Since its release in 2018, Root has enjoyed roaring success, and the four base factions have been joined by a near army of playable woodland critters. The latest in this long line of new additions is the Marauder Expansion, featuring two new factions aimed at two-player games. Alongside these new factions come the Hirelings, a selection of mercenary minions that help bulk up two-player games and can give even the most seasoned player a run for their money.
Joining the Root family are the Keepers in Iron and the Lord of the Hundreds. As with the other Root factions, these have their own unique goals and mechanisms that will drive them to victory. The Lord of the Hundreds is a powerful, warring tribe of rats led by the Warlord, a special meeple who touts a war standard. These wrathful rodents thrive on oppressing clearings and score points based on the number of clearings they are in where there are no enemy pieces.
The Warlord is a fickle being, and at each turn his mood will change, granting a new ability. As they expand their empire, the Lord of the Hundreds can place Mob tokens. These act in a similar way to the Woodland Alliance's Sympathy but will raze everything to the ground. These can be dangerous to opponents and incredibly useful for the rats, as they can use them to collect items from ruins. The Lord of the Hundreds uses items to fill up the horde, which in turn grants them extra actions.
As the horde grows, the Warlord's mood must adapt. All but one of the mood cards are associated with one of the items. If that item is in the horde, then that mood card cannot be played. This is a nice touch to the Lord of the Hundreds as they grow more powerful and gain more actions.
The Lord of the Hundreds is a fantastic addition to the family and works brilliantly at two players. The faction's desire for destruction makes them a fierce opponent and they can quickly wrack up victory points if left unchecked. The Lord of the Hundreds are by far the most aggressive of the Root factions and in each turn they will be battling, expanding, and razing. I enjoyed this new-found aggression as it encourages players to experiment with a more combative style of play. With the Warlord's ever-changing mood, playing as the Lord of the Hundreds was a fun and more engaging experience than I was used to.
The Tale Of Mr Tod
The Keepers in Iron take a much less frenzied approach to gameplay than their rodent counterparts. These armoured badgers are roaming the Woodland looking for relics to retrieve and cash in at waystations, which can be set up and dismantled repeatedly across the board. The Keepers in Iron will use cards to Delve to retrieve these relics, bringing them into their clearing and turning it over to reveal the number on them.
The Keepers will need to control the number of clearings adjacent to the wood to claim it. As their relics are scattered across the board, the Keepers in Iron will be exploring deep into occupied territory and can really scupper the Lord of the Hundred's plans by setting up camp in their clearings. These bold badgers use their Retinue to dictate which actions they may take each turn. Unlike the Eyrie Dynasty's Decree, however, the Keepers' Retinue doesn't need to be followed to the letter, allowing for some more freedom in the actions they take.
The Keepers bring something completely new to Root. The relics scattered across the board mean the Keepers must be quick and bold and encourages them to interact with the other factions on the board. They are wonderfully thematic, and the ability to encamp and decamp each turn fits beautifully with the backstory built for them. This new faction took a little more getting used to than the Lord of the Hundreds as there are a lot more steps to gain victory points than in other factions. The Keepers require a gentler hand than the rats, but they work fantastically at two players, but provide a fantastic challenge.
Factions For Hire
The Marauder expansion also brings with it the Hirelings. These are pared down versions of the four base factions and each has unique set up instructions. Hirelings provide a bonus power to whichever player controls them but are careful as they can be quick to change and can desert you to join forces with your opponent. Initial control of the Hirelings is decided by who reaches a certain points threshold first.
This player then rolls a die to determine how many rounds they control that Hireling and after that they revert to another player. These really flesh out two-player games as they add an unstable element into play. Each faction has a promoted and demoted side, with the former having an on-board presence and the latter providing an additional perk to the player who controls it. However, they aren't massively necessary at higher player counts as there is already plenty going on without them and using them risks tipping gameplay into feeling more overwhelming than enjoyable.
Even though the game recommends using only the demoted side for high-player count games, they are still best at two players where they can be used to their fullest. The Hirelings are a fantastic addition, and Leder Games even released a box of more Hirelings, including totally new factions.
The Marauder Expansion is what many Root fans have been wanting for a very long time: a set of meaty factions suitable for two-players. Also as usual, Kyle Ferrin's art is superb and every component, from the faction boards to the meeples is stunning. The Keepers in Iron and the Lord of the Hundreds have plenty for you to sink your teeth into and bring something new to the table. Along with these, the Hirelings can bulk up to play, even with other factions and add a new twist to the standard gameplay. While two-player games were possible with the Clockwork Expansion and a limited set of three previous factions, the Marauder Expansion introduces two new factions specially designed for two players.