Game Review – Clank!

All the greatest thieves in the world have gathered at the Dragon Keep as word spread of great treasures in the caves beneath the Keep. With a dragon keeping guard of this treasure, only the best thieves in the land will survive the trials ahead of them and make it out of the cave with the treasure. This is no longer just a way to get rich, but a way to prove to everyone that there can only be one thief crowned the best. Do you have what it takes to outmaneuver the other thieves and make it out alive to claim the title?

Designer: Paul Dennen
Publisher: 
Dire Wolf Digital & Renegade Game Studios
Genre: Deck Building, Press Your Luck
Players: 2-4
Play Time: 40-90 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 3

Skip ahead to find out:
Game Overview
Game Play
What He Said
What She Said
Our Pros and Cons
The Verdict

Game Overview

img_2690In Clank!, players will become thieves delving into a treacherous dragon’s cave that holds precious artifacts. Along the way, players will recruit allies and find gear that will help one person gain the title of greatest thief in the land. Everyone will have to be careful though because, if too much noise is made, the dragon will hear all the clanking around in its cave. With enough noise generated, the dragon can more easily track down clumsy thieves and strike them down before they escape with the treasures. In this dangerous job, you want to adventure deep into the cave for the best loot, but if the dragon manages to get you before you make it out of the cave, you’ll never be heard from again.

Game Play

At the beginning of the game, all players start with the same deck of ten cards. Each player will shuffle up these ten cards and then draw a hand of five to begin their hunt for treasure. The cards in players’ hands will give them skills they can use to acquire new cards, swords to slay beasts in the cave, or boots that will allow them to traverse the cave. On a players turn, they will go through the following phases:

Action Phase:
In this phase, players will play all five cards in their hand and resolve the effects on them. Players can do the following on their turn if they have the required resources:

  • Acquire a New Card
    Players can acquire new cards from the dungeon row or reserve by paying the skill cost at the bottom right-hand corner of the card. Any cards acquired during this turn are immediately placed on top of the discard pile. The cards taken from the dungeon row will only be replenished at the end of the current player’s turn.
  • img_2876Use a Device
    Cards with purple banners on them are considered devices and are used immediately when purchased. These cards give players special bonuses like additional movement, healing, coins, etc. The cards are then placed in the dungeon deck’s discard pile, not into the player’s discard pile.
  • Fight a Monster
    Monsters are cards with a red banner and can only be defeated by paying the number of swords required to defeat it. Once the monster is defeated, the player gains any rewards listed on the card and the monster is then placed into the dungeon deck’s discard pile. The Goblin in the reserve can be defeated an unlimited number of times, allowing players to gain the two gold reward for defeating it.
  • Buy from the Market
    Some merchants have set up shops around the cave that will allow players to purchase special items to aid them in their quest. If a player is on a market spot, they may spend seven gold to purchase one of the following:

    • Master Key – Allows players to go through locked tunnels.
    • Backpack – Allows players to carry additional artifacts.
    • Crown – A valuable treasure worth points at the end of the game.
  • Move Through a Tunnel
    Boots allow players to move through the tunnels of the cave. Each boot icon allows a player to move one space in the cave. There are some tunnels that are more treacherous requiring two boots to go through, contain monsters that will attack you unless you can defend yourself with a sword, or will require a master key to get through. Some rooms only have one exit that is indicated by an arrow pointing to the next room. Lastly, there are some crystal caverns that will exhaust the player and not allow them to move past it till their next turn.
    When you enter a room you can pick up one item from that room (minor secret, major secret, monkey idol, or an artifact) and add it to your loot bag (area in front of you). When players move into a space that has an artifact, they can choose not to pick it up. Since players can only carry one artifact, (unless they have a backpack) they’ll want to be selective on which artifact they want to steal from the cave.
  • Gain Gold
    Any gold gained from cards are taken from the bank. At the end of the game, any gold left in the player’s area will each be worth one point.
  • img_2564Clank!
    Cards that give players a Clank will require them to add one of their cubes to the Clank area. The Clank cubes represent how loud the thief is as they explore the cave and increases the chances of them being attacked by the dragon. Whenever the dragon attacks any cubes in the Clank area are thrown into the bag before the dragon attacks. There are some cards that allow players to remove cubes from the Clank area, but there aren’t very many in the dungeon deck.

img_2873Dragon Attack Phase:
Once a player has finished playing their cards and spending their resources, their turn will end. At the end of their turn, any cards that were purchased from the Dungeon Row are replaced with new cards. If any of the new cards placed out on the Dungeon Row have a Dragon Attack symbol on them, the dragon will attack. When the dragon attacks, all cubes in the Clank area will be added to the bag and cubes will be drawn out of the bag. The number of cubes will be determined by how angry the Dragon is (rage track). Each player only has 10 health and they are killed if they reach 10 cubes pulled.

