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As in the title, I wonder if the game really has different win conditions and gameplay between factions, I wasn't able to grasp it in reviews.

Also are every factions equally inclined to win or are some of them stronger? (Difficulty not included, if it requires to be really good to play well with faction A and faction B is really easy to play but both of them win as often, it's balanced in my eyes)

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    In my opinion, this question leads to answers based on specific experience and is a worthy question for this site. – Pat Ludwig Apr 17 at 4:42
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Root is highly asymmetrical

While each faction has technically the same goal (reach 30 victory points), and there are some universal ways of gaining victory points (destroying your opponents' cardboard, and crafting items), each faction has its own unique mechanics for playing and earning other victory points.

The Marquis of Cats earn victory points by building Sawmills, Garrisons, and Workshops (possibly not the actual names?). No other faction even has these buildings, let alone gets victory points for building them.

The Eyrie have a building of their own (Nests), but they don't get victory points for building them - instead they get victory points based on the number of nests they own every turn.

The Woodland Alliance earns victory points for spreading Sympathy, which superficially resembles the Cat's method of earning points, but the Cats build using wood (which the other factions don't interact with at all) in areas they control, and the Woodland Alliance spreads Sympathy without needing control (or even board presence) by discarding supporters (an extra 'hand' of sorts, which the other factions don't have.

The Vagabond earns points for giving cards to the other players and completing quests. The other factions can't even do these things, much less get victory points for them.

The asymmetry of Root comes from the highly asymmetric mechanics of the factions, rather than an asymmetry in the factions' goals.

Root isn't perfectly balanced, but it's practically balanced

Perfect balance is nigh impossible to achieve. Even if every player has identical abilities, any game with sequential player turns will have at least a slightly unbalanced nature, meaning that the only games with the potential to be perfectly balanced are ones that involve simultaneous play, like Set or Bananagrams.

But a game is practically balanced if the advantage difference between the factions (or turn order positions) is smaller than advantages created by randomness, player skill, and play dynamics (i.e. who's being beaten on by all the other factions this time).

Root is practically balanced. The differences in overall strength of the factions is slight enough that it's not obvious who will have the advantage in any given setup, and vagarities of play have more of an effect on the winner than any inherent advantage that faction has.

Slight caveat
I'm pretty sure that the Lizard Cult from the expansion is weaker than the other factions. Certainly nobody in my playgroup has managed to win with them, and I've heard that they're getting some power errata with the newest expansion. But the four base factions are extremely well balanced.

  • The other aspect about balance is the ability of players to influence each other - if there are some players with apparently unbalanced abilities but it's also easy for players to target the player in the lead to keep them in line, that can provide a form of balance (although that comes with its own issues). I haven't played Root so I don't know to what extent that matters, but given its similarity to war games I would assume that there's a decent amount of that. – ConMan Apr 14 at 23:41
  • @ConMan there is, and I mentioned it briefly (I called it play dynamics). But I didn't talk about it too heavily, because while play dynamics brings a degree of automatic self-balancing to any heavily interactive game, I don't think that it makes the factions themselves any more balanced. – Arcanist Lupus Apr 15 at 1:58
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I've played it a dozen times and seen all factions win. Also, in BGG comments all factions are alternatively seen as the "best" faction, so I guess it depends on the playing groups. For example, Woodland Alliance can quickly come from behind for the win if other players don't remove sympathy, the Vagabond can take the lead if no player attacks him, a well planned Eyrie can wreak havoc on other players, etc.

So my guess is that the factions are balanced but they are so different that the playing style of the players of each group will determine which will be the better faction to play for each specific group.

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Root is asymmetrical.

Aside from a game where you have 2 Vagabonds every faction is wildly different while still using the same core mechanics. Even in a game with two Vagabonds however, they do share some asymmetry as each has 3 different characters to choose from which slightly modifies how they play compared to the other Vagabond characters.

Root is balanced (with some caveats).

They're balanced to some extent by the meta, but the latest Kickstarter is going to release revised rules for several of the factions. So yes, but no.

Since scores are public info, if one person pulls into the lead there's usually at least a full round where everyone else can try to stop them. This can lead to a "better" faction suffering and losing more often because they pull into an early lead and then get beat up by everyone else because of it.

In light of the release of rules revisions for factions in the latest Kickstarter it's obvious balance is being improved. It's worth noting that while I've read over the revisions I haven't actually played with them yet.

That said I've played several dozen games and I don't feel like any faction is excessively strong or weak. Any faction that is ignored can pull a win out. Depending on how well your group understands the other factions it can be more or less obvious that one faction is going to win on their next turn. Being the player to the left of a clear contender for the win is often enough to win yourself, because everyone will focus on taking them out of the running but then not be able to stop you.

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It is definitely asymmetrical, since each faction is completely different in their abilities and the way they have to play.

I only played it a couple of times: - The first time, the person who taught it played the Eyrie and he kept failing to accomplish his mandate almost every turn. And the person (older lady) who usually doesn't like complex games won playing the Marquise, to everyone's surprise. I played the Woodland alliance, and since I didn't know what I was doing, I made a couple of mistakes at the beginning and I wasn't able to catch up. I had the impression that even I had played it right it was a hard faction to play with. My son played the vagabond and he finished second. - The second time I played Eyrie and I was worried after seeing how the other guy struggled in the first game, but I was doing really well, until I was beaten by an experienced guy playing the Woodland alliance 30-28 >:-( (the vagabond scored 29).

Based on my experience, the Eyrie's strategy is to go after the Marquise as much as it can, and I believe the guy who taught was too nice to do that to the old lady. I didn't have that problem since the Marquise in the second game is a friend of mine with whom we are very competitive and always go at each other's throat. And realized that the alliance, when played well, can catch up very fast at the end.

So based in my little experience, it looks like it is a balanced game, if everyone knows how to play its faction.

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