Review – Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2

Spice up 1 and 2 player games!

CW2 Box real

 

Designer Benjamin Schmauss, Cole Wehrle

Artist Kyle Ferrin

Publisher Leder Games

Category Expansion

Length 60-120min

Release Date 2022

Player Count 1-4 (1-2 recommended)

Have you ever found yourself alone in a basement wishing that people would play Root with you? Of course you have. So play with the bots from Root: Clockwork Expansion! Oh? You’ve already done that? Well Leder Games has a spicy new offering in Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 that aims to satisfy your diverse palate. 

Review

Root: The Clockwork Expansion includes bots from Root: The Riverfolk Expansion and Root: The Underworld Expansion, both of which are required in order to utilize these bots (though I suppose you could use your own tokens for the warriors?). 

The Cogwheel Corvids spring up around the map and unleash their plot tokens on the rest of the woodland. They end up battling more than a human Corvid player usually would, but they accomplish the faction’s gather warriors and hatch plots in crowded clearings as well as can be expected from a bot. 

This is a great bot to add to any game because they bring a ton of chaos and they are also an easy bot to manage. The only downside here is that there’s no method to the madness behind placing the plot tokens. I really enjoy games with Corvid Conspiracy because of the unknown plot tokens, and you still get that with the Cogwheel Corvids, but they don’t have the same level of intentionality that a human player would bring. 

The Drillbit Duchy behaves largely like the Underground Duchy does: dig tunnels, sway ministers, build buildings, and compile armies to defend those buildings. An excellent feature of their player board is that it includes all the ministers and their special abilities, which are different from Underground Duchy’s. This means that players have to account for different abilities, but it also means they don’t have to mess around with the minister cards. 

While the Drillbit Duchy mimics the human-controlled Underground Duchy almost perfectly, the biggest issue here is upkeep. After the first few turns, these guys get to be laborious, especially when you have to keep track of all their minister actions, etc. This could very well be a personal preference, but if I’m playing with a bot, I don’t want his turns to be longer than a minute, and many of Drillbit Duchy’s stretch beyond that. 

The Logical Lizards work much the same as the Lizard Cult: gather acolytes, convert other players’ workers into followers, and burn their buildings to the ground to sanctify them as gardens! The Lizard Cult seemed like it would translate well to bothood, and Benjamin Schmauss did a great job of implementing them into a fun (though annoying) bot faction. 

Something that works great here is that the Logical Lizards will target certain suites of clearings via their Lost Souls pile, but players generally have an idea of which suites will be targeted each turn so they can prepare ahead of time. Having a building sanctified stings, but if you’re prepared for it, it’s not as devastating as it could be, and this mimics the Lizard Cult well because, most of the time, players know whose building is about to get converted into a garden. 

The Riverfolk Robots are an interesting bunch. If you buy from them, they’ll get a ton of points. If you don’t buy from them, they’ll go crazy and try and murder everyone else on the map. Like the Cogwheel Corvids, they’re straightforward, but they’re also the most gamable. Knowing when to buy from them so they don’t attack your unprotected clearings is key, and so is knowing when to not buy from them so they attack your opponent’s unprotected clearings. 

However, if players leave these guys unchecked, or if players try to use them too much for their own advantage, they can explode and start getting 4, 5, even 6 points per turn. This is a bot faction that players will want to work together to keep in check because nothing’s worse than letting a bot win. 😉 

The components (5 bot boards, some cards, and a rulebook) are all fantastic. The extra bot board is for an updated version of the Electric Eyrie. The cards help give the bots some variety with special traits and raising or lowering the difficulty. Also included are cards that specifically detail when bots will buy cards from the Riverfolk, which help make playing the Riverfolk with bots more of a viable option. 

Designer Benjamin Schmauss really nailed it with these bots as far as representing their human-controlled counterpart goes. Yes, the Logical Lizards feel more powerful than the Lizard Cult, and yes, the Riverfolk Robots have the nigh-impossible task of replicating a human wheeling and dealing, but both of these come really close. The Drillbit Duchies and the Cogwheel Corvids both feel like a human player is playing them: the Drillbit Duchies will use their ministers well and protect their buildings, and the Cogweheel Corvids will wreak chaos on the woodland (although it’s not as fun when a bot flips over a well-placed plot token). 

If you want to play with bots, especially with bots that are more diverse than the 4 included in Root: Clockwork Expansion, this is a no-brainer. Bots really aren’t necessary or even desired in a game with 4 or more players, but the second Clockwork expansion adds some fun factions to the mix. In my opinion, the less upkeep a bot requires, the better, so I would recommend Clockwork Expansion over Clockwork Expansion 2, with the caveat that Clockwork Expansion 2 is more interesting and does a better job of representing human-controlled factions. 

The Bottom Line

If you love soloing Root, this expansion adds some diverse new characters. Unnecessary if you usually play Root with 4 or more.

 

7.5

Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner. Twitter: @spencerspen_sir