If a player is killed in the depths (below the grass line), they are forever lost in the depths never to be found again. Their score does not count at the end of the game because they were unable to make it to the surface. If they get killed above ground, the villagers are able to bring them back from the brink of death and they’ll live to steal another day.

Escape Phase:
If a player makes it back to the starting point with an artifact, they will be rewarded with a mastery token that will give them an additional twenty points at the end of the game. The end of the game countdown begins when a player reaches the starting point or when the first person dies. This starts a five round countdown that results in a dragon attack at the end of that person’s turn. Any players not on the starting spot by the fifth turn of the countdown track are killed instantly.

All players then sum up their point values from artifacts, tokens they’ve acquired, gold, and points awarded from cards. The player with the highest score is the best thief in the land!

He Said

img_2691Clank! is a game that takes a little bit of a different twist on your standard deck-building game by adding a board. So rather than just having your standard buying power and attack power resources, you also have the movement resource to consider – one needed to actually achieve most of your goals. On top of that, the game has a fun push-your-luck element as you try to get as much out of all your turns. This element really makes it fun as you draw your cards hoping for the perfect hand to get you out of a dire situation.

img_2878It’s Dangerous to Go Alone!
In your journey to collect loot, you’ll be building up your deck with companions and gear to help you gain more cards and move quicker through the cave. With 100 cards (64 of them unique) making up the dungeon deck, it will probably take you a couple plays before you see all the cards. I found that most of the cards were pretty balanced and there wasn’t one card that would give any player a huge advantage over others. This may be because there aren’t really a lot of ways for you to trim your deck down like in other deck builder games. As you gather more cards, you’ll have to wait longer to use the same card again. This works well in this game because it prevents you from creating a fine-tuned engine and mitigating that push your luck type of gameplay the game promotes.

One thing that I did think was kind of weird was the way the purple cards are handled in this game. I would think that they would be cards that you can buy and deploy whenever you want, but thematically it makes sense that they’re used upon acquiring since they’re all stationary objects. This also creates another situation where you try to get into a good position to use them, but if it takes too long for you to get there, someone else may snatch it away from you.

img_2564What’s Behind Door Number Three?
I’m a big fan of push-your-luck style games because of that rush it gives you when your gamble pays off. There’s nothing like the rush of trying to go just a little bit deeper into the cave to get that big artifact with the clock ticking down. There’s also  a lot of suspense created when you reach into the dragon bag to draw cubes, and you’re just barely hanging on with two health left. Then you breathe that sigh of relief as only one of your cubes is drawn and you live one more round. Of course, there’s the excitement of drawing the perfect hand just when you need it too, but that’s a thing that all deck builders do. The additional element of the dragon bag and potential death creates excitement that other deck building games can’t do.

The variability with the double-sided board is also nice because it gives you two different map configurations to explore. One side is the more basic layout and the other side has things scattered around with more limited paths into rooms. The secrets being randomly placed also creates a lot of replayability since you never know what you’re going to get when you pick up those secrets.

Should I Stay or Should I Go
Through our one game with four players, I found that the downtime wasn’t too bad because effects are resolved pretty quickly. There is a chance that people consumed with analysis paralysis can drag the game on a little. Normally, the game moves pretty quick and usually ends up taking less than an hour to play which is a good spot for us. I have run into the situation though where there isn’t a whole ton of motivation for a player to be the first one to trigger the end of the game because five turns is a lot of turns to leave on the table. The twenty points is a nice bonus if you’re able to trigger it that way, but the only time I’ve gotten that was when I was near death and trying to get the most points I could before possibly dying.

img_2875The decision to trigger the end game is a hard one because it’s difficult to keep track of everyone’s score, especially with cards scoring points. I’ve thought about trying to do a dash-and-grab of a high-value artifact and end the game, but I just can’t see that strategy working well unless you got lucky with the secrets you’ve picked up. In the end, I’ve found that being the one to end the game usually puts you at a disadvantage unless you feel like you have a huge lead.

Lastly, you’ll have to be careful about using those one time use teleportation cards to get past locked paths. We had an experience where a player had their eye on the 30 point artifact and used that device to get it, but had no way to get back out because she didn’t have a key. This could be easily prevented though had we paid more attention and warned her, but it is something to warn newer players about since they might not have considered this.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I enjoyed playing Clank! and I thought the board and clank mechanic were great additions to the base deck building mechanic. It’s an easy game to teach, with most of the text being on the cards, and there aren’t a ton of keywords to remember. I wish there were a couple more cards that would allow you to trim cards from your deck. It’s somewhat difficult to get good combos together unless you’re lucky with the dungeon row cards on your turn but the suspense the game creates makes up for these issues.

