GTM #204 - Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure
Reviewed by John Kaufeld

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time — back when you were all in the pub, swapping tales of bravado over ales. But, apparently, there’s a big difference between challenging your fellow thieves to a treasure-filled race through Nictotraxian’s castle versus scrambling, stomping, and literally running for your life from a highly perturbed dragon. (Maybe you shouldn’t have called her “Nicky.”)

Welcome to the world of Clank!, from Renegade Game Studios, where artifacts are the goal, the dragon just wants some sleep, and both riches and danger lurk in every passage. Let’s sneak past the dragon and grab what you need to know about this game.

~ It’s a Deck Builder ~

At its heart, Clank! uses a classic deck-building mechanic. Everybody starts with an identical 10-card deck that gives you some boot icons for movement and skill points for buying new cards.

You add new cards to your deck by purchasing them either from the reserve area or the dungeon row. Reserve cards are improved versions of the basic cards in your deck, with features like more boots, buying power, or swords for fighting monsters. Cards in the dungeon row give you even bigger bonuses or they offer the opportunity to defeat a monster and gain a special benefit.

~ It’s a Board Game ~

Although the cards drive the game, they’re only half of the story. Clank! also relies on a double-sided game board where the real action takes place.

Since the game’s storyline depicts a classic dungeon delve, exploring the board is a very linear process: go down a corridor, look through a room, then explore another corridor. You can’t skip randomly around the place; you have to deal with what’s in front of you.

That sets up fun tension between your deck, the available new cards, and the game board. For example, a truly awesome card might be available for purchase in the dungeon row, but because of your board position, you really need a couple of those reserve cards that give you extra boot icons for movement. But, someone else might buy that cool card before your next turn. But you REALLY need the boots! And you can’t afford to buy them both! Argh!

~ Pick Your Goals ~

The combination of board movement and deck-building makes you choose a strategy and plan your approach. The game puts tons of options out there, so you need to focus on a goal or you’ll spend the game wandering aimlessly and ultimately getting eaten by something. Ew!

In order to win, you need an artifact from the dragon’s treasure. It doesn’t matter which artifact you grab as long as you get one. The first artifact is only five moves from the entrance, but it’s also worth a lot fewer points than the ones buried deeper in the caverns. That’s why you need to pick a plan and make it work.

~ Beware the Clank! ~

As a sneaky thief, you know that noise is bad. And, carrying all kinds of golden goodies, you know that making noise is inevitable. That’s where the game’s name comes into play.

The noise you make is called “clank.” The game represents that noise with cubes for each player that go onto the clank board space. The clank cubes introduce a push-your-luck element to the game. The more noise you make, the more you risk getting injured when the dragon attacks.

~ Living is Optional ~

When cards in the dungeon row trigger a dragon attack, the cubes get mixed into the dragon bag. Players then draw out a certain number of cubes depending on how angry the dragon is. If your color cube comes out, then you get an injury. Take enough injuries and you’re knocked out. Healing is available at several board spaces and through certain card combinations, but technically you don’t need to be conscious to win the game.

If you get an artifact and make it out of the dungeon depths before getting knocked out, then the friendly townsfolk will haul you out to safety. If you get knocked out in the depths of the dungeon, then the friendly monsters haul you to the kitchen.

~ Verdict ~

Even though other deck-building games (such as Trains from AEG) use a similar hybrid card game/board game mechanic, Clank! puts the pieces together in a unique and very entertaining way.

The mechanics of the game balance each other very well. The flavor text on the cards adds the right touch of humor and entertaining backstory elements, so your gaming group can recount fanciful tales of when Janet found the MonkeyBot 3000 and almost died because the silly thing clanked so much.

Like all deck-building games, you spend a lot of time shuffling your cards, so think about investing in some sleeves — at least inexpensive, basic “penny sleeves” — to protect your cards and make the game last longer.

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Set-up/Play Time: 10-minutes to set up, 30-60 to play
  • # of Players: 2-4
  • Price Point: $60.00
John Kaufeld often frets over whether the word "meeple" has a proper plural form. You can find him writing about board games, parenting, and other stuff on Twitter at @johnkaufeld and in his newspaper column, The Dad Game (http://dadga.me/column).