematic it is to demand a game that is everything -- a good solo, cooperative AND competitive game. I think it is much better to be excellent at one thing, and one thing only.
Since Root was built to be competitive only, I am sure it will excel at that, but since those modes exist (and since I really happen to enjoy cooperative games) I am really looking forward to trying them out as well, as a bonus icing on the cake.
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any chance you could repost the spy cards so my group can try out the Mechanical Marquise tomorrow?
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theghost1337 wrote:
any chance you could repost the spy cards so my group can try out the Mechanical Marquise tomorrow?


I'm not in a place to do that at the moment and will be traveling for the next few days.

However, you can easily use them anyway because they are pretty simple to explain. So, your four dominance cards are now "spy cards." You've got one of each suit.

These can be played during daylight if you have them in your hand.

For each spy card, during daylight, you may reveal one card in the schedule of orders. If you did not reveal a matching card, then you may swap the order of any two cards in the schedule.

If you did reveal a matching card, the spy card is returned to the display, like a dominance card and can be bought during daylight in like fashion.

For the purposes of spy cards only, birds only match birds.

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Does she start with one cat per clearing? :O

The design diary is very intriguing and interesting to read. I liked it very much! Thanks for taking your time to write this!
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First of all, I just want to say how excited I am to see this design diary. Getting this kind of insight into the game is fantastic, and makes everything more engaging and personal to me.

I do want to ask Cole - Do you think the Lizard Cult was winning too often before this recent change?

I ask because I really love the Lizard Cult, thematically they are easily my favorite faction in Root (closely followed by the Vietcong err I mean Woodland Alliance.) However in all my games I've yet to see the Lizards secure a proper win (I have seen them a turn away from winning, but they were preempted by the Vagabond winning first).

Maybe it's because the Lizard players we had were too focused on performing Conspiracies when they are inconsistent at best. Maybe it's due to the lack of attention given to forcing a particular suit of cards when Scoring. Heck, maybe it can be attributed to playing with a rule incorrectly. I just want to ask to give them a fair shake before writing them off as too random.

And although it may not come off this way I do trust your design sensibilities - I am more concerned there is something obvious I am missing or some easily missed rule.
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Kouhan wrote:
Does she start with one cat per clearing? :O

The design diary is very intriguing and interesting to read. I liked it very much! Thanks for taking your time to write this!


Same setup as the standard cat (keep in the corner, warriors on all but the opposite corner)
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