Review – Root: Hirelings and Landmarks Expansions
Spice up 2 and 3 player games!
|Nick Brachmann, Patrick Leder, Cole Wehrle, Joshua Yearsley
Fans of Root have often lamented that the beloved asymmetric, strategic chaos doesn’t come through as strongly in games with only 2 or 3 players. Enter hirelings, which can be added to any game, but are designed with the 4 or less player games in mind.
Hirelings act like NPCs that players can add to Root to give games at lower player counts more diversity and interaction. They’re a lot less complicated than the bots from the Clockwork expansions, but they’re also not as deep and rely heavily on strategic player control to work well. At 2-3 players, hirelings add a fun amount of chaos and additional abilities that makes the 4-player game so fun, but playing with hirelings with any more than 4 players makes Root feel unnecessarily convoluted.
Hirelings are gained by players throughout a game of Root. When a player hits 4, 8, and 12 points, that player will get to choose 1 of the 3 available hirelings. Hirelings will change allegiances, and will generally be in control of weaker players more often (though winning players gain them first), so they act as a fair but not overpowered catch-up mechanism. All hirelings have 2 sides: 1 side is their promoted side (most powerful side), which includes their wooden meeples, and the other side is the demoted (weaker) version, which usually gives its controller a specific buff. The promoted sides are more fun, but should only be played at lower player counts.
This review will include all hireling content (excluding that found in Root: Marauders), and I’ll put a score at the end of each blurb. I’ll also not be reviewing the components or art because they’re both fantastic, as per Leder Games’ standard.
I also tacked on a review of Root: Landmarks Pack at the end of this article because I didn’t know where else to put it.
Marauder Hireling Pack & Hirelings
This pack includes the badger hirelings, the rat hirelings, and fox hirelings. For the badgers, the Vault Keepers allow you to battle in clearings with vaults, and Badger Bodyguards allow you to ignore the first hit in battle. For the rats, the Flame Bearers allow you to place flame bearers around the map and force you to remove warriors from clearings with flame bearers, and the Rat Smugglers allow you to battle or move if you discard an item. For the foxes, the Popular Band allows you to force enemy movement and keeps enemies from moving through clearings, and the Secret Band allows you to perform the latter part of the Popular Band’s abilities.
These hirelings represent their factions well. Regardless of who controls them, the badgers will end up protecting their vaults, and the rats will end up burning everyone in sight to the ground. Controlling players must be careful when choosing where to put vaults and flame bearers, mindful that the hirelings will eventually be under an opponent’s control. The foxes are fine for helping put together blockades, but their usefulness is situationally-driven.
The standout component here is the thick, full-color box. All the hireling content Leder Games has made can fit in here, which makes it an ideal storage solution because if you’re playing a game with hirelings, you can grab this box and have all the content you could want. My only complaint is that you can’t fit the other hireling boxes in here, which seems like a missed opportunity from Leder Games.
This is a good place to start, and I really like that the badgers and rats feel like they have a mind of their own. These are hirelings, after all, not robotic, order-following warriors!
Riverfolk Hireling Pack
This pack includes the lizard hirelings, the otter hirelings, and porcupine hirelings. For the lizards, the Warm Sun Prophets allow you to place lizards who can force movement and battles, and the Lizard Envoys allow you to search the top 5 cards of the discard pile. For the otters, the Riverfolk Flotilla gives players in its location a card and allows you to move it and do battle, and the Otter Divers allows you to ignore clearing rule when moving to or from a clearing on the river. For the porcupines, Highway Bandits are placed on the roads between clearings and force players to remove a warrior when they move along the path, but allow you to gain 1, and the Bandit Gangs allow you to build up warriors quickly.
This is the most exciting hireling pack (and I’m not just talking about the awesome raft for the otters). The lizards and otters both have stellar promoted abilities and the porcupines have great abilities all around, which makes this pack ideal for a 2-player game. The Highway Bandits side is especially unique, making use of the trails connecting each clearing. I prefer the Riverfolk Flotilla to the Riverfolk Robots from Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 because they’re way less upkeep and you still get the interaction of gaining cards (although it’s admittedly shallower). However, the bummer here is that the lizard’s and otters’ demoted sides aren’t that interesting.
Underworld Hireling Pack
This pack includes the mole hirelings, the corvid hirelings, and an antlered hireling. For the moles, the Sunward Expedition allows you to move its warriors in a clearing with no footholds and battle, and the Mole Artisans allow you to reveal instead of discarding cards you craft. For the corvids, the Corvid Spies allow you to battle in their clearings or steal cards from enemy players, and the Raven Sentries allow you to deal an extra hit in clearings where you have a building. For the antlered hireling, the Furious Protector limits opponents’ movement in clearings and allows you to destroy enemy warriors in clearings it moves into, and the Stoic Protector keeps enemies from battling you in the clearing it is in.
This is a high-interaction pack, and I’m a big fan of using the hirelings to battle and steal opponents’ cards. The Protector is the most game-changing hireling here, and he resembles the bear from Root: Marauders, so he doesn’t feel as fresh, but this is an all-around solid pack. Nothing super exciting, but there’s also no bad abilities here either.
This pack includes 4 wooden landmarks and 6 landmark cards for use in any game. You can use 1 or 2 landmarks in games of Root. Of the 6 landmark cards, 2 allow you to use the tower and ferry from Root: The Underworld Expansion in any game on any map. The other 4 landmarks are as follows: the Elder Treetop, which is placed in a corner clearing and allows for an additional building to be built on it, gives a player destroying the building on the Elder Treetop an additional victory point; the Lost City, which makes its clearing count as a fox, mouse, and rabbit suite; the Black Market, which allows players to swap a card from their hand with 1 of the 3 facedown cards in the black market; and the Legendary Forge, which stores a few legendary items on it and grants bonus victory points to the player who crafts its items.
Root: Landmarks Pack is a nice seasoning on an already-great game. Do you need it? No, but it does add some fun to the game. The Black Market can get especially spicy, depending on what kinds of cards players end up throwing down. Some of these landmarks won’t be used much (I find the Lost City particularly underwhelming), but they’re all easy to add into a game. The Elder Treetop especially should be a staple in games with higher player counts because building spaces are sparse enough.
The Bottom Line
Hirelings are recommended for 2 and 3-player games of Root. You don't need all of them, but none of them are bad.