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Subject: Towards Faction Parity rss

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Cole Wehrle
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EDIT:
In the months of discussion since I posted this, we made the decision to fold these minor alterations into future printings of the game. They will appear in a forthcoming third printing (Early Summer 2019). This includes all of the language localizations of Root.

This spring we will launch a Kickstarter for Root that will feature a new expansion and give us an idea as to the demand for a potential forth printing of the game. During this campaign, folks will get a chance to get replacement player boards and an updated set of rules. These may have a nominal cost, but we are still pricing things at the moment.

The original post is kept below for archival purposes.

Quote:

Hi everyone,

A couple months back I mentioned that we were thinking about introducing tournament rules to Root. This suggestion led me on a little odyssey through the different ways folks have tried to organize competitive multiplayer game playing in a wide variety of contexts. Originally, I had imagined some kind of bidding system, but, the deeper I dug into those in-game handicapping systems, the more convinced I was that they were simply not well-suited to Root.

Speaking frankly, the core design of Root was not built for that kind of competitive balance. As far as I was concerned, the game lives in the imbalance between player positions. When one faction loses an important battle, that event has consequences that ripple through all of the player positions. Things can get downright weird. Which is good, because history is weird and I wanted players to feel that kind of discomfort. Getting good at Root means getting good at navigating those waves. Getting good at Root also means learning the hard truth that both a victory and a defeat can be traced to any number of small decisions (made by any number of other players). This is one reason I've always liked what the Lizards bring to the game. In a lot of cases, they are just plainly at a disadvantage. But, they also open up interesting narratives that aren't possible without them.

When I first starting working on Root, I wanted to bring the kinds of tricky multi-lateral conflicts that you see in modern wargame design into a more general audience. I think everyone here at Leder Games knew there would be a big audience for such an design, but I think we were also overwhelmed by the response. It's a remarkable thing to witness so many strangers simultaneously exploring a new space together. Root has plainly grown beyond our wildest dreams. It's being played by more players and in a wider range of contexts than I thought possible. An audience has grown into a community.

I want to do right by that community. To that end, here are a few small rule tweaks which I think will bring the game's factions to something like tournament-level parity. This thread is meant to be simply a record of my working draft, and I'd encourage folks interested in these tweaks to participate in this discussion. I have talked to Patrick and the rest of the folks here at Leder Games and I have everyone's support. The hope is that after these changes are fully vetted, we will fold them into future products at no cost to the consumer and provide low-cost update kits for any players who want to bring their copy of the game up to tournament standards. And, of course, we will make print-resolution files available digitally for free.

Again, I want to say that I stand by the initial balance of the game, and am really happy with what we built last year, and proud that our work has resonated with so many people. At the same time, I don't want the success of Root to stop us from learning lessons from a community that continues to explore the game with a breath and depth that was never possible by our in-house development team.

UPDATE: The precise Adjustments can be found in the post below this one.

----

In terms of general tournament rules, what I'm hoping to do, eventually, is to offer a kind of ladder system. My basic idea works like this: players would record data for their wins and loses. No detailed scoring data would be needed. Then, at the end of a season, we'd look and get a ranking of which factions were winning more. That ranking would inform how a players wins and loses would be scored. Winning as a “difficult” to win faction would be worth marginally more than a win as a dominant faction. The same would operate in reverse for losses. This would allow some accounting for the dramatic asymmetry in the game, without, I hope, ignoring a competitor's desire for fairness. Obviously the precise formulas would need to be handled with care...fortunately we have a data scientist on staff (thanks in advance, Patrick!).

I should clarify again that a lot of this stuff is still a long way off. I just wanted to get the ball rolling in my small way now. At some point in the next few days I'll link a google form here so that anyone who wants to help with testing can input their games with these adjustments.

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Cole Wehrle
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
For now, here are the changes.

PDF "stickers" can be found here:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ErlgQGIQm_T4DFkDKJKiCkuyym...


(Note: if you print without scaling they will fit perfectly over existing boards.)


Marquise

6.2.3 Field Hospitals. Whenever any number of Marquise warriors are removed, the Marquise may spend a card matching their clearing to place those warriors in the clearing with the keep token.

Woodland Alliance

Victory points on the player board have been slightly lowered.


Vagabond

9.2.9.III.a: Infamy. On your turn, whenever you remove a piece of a Hostile faction in battle, score one victory point."

9.5.7: Repair. Exhaust one hammer to move one damaged item to the Satchel or to its matching track, and flip the item face up.

Lizard

10.4.1: Adjust Outcast. ...If no one suit had the most cards, the marker stays on its current space and side and the current marker is not Hated, flip the marker to its Hated side.

10.5.4: Sacrifice. Move a warrior from the map Place a warrior in the Acolytes box. To perform this, you must reveal a bird card.

Lizard bonus icons should be in the second column.

