Session(s) Report - Root: The Clockwork Expansion
I recently received #Root: The Clockwork Expansion in a math trade. Ironically, I did not own the base game prior to completing this trade. So, as a result, I bought #Root, #Root: The Underworld Expansion, and #Root: The Exiles and Partisans Deck. I had played Root about four times with a friend's copy before owning any of it for myself.
Upon receiving the games, I wasted no time diving into a few solo sessions. In my four plays, I took the role of the Duchy, the Alliance, the Eyrie, and the Vagabond, and faced off against various faction combinations comprised of two or three bots. I must say, I love playing this game solo! The bots are certainly not flawless. There are decisions they make that would be considered sub-optimal or questionable in a person vs. person game. They also suffer a bit when the human player wants to play a more interactive faction, such as the Riverfolk Company or Corvid Conspiracy, as the bots have no allowance for purchasing cards or guessing plot tokens. For the most part, though, they do give a surprisingly similar feel to that of the multiplayer game.
In each game, the bots gave me a good challenge and a tense affair. I decided to opt for the default difficulty. I also didn't include any traits as I wanted to have a baseline to work from. After four games, I have won three and lost one. Even in the games I won, it was a close race. Often, there was at least one bot only a few points behind me. For those that have played a multiplayer game of Root, this should be a familiar scenario.
I also played a game involving two bots and one other human player. It presented some interesting dynamics, but my initial impression is that this is the slightly less ideal way to utilize the expansion. The human player took an almost semi-cooperative approach with me against the bots. I was incentivized to go along with this as the plans they were making would serve to hurt the bots and allow me to get a better foothold. Yet, my friend and I were far from friends within the game. With this, the decisions some of the bots made in that playthrough (following the rules of course) seemed to focus more on my friend as they had more board presence. As a result, they felt a bit hard done by and it left the experience feeling a little limp. I think I prefer just playing solo against the bots.
As for ease of use, I found the Mechanical Marquise the most straightforward faction to control, while the Electric Eyrie was the most "fiddly." Still, I soon grew accustomed to the various priorities the factions had and the natural flow of their actions. There wasn't too much bookkeeping and I was allowed to focus on my turns most of the time. The designer has done an excellent job striking the balance between human likeness and ease of use.
Root is certainly a game that shines when played multiplayer. There is a degree of politics and negotiation that no bot could hope to replace (mostly because bots have no faculties that allow them to hope lolz). Yet, I find that Root: The Clockwork Expansion allows me to have a very similar experience in a fraction of the time. It allows me to engage with the puzzle that Root presents while also sidestepping the very personal feeling of attacking another player. Sometimes, I want that degree of personal hostility. Other times, I want to just sit back and relax while still getting to play a confrontational game. This expansion allows just that.