Preview: Roots of Mali


Do you think, that all thoroughbred fantasy stories and games must be full of dice, improvement of characters and conquering some damp dungeons? If you still live in this illusion, it’s time to guide you from it.

We would like to use the opportunity, that was given to us, to introduce a board game , which in these days is running a campaing , to you. At time of writing, the campaign is up only for a few days and it will end on August 14th . So far, it is still enough time to join fans and buy one copy of this fantasy entertainment for 32 Swiss francs.

We received preproduction samples to do a . These are, however, in our experience of quality close enough to the resulting print. Boxes are cube-shaped and decorated with beautiful fantasy drawings. Why the plural „boxes“? Because under code name Roots of Mali are hiding two boxes. The other bears name Light of Dragons and offers a different characters, a differently colored dice and a little different experience and has to be bought and supported as a second copy, of course.


Contents of these two boxes were shaped by a pair of authors and under the aegis of their small company and with help of Daniel Theuerkaufer (Board Game Circus), who was behind successful campaign of Heldentaufe game. In the box, we can find a game board, instructions, and pile of dice in two colors.

What, is Roots of Mali? As you’ve probably guessed, this is a fantasy fighting game. But not all battles are taking place with your sword. This time, abstract game is waiting for us, in which damage is not dealt with dice, but to dice representing two armies (similar to Unita). They will serve you on environment gaming space measuring seven times seven fields with two scales for each side. All fifteen dice of one army are identical and each side show sone of six monsters of that particular army (they can be distinguished not only by placeholder icon, but also by growing strength number).

Dice start on your side of the board in a group, whose total strength has to be exactly ten. Player can move with these units vertically or horizontally. Each round provides him only one action, that must be used wisely. In addition to the motion, there is therefore also opportunity to improve your monster to its next level (rotate dice to a higher number by 1) or use monster‘s spell or special ability to surprise the opponent.


Main element of gameplay is a battle, that may occur, if some dice enters a position, that is occupied by a representative of the opposing side. Such an attack can be done only, if attacked unit has a lower strength. This means, that victory is at this point certain and there can be no talk of a duel. The defeated monster goes into exile (in a bag), but also winner gets points corresponding to its power, marking it on his point track. For a successful attack done on the opponents half of the board, there are some bonus points as a reward.The game continues until the moment, when one party earns ten victory points.

Roots of Mali is pure duel game, that uses dice, but only for their convenient form. It allows the units to be easily upgraded in action. It is here, where the emphasis on tacticity shows as well as ability of players to predict each other turns.

Purebred abstract game is enriched by the contrived fantasy element, and generally it offers (for an otherwise strictly logic entertainment) a welcoming atmosphere. Among basis for all the fun are also special abilities, that distinguish characters and make the game stand out. Now this feature distinguishes it from other quite interchangeable abstract games.


But every turn brings with it only one action point, and it’s so tremendously valuable for you. It is not easy to decide, how to spend it. This gives the game a really thoughtful impression and with it, of course also relates length of each turn. Fortunately, this does not have some influence on overal length, so it is possible to usually reach the end in twenty minutes. When we started playing this game, we got a little bit worried about completion time, but the game convinced us otherwise.

Individual matches are variable, because players move units in a chess-like motion, but also can choose different tactics for the beginning by distribution of different units. Additionally, now there’s a big chance for further expansions. And the possibility of this is shown by Light of Dragons, which we have not discussed yet. Units are interesting again, offering unique and new tactics, that can be used in the fight for the victory always in some clever way.

We were truly surprised, how much an abstract game can be fun to play. Roots of Mali are thus beautiful and surprisingly quick entertainment, which may look like a fantasy, but it is pure abstract battle between two players. And yet, i tis still something more. Although impression is slightly damaged by individual turns length (analysis-paralysis), but everything is compensated with unique skills of monsters and chance to think outside your turn. Players can even change their units by upgrading them during the game. Roots of Mali has a very pleasant tactical depth, great feel and while being thoughtful, it retains even some story and theme. Bravo!

DesignerAdrian Bolla, Bujar Haskaj
ArtistMalte J. Zirbel
Year Published2016
# of Players2 - 2
User Suggested # of Players Best with 2 players
Recommended with players
(1 voters)
Playing Time30
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(1 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(1 voters)
CategoryDice, Fantasy
MechanicArea Movement, Grid Movement, Player Elimination
ExpansionDiceWar: Knights of Steel
FamilyComponents: Dice with Icons, Crowdfunding: Kickstarter, Players: Two Player Only Games
Primary NameRoots of Mali

Infos courtesy of More Infos.


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