The Corvid PNP, a Surprise Stream, and a Development Diary.
We’ve got a few bits of news today. First, we’re happy to officially release the Corvid Conspiracy PNP. You can find the PDF for them here. Second, to celebrate the release of the Crows, we’ll be hosting a livestream this afternoon, starting at 1pm (central time). Feel free to head over to twitch and follow along!
Finally, I wanted to say a few words about the design of the Corvid Conspiracy. One thing that I really enjoy about Root is the robust framework that lives at the center of the game. You could build a simple wargame off of these mechanics alone, and, I think, it would prove to be an interesting game. I think this is one reason why Root saw so many fan factions generated by its players. Even as early as April of last year, playtesters started creating their own factions based on the publicly shared PNPs for Root. The stream fan-generated factions only increased when the game saw a general release.
This past summer I handed off Vast: TMM to Cole and Nick for final development, I found myself with my first creative break since I began working on Vast in 2014. I tinkered a little with some old designs, but eventually found myself being pulled towards Root. At this point new fan factions were being posted nearly every day, and I wanted to get in on the fun.
Before I started designing, I looked closely at the game and how the roles interacted with the base mechanics. The Cats police the board. The Woodland Alliance gives a tax to moving and fighting—the better the player sets up that tax, the more prosperous they will become. Each faction in Cole’s design explored different elements of the core system, but the six factions that had been built left a lot of room yet to be explored. One place that immediately jumped to mind was the players' hands, so I started to think about how a faction could be built around manipulating those cards. Generally I don't like making someone else discard cards. A person’s hand should be a sacred, protected space. But in Root, so little is sacred. I think it’s fair to say that Cole showed me a little about the narrative value in designing games that violated some norms. Perhaps playing with another player’s hand was okay in the context of Root.
Along these lines, the Corvid Conspiracy quickly jumped to life. Thematically, the faction represents a collection of spies (and moles!) that are infiltrating the other factions. The Crows use their influence to manipulate the other players by essentially ransoming their hands, and place infiltration tokens to spread their agents into the hands of the other players. Agents take up space in other players' hands just like any other cards, but they can’t be spent or used for anything. A player can voluntarily give up their agent cards at the end of their turn, or they can be removed by force by the Crows.
Anytime an agent leaves a player’s hand, all Agent cards leave that player’s hand. The Crow player then scores two points and resolves an effect based on the number of agents returned.
As you can see, these effects are pretty strong, and usually players will want to return agents before they find themselves stuck with a potential bomb-maker. At the same time, if they shed agents too frequently, players are going to quickly find the Conspiracy breaking out of the pack.
The best way for opponents to rein in the Crows is simply to knock out those pesky infiltration tokens. To protect those tokens, they have a few handy tools. For one, they can recruit using their nest, which allows them to reinforce quickly. Second, the they can move their warriors around the board very easily, as they ignore rule.
Like with the Great Underground Duchy, the key challenge to playing the Crows is their hand management. Many of their actions are powered by spending cards, and trying to decide how to divide your cards among your different strategic priorities is critical.
The Crows have been an absolute blast to test in the studio. We’ve so far been using them mostly as a replacement for the Woodland Alliance in three-player combinations, but we think they really shine in four- and five-player games!
Take care, everyone!