Review – Root: The Marauder Expansion

Cluny the Scourge has arrived in Root!!

Root-Marauder-Box_1280x

 

Designer Patrick Leder, Nick Brachmann, Cole Wehrle, Joshua Yearsley

Artist Kyle Ferrin

Publisher Leder Games

Category Area-Control

Length 45-120min

Release Date 2022

Player Count 1-6

Root is an all-timer. It’s in the top 30 on Board Game Geek, it’s received many worthwhile expansions, and it has its own plushies. However, if there was a weak spot in Root, it would be the 2-player game. Root: The Marauder Expansion aims to strengthen that weak point with 2 high-reach factions and 4 hirelings, which function as NPCs players can interact with (but not the full-fledged bots of The Clockwork Expansion). 

So, does The Marauder Expansion add to the 2-player game as it promises? Does it add to the overall Root experience? Let’s find out. 

Review

The Marauder Expansion introduces 2 new factions, the rat Lord of the Hundreds and the badger Keepers in Iron, and 4 new hirelings, each an alternate version of the base game’s 4 factions. 

Lord of the Hundreds dutifully fills the came-saw-conquered void in the Root factions. As the Lord of the Hundreds, you will be attacking and removing enemy pieces from clearings, inciting mobs, looting opponents’ crafted tokens, and managing your leaders’ mood swings. Lord of the Hundreds are medium in complexity, but their goal is simple: rule clearings with no enemy pieces. 

What makes Lord of the Hundreds such a great void-filling faction is that they can interact with ruins and items, much like the Vagabond. This can occasionally create balancing problems when the rats and the racoon are both in a game because sometimes there aren’t enough items to go around, which leaves both Lord of the Hundreds and Vagabond weaker than usual. However, this is the only drawback, and it’s not such an imbalance that experienced players can’t overcome it. 

The leader is the one with the flag and a bad attitude.

Similar to Eyrie Dynasty, Lord of the Hundreds has a leader with special abilities, but the rats’ leader is moody, and must change moods each turn. Moreover, as the rats become more powerful, there are less moods available to the leader. Lord of the Hundreds are a lot of fun and, if you’re wanting to play Root like you would Risk, this is as close as you’re going to get. As such, Lord of the Hundreds can be a good faction to start newer players with.

Short aside: As a fan of Brian Jacques’s Redwall series, it is a joy to see Cluny the Scourge manifested into Root as Lord of the Hundreds. The craving for utter destruction, the mood swings, the looting, it’s all so fun by itself, but especially enjoyable as a Redwall fan. 

Keepers in Iron are essentially a group of relic-diving badgers. I kept thinking of Indiana Jones and the FreeMasons from National Treasure while I was playing these guys, which is at least partially valid. They’re honorable and noble, delving into forests to recover their lost, point-scoring heirlooms, although I don’t think they’ll be donating to any museums when the battle’s over. 

The badgers’ lore says they’re devout knights of an exiled order, and it certainly feels like that while playing with them. You’ll have to set up camps and relic stations so you can relic-dive into forests while fending off foes, then pack up the tents and do it all over again in a different part of the map. Keepers in Iron are a lot of fun, but they can be occasionally frustrating to play as against a highly aggressive faction or player because it feels like you can’t get anything going. 

While I don’t think the badgers are terrible in a 2-player game, it can be difficult to win with them because they’re so relic-based. They’re a lot of fun, and there’s some great 1v1 matchup opportunities, but I think the badgers shine in a 3 or more player game where they receive a little less attention from opponents. 

Beware the bear!

The hirelings are fairly simple, which is a great thing. You can play with up to 3 hirelings, which represent alternate versions of the factions from the base game (great lore move there). If you’re playing with 3 hirelings, the player who gets to 4, 8, and 12 points gets to choose a hireling to be on their team. However, hirelings change alliances quickly. To determine how long you get to keep a hireling, you’ll roll a dice, and that’s how many turns you get the hireling for. A great soft catch-up mechanic the designers threw in here is, due to the different colored pips on the dice faces, a player who is losing is more likely to have a hireling for more turns than a player who is winning. Moreover, whenever you lose a hireling, you get to choose who they go to.

The hireling cards each have 2 sides to them: 1 side uses the meeples, and the other side basically grants a special power to the hireling’s controller, but does not give the owner control over the meeples. On the special powers side, Feline Physicians grant their owner Marquise de Cat’s field hospital, Bluebird Nobles grant their owner Eyrie Dynasty’s Lords of the Forest (rule tied clearings) and scores their owner 1 point per 3 clearings they rule, Rabbit Scouts grant their owner Guerilla Warfare, and The Brigand grants its owner the ability to take items from ruins and steal cards from other players. On the meeple side, Forest Patrol and Last Dynasty let you control their meeples and battle opponents; Spring Uprising allows their hirer to co-dictate with a dice roll where the uprisings happen, or disband an uprising that already happened; and the Exile is a giant bear that roams the forests (not the clearings) at the whim of its owner and beats the daylights out of the hirer’s enemies. 

There’s a lot of gameplay options there, and some hirelings are definitely more exciting than others. However, they’re all useful. So as to not disrupt continuity, if a faction is present, their hirelings can’t be used. So if someone is the Vagabond, that bear is going to have to stay in hibernation.   

I feel like a broken record talking about Leder Games’ artwork and components, so I’ll paraphrase Billy Currington: “God is great, Leder Games’ artwork and components are good, and people are crazy.” The point is: they’re still some of the best out there! The hireling meeples are a lot of fun and a welcome alteration of the factions they represent: a giant bear instead of a racoon, band-aided cats, rabbits instead of mice, and black-eyed eyrie. The art for the leader of Lord of the Hundreds is nefarious, which is a great juxtaposition to the generally cute rat meeples.

The Marauder’s Expansion also includes an advanced (yet still streamlined) setup. This is nice and random, while still largely sticking to the reach mechanic in the charts. The way the designers set this up is by classifying each faction as a militant (Marquise de Cat, Lord of the Hundreds, etc.) or insurgent (Woodland Alliance, Lizard Cult, etc.) faction. The classification helps ensure you’re not playing a 3-player game with Corvid Conspiracy, Lizard Cult, and Woodland Alliance, but it also allows for some fun combinations that aren’t recommended in the reach charts. 

The hirelings are good, their meeples are cute, and they can help spice up any game, especially those at lower player counts, although using more than 2 in a 2-player game feels like too much. However, the real stars of the show here are the 2 new factions, and boy are they fun. They bring more diversity to the Root lineup while remaining consistent with the familiar Root gameplay. Both function very well in a 2-player game and a 3+ player game (though Keepers in Iron shine even brighter at higher player counts), which is why this is such a great expansion for Root

It’s tough to say what the best expansion for Root is, unless you’re playing it solo (see Root: The Clockwork Expansion). If I had to choose just one expansion, I’d have to go with this one. It adds 2 factions you can use in any game, some hirelings you can use in almost any game, and includes a nice, streamlined setup for faction-selection. 

Leder Games kindly provided a review copy. 

The Bottom Line

My favorite expansion for Root thus far, especially for 1v1 games.

 

9

Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner. Twitter: @spencerspen_sir