----

We will be folding these changes into the next edition we print of the game. In addition to providing digital files for those who want to update their games by themselves, we are committed to providing a professionally printed option as well. This could be in the form of a sticker kit and updated rulebook or some other format. I'll keep everyone posted as I learn more.

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Patar Absurdus the Shananigator
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
I did not realize that the vagabond needed to be weakened. Is having two vagabonds in need of any rebalancing?
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Dominick Duhamel
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
I hope that, once the tournament rules are finalized, you guys sell stickers or overlays we can use to amend the rules/icons on our player boards. (Or, heck, even new "tournament" player boards would work.)
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coony
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Cole Wehrle wrote:


Lizard Cult:
3. The Mouse and Bunny card draw icons are now on the second garden (not the 3rd and 2nd)

This is not fully clear for me. The Bunny has the card draw on the 3rd garden and the Mouse on the 4th.

Should the Gardens look like this?

Mouse:- 0 0 1 0 0
Bunny:- 0 0 1 0 0
Fox:---- 0 1 0 0 0

or like this?

Mouse:- 0 1 0 0 0
Bunny:- 0 1 0 0 0
Fox:---- 0 1 0 0 0

A bit out of context, but do you happen to know if there will also be update kits for 1st edition owners for the revised content? (like Eyrie, Mechanical Marquise boards, Law of Root, Meeples that are from 1 piece and not multiple layers)
Seeing how a new kickstarter for the 3rd edition and 2nd expansion is on the horizon these kits might be a possibility now.

Thanks for designing such a great game and keep up the good work

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Stephen Owen
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
2. Infamy points (those gained for eliminating pieces belonging to a hostile player) are only scored if you are the active player.

I thought this was the current rule - infamy points are only scored during your own turn as a vagabond. Am I missing something?
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Byron S
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
steveowen wrote:
2. Infamy points (those gained for eliminating pieces belonging to a hostile player) are only scored if you are the active player.

I thought this was the current rule - infamy points are only scored during your own turn as a vagabond. Am I missing something?
Currently if you're defending and kill units, you could score infamy. It leads to a boring end game where no one is capable of stopping the Vagabond from scoring and winning, because trying to stop them gives them the points they need to win.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Only played one time so far (still waiting for my copy cry ) but do you think bidding for factions would be a viable option in competitive play?
Basically if you bid 1 VP for a faction you need to reach that extra VP to win.
(Like described here for Terra Mystica https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/894736/faction-bidding)

edit seems like I glanced over that section in the OP
 
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Stephen Owen
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
To Byron S

Thank you for the clarification. Pity the designer did not provide it.Have only played the Vagabond twice and not encountered this situation as yet.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
clemensp wrote:
Only played one time so far (still waiting for my copy cry ) but do you think bidding for factions would be a viable option in competitive play?
Basically if you bid 1 VP for a faction you need to reach that extra VP to win.
(Like described here for Terra Mystica https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/894736/faction-bidding)
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Originally, I had imagined some kind of bidding system, but, the deeper I dug into those in-game handicapping systems, the more convinced I was that they were simply not well-suited to Root.
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Marcus Lind
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
steveowen wrote:
To Byron S

Thank you for the clarification. Pity the designer did not provide it.Have only played the Vagabond twice and not encountered this situation as yet.

It is perfectly clear in the rules.
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Marcus Lind
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
These changes look good to me. Although perhaps the two changes to the Vagabond will lead to very different play styles, where aiming for Infamy VP is no longer a good choice.
 
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Cole Wehrle
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
dduhamel1 wrote:
I hope that, once the tournament rules are finalized, you guys sell stickers or overlays we can use to amend the rules/icons on our player boards.

Quote:
I have talked to Patrick and the rest of the folks here at Leder Games and I have everyone's support. The hope is that after these changes are fully vetted, we will fold them into future products at no cost to the consumer and provide low-cost update kits for any players who want to bring their copy of the game up to tournament standards. And, of course, we will make print-resolution files available digitally for free.

I'll add that these are low impact changes, designed to be easy to remember, so players don't need to bother with physically updating their kit if they don't want to. It won't require any special pieces etc.
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Stephen Owen
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Thank you Marcus - I find the rules of Root need to be read absolutely literally and then imagine all the situations in which those rules would be applicable which are not all obvious.
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Cole Wehrle
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
steveowen wrote:
To Byron S

Thank you for the clarification. Pity the designer did not provide it.

Forgive me for being asleep at 2am last night.

Quote:
Have only played the Vagabond twice and not encountered this situation as yet.

The alterations to the Vagabond are meant to close out a very high aggression strategy I was seeing in groups where folks had played the game ten games or so. It's less of an overall nerf than a small adjustment to prevent folks from grabbing the Ranger, a couple swords and terrorizing the game with 10+ point turns.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Any thought being put towards Marquis changes? A lot of people feel they could use a small boost.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
smeagol492 wrote:

or like this?

