Root Board Game Strategy [For Beginners]

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Root has taken the board gaming world by storm, earning 4 Golden Geeks and an International Gamers Award for its unique, engaging design. It has distinguished itself by taking the concept of asymmetrical balance to a new level, granting each of the game’s four basic factions their own distinct goals, rules, and mechanics. But, this feature also steepens the game’s learning curve.

The key for a successful Root Board Game strategy is to have an understanding of each faction, your enemies, as well as your own.

Leder Games Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right, Adventure and War Board Game for 2 - 4 Players

Root Board Game Strategy

Marquise de Cat

For my first game, I was immediately drawn to the cats. Adorable and vicious. How could cats lose to a bunch of birds and rodents?

I got the last place.

While starting with the most territory seems like a great advantage, you’ll find that it paints a target on your back. Both the Eyrie Dynasties and the Woodland Alliance are unlikely to negotiate with you unless you’re nearing the end of a game, and you need to work with one of them to keep the other in check.

After getting some more experience, I found some points to focus on when playing with or against the feline empire:

  • The best corner to place your keep is the one with the most build sites. Having a sawmill and workshop in the same clearing as your keep ensures that you will have a source of wood and crafting that won’t be snatched by a revolt or surprise attack.
  • Putting a recruiter in your keep clearing is unnecessary in most scenarios. A better choice is to place recruiters in the clearings around your keep as a “shell” defense.
  • If you plan on concentrating a lot of warriors in one clearing, save a card in hand that matches its suit in case you need to use your Field Hospitals’ ability.
  • Wood production is the focal point for a conventional victory. Spending cards early in the game to gain extra build actions or to overwork your sawmills will pay off in the long run. If you’re fighting against the Marquise, their sawmills should be your primary targets.
  • The Marquise can stay on the Vagabond’s good side by crafting them items and letting them clear ruins in your territory unperturbed. Your thinly-spread army will make for easy target practice if they decide to be hostile towards you.

Eyrie Dynasties

The Eyrie manages to strike a balance between finesse and raw power by recruiting, moving, battling, and building through their Decree. Depending on how the player builds and follows their Decree, this faction can either soar ahead with incredible momentum or come crashing to a halt.

Careful consideration is needed to control this dynamic character:

  • The safest Decree category to invest your cards is in “Move,” as you can shuffle around a warrior with little consequences.
  • Be careful with how you fill the “Recruit” category. Putting a Fox, Mouse, or Rabbit card here can be effective if you have a strong roost that matches suit, but this can also make this roost a target for other players. Also, be mindful of the 20 warrior limit.
  • Keep the “Battle” category down to one or two cards, unless you’ve invested a lot in “Recruit” and you need to thin your numbers to make enough recruits available.
  • In most scenarios, the “Build” part of the Decree should be occupied by a single Bird card. A Fox, Mouse, or Rabbit card here will be hard to fulfill turn after turn. Placing more than one “Build” card can be workable if the Decree has developed a while, and the other categories are filling up; a player at this stage will be gaining and losing territory often.
  • The Eyrie is arguably the best-suited faction for trying a Dominance victory. The loss of victory points from an unfulfilled Decree will be inconsequential once the Dominance card is activated, so a player using this method can build their Decree more ambitiously.

Woodland fantasy illustration

Woodland Alliance

The woodland critters unite, subtly gaining supporters in the shadows until they’re ready to revolt. While the Alliance might seem like a minor nuisance (or an unassuming ally) to the other players at first, they can gain a commanding late-game presence if left unchecked.

Their greatest asset is being able to profit off of the aggression of others. The Alliance always gets the higher dice roll on defense, and they gain more supporters when enemy warriors attack or move through sympathetic clearings.

Pay attention to these factors to wield the Alliance’s subversive power before your rebellion is squashed:

  • Place your Sympathies in high-conflict areas or clearings that have a lot of pathways to other clearings. This will earn you a reliable supply of supporters.
  • Before you have a base built, try to have three cards that match suit in your supporter’s deck. This will allow you to place a Sympathy and revolt in the same turn.
  • Try to plant your revolts in clearings with enemy buildings so you can earn extra victory points.
  • You have no limit on your supporter’s deck after you build a base, so load it up!
  • Try not to move all your crafting cards from your hand to your supporter’s deck, though. Your Sympathies are your workshops; crafting orders can be easy to fulfill because you don’t need to rule a clearing to place a Sympathy. This can generate a stream of victory points and items to trade with the Vagabond.

The Vagabond

Rounding out the four basic factions is the Vagabond, a character who can play all sides without raising an army. By exploring, completing quests, and choosing to either aid or strike the other factions, the Vagabond provides a unique experience that allows for varied styles of gameplay.

Crucial decisions you make both in-game and during setup will influence how you make your particular style succeed:

  • The Ranger character is designed to attack other players and repair items after battle. The Marquise make for easy targets at the beginning of the game, but your relationship with them may become inconsistent if they craft items you need. In my game as the Ranger, I aided the Marquise for a sword and a crossbow then turned around and used those items to destroy them!
  • The Thief is the most well-rounded out of the basic Vagabond character cards, which makes your actions less predictable to the other players. You can steal cards from players without becoming hostile, allowing you to keep your allies in check.
  • The Tinker is geared for players who want to focus on collecting items and helping other factions. They start without any weapons, and their Day Labor ability will get you a card in the suit you need to aid a player in your clearing.
  • Putting too much trust in the Tinker can be deadly for other players, though. As the only Vagabond who can accumulate three hammers, the Tinker can activate the Favor of the Foxes, Mice, or Rabbits cards. Wiping out all enemy tokens in four clearings can change the game!
  • If you’re lagging, a coalition may be your last chance at victory. You form a coalition with the player in last place so you might have the best luck with the Woodland Alliance because of their late-game emergence.

Overview

Always remember that the primary goal with a conventional victory is to earn 30 victory points. You don’t need to dominate the board or wipe out the opposing players; having healthy competition often plays in your favor. Anybody can gain an unexpected burst of victory points or activate a Dominance card, so don’t focus all your attention and effort on the perceived front runner.

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The most valuable information to know is the personalities and tendencies of the friends you play with. Who will wield their power aggressively? Who will be more reserved and defensive? Do they make decisions on impulse, or do they hatch strategies that come to fruition turns later? Your story of woodland conflict will be shaped by the characters you choose to share it with!

I hope that this article helps you master the core game before you move on to the expansions!

Root: The Underworld Expansion
An expansion for Root that adds two more factions - the Moles and the Crows.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which faction is the easiest to learn for a starting player?

The order that the factions are presented in this article goes from easiest to hardest. The Marquise and Eyrie work through the build-recruit-move-attack mechanics typically found in strategy war games. Putting a twist on this standard, the Woodland Alliance requires the player to work as a tactical, scheming underdog. The Vagabond offers the most customization while demanding the most attention to detail.

How do the expansions improve the game?

The two expansions that offer the most drastic changes are the Riverfolk Expansion and the Underworld Expansion. Get the Riverfolk Expansion to play as the mercantile Riverfolk otter faction or plot as the Lizard Cultists, or add a second Vagabond, or gain the choice to face an automated enemy. The Underworld Expansion gives you the Underworld Duchy and Corvid Conspiracy factions, as well as two new maps. 

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD MRACI CChem
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Last update on 2020-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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