App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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The digital edition of the board game Root has finally come to mobile, allowing for up to four players to compete in a fight to conquer the forest. The game at its core is already a proven multiplayer hit, and the video game-ification of it includes some cute polygonal woodland creatures and a whole lot of automated upkeep. Despite a few quirks here and there, the iOS version of Root is definitely worth getting.
Fight for the forest
For those unfamiliar with the board game, Root is a strategic affair where players command different factions in a battle to win the forest. There's the industrious cat invaders led by Marquise de Cat, the aristocratic and proud avian defenders of the Eyrie Dynasty, independent creatures organizing to overthrow both factions via the Woodland Alliance, and a sneaky Vagabond looking to capitalize off of these conflicting factions.
As with many other board games, the goal of Root is to score victory points. Each match is a race to see who can score 30 points first, though there are some cards in the game that can alter winning conditions. In any given game, no faction can be played by more then one player, but a game can consist of any combination of unique factions, allowing for somewhat flexible play.
Four games in one
What makes Root particularly interesting is just how different each faction plays. Marquise de Cat operates by constructing buildings to produce resources in the forest, almost like a more traditional turn-based strategy game. The Eyrie, on the other hand, earn points by reclaiming their land via roosts, but can only operate via a strict code, lest they fall into turmoil. Things get even wilder with The Woodland Alliance, who operate by spreading sympathy for their cause and causing outrage and revolt against conquering forces. And then there's the Vagabond, who is an individual game piece (the rest of the factions have armies), who can slip between forests, establish alliances, and go questing for loot.
Each faction has its own mechanics, units, and methods of scoring, which almost make the game feel like four games in one. Or, perhaps more aptly, Root feels almost like a fighting game where you weigh your matchups and try to press your advantages while exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses. It's a super compelling conceit for a board game and it's kind of incredible how well these differing playstyles work together.
Root is very much a multiplayer game. This digital version has a single-player mode with a long list of different challenges to try out, but nothing feels as satisfying as besting an opponent, either in person using pass-and-play or online. The online mode for the game works as well as it needs to, and thankfully allows for players to set up both synchronous and asynchronous games.
My only real beef with Root comes from a couple of small technical issues. The in-game zoom function can be relatively unresponsive, multiplayer notifications sometimes fire incorrectly, and the game doesn't have an undo button everywhere you might want one. These are small potatoes when you consider the fact that otherwise you can carry around Root in your pocket without having to worry about any of the game's setup or upkeep of the physical version.
The bottom line
Barring a few small problems, the digital edition of Root is a faithful and fun interpretation of the board game. Its inventiveness and strategic depth are sure to win over any strategy die-hards who want to test their skills against online opponents.