How to play : Quickstart

1. Board Setup

  • Each player draws 2 each of Prefix, Suffix, and Power cards, and a single Win Condition card.
  • Begin the game with 1 Prefix and 1 Suffix card in play as separate trees.
  • Reveal a Subject card.

2. Create & Debate

  • Each player adds 1 Prefix or 1 Suffix card to the board, creating a word, and argues its connection to the Subject card. They may play Power cards during their turn.

3. Vote

  • Each player votes for their favorite word (they cannot vote for themselves) using Voting Tokens.
  • The winner captures the Subject card.
  • Begin the next round by revealing a new Subject card.

4. Win

  • Step 2 and 3 combine to form a single round. All players replenish their hands at the end of each round.
  • Continue repeating rounds. The first player who is able to obtain Subject cards that match the symbols on their Win card wins the game.

How to Play : Comprehensivefull instructions


    • Each player selects one of the colored Voting Tokens to represent themselves, placing it face-up on the table in front of them, and provides each opponent with a Voting Token of that color. Set aside all tokens of unclaimed colors.
    • Shuffle the Win cards, and give one to each player face-down. Players should look at their Win cards but then keep them secret.
    • Shuffle each of the Prefix, Suffix, Power, and Subject decks, placing them together at one end of the table. Each player draws two Prefix, two Suffix, and two Power cards to form their opening hand. (Players may look at their hands at any time during the game.)
    • Reveal the top card of both the Prefix and Suffix decks, placing them face-up and separate on the table as the first two trees (see diagram at right).

Create & Debate

    1. Begin each round by revealing a Subject card.
    2. Starting with the oldest player (and, thereafter, the winner of the previous round), players take clockwise turns adding one Prefix OR one Suffix card from their hand to the edge of an existing tree, creating a new word to match the Subject card in play.
    3. After creating a word, players pronounce it to the group and explain its meaning, offering an argument for how it relates to the Subject. For instance, if the Subject card is "tyrannical," a player might add the Suffix card "-(o)cracy" to the Prefix card "Astr(o)-," creating the word "Astrocracy," or "star government." He might then explain to the group that “such an advanced, overbearing regime would surely oppress primitive planets, resulting in interstellar tyranny.” This rhetorical exercise is the heart of Roots©.

    1. When players finish explaining their words, opponents should feel free to counter-argue that word's merits/connection to the Subject card. Beware, however: this may weaken your opponent's word, but also may incur political retribution. Navigate your opponents’ personalities with care.
    2. Prefix and Suffix cards added to the board remain in play for the duration of the game unless specifically removed. This way trees develop ever-changing opportunities for word creation.
    3. Finally, players can utilize a variety of Power cards to advance their position. Players can play one Power card each turn, unless a card says otherwise, and do so at any time during their turn. (Only the Power card Negate can be played during another player's turn.) Playing a Power card does not count as the player’s Prefix or Suffix card per turn.


    1. Once each player has created a word and explained it to the group, the round concludes with a vote for which word was the best. Players may base their vote on any criteria, including relevance to the Subject card, originality, linguistic finesse/musicality, and even inter-player politics. Players may not vote for themselves.
    2. To vote, players select the Voting Token of their favorite word's author and place it face-down on the table, preserving anonymity. When all players have voted, reveal the Voting Tokens at the same time. The winner of the vote receives the current Subject card and places it face-up on the table in front of them. If a tie occurs, determine the winner by turning face-down the Voting Tokens of each player involved and randomly reveal one. Each player retrieves their Voting Tokens.
    3. Begin the next round by revealing a new Subject card.

    1. Word loss and modification: If, at the time of voting, a word has been removed entirely from the board (none of its original cards remain in play), that word cannot receive votes. If at least one of the word's original cards remains but one or others have changed (as occurs with the Power card Rearrange), that word's author may improvise a new explanation for what has become their new word for the round.
    2. Multiple words: If a player's actions result in the creation of multiple words (as occurs with savvy card placement, as well as the Power cards Rearrange and Thrive), that player may offer an explanation for each of those words, all of which may receive votes.
    3. At the end of each round, players replace all Prefix, Suffix, and Power cards they played during the round. Each player's hand should include exactly two cards from each of the Prefix, Suffix, and Power decks, for a total of six cards, at the beginning of each round.


    • A player wins the game when each symbol on their Win card is present on their captured Subject cards. Although most Subject cards contain two symbols, only one symbol per card counts toward the Win card's requirements. For example, a Subject card with both a triangle and a square counts as a either a triangle OR a square - not both. The swirl shaped symbol is wild, and thus may count as anything. Players may announce victory the moment they satisfy their Win card's requirements, regardless of whose turn it is.

Powers Overviewstrategies and tips from the creators

  • Power

    Destroy opponent(s) words while freeing up space for your own. Remember: if a word isn't present when voting begins, it can't receive votes.


    Need to clear the board? Burn it all away with Forest Fire, incurring the ire (or gratitude) of the whole table.


    Move things around, changing opponents' words and creating new opportunities for yours. Disrupt knockout words and force improvisation!


    Remove an entire tree, potentially destroying multiple words at once.

  • Power

    To protect your progress, dismiss any Power card that directly includes you in its effect. Be careful not to create grudges!


    Access new material for creating words, discarding the dirt.


    Play a second Prefix or Suffix card to embellish your word, submit two at once, or block an attractive opening an opponent might fill.


    Dig for the best Power cards in your situation. Choice equals control!

  • Power

    Take a Subject card you wish you had won, and reward its winner with something you (and hopefully they) don't require to win. Beware Negate Power!


    Like Trade Subjects but without the reciprocity.


    Gamble with the Subject deck to complete your Win condition. This Negate-immune card is especially useful when opponents are preventing you from gaining that last symbol.