Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 | Developer Diary

Designer/Developer Diary, Root -

Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2 | Developer Diary

Hello Folks, my name is Marshall Britt and I’m the Operations Director at Leder Games. In addition to my administrative role, I’ve had the opportunity to work as a developer on a few of our projects including Root: The Clockwork Expansion. During the Underworld campaign, I wrote a bit about the initial process of developing designer Benjamin Schmauss’s “Better Bot Project” into an official Leder Games product, you can read that update here if you’d like a bit more history.

When Benjamin and I began working together on the first offering of Clockwork factions much of my work was trying to simplify the way the player operated factions and adapt the language to the Leder house style with the help of our talented editor, Joshua Yearsley. We collectively turned what had been a passionate thread into a set of solo and co-op automated faction boards that also allowed players enjoying a regular game of Root to fill out smaller player counts with factions that introduced the level of noise consistent with higher player count battles in the forest.

 What we’d planned initially was an artless tuck box for these boards, but a mix of things expanded the product profile including the need for priority markers, trait and difficulty cards, and wonderful artwork from Kyle Ferrin. We decided to give the Clockwork Expansion a home in the Root line with a full art box and continual support. Reading comments about the Clockwork Expansion allowing folks to enjoy Root at various player counts or in certain solitary circumstances (especially this past year) has really validated that work and the ongoing support of this endeavor. With all that being said, let’s talk about Root: The Clockwork Expansion 2.

Currently, there are four published factions that will gain Automated support with the release of The Clockwork Expansion 2. Automated factions for the Lizard Cult, Riverfolk Company, Corvid Conspiracy, and the Underground Duchy have all been in development for over a year. Benjamin has cleverly adopted a style much closer to ours which has improved our development communication vastly over the last 18 months. I’ll talk a bit about the challenges and process for each faction, with the disclaimer that we are still in the development cycle and once the Kickstarter ends we’ll release closer to final versions to our wider testing gamut. I’ll be referring to these factions by their working titles going forward, just a reminder that these are subject to change.

The Lizards of the Cogwheel Cult are a faction that has seen a number of slight revisions but ultimately arrived fairly close to fully cooked. The conspiracy track was an area where we ran into some challenges around empty actions but Benjamin quickly adapted the track to remove that possibility. As with all automated factions, priority is incredibly important but the Cogwheel Cult highlighted the difference between solo play and adding the faction into a 3 or 4 player game. Benjamin shifted the priority to avoid the Cogwheel Cult potentially targeting a player in the least powerful position. This faction is still in the development cycle but likely has the least potential for major changes.

The Otters of the Rivetfolk have seen some fairly major revisions due to the nature of the faction and their open hand. The earlier drafts included an investment track that just didn’t fit the ethos of the automated factions and was eliminated in favor of quicker operation for the player running their board. Opponents of the Rivetfolk currently place their warriors into the payments box, offering the same tension for factions as a live Riverfolk faction player might. Players can destroy trade posts to take half of their warriors from the box, allowing the Rivetfolk to interact seamlessly in a higher player game without much effort to operate. The current version of the Rivetfolk is possibly my favorite to add to games with live players because it injects the tension of cards your opponents can potentially obtain before you or use against you.

The Crows of the Contraption Conspiracy arrived in a nearly completed state as well minus a number of minor clarifications and changes that mostly surrounded how the plot tokens operate. The Contraption Conspiracy recruits and spreads tokens in a way that mimics the result of live play, without the need for the operating player to peek at tokens. There is a trade-off here, due to the randomness of the token placement, the Contraption Conspiracy does not require a warrior in clearings with their tokens to flip them. This means that players must choose to either leave certain tokens face up or remove them through battle, as exposure is not possible against the Contraption Conspiracy.

The Mechiavellian Moles take over the Underground Duchy with their amazing drill-powered noses. The art for this faction is absolutely my favorite transformation that Kyle has done thus far. The main concern during development for this faction was movement. The Mechiavellian Moles create substantial forces fairly quickly, but initially were not moving in a way that felt natural and at times were forming massive balls of Moles that wouldn’t leave their clearings. Benjamin cleverly adjusted movement in their minister track and that was the springboard to the current rendition. The moles use their order card to do everything from digging to swaying ministers. Players will need to destroy buildings if they wish to remove the most powerfully elected minister of the Mechiavellian Moles.

 

Clockwork One Notes

The goals of the initial development of the Better Bot Project into the Clockwork Expansion were to adjust the language to our style, make the automated factions as simple to follow as possible, and try to allow them to operate in a way that felt as close to a game of Root as they were able. Benjamin’s initial four Automated factions arrived incredibly balanced, to the point they scored at almost identical intervals. This was a really clever way to design AI for Root, but in testing, I felt the consistency of the opponents created a situation where solo games simply felt too consistent compared to live games of Root. We reduced the power levels of some of the factions and shifted the difficulty lever to the cards that we now use, we also added trait cards that allowed some of the initial design changes or fun challenges to be added by players at their discretion.

 These changes led to needing two different branches of The Clockwork Expansion, our final released product, and Benjamin’s ongoing development branch that needed to remain fluid for the design of the Clockwork Expansion 2 factions. This is extremely uncommon in the publishing world, but due to the nature of Benjamin’s design process and the passion fans have shown for Root’s Automated factions, it only made sense to allow a development branch to be publicly tested. One thing that the development branch uncovered was that I was unhappy with how the Electric Eyrie was functioning, in part due to a change I’d made to make their function easier to understand. This change caused them to behave erratically in certain situations and play a sub-optimal game. I consulted Benjamin and we agreed to add errata to prioritize how they move, battle, and build in a way that was both easier to understand and did not have the same potential to create erratic behavior.

  Due to this change and our ongoing desire to support the Clockwork family of products, we’ve previously made a sticker available and will include an updated Electric Eyrie board in the first printing of The Clockwork Expansion 2. In addition to this, we’ve been working on a few new trait cards for the first four factions that add in a few more of Benjamin’s design choices for players to add at their discretion. We greatly appreciate all the support and feedback from our fans, it truly makes working on a product like this a special experience while communicating with our community.