Episode 5.1: Root: The Marquise de Cat

Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of the Board Dame, I’m your host, Jenna.

On this episode, we’ll be exploring the forest of Root, and all the creatures in it battling to keep or seize control. This game is designed by Cole Whehrle and published by Leder Games and the artwork is by Kyle Ferrin.

This episode is going to be a tad different, as I usually give my overall opinion of the game at the end. But because this will be recorded in 6 different parts, explaining the factions and a bit of strategy, I’m going to tell you what I think now.

So, as I just said, holy cow this game is beautiful, it looks like a childrens fairy tale, bar none, HUGE props to the artist right, this game is so beautiful in it’s simplicity. It’s the perfect example of a game that wasn’t over produced. And rightly so, the game play is phenomenal, so it really didn’t need to have hoards of minis, though, based on the quantities of tokens each clan gets, I don’t think that would have even been a posibility.

The game is so deceptively cute. But don’t kid yourself for one second. You’re about to enter a battle among the woodland creatures to seize the throne back from the Marquise de Cat. The devious little kitty clan. No seriously, they look like they want to mess people up.

For those that don’t know much about Root, it’s an assymetrical game, meaning, each clan or faction that you play will play completely different from one an another. So you essentially have to learn the game 6 different times. This can be a challenge for a lot of people, but I promise you that it’ll be worth seeing these little woodland creatures battle it out.

Now I have noticed that certain clans tend to have an easier time winning. So far from polls I’ve done on different social media sites, The Woodland Alliance and the Vagabond have been performing the best, then the Marquise de Cat. Now I wouldn’t say there are balance issues, as the first couple players typically finish fairly close to each other, it’s more that because the game is so new, it’s hard enough to master your own clan, let alone remembering and predicting everyone elses strategy. One thing that I did like is that everyone has the same goal, so that is at least easy to visualize.

But it’s very much a game of “if such and such clan is left unchecked, they win” kind of game. So with everyone just learning, it’s really easy to forget what someone else can do and then they basically run away with it.

The other thing is that proportionally speaking, you’ll see certain base game clans played more often, so proportionally, they have a higher chance of winning. However, so far the Lizard Clan seem to have the most difficult time winning.

So based on all that, I do want to give it time and many more plays to touch on the subject of clan balance.

I was so beyond pleased with this game, though I was hesistant because I didn’t totally love Vast, and I also wasn’t thrilled with Heroes of Land Sea and Air, all assymetrical games. But this one does it wonderfully. I’m so happy to have this game in my collection and I can see me playing it for years to come.

Now, to get into the meat of the game. Each episode following this one I will explain how the clan plays and some helpful tips on how to win with it.

In Root, each player’s turn consists of three phases: Birdsong, Daylight, and Evening. Turns pass clockwise until someone has reached 30 victory points. Then the game ends and you’ve sucessfully overthrown the current rulers, or maintained your rule over Root if you’re playing as the Marquise de Cat.

There are a few key actions in the game, however, again, each faction is different in how they resolve these actions. So be sure to skip to the part about your faction, or listen through all of them. Knowing your enemy is just as important in this game as knowing yourself.

The first of the key actions is crafting: You can craft most cards from your hand into an item or improvement. To craft a card, you must use crafting pieces of the nations listed in the card’s bottom-left corner. The nation of a crafting piece matches its clearing, , bunny, mouse or fox.

When you craft an item, score the listed victory points, take the listed item from the supply and place it in your Crafted Items box on your faction board, then discard the crafted card.

When you craft an improvement, place it in your play area. You may use the effect of this improvement as described on the card. You cannot craft an improvement if you have an improvement of same name in your play area.

The second key action is moving. When you move, you may take any number of your warriors or your pawn from one clearing and move them to one adjacent clearing. Remember, to move, you must rule the origin or destination clearing.

The third key action is battling. When you battle, choose a clearing where you have warriors or your pawn. You are the attacker. Choose another player in the clearing of battle to be the defender. The defender now has the opportunity to play an abush card matching the clearing, or a bird card as those are wild. The attacker can cancel the abush card by playing an abush card of their own matching the clearing, or again, a bird card as it is wild.

If the attacker does not foil this ambush, the attacker takes two hits immediately. If no attacking warriors remain, end the battle immediately.

If warriors remain, roll both dice. The attacker will deal hits equal to the higher roll, and the defender will deal hits equal to the lower roll. If the rolls are equal, attacker and defender will deal the same number of hits. You can only deal hits to an opponent to a maximum of the number of your warriors. All extra hits are lost.

After counting hits from rolling, the attacker and defender can add extra hits by using special abilities or other effects in their play areas. Extra hits are not limited by the number of warriors in the clearing of battle.

If the defender has no warriors in the clearing of battle, the attacker will deal an extra hit. This means you can attack opponents tokens with your warriors and deal a hit even if you roll a 0.

