Ramble Review – Clank!

Disclaimer: At the time I am writing this, I have played both the base game and expansion. This review only includes my opinions about the base game, and I will be writing a ~500 review on the expansion within the next week. ~Fluffy Meeple

Game: Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure
Publisher: Dire Wolf Digital, Renegade Game Studios.
Designer: Paul Dennen
Main Game Mechanisms: Deck Building, Dungeon Crawl, Push-Your-Luck
Number of Players: 1 to 4 (1 player version is available on the Renegade app).
Game Time: 30 to 60 minutes

Gameplay overview: You are adventurers delving deep into a dragon’s cave in order to try and get the most treasure. But, have you ever thought about how much noise that you make when you’re running around and trying to get treasure? Clank! plays on that by forcing you to pay attention to just how much noise that you’re making. Make too much, and the dragon will attack you and end your game earlier than expected.

Clank! is built on the same deck-building premise as games like Ascension. You start off with a deck of 10 cards that you build upon. There are 4 symbols that you need to pay attention to; Attack (swords), Market money (blue squares), Gold (coins), and Movement (shoes). By playing out your deck, you are able to accumulate wealth, buy new cards and equipment, defeat enemies, and move around the cave.

There is a “market row” of 6 cards, plus 3 cards that you can buy at any time, and a goblin “punching bag” that you can smack around as much as you want if you have extra, unused attack. Like Ascension, the goblin doesn’t go away, and sometimes other enemies come up in the market row.Some of the cards have victory points (green circles in the upper right hand corner), others give you abilities that help you move around the dungeon, get rid of Clank!, and more. There are purple cards, which are one use cards that you use upon buying, but they are very powerful and can give you the boosts that you need.

Some cards will give you Clank!, which is equivalent to you being really loud as you move throughout the cave. You accumulate Clank, and when a card comes out that has the dragon symbol on it, the dragon attacks – you throw all of the cubes that are in the Clank! area in a bag and draw out cubes, which count as damage. The number of cubes that you draw out is based on the rage meter, which increases every time that you find a dragon egg (which is a minor secret), or you get an artifact.

As you walk around the dungeon, you will go into different rooms. Some have major secrets; other have minor secrets (big and little question marks, respectively). Others will allow you to purchase from a common market, which gives you access to keys, backpacks, and more. The goal is to get in, get an artifact (you can only carry one unless you have the backpack) and get out before the dragon defeats you. The problem is, some of the tunnels only go one way, you may get stopped in Crystal Caverns, you may get locked out of some paths, and other paths have monsters that you can defeat with attack or take damage from.

If your damage meter gets maxxed out, then you get knocked out. If you’re knocked out underground, you lose and get no points at all. If you’re knocked out above ground, the villagers pull you out of the castle and you can score, you just don’t get the 20 point bonus for completely exiting the dungeon.

The first person out of the dungeon starts the “timer,” they don’t take any more turns, but every time that their turn would come up, the dragon attacks whoever is left in the dungeon and the same rules apply as above. Whoever has the most “treasure” (Victory points based on cards, gold, artifacts, and other items) is the winner.

The whole game sounds more complicated than it actually is. While it’s rated a 2.26 on Board Game Geek (medium-light), if you have played a deck builder, you can pick up this game quite easily. If you need a visual, Rodney Smith from Watch it Played has a great tutorial about it.

Pros:
1. 
It plays quickly. While it sounds like it may be complicated, Clank! really is a game that happens quickly. Sometimes, games will go longer because everyone is traveling through the tunnels and trying to get as much treasure as they can. But sometimes, you may get one person who goes in, grabs an artifact, gets out, and tries to make the dragon eat you before you can even get out of the cave. It depends on your group and how you decide to play. 
2. 
It is challenging. You really have to think about what you’re doing and look a couple of turns ahead to make sure that you are getting what you need and getting out of the underground before havoc begins. It can really make you think and it can be a good challenge to try and get it all taken care of the right way. 
3. You get two maps in the box.
Not only do you get one map to enjoy, but there’s another, more difficult map on the back that you can really run around in. Both maps are a challenge though, don’t let the difficulty names fool you! 
4. It melds the mechanisms well. 
In the time I’ve been playing board games, I never thought that you’d be able to meld 3 more different mechanisms in a unique and innovative way. You don’t feel like you’re playing three different games – Direwolf and Renegade did an amazing job melding this into one cohesive gaming experience.

Cons:

1. Movement issues (sometimes). This is not as much my issue as one that I have heard from others that I’ve played with. Sometimes, the luck of the deck can kick your butt and you don’t get the movement that you need to be able to get around and get your artifact. This is minor in 2 player games, but 3-4 it may become an issue. 
2. It can be hard to get through your deck. 
This is a big issue that I’ve seen, and maybe it’s because I’m used to playing Star Realms/Hero Realms/Dominion. There are very few ways to mill through your deck in order to get the huge combos that help you so much in other games. You can’t really trash your cards (there are a few ways, but not like SR/Dominion) and there aren’t a ton of cards that allow you to draw. This can make the game drag a little bit, and I hope they fix it in expansions (spoiler: they do).

Value: Clank! is not easy to find as of the time I am writing this, even though I have heard that it is getting easier as printings come out. We found it at the Board and Brew in College Park, MD, and it was their last copy. I bought it for 50-some dollars. Retail is $60; Amazon and other online retailers (sometimes) have it for 50ish. With it, you get two maps in the box (which I mentioned above), high quality cards, sturdy wooden pieces, and a really nice bag to pull cubes out of. With how much game you get in this box, it is well worth the price.

Try, Buy, Deny: I will go into this saying that I know that Clank! is not for everyone. I absolutely love it – it has likely replaced Star/Hero Realms in my top 5 games. But, if you don’t like push your luck style games, or the uncertainty around them, you may not like Clank! too much. If the cons that I mentioned are too much, then I recommend that you try the game. Otherwise, if this seems like it’s in your wheelhouse, buy it when you can get your hands on it. 

Game On!
Marti

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