Root will introduce a rat warlord, badgers and modular rules in fourth - and possibly final - expansion
Leder Games developers also discuss upcoming Oath and designing around feature bloat.
The next - and potentially last - expansion to competitive board game Root will introduce two new factions, along with the addition of minor factions and expanded two-player rules, according to a video interview with designer Cole Wehrle and developer Patrick Leder on The Cardboard Herald YouTube channel.
Leder and Wehrle confirmed that the fourth boxed Root game is in the works, following 2018’s The Riverfolk and 2020’s The Underground and Clockwork Expansion. Each added additional factions and playstyles to the game of fantasy animal factions vying for control of a vast woodland environment.
While it doesn’t even have a working title, Wehrle said the scope of the project has expanded to include most of the studio. The two featured factions, the rat Warlord and the Badgers, bring more “militant” playstyle options to the table.r
The Warlord, who is illustrated as a confident rat in armour, will focus on completely ruling clearings and exerting their influence in the surrounding area. Wehrle and Leder said things may change in development, but they imagine the faction having a singular meeple that moves around the board. That strong presence follows, meaning anyone far away from the Warlord can act more freely.
The badgers have been adapted from the previously discussed turtle faction (Leder apologises in the video for “the impending ire” at axing the turtles) and focus on a slower, more thoughtful playstyle. They are interested in public development, building roads that anyone can use and planning their moves in the round before they take effect. Leder described them as “more militant otters”, referencing the Riverfolk expansion addition, but they aren’t currently as fully developed as the Warlord.
Leder clarified in the interview these factions rely on them “policing the game state” in order to meet their win conditions, much like the Eyrie or Marquise de Cat. “Let’s give players more options to play that way, and it works to stabilise two-player mode,” Leder said.
Balancing the game for two players has proven an interesting challenge that the studio, and Wehrle specifically, wants to overcome. “Setup is the one part of the game that isn’t easily expanded or made modular,” Wehrle said. If a duo wants to play the game, they must still wrestle with rules and balancing designed with a larger group in mind.
The solution: look to tournament play. “I’m working on a new advanced setup system that will plug in seamlessly to tournament draft setup,” Wehrle said. Adapting the rules already pioneered by the competitive scene helps lower player count games avoid relying on bots for the game to function.
Newly-designed minor factions could offer another option for varying how games function. While not fully designed or finalised, the designers explained that they will be colour-coded to the major faction and match with their flavour. For example, the Spring Uprising takes after the Woodland Alliance and can be controlled by players based on who has invested the most of a unique currency with them. This creates what Wehrle called a “simple, zero-sum influence economy” that benefits the losing player more than those in the lead.
That same currency can be used to affect the turn order. Leder said in the video he has been playing Warhammer 40,000 and enjoys the game’s dynamic initiative system. Introducing something similar to Root provides a way to control the tempo of play, something they said players haven’t yet experienced in any of the previous expansions. “Is it more valuable to take control of the weird lizard minor faction or be the first player next round?” The choice is a complex, and therefore interesting, one for them to consider.
Fans hoping for a “big box” once Root is complete will have to temper their expectations. Leder and Wehrle both expressed deep reservations to the idea, given how massive the game has grown across all of its expansions. Further, they said this fourth addition might signal the end of large-scale development on the game. Though they have always designed it to be “resilient” to modulation and feature bloat, that ceiling exists and both expect they may be reaching it soon.
Finally, bad news for anyone wishing for Vast 3, as Leder says it's not something on his plate at the moment and doesn't know when he might return to the series.
Leder Games will launch a Kickstarter campaign for Root’s fourth expansion in early 2021, which they confirmed will contain the second Clockwork Expansion. In the future, they expect a retail release for Oath around June 2021, and Void Lich will make its way to Kickstart in April or May.