Root – big player count guide!

Ah the chaos of six or seven players in a single game of Root, the chaos is too good to pass up if you get the chance, even if Root was not really built for this many players. Just like Blood Rage: slipping in that 7th faction into the box begging to be played with TOO MANY players, Root has seven factions with the base set and expansions…so far.

While six player Root is insane, the core issues with the game at seven, with two vagabonds, is that space runs out really fast for area control factions (Cats, Birds, Moles), the crafting items run out really fast and double-vagabonds cause tons of chaos on the board with few repercussions to themselves if the other factions are fighting like crazy. While this may seem to give the vagabonds the win every time, in my experience, they end up in second or third place instead.

Who’s absolutely not winning big games are the area control factions. Cats have a rough time in every game due to very slow scoring and the huge risk a playing a dominance card entails with this many players– it’s nearly impossible to catch everyone out of position at the same time in order to pull one off. Birds need to expand and control, and the latter is nearly impossible with seven factions, many of whom will be constantly bombing off your big armies and roosts or co-exist-blocking your control/movement so you get that extra collapse you didn’t plan for. Moles can burst up wherever at first, but then they too get into the area control game in order to score points and not have their parliament destroyed (which it will). This is a small strategy guide for the area control factions with 7 (and maybe 8 and 9 players soon…).

Communication. With an experienced group, you could pull it off with the Cats, Moles or Birds, but you must work together from turn 1 enough to stop the other factions. New and even intermediate players don’t really talk enough and make plans, and that’s a mistake in this large of a game. You need to be constantly talking about everything all the non-area control factions are doing because it’s not always obvious, and certainly not as obvious as a piles of cats in two corners of the board, the spread of the birds, or the initial Mole’splosion.

I’m still learning the strategy of Root, but compared to any normal person, after nearly 40 games and quite a few big ones, I know everything. Below are some non-faction specific tips for the area-control factions. You better know your faction’s path to scoring well going into one of these big games (or not, it will still be fun), so I won’t go into that here.

  • Agree to attack the Vagabonds every turn possible: with 2 on the board, itwill be very tricky to hammer both down so they don’t insta-win. Two Vagabonds is the striking difference in seven player vs. 6-player games.
  • Surprisingly, the Lizards are tough to deal with in this big of a game. If you attack their warriors, it really just feeds their engine, so you have to just pick off gardens here or there– or convince the vagabond to attack them constantly so you can swoop in and destroy gardens. This is tough because the Lizards usually hang towards the back of the pack in terms of points and are typically very friendly with the Vagabonds and Otters. It will be nearly impossible to control who the hated outcast is with this many players, so Lizards could be showing up everywhere.
  • Woodland Alliance can be dealt with, but just know you will be dealing with clearing-nukes constantly during the game from both the Alliance and Lizards. One tactic is to swarm into Alliance clearings with tons of warriors but not attack so they cannot move warriors out of it to place sympathy– this of course will cost you board control in other places dearly. You must talk to the other area-control factions to make this work. An empty board means LOTS of sympathy tokens so keep your clearings packed (you know, until they get nuked).
  • Rarely buy from the Otters, which will force them to feed their funds box with Lizards, who will buy everything they got. Target their trading posts if you can get to them before you have to rush during the end game to stop them from automatically winning. Most Vagabonds know not to attack the Cats until late game, so you can often convince them to go hostile with the Otters to gain points instead of Cats/Birds.
  • Craft fast (nearly impossible for the Cats, but try at least) to prevent the Alliance from depleting the items. Lizards can also craft very easily once they get rolling mid game. The Bird’s trading leader is more important to get out earlier in larger games.
  • Pay very close attention to the following:
    • outcast and hated outcast, count the cards in the Lizard discard often and announce it to everyone.
    • Watch which bases the Alliance have out on the board, and which they do not have out as that is a clearing-nuke waiting to happen.
    • Make sure the vagabonds are playing correctly: sacks for space and the rules for tea are the most missed parts of their rules. Remember that if something is damaged that isn’t in the sack, like tea, it goes in the sack and counts against item limits.
    • Make sure the Lizards are playing correctly. They lose random cards from their hands when gardens are burned, and do NOT get Acolytes when nukes go off from the Alliance or the nuke vagabond.
  • There’s nothing better than smashing the Vagabonds so hard they have to damage sacks. Remember sacks go into the sack when they are damaged! Try to double or triple hit them.

What if you are not one of the area control factions? Baby, you got it made! Just lurk and do your thing. Alliance wants an empty board to spread sympathy–just keep the other factions fighting. Lizards want to put so many Lizards in each garden clearing that no one will mess with them, and help the vagabond and buy a ton from the Otters to score, score score! Otters want to coexist with their trading posts and then foment conflict– especially among the vagabonds. Try to set up a critical turn where you can get a lot of purchases (like when you draw a bunch of bird cards to sell, or critical bunny cards for the Cats) and then save that dough to score. From my games it’s either the Otters, Alliance or Lizards that pull off wins in a big game, so just play to your strengths.

I would say a board with 2-3 more clearings and another two ‘crafted item’ spots would help with big games. but I can’t really say for sure. The more spread out the board, the harder it will be to get in those critical attacks on the vagabonds, otter trading posts, sympathy and lizard gardens.

Lastly, did I say communicate constantly? The central conflict between the cats and the birds is totally null and void in this large of a game. Those two factions especially should be allied and planning together until the very end. I can’t wait until the Corvids and Moles are out and we jump in with 9!