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Wroth Game Review

It’s an Old Word for “Angry”

Wroth is a tight, lean, area-controlling machine, all taking just about as long as it says on the box. Read more in Andrew's Meeple Mountain review.

I did not expect to be playing Wroth within ten minutes of sitting down. Chip Theory’s latest offering, a collaboration with designer and artist Manny Trembley, is an area control game with remarkably straightforward rules. This may be unfair to Chip Theory Games, but I have not previously associated the publisher of Too Many Bones and Cloudspire with approachability.

Nevertheless, I found Wroth easy to get going. Better still, even while dealing with some of the issues that can plague a preview copy—poor printing on neoprene mats, as-yet-unclear action icons, some minor balance issues that the publisher has already assured me they’re in the process of recalibrating—I thought Wroth was crackerjack.

The board is vibrant, full of bright colors.

Let the Bodies Hit the Floor

I find that a lot of contemporary games get ahead of themselves, burying interesting decisions under too much of the window dressing that the Era of Crowdfunding seems to demand. I was delighted to discover that Wroth, a streamlined area control game, doesn’t do that. The rules and mechanics are no more complicated than they need to be.

Each round, somebody rolls a bunch of dice, equal to twice the number of players plus 1. The die faces feature different actions, and are drafted one at a time. Each player gets two actions for the round, which largely concern different forms of troop movement, combat, and money. The goal of the game is to be the first to 40 points, which are scored by controlling any of the board’s eight regions come the end of a round.

There were three facets of Wroth’s design that reminded me of Root, chief among them being that the game is a race. The second is the game’s use of a straightforward and frequently-utilized combat system, though there are no combat dice in Wroth. It’s all determinative.

The final similarity, and the one that pushes Wroth out of feeling solidly like an old-school design (which I mean as an enormous compliment) is the implementation of asymmetrical factions. Each player gets a neoprene mat corresponding to one of five races. In addition to the generic units, each faction has its own elite soldiers with various abilities. These give the game its spice.

That’s where the similarities to Root come to a hard stop, because the factions don’t necessitate learning an entirely new game each time you switch. Rather, they steer your strategic approach. You know, the way factions in asymmetrical games usually do.

Each player board is divided into a few sections, containing the various special combat units unique to that faction.

Trembley Before Me

I feel like I owe Trembley an apology. I didn’t assume Wroth would be bad, Chip Theory has too much of a track record for that, but I did expect it to be outside of my taste. Instead, Wroth does exactly what the designer and publisher had in mind: it teaches quickly, it plays quickly, and the board state is dynamic. It can grind to a halt if all the players at the table make poor choices, which happened in my first game, but you’re unlikely to do that more than once. The design isn’t set up to encourage that kind of thing.

Most of all, I think Wroth is a smart play in today’s market. When I think of the best area control games, I think of Root, Kemet, or Ankh, games that are not known for their brevity or approachability. Teaching Root takes me, a person who teaches Root professionally, at least 40 minutes, and while Kemet isn’t a hard teach, it is certainly a lengthy play. I don’t know of any suggested playtime that I trust less than Kemet, love it though I do.

In comes Wroth, this asymmetric, combat-focused area-control game with a quick setup, an honest-to-god ten minute teach, and 60-70 minute playtime. That alone will find it purchase in a number of collections, and deservedly so. It’s the kind of thing I didn’t know was missing until it was put in front of me. I will always prefer El Grande than Wroth—I think there’s a lot more depth to El Grande, for one thing—but I don’t always have 2 hours. You know what’s a lot easier to find? 60-80 minutes.

The seven faction boards, featuring boldly-colored illustrations from Trembley.

  • Good - Enjoy playing.

Wroth details

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain was provided a pre-production copy of the game. It is this copy of the game that this review is based upon. As such, this review is not necessarily representative of the final product. All photographs, components, and rules described herein are subject to change.

About the author

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch was a very poor loser as a child. He’s working on it.

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