Theme and What is It?
Clank! is the sound that you might make while attempting to sneak past your parents’ room as you try to make your way to that party you promised you wouldn’t go. Or it could be that the sound you might make as you stumble your way through a keep that’s occupied by a fearsome and dangerous dragon, hoping to steal its riches as stealthy and quietly as possible.
Given that the context of the latter being more plausible for this review, Clank! is a 2 to 4 player game where players (or burglars) all make their way through a keep to steal its treasures and artifacts. Players would gather equipment and allies while exploring the labyrinth of the keep, battling all manner of creatures, from goblins to orcs and possibly the dragon itself. Ultimately the goal would be
to steal the most valuable artifacts and escape the keep while keeping any encounters with the keep's resident dragon to a minimum.
At its very core, Clank! is a deck-building game. For those unfamiliar with this particular mechanic, deck-building games are primarily card games whereby players are each assigned a deck of cards. Depending on the theme and goal of the game, the cards could be equipment, spells, buildings or any sort of assets that will assist players in scoring or achieving the goal of the game.
Over the course of a deck-building game, players will attempt to strengthen their respective decks while getting rid of cards that they would consider a liability to their cause. Every turn, a player would draw a set of cards from his or her deck to the hand. On that player’s turn, he or she plays whatever card in that hand.
Pretty much everything that players can do in Clank! are determined by the cards that they can play from their hand. Any movement, encounters (battles) are determined by the abilities stated in their cards. So being true to its deck-building nature, Clank! encourages players to purchase or acquire cards with the abilities that they feel will help them throughout the course of the game.
The initial setup of Clank! is fairly simple, just place all the tokens as instructed in the manual. Each token represents either an artifact (artifacts are worth the greatest number of victory points), major or minor secret tokens, Master Keys, Backpacks, Crowns, Monkey Idols and Mastery Tokens. The board itself is double-sided, each side representing two different modes of difficulty. It's recommended that for the first game to use the simpler side of the board.
While the core mechanic of Clank! is that of a deck-building game, the goal of each player in Clank! is to accumulate victory points. So the player with the most victory points and gold (one gold coin is worth one victory point) is declared the winner. Players will compete against each other to reach the various tokens on the board using their respective decks to navigate through the catacombs of the keep. However, as each player makes their way down the keep, they run the risk of creating noise, commotion that will attract the attention of the Dragon. These are represented as clank cubes. Clank cubes are used to determine how much attention a player might risk drawing the ire of the dragon. Whenever a dragon encounter occurs, a predetermined number of cubes are drawn from the Dragon Bag (more on dragon encounters will be discussed later).
All players start at the top of the keep and make their way down. During the course of their adventure, they will encounter goblins, orcs, golems,...etc (and the dragon). The initial deck for each player will consist of 10 basic cards; 6 Burgles, 2 Stumbles, 1 Sidestep and 1 Scramble. A row of Reserve Cards will be set below the board, there are; 15 Mercenary Cards, 15 Explore Cards, 12 Secret Tomes and 1 Goblin. These Reserve Cards are available for "purchase" whenever a player has enough skill points to spend. In addition, a Dungeon Row is created by randomly selecting 6 cards from the Dungeon Deck. These 6 cards that form the Dungeon Row are placed face-up beneath the board (just above or below the Reserve Cards, your choice really). These cards will represent sort of the random encounters or stronger cards available to players to fight or purchase. Once again, purchasing cards from the Dungeon Row typically requires more skill points.
Once the players' draw decks are created, each player draws 5 cards from the deck to their respective hands. These are their playable cards for their turns. Starting with the first player, play all five cards from the hand and select the order in which each card's actions are resolved.
All actions and movement are determined by the order in which each of the five cards is played from the hand. For example, when a card is played, the symbols on the right side of the card either represent the boot symbol for movement , a number for skill points or sword symbols for encounters.
Once the order had been established, resolve the actions of each card. Swords may be used to fight any creatures that might appear in the Dungeon Row or the ubiquitous goblin in the next to the Reserve. When defeated, the goblin card remains next to the Reserve.
Any skill points accumulated in the cards played may be used to acquire cards from either the Reserve or the Dungeon Row. There are cards that can add clank cubes to the Clank! area (all clank cubes are placed on the clank banner of the board). For example, if a stumble card is played, that player must add clank cubes to the Clank! area.