Deal hits simultaneously, the person taking the hits chooses which to remove, but must remove all of their warriors before removing buildings or tokens. Gain a victory point for each token removed. 

Again as a reminder, each player faction will deal with these actions differently. It’s important to know how your faction completes these actions. So let’s hop right in with the currently ruler of Root.

I won’t be going over setup for each faction as setup is clearly outlined in the rulebook and on the back of your faction player board.

Alright, who’s best to start with other than the current ruler: The Marquise de Cat. They currently occupy the Woodland and want to turn it into an industrial and military powerhouse. Each time the Marquise builds one of their buildings—a workshop, sawmill, or recruiter— they scores victory points.

The more of the same building they have on the map, the more points they score.

However, to fuel ongoing construction, the Marquise must maintain and protect a strong, interconnected economy of wood, which make for easy targets for her adversaries.

The Marquise de Cat has the following faction rules: They use workshops to craft during Daylight, The Marquise de Cat are the only ones that can play pieces in a clearing with the keep token, you can however move pieces into that clearing. If the keep token is removed, it cannot be placed on the map again.

And the last of their 3 abilities is their Field Hospitals. Whenever a Marquise warrior is removed, the Marquise may spend a card matching the clearing type the warrior was removed from, to immediately place that warrior in the clearing with the keep token.

Now I’ll go through each phase with you, during the first phase, Birdsong, place one wood on each sawmill token. Easy peasy!

Phase two: Daylight: You may craft cards from you hand using workshops, remember that the cards you are crafting have either a bunny, a fox, or a mouse clearing indicated on the card. This means that you need to have a workshop on that matching clearing to craft that card.

After crafting, you may take up to three actions, plus one action per bird card spent in any order you choose as follows:

Firstly: As the The Marquise de Cat, you can March, which means you can take two moves, for one action.

Secondly: You can initiate a battle following the same rules as I explained earlier.

Thirdly: You can built. Choose which building you want to build, either the sawmill, the workshop or the recruiter. Choose a clearing that you rule, meaning, that you have the most pieces in that clearing. Building count towards your rule, tokens do not. So square pieces not round pieces. Pay the required wood, build and then score points based on the value showing under the building you’ve just placed.

Fourthly: You can Recruit. Place one warrior at each recuiter building. You can only do this action once per turn.

And lastly, Overtime: You can spend a card matching the clearing of a sawmill and then place a wood token there.

Phase three: Evening: Draw one card, plus one card per uncovered draw bonus, you’ll find these draw bonuses on your player board once you’ve built the building above it. Discard down to 5 cards.

Now that you know how to play, I’m going to give some advice on how to win with The Marquise de Cat.

Depending on your starting hand, and what you can craft might change how you play, a more agressive approach can work with the right craft improvements where battle earlier on makes more sense. I’m by no mean an expert, but through playing this and polling the larger facebook groups, this is what I’ve found to work for me:

Your starting positions all over the board may seem like a great statement of power, as you can build almost anywhere, however that power is a fallacy. You need to work on retreating your warriors towards your keep and hold down the fort.

There is no way that you will keep rule over all those clearings on the board, so you want to be able to keep as many of those warriors as possible without having to spend cards by using your Field Hospitals.

Hunker down, build a saw mill to pay for your recruiters, get a couple of those out in the first few turns, then recruit and move your troops out and continuing to build your buildings, workshops in particular have the most victory points, which will then also allow you to craft more effectively.

Not to mention, when you have more warriors it will be harder for your other opponents to wittle you down and get to your buildings.

In poling the various Facebook groups, The Woodland Alliance seem to be the overall winners with the Vagabond close behind. So lets look at some ways to beat back those pesk Woodland Alliance and Trash Panda.

One of the most effective ways to attack the Marquise de Cat is through revolt from the Woodland Alliance. When they revolt, they remove all of your pieces, warriors, buildings and tokens. So this usually equates to more VPs, because you will typically have the most buildings, plus they will go back to your board, which means less VPs for you. So it’s worth it for them to go after you.

When you attack and thus remove a Woodland Alliance token, you need to give them a card matching the clearing the battle took play in. Which will then allow them to easily spend supporters to place a token there again. Not very efficient. However, if you have 3 or more warriors in a clearing they need to spend an extra supporter to place a sympathy token to get back there. So build up those forces!

It’s important to note to keep an eye on the gardens places by the Lizard Cult as well, as they control any clearing with a garden. This means you won’t be able to build there and it will hinder your march action as well. Though, in my experience, the Lizard Cult isn’t a powerhouse.

As for the Vagabond, or the Trash Panda as I like to call him, it’s a team effort. While battling the Vagabond gives you nothing, it does damage his crafted items.

And those are the your adorable cat leaders! Please leave me any comments and let me know if you’ve had success with The Marquise de Cat when playing. I’d love to hear more strategies.

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