If you’re looking for a different style of deck building game then you should definitely try this game out. I think this game deserves more attention than it has received this year – it’s interesting mix of familiar mechanics blended together make a really fun game.

She Said

img_2699-2Clank! is a combo of a deck-building, push your luck, and a little bit of a dungeon crawl style game. The combination of these three things harmoniously work together to create a unique game experience that I have enjoyed every time we’ve played and at all player counts.

No Whammy, No Whammy! 
Typically, a press-your-luck style game is not one that I’d bring to table too often. There’s a great amount of tension to these games that often makes me too nervous and I end up backing out of my strategy too early. Though that can be the case when I play Clank!, there are a number of things that make this game significantly more balanced than other games like this.

First, I like that there are a set number of dragon cubes in the draw bag, in addition to the player’s cubes. This creates tension while also providing balance because you never know if your cube will be drawn. You could get lucky and have none drawn or end up with all cubes being yours.

img_2879Second, the cards you can draft will either hinder or help your Clank collection. There are  cards that help you to eliminate Clank from the pile before being added to the bag, and there are also cards that force you to add Clank to the pile. This creates a great balance and forces you to determine how necessary a card is to draft. Although I do agree with Calvin that it’d be nice if there were more cards that helped trim some cards out of your deck. I often found myself waiting for one specific card to come up in my deck.

Two-Face
In addition to this being an overall great deck-building game with a well-integrated theme, the board also adds in a slight dungeon-crawl element that I enjoy. Typically a dungeon crawl game would feature miniatures, and Clank! really only has elements of this style of game. Just enough for me to actually like it.

img_2869In addition, the board is double sided with different maps for you to explore the cave. One side is a little more simple, and the other is more challenging. The more challenging side has more limited movement into rooms, which I found to be a bit difficult. The weirdest thing is that you can’t actually get back to the starting spot unless you have a teleportation card. I don’t like this element because it doesn’t really serve any purpose. Depending on how many teleportation cards make it to the market, only one player can make it up to this area. This happened in one of our game – Calvin was able to end the game that way and I just kept moving around collecting things because I had no way to get up there. There’s also the potential that no one can end the game this way because what if the card never comes up? (EDIT: We realized that we were misinterpreting the rules/board on this one – the arrow only prevents you from entering the room that direction. But it does raise a larger issue that the rules/board can be a bit confusing.) 

Regardless, the two sides of the board add great replayability and incorporate different strategies. It’s a fantastic element to the game because it just means you’re able to play the game more and not have it feel stale.

Race to Dragon Cave
Clank!
as a whole is really just a giant race to the end of the board. This forces you to think on your feet. If you don’t get to the Monkey Idols fast enough, they could all be snatched up, or someone could take your artifact before you can get there. This adds more replayability to the game because you once again can’t utilize the same strategy every time you play because you have to react to other player’s moves.

I can remember one game Calvin and I played where I stupidly took the long route to get the 30 point artifact, and Calvin got there right before I did to grab it. He ended up winning by 30 some points, just to make me mad.

Final Thoughts
Overall, Clank! is a great and easy to learn game. It can be played in under an hour, and it’s a great introduction to deck-building games. I really like the element of the Clank being randomly drawn from a bag because it adds variety to every game. I also really enjoy the theme and the player interactions. I would highly recommend this game to anyone looking to try out an interesting take on a deck-building game.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to learn and teach
  • Fun push your luck mechanic with the Clank cubes and end game countdown
  • Good variety of cards and two maps to play create good replayability
  • Plays quickly
  • Map adds a nice additional element to the deck building and gives you more interesting decisions

Cons:

  • Game could drag if no one wants to try to end it.
  • Bad luck could result in someone dying early and shorten the game quite a bit.
  • Could be difficult to get a good combo together based on market cards
  • Not a lot of ways to trim your deck like traditional deck builder games

The Verdict

He gives this game out of 7.5 Clanks! out of 10.

She gives this game 7 Dungeon Loot out of 10.

Buy it on Amazon

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2 comments

  1. Great review! I really like the dual perspectives. I do have a question about your comment regarding the back side of the board. Teleportation is not required to leave. You just have to go through the Crystal cave on the left side of your image and then straight up. The arrow only lets you go towards the exit from that direction. Looks like just a bit of confusion with the arrows possibly, but you certainly don’t need teleportation to leave. That would be terrible!

    Thanks for posting this great review!

    Like

  2. Glad you like our blog! And yes, it’s possible we were confused with the arrows on the board. I suppose that raises another issue of the board being a bit confusing. Thanks for reading!

    Like

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