WBG Score: 8
Player Count 2-4
Designed by: Paul Dennen
I’m sure at one point all of us have had to sneak round the house. Either because we came in late one night, got up early or even just snuck downstairs for a midnight snack. I also think it’s safe to say that in at least one of those instances that you’ve made a noise that sounds not too dissimilar to a volcano erupting! If that’s happened to you then good news because game designer Paul Dennen has made a game about exactly that!!! Except he’s made it into a fantasy theme with a dragon or something.
If you go down to the keep today…
In clank players are playing as thieves who are delving deep into a dragons keep to try and bring back valuable artefact to the surface to see who is the best thief. Because nothing says genius thieves like silly bets involving dragons!
Clank! Plays like a standard deck builder to a point. First you draw five cards from your deck and either play them all one by one or all together, either way is valid but you must play all of your cards even if they have a detrimental effect. Aside from the text on the cards which will trigger when played, each card has either a skill icon which is used to buy new cards from the supply. A sword icon which is used to fight monsters or a boot icon which lets you move through the dungeon.
Clank has a difference to regular deck builders which is obvious when you see the huge board. Clank has you using boot icons on your cards to move through the dungeons various paths to delve deeper and deeper into the keep to collect artefact, treasures and gold. Each boot lets you move to an adjacent space on one of the multiple routes down into the dungeon but not all the spaces can be accessed easily. Some routes require you to use two boot symbols to move, some are only accessible in one direction (Harry Styles not included in the box). Some will lead you into crystal caverns but require you to stop. Presumably to take the fantasy equivalent of a selfie in the beautiful looking cave. Some routes can only be accessed if you have the key which is available from the market space inside the dungeon, because where else would you set up a successful business venture than in a dark keep guarded by a dragon! The last obstacles are monsters in the tunnel which make you take damage for every monster in the tunnel unless you use a sword symbol on your card.
I mentioned detrimental effects on cards. This usually comes in the form of clank. Clank is basically noise and each time a card informs you to add clank you add one of your coloured cubes to the supply. But a little bit of noise is fine right? Well yes, that is until the dragon attacks. These occur when a card is replaced in the market with one showing a dragon symbol. All cubes in the clank space are added to a bag which also contains some black dragon cubes and a number of cubes are drawn from the bag depending on where the dragon is on the rage track. Black cubes are set to the side whilst any coloured cubes are placed as damage on that players health track.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
The game can end in one of a few ways. First, once a player has gained an artefact and got back out of the dungeon. From then on their turns will be spent moving along a track activating a dragon attack but pulling out extra cubes depending on the space they’re on until the 4th space which will knock out all the other players, at which point scoring will happen. The other way is if either everyone makes it out of the dungeon, everyone is knocked out or a combination of both. Either way you’ll score up all your artefact, treasures, gold and points on cards…….there is one twist however, if you are ever knocked out and you’re not out of the depths of the dungeon then you don’t get to score! I’ll get to that later.
“I am king under the mountain”
I’m not the biggest fan of deck builders. I have one or two that I like but it’s not a mechanic that I gravitate towards. Throw in a new spin on it like Clank! does and I’m invested. At the core of it Clank! is a really simple deck builder, in fact I’d be happy to use this game as someone’s first introduction to deck building. But the simplicity means that it doesn’t detract from the rest of the game. The game makes every card important throughout the game. Most of the time (when I play deck builders anyway) there comes a point in the game where money for new cards stops being useful. But here buying new cards, while maybe not useful for your deck can still net you victory points so you never find yourself wasting those skill cards even in the last throws of the game.
Deck building isn’t the only cool mechanic though. Clank! Has you delving into a dragon's keep and searching for treasure and like a lot of great games this has lots of paths to victory. No seriously, there are literally lots of paths you can follow as you go deeper to search for your ill gotten gains. With those paths comes the temptation to explore and head deeper into the dungeon because that’s where the better artefacts are hidden and this is where the push your luck comes into it, that’s where the tension comes into it.
It’s a great feeling getting down deep into that keep but then you notice one of your opponents has started racing for the surface and that’s when that all encompassing panic sets in and you realise you have to get the heck out of dodge. That tension really sets the game apart as you race desperately for the surface and that feeling of just making it out can feel amazing, but when you just miss out, whilst being a little frustrating is also part of the fun you're sure to have while playing Clank!
“Do you think flattery will keep you alive”
Clank is not without its niggles though. It’s highly possible that you can end this game without scoring any points. Now usually I’m not a huge fan of this sort of rule in games, it makes the hour or so’s game play feel like you’ve put all the effort in for nothing and a bit pointless (literally). I’m willing to forgive it here though as, like I said above, it does add to the tension and is part of the fun. I’m aware though that this isn’t going to be the same for everyone though.
The other thing is how quickly the game can end. We played one game where a player went into the keep about halfway, picked up an artefact and a few treasures and then “just because he could '' went and escaped the dungeon and triggered the end stages after only a short time playing. We still enjoyed what we played of the game but it did leave a bit of a sour taste. It is a valid strategy within the game, not a winning one by any means, but it’s not one I liked the experience of. Ultimately he lost the game so at least karma had our back!
Clank! Is a lot of fun and mixes a simple deck builder with push you luck to create something that is brilliantly thematic and tense. For me Clank! Is a great way to introduce people into two staples of board gaming with a unique take on them both and a fun theme…….oh and a Dragon Meeple which is one of the coolest meeples I own. Thinking about it now, I probably should have led with that!