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.

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Supporter2 months ago

I love playing with the Better Bots (I've not used the Clockwork Expansion).  Like Phil you've inspired me to bust this out solo a time or two this weekend.

2 months ago

Sweet! I'm not used to being a source of inspiration. I... I don't like it lol. 

Have fun getting Root to the table!

Owner2 months ago

Not gonna lie, reading your post made me want to get in a play this week! :)

And I agree with you, it takes a bit of time to get the priorities down but it's all minimal management in comparison to the satisfying gameplay it offers.

2 months ago

Definitely! I've been churning through these solo playthroughs. I've played six solo games of Root in the past three days! It has been very enjoyable. Interestingly, I looked at the Better Bot Project, the design that this expansion is based on, and the creator has made several updates to the faction boards and actions. He has managed to address a lot of the small issues I had with the Clockwork Expansion. On one hand, I am happy to see these changes. On the other, I am a bit perturbed that my faction boards are already outdated.

Premium User2 months ago

I still can't get over how you didn't own the base game but got the expansion in a math trade lol. What math trade do you participate in?

2 months ago

To be fair, I also put in wants for several copies of Root in that same trade knowing that it would be possible to receive one and not the other. I planned to purchase either one in that event, which ended up happening lol. 

It was the September math trade on OLWLG.

Premium User2 months ago

Ahh I see. Makes sense now...still pretty funny. And cool I did the September BGG trade too. Just offloaded some games for cash :)

2 months ago

Sweet! Trading has become a very enjoyable thing for me. It has added a new layer to the hobby. I've started using Abecorn as well, so I expect to be trading even more. Let the boxes be checked!

Premium User2 months ago

Indeed. My only issue with it now is I feel like I need to clear shelf space and people keep offering me awesome trades lol. Recently I was offered #Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done for #Century: Golem Edition which I happily accepted. I think I'd much prefer to just sell games I no longer get to the table

2 months ago

Awesome! How long would you say your solo games took?

2 months ago

The first play lasted two hours, but I was learning the bots and playing against three of them. Each successive play has taken less time. Now, a three bot game seems to take no more than an hour and two bot games take no longer than 45-50 minutes. 

2 months ago

Wow, 45 minute Root is awesome!

2 months ago

I have to agree, especially after having a coma-inducing, three and a half hour, five-player playthrough of it a couple of weeks ago. Ughhh.

2 months ago

Haha, I know Root can go up to more players but I wouldn't want to play it at more than 4. That seems like the best count to me.

2 months ago

Four is definitely the sweet spot. I don't mind Root with more, though. My previous five-player Root experience only took two hours, so this was an especially slow playthrough. 

Linked Games
Root: The Exiles and Partisans Deck
Root: The Clockwork Expansion
Root: The Underworld Expansion