It’s hard to believe that while deck building games seem so common now, it’s been less than 10 years since Dominion hit our tables and made the genre what it is today. While I have always found the mechanics of Dominion very enjoyable, I felt the theme of building an empire was too disconnected. Anyone who has “Remodel”-ed their “Militia” into a “Library” will know what I’m talking about. Since then many other games have attempted to mesh thematic gameplay with deck building mechanics having varying levels of success and complexity. The newest contender is Clank!, a press your luck dungeon thievery game. Is Clank fit to steal the deck building crown?
In Clank!, 2 to 4 players (1 to 4 with the Renegade app, more on that later) descend into the lair of a dragon to steal valuable treasures. They navigate from room to room collecting items that can help them out or minor treasures worth points later but the main goal is to get a hold of one of the relics. These items are worth more points than the others with the catch that you can only carry one with you, and once you have picked up a relic, you’re stuck with it until the end of the game.
The way players interact with the board is all done through each player’s deck which, like most deck builders, starts with a default set of common cards that will expand over the course of the game. All actions are primarily based on the symbols provided by the cards you play.
Yellow boots provide you with movement, each symbol representing a space on the board although some passages marked will require more than one movement to pass through.
Red swords are used as attack value for defeating monsters in the card row or when moving through passages marked with creatures.
Defeated monsters provide their reward and are removed from the game, and there’s always the goblin available to hack at if there are no other monsters.The reward is usually gold which can be used to purchase useful items from the shops located in the depths.
And finally, blue diamonds give you “Insight”, the currency used for purchasing new cards, either from the three basic upgrade cards or from the six cards available on offer in the card row.
When purchased, most cards go into the player’s discard pile while Device cards take effect immediately and are then removed from the game. Once the player’s turn is over the card row is refreshed.
More advanced cards will have additional effects like drawing cards or healing, but some will also generate Clank! representing a player making noise in the dungeon. Clank! accumulates over the course of play until a card with a dragon symbol is added to the card row.
When that happens all accumulated Clank! is added to the dragon bag and cubes are removed to see who takes damage from the dragon’s attack. Reach the end of your damage track and you are eliminated from the game. As the game progresses the dragon’s attack value increases requiring players to pull more cubes out of the bag.
Once players have risked all they are willing to collect treasure they can return to the safety of the surface and gain some bonus points. The first player to do this moves to the end game countdown track, triggering a dragon attack with each space. Once the last space is reached all players count the victory points from their treasure, cards, and gold. The player with the most victory points wins. If you weren’t fortunate enough to get out of the dungeon, you can still count your points if you made it above the depths. Anyone trapped below though is lost forever.
Clank!’s mechanics are straightforward to pick up and learn, making it an easy introduction to the deck builder genre or a good gateway game in general. The push your luck element adds tension that keeps everyone involved from the first pull out of the dragon bag and makes you think about when to risk going further and when to retreat. By far my favourite aspect is the strategic variety to playing that makes almost any play style viable and doesn’t punish you for switching gears mid-game. Did your rival steal the relic you were going after? Maybe you can buy a backpack and grab two others instead. Not fast enough to hit the relic race? That’s okay, build an Insight engine in your deck and load up on high point value cards. The options are broad without overwhelming the player.
All the components included are excellent, in particular, the stitched dragon bag that you’ll probably want to repurpose for other games for how great it looks. The stock of the cards is sturdy, and the elements on them are very well placed, with only the occasional confusion between victory point value and the cost of the card. Due to the amount of handling though card sleeves will be a must. The artwork, on the whole, is fantastic complete with interesting little details throughout. The board is very clearly laid out and simple to follow while at the same time being colourful and engaging. I would have like more thematic or fun Clank/damage tokens though. The cubes are a little bland in comparison to the rest of the game.
The game board is double-sided, adding a refreshing new take if someone has discovered an optimal path to winning. Also, Renegade’s app, available for Android and iOS, provides a solo play option and adds a Lieutenant mode to the multiplayer game adding, even more, options for replayability.
I’m honestly at a loss to find anything I would improve upon in the game. There are some moments where the shuffle of the main deck can affect the game somewhat such as when multiple dragon symbols come out one after another, but that’s hardly enough to make the game less enjoyable.
Clank! has quickly become one of my favourite games, one that I like bringing out for people that don’t play often and dedicated gamers alike. The ease of learning, how it accommodates many play styles, and the tension of risking just a little more make it engaging and fun. Clank is a game that you should definitely have in your hoard.
- Easy to learn
- Fast gameplay
- Lots of strategic variety
- Push your luck elements work incredibly well
- App adds solo campaign and a new way to play for free
- Double-sided board adds re-playability
- Deck shuffle randomness
- Damage tokens could be more fun