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The Hirelings Box

The Hirelings

The Hirelings

Say Hi To The Hirelings

Since its introduction in 2018, Cole Wehrle’s asymmetric woodland wargame has gone from strength to strength. Illustrated beautifully by Kyle Ferrin, and published by Leder Games, Root has already dug its paws into the BGG top 30. The Hirelings shouldn’t fall too far from this tree.

So far, there have been three major expansions offering ten factions, as well as alternate decks and maps to switch up the gameplay. These include The Riverfolk Expansion, The Underworld Expansion and The Clockwork Expansion. If you are new to the game, then I recommend checking out this review to the base game before continuing.

The game is now so loved that there are online tournaments and fan made maps and factions galore. Dire Wolf Digital also recently released their digital implementation. But there has always been one major criticism, it doesn’t play well at lower player counts. Now, say hi to the ‘Hirelings’.

The Hirelings lend their services to the faction in the lead, attracted by promises of fame and glory, but grow dissatisfied as the conflict drags and eventually change allegiance to a new patron.

Root is wonderfully thematic and this introduction of mercenaries that you can hire depending on how much influence you carry with them, is (to quote the Marquise de Cat) purrfect.

Hiring And Firing

So who does it work? No matter what the player count, three Hireings will be selected. Each character has a promoted and a demoted side. When promoted it will offer pieces on the board whereas demoted will not. This system means that at higher player counts you will only use one promoted hireling as the map will be busy enough. But, at lower player counts all three can be promoted filling the map with interesting and varied obstacles to interact with.

At three stages in the game, when a player first gets 4, 8 or 12 points, they will select a Hirling and roll the influence dice. Depending on whether that player is in the lead or not will dictate how many contracts you might get with that hireling. With players in the lead getting less time than lose falling behind it creates a great catch up mechanism.

The most interesting element of this is that, at the end of your contract, you decide who next gets to take that specific hirling. Werhle has often talked about ‘king making’ and his fascination with the meta game that goes along with a game like Root and this new mechanism pushes the players to form and break alliances, constantly changing the game state.

Root isn’t for everyone, but if you are the type of gamer who loves it, then the Hirelings really offer more of the same type of bombastic gaming you will be after. With thirteen Hirelings available over four different packs, let’s look at what’s on offer and which one may be the best for you.

The Hirelings Image

The Marauder Expansion

The first set worth exploring is the base game collection that comes with the new Marauders expansion.

In the box you will get four hirlings, each from one of the original factions. Starting the cats, also called the Forrest Patrol, when promoted they work very much like the Marquise de Cat placing a meeple on every clearing. Hands down this is the best Hireling for lower player counts. The Patrol allows you to march and battle right across the board, but these allegiances change all the time offering an interesting push and pull in a two player game.

When demoted, their offer the Field Hospital ability and so the player can spend a card to save any of their warriors lost in battle. The Last Dynasty takes the Eyrie role of ruling when tied, when demoted. When on the promoted side they create a pocket of five warriors than can move and battle creating devastation turn after turn.

The Woodland Alliance’s Spring Uprising is a much more random effect essentially causing revolts in random dice rolled clearings. This can really powerful but with the lack of control it is also incredibly unreliable.

However it’s demoted side allows you to access Guerrilla Warfare, meaning you take the higher dice roll when defending in battle, a really powerful effect! Perhaps the most interesting Hireling here is the Vagabond, known when promoted as The Exile. This giant meeple of a bear moves from forest to forest attacking adjacent enemies. They also allow you to trade items for points. This is a brilliant way to give players something to do with their items when the Vagabond faction isn’t in play.

The Hirelings Image 3

The Riverfolk And Underworld Hirelings Packs

The next options come as two little tuck boxes, each with three Hirelings. The Riverfolk pack introduces the otters’ Riverfolk Flotilla, a large meeple that moves along the river battling as is goes. This powerful pawn really makes a difference at 3 or 4 players but at only 2, you can simply avoid the riverside clearings giving them very little to do.

When demoted you can treat rivers as roads, something that can be very useful, however with craftable cards that offer the same power, it really places this faction on the bottom of the pile. However, the lizards’ Warm Sun Prophets allow you to move enemy pieces from clearings, giving an interesting level of control when it comes to rule. And when demoted, you can search the top of the discard deck and take one card from the dominant suit.

The cult has always been a favourite of mine and this Hireling faction of cultists is just as great. Also in each tuck box you get a completely new character/faction and here, are the Highway Bandits. They stay on the roads, never entering clearings, instead killing anyone who tries to pass by. These pink little wooden hedgehogs are adorable but my do they pack a punch on a busier board!

The Underworld Tuck Box gives us the moles’ Sunward Expedition, allowing them to pop up and battle anywhere on the board. Much like the Underground Duchee this is a powerful alliance to have. Their demoted side lets you reveal crafting cards rather than discarding. This might not sound like a lot but in a game when cards are hard to get, this really makes a difference. Continuing the theme of cards, the Corvid Spies allow you to steal cards from other players as well as pop up and battle without warning.

Unlike any other pairing, these two feel the most similar and can’t imagine a game where both would be necessary. However, this pack also brings with it the giant stag meeple that is the Stoic Protector.

One of my favourite Hirelings, this monster of a meeple moves around removing warriors of every faction, including its controller. It also blocks any enemy pieces from being placed in that clearing that round. Even when demoted it stands strong and stops enemies from attacking its controller.

The Marauder Hirelings Box

Finally, is the one box to hold them all. This final collection of three comes in a larger box designed to hold all the Hirelings.

Unsurprisngly this box art is beautifully illustrated once again by Ferrin. Inside we get the badgers’ Vault Keepers. These knights place vaults around the board allowing them to battle or recruit each turn. This, in the mix of other factions isn’t incredibly unique. But, when demoted they offer you armour allowing you to deflect the first hit in battle, much more interesting! The rats’ Flame Bearers come in a little stronger, torching enemy pieces wherever they go.

Even when demoted they are aggressive, allowing you to discard a card to take another move and battle action. Saving the best to last, welcome the Street Band. The most overpowered but thematically wonderful faction. As a band they attract warriors from surrounding clearings and trap them there, unable to move. Every time I have played with these, they make me smile, and that is where the Hirelings shine.

The Hirelings Image 2

Hedgehogs, Deers And Bears Oh My

Each Hireling offers something interesting. But in each pack there are inevitably stronger and weaker offerings. The key thing to remember is that you cannot use hirelings connected to factions used in that game.

If you only ever play with the Lizards, then the Riverfolk Pack probably won’t offer you enough variety. Overall, the Hirelings are a fantastic way of adding a little sprinkle of much loved factions into any game, but the ones that really shine are the unique new critters. If in doubt, get one of the cheaper tuck box packs and give them a go. The woodland will never be the same again!