Root: The Underworld Expansion – Leder Games – Review


Supremacist moles and murder birds? What's not to want?

Jeremiah & Kara


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Theme and What is it?


Two cats sit sentry in a quiet woodland clearing. Suddenly, with a flurry of scraping and a shower of dirt, a small, ugly mole pops out of the ground mere inches from the cats’ paws. “Bow down before your new overlord!” it squeaks, hopping madly and brandishing a tiny sword. One cat glances nervously at the other – the other smiles wickedly, lips pulling back over his sharp fangs. “Ahh, perfect timing, your majesty,” he purrs, “I was just starting to feel…snackish.” The cat raises his paw to swipe at the tiny mole. Slap slap slap! The cat pauses, ears twitching– what on earth? Slap slap slap! 

The cats watch in amazement, and even the mole stops hopping to watch as a dead-eyed crow stomps into the clearing, carrying something concealed in his dirty cloak. He stomps his way to the center of the clearing and stops. There’s a moment of awkward silence as the animals pause, sizing up this new intruder. One cat glances nervously at the other. The other shakes off his discomfort and, lowering his body into a pouncing stance says, “I suppose two snacks are better than one.” With a flick of his tail, and a push of his legs, the cat leaps into the air. At the same moment, the crow whips back his cloak to reveal a massive, sparking bomb! “Ta-da!” he croaks, and the clearing goes up in flames.

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What does it add?


The Underworld Expansion adds two new factions, and a new double-sided map for even more replayability.

Corvid Conspiracy:
These murderous crows are basically feathered terrorists. They pop up all over the map, unimpeded by rule, to trap, extort, and bomb their opponents. The conspiracy gains points from placing their secret “plot” tokens on the board and activating them. Plots are placed face down in a clearing and remain there until they’re able to be flipped face up. When flipped, their effect triggers in the clearing they’re in. There are 4 types of plots: Snares, Extortion, Raids, and Bombs. Snare tokens prevent other player’s pieces from moving out of the clearing; extortion tokens allow the Corvid player to steal a random card for each player in the clearing; Raids allow the Corvid player to place warriors in each adjacent clearing; and bomb tokens immediately destroy every opposing piece in the clearing. The Corvid player’s plot tokens are annoying and powerful, but the faction can still be a tricky one to play. The Corvid workforce is small and often spread pretty thin, which can make it difficult for them to protect their plot tokens from being destroyed. This faction can be really hard to play with if playing with a group who just relentlessly goes after the Corvid Conspiracy the entire time – without plot tokens on the board, it’s very difficult for the Conspiracy to do anything meaningful on their turn!

Underground Duchy:
The Underground Duchy has ruled the underworld for centuries, erecting magnificent cities and accumulating wealth. Recently though, that wealth has started to diminish, and now these pompous moles feel it’s time to expand their kingdom upward. The moles have a burrow, where all the moles originate from. It’s a new clearing, off the board, making it unreachable by other players. During the game, moles from the burrow will tunnel their way onto the board, popping up in new clearings and begin establishing their kingdom. At the beginning of the game, the Duchy is extremely limited in what they can do each turn – they only get two actions! But as they begin swaying  high ranking, powerful mole-ministers in the kingdom to their cause, they’ll unlock more actions available on their turns. When the Duchy’s buildings are destroyed though, embarrassed ministers will abandon the cause, taking their powerful actions with them.

The Lake Map:
One side of the board has all the clearings situated around a massive lake, making the forest a little harder to move around. The lake has a raft that players can use to travel from one clearing to another and score one victory point when they do – other woodland creatures see them gliding gloriously across the water and think it’s awesome I guess.

The Underground Map:
The other side of the board features an underground map. The clearings are technically caverns, separated by tunnels. At the beginning of the game, many of the tunnels are unavailable and have to be excavated in order to become functional. Any faction can use an action on their turn to dig out a tunnel adjacent to their cavern. The central cavern has a fancy tower – the faction that rules that cavern gets to put one of their warriors on the tower, look down on their opponents, and score a victory point for being better than everyone else.

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What does it fix/ break?


As far as I can tell, the expansion doesn’t break or fix anything. The lake map does however put a dent in the Riverfolk Company’s “riverboat” service, because there’s no river. Other players can still purchase the service to traveling across the lake from one lake-bordering clearing to another, but there’s a raft now that you can ride as well (as long as you’re in the clearing with it) and you get to score a point when you ride it too. It does put a damper on the Riverfolk Company’s trade, but they’ve got so much else going for them that it’s not a huge problem.

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Do I want this?


If you love Root and you want more, you’ll definitely want this expansion. It adds two unique factions that interact with the others in new exciting ways, and two new maps for more strategy and replayability. I mean, supremacist moles and murder birds? What’s not to want?

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Do I need this?


There’s already so much replayability packed into the Root that you really don’t need this expansion. It adds new flavors, new challenges, and more diversity to the base game without drastically altering its core mechanics.

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While I still think the Riverfolk Expansion is my favorite Root expansion, this one isn’t far behind. The Corvid Conspiracy and Underground Duchy bring their own special twists to the war-torn woodland, and the Lake and Underground maps open up possibilities for new strategies and extra replayability. If you’re fond of Root already, and you’re looking for more chaos – I mean anarchy – I MEAN variety – give the Underworld Expansion a look!

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