Dragon encounters are triggered if a player were to acquire a card from the Dungeon Row and a drawn replacement card from the Dungeon Deck were to have a Dragon Attack symbol. When this happens, any clank cubes in the Clank Area are placed into the bag. Depending on where the dragon is at on the Rage Track, draw the number of cubes from the bag as indicated by the Rage Track. If any black cubes are drawn, they are ignored. However, if any of the players’ cubes are drawn, they placed on the Health Meter. Once a player’s Health Meter is filled with cubes, they are considered knocked out.
Anytime an artifact or a dragon egg is taken by a player, the dragon’s rage goes up a notch on the Rage Track. The more enraged the dragon is, the more cubes are pulled from the bag thereby increasing the risk of injury to players.
At the end, any players who have successfully escaped the depths of the keep will be awarded victory points based upon the value of the artifacts or treasure tokens that they've managed to steal. The more value a token is, the more victory points it's worth. The most value artifacts are located deep within the keep so players will need to access the risk of going deeper in the keep to retrieve the more valuable artifacts.
To be completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of deck-building games. For sure, I had some fun with Dominion, Legendary, Thunderstone, Xenoshyft or The Big Book of Madness but I’ve always regarded deck-building as my least favorite mechanic.
Clank! has been something of a breath of fresh air however. It’s a simple, accessible take on the deck building genre and can be regarded as a gateway for any person who has never played deck building games before. In addition, the dragon encounters add a different flavor. The idea of clank cubes symbolizing commotion is a novel idea. So risk management is very much part of the game if players do not wish to incur the wrath of the dragon as they venture deeper into the depths of the keep. They might want to reduce the number of clank cubes on the Clank! Area.
Quality of Components and Insert
The box comes with its card slots and inserts for easy storage. All clank cubes and meeples come in separate zip lock bags for easy storage and convenience.
The clank cubes however come across as fairly rough and a little crude. Not all the cubes in the review set are cut evenly and some don’t quite resemble cubes, but rather as some Platonic shape that we’ve probably seen in geometry class.
As with other Renegades games, Clank! also provides a velvet bag that’s used as the Dragon Bag. Fans of other Renegade games such as Fuse will probably recognize the quality of the bag.
There are spare card slots in the box insert for expansions, such as Clank! Sunken Treasures or Clank! In Space.
The artwork and token designs are fairly simple and whimsical. Nothing in Clank! looks dark and gritty as some of the monsters depicted in the cards are almost too cute to fight.
I will admit, I had fun playing Clank! with my play group. As mentioned before, deck building isn’t my favorite mechanic but I couldn’t help but be engaged in this game. The simple actions and encounters of the cards makes this game fairly accessible to players new to the genre and is fun enough for them to experience the deck-building genre. A member of my playgroup had never played deck-building games before Clank! and it wasn’t long until he was tricking out his own deck.
One of the most fun mechanics in Clank! had to be the Dragon encounters. Every time the dreaded Dragon Attack symbol is revealed on the Dungeon Row, I’ve always had these odd mixed feelings of thrill and dread of when drawing cubes from the Dragon Bag. You would either breathe a sigh of relief or groan at the cubes drawn from the bag.
In many ways, I would say that the damage mechanic is almost a tribute to Wallenstein or Shogun in using cubes to score encounters. The obvious difference being that Wallenstein and Shogun had cube towers, whereas Clank! utilizes a velvet bag.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
The recommended age as suggested by Renegade is 13 years or older. I would generally recommend that age range as deck building requires players to generally understand odds and probability at a very fundamental level. However, as this is one of the simplest deck building games I’ve encountered in some time, I would push the age recommendation back to 10 years or older. I truly believe that a 10-year old should have little problems handling the simple mechanics of this game.
At the end of our first session with Clank!, I asked my play group if they would play it again. I received a resounding “YES!” as a reply. Some members of this playgroup had played other deck building games and are quite familiar with some of the more advanced complex games of the similar genre such as The Big Book of Madness or Xenoshyft.
The overall production quality of the game is above average, though I do wish that the cubes were cut into proper cubes. However, that is a minor quibble.
Although the suggested number of players as stated in the rule book for Clank! is 2-4 players, there is an iOS and Android app that will allow players to play solo. In addition, the app provides a different thematic flavor whereby the dragon recruits a Lieutenant to guard the keep.
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