Mouse:- 0 1 0 0 0
Bunny:- 0 1 0 0 0
Fox:---- 0 1 0 0 0

Just like this.

In terms of updates, we're not certain of our timeline, but the main thing is that, after vetting and testing these alterations, we will fold them into the regular game in a way that (we hope) does right by our initial backers. A sticker sheet, updated rulebook, and dice can probably be built into an update kit that we'd provide at no cost for folks who back a new expansion and for little cost to anyone who might want to sit that expansion out. The meeple update is a little more complicated both in terms of demand (some folks prefer wood grain to the mdf anyway) and logistics, but it's not impossible to imagine it as a possible addon sold at close to cost.
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Cole Wehrle
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
walterbarrett wrote:
Any thought being put towards Marquis changes? A lot of people feel they could use a small boost.

Let me expand this question to include the Eyrie as well.

Right now both the Marquis and the Eyrie are slightly under-performing, but it's not a big gap. My feeling is that by adjusting the Vagabond in this way it will give them a small indirect boost.

A lot of their loses get traced back to controlling the WA which, so far, I'm finding to be mostly a question of player experience and players recognizing the contexts were certain kinds of strategies against the WA will work or fail to work. The way factions counter each other in Root is not as straight forward as counters are a lot of other conflict games. This is mostly because of the ecosystem of checks and balances that develops in the opening turns of each game means that beating down one player will often help a third party. In my opinion, figuring out who that third party is (and figuring out how to position yourself as that third party for other players) is one of the chief joys of the design.

All of that is just to say that I'm not planning on altering the Marquise or Eyrie anytime soon. We'll see how the data looks when I start collecting it in earnest, but so far it's not on the agenda.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Originally, I had imagined some kind of bidding system, but, the deeper I dug into those in-game handicapping systems, the more convinced I was that they were simply not well-suited to Root.

If there's no bidding, will there be any tournament rules on faction selection?
 
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
walterbarrett wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Originally, I had imagined some kind of bidding system, but, the deeper I dug into those in-game handicapping systems, the more convinced I was that they were simply not well-suited to Root.

If there's no bidding, will there be any tournament rules on faction selection?

Yup.
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Miguel Pacheco
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Thank you for this insight Cole, I think the Lizard rules especially will be very well received.

I dont have the wealth of data you have, but the most oppressive faction in my meta has been the WA for the reasons you identify. The cost of hitting them is quite punitive with the cards you have to give out, and they always get the high roll on top of it! Eyrie and Cats have yet to win in our meta, but we are still adjusting and have only played 5 games so far.

The timing of when to hit the WA is tricky, and our group gets more focused on doing their own engine than really getting into the conflict of things, which just allows the burst potential of WA to win out everytime. We have to adjust.

I take it you have no concerns with the WA as designed for balance parity?
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
This is great!

Looking forward to seeing the final rules for Root when they are finished.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
Cole Wehrle wrote:
walterbarrett wrote:
Any thought being put towards Marquis changes? A lot of people feel they could use a small boost.

Let me expand this question to include the Eyrie as well.

Right now both the Marquis and the Eyrie are slightly under-performing, but it's not a big gap. My feeling is that by adjusting the Vagabond in this way it will give them a small indirect boost.

A lot of their loses get traced back to controlling the WA which, so far, I'm finding to be mostly a question of player experience and players recognizing the contexts were certain kinds of strategies against the WA will work or fail to work. The way factions counter each other in Root is not as straight forward as counters are a lot of other conflict games. This is mostly because of the ecosystem of checks and balances that develops in the opening turns of each game means that beating down one player will often help a third party. In my opinion, figuring out who that third party is (and figuring out how to position yourself as that third party for other players) is one of the chief joys of the design.

All of that is just to say that I'm not planning on altering the Marquise or Eyrie anytime soon. We'll see how the data looks when I start collecting it in earnest, but so far it's not on the agenda.
How does this affect the utter dominance of the Woodland Alliance? It's honestly been a long time since an Eyrie, Marquise, or Lizard (still have never won in 40 games) have beaten the Woodland Alliance in a normal game.
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Cole Wehrle
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
theghost1337 wrote:

How does this affect the utter dominance of the Woodland Alliance?

I'm holding off judgement about that until I see more numbers, but we haven't seen their dominance outside of groups playing for 0-5 games where they are a slight favorite.
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Re: Towards Tournament Rules and Faction Parity
We've played easily 15-20 games, and yeah the Alliance victories tapered off fairly quickly, although they do still win on a regular (not overwhelming) basis.

If a group won't attack each other and play this instead as an engine building game, I could see the Alliance winning way too often. But Root is very much a wargame. You have to take into account the power each player wields on the board and, if you want to win, take down those that will hit 30 VP before you can. Conversely, bashing on a player that is already weak will give the person on the top of the heap more chances to go even further and get there faster. This is what makes this game so wonderful to me.
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