The back story is that nefarious Marquise (cats) have seized the great woodland, intent on harvesting its riches. Under her rule, the many creatures of the forest have banded together. You can play the Marquise (cats), the Alliance (fox and mice) rebels building power underground, the proud Eyrie (birds) and their new commander or the single Vagabond (racoon).
Each side ultimately progresses by winning fights by rolling two dice, but how they work around this is significantly different. Depending on the faction you are playing, you have different options and play styles. Not only that but what you are trying to accomplish is different. It's truly asymmetrical, in that each player is using different interactions that represent the opportunities and challenges of their faction:
- The Marquise harvests resources and builds workshops, lumber mills, and barracks to bolster their already large army. They win by building new buildings and crafts.
- The Eyrie start in one corner and work to muster their hawks, and deal with political in-fighting, to capture as much territory as possible and build roosts.
- The Alliance hides in the shadows, recruiting forces, setting traps and establishing headquarters. They are sparse to start with by growing in power if they manage to keep the other players in check.
- The Vagabond is one fox army that explores the board, fights other factions, and works on their secret goal.
Root leans into this by not holding back on variety, but at the same time, it's aware this is an effort to keep track of. It helps you understand things with very clear instructions and faction overviews that provide all you need to know. There are even cards with notes on what other factions are up to.
Most importantly, the effort you put into understanding the game is rewarded. Not only is the game well balanced so that each faction has a real chance of winning by their different means, but the encounters and development of the world feel like you are playing inside a fantasy novel (or maybe a more combative Wind in the Willows or Narnia).
The result is a game that's not for everyone. It's complicated and it needs an enthusiastic group to play it. The joy is the novelty of the system you see unfold and the part you play in making it work. There can be runaway winners and there can be players who never get the momentum their faction needs.
Still, the quality of the pieces and the beauty of the art make it an experience that really fires the imagination. This is accentuated by the winter side of the board that offers a different map. Also, the Riverfolk expansion adds more factions, a second Vagabond player and a computer player so you can play on your own.
- The Lizard Cult (lizards) are an alternative to the Alliance who build gardens that eventually summon a dragon.
- The Riverfolk Company (beavers) set prices for their boats and mercenaries that can be hired by other players at the cost of their fighters.
Our examiner, Andy Robertson, first checked Root 22 months ago. It was re-examined by Jo Robertson and updated 5 days ago.
You can play this game in the following styles:
This is a game where someone needs to have invested considerable time understanding the systems so they can help others get started. The Geek and Sundry Root introduction video are worth watching. Then during the first play, some guidance is needed to ensure that one player doesn't get too far ahead.
There is a digital version of Root you can buy separately. This is an easier (but more costly) way to understand the rules and also gives you another way to play. Younger players can learn like this, and then join the physical board game with ready knowledge.
Play Time: This game will take between 1 hour and 1 and a half hours to complete.
12+ year-olds usually have the required skill to enjoy this game. You need to be able to deal with complex rules. Also, because the rules are different for each faction, you need to learn these fresh each time you play. For children with the right skills, this is a game that can fire the imagination (provided there is an older player who can help them with it).
Content RatingWe rate this suitable for 7+ years-olds.
There are expansions for the gam you can buy:
- Root: Landmarks Pack (2022)
- Root: Marauder Hirelings Pack & Hireling Box (2022)
- Root: Riverfolk Hirelings Pack (2022)
- Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 (2022)
- Root: The Marauder Expansion (2022)
- Root: Underworld Hirelings Pack (2022)
- Root: The Clockwork Expansion (2020)
- Root: The Exiles and Partisans Deck (2020)
- Root: The Underworld Expansion (2020)
- Root: The Vagabond Pack (2020)
- Root: The Riverfolk Expansion (2018)
Release Date: 01/01/2018, updated in 2022
Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds
Genres: Strategy (Battle, Collecting, Narrative, Role-Play, Sequencing, Traversal and World Building)
Components: Board, Cards, Dice, Figures, Placeables and Tokens