Clank! A Deck Building Adventure and Expansions (Brandon Kempf)
Clank! A Deck Building Adventure (2016)
Clank! Sunken Treasures (2017)
Clank! The Mummy’s Curse (2018)
Designed by Paul Dennen
Art by Rayph Beisner, Raul Ramos & Nate Storm
Published by Renegade Games Studios and Dire Wolf Digital
In 2008, Dominion did something new and invigorated the board game hobby. It created a game that was all about building a deck of cards that the players could constantly adapt and add and subtract cards from in hopes of creating a well oiled point scoring machine. In 2009 the Spiel des Jahres committee noticed Dominion and that set off board game designers trying to make a deck builder that is better than Dominion. Well, and they also started creating more and more Dominion, but that’s another story. Fast forward to the year 2016 and Paul Dennen hooked up with Dire Wolf Digital and Renegade Games Studios to give the world, Clank! A Deck Building Adventure.
Clank! is a hybrid of sorts, part board game and part deck building game, but the deck building controls everything that you do in the game. It’s different than Dominion in that it has a board that players will be moving pieces around, but make no mistake, Clank! gets its roots from Dominion.
In Clank! you are a thief or an adventurer, however you want to look at it, who is heading into the depths in search of the Dragon’s treasure. It’s not enough to just find the treasure, oh no, you have to get out alive with it as well if you want to be regaled as the greatest thief. So how does the deck building in Clank! facilitate this? Let’s find out.
Each player is going to start with a hand of 10 cards, each hand is exactly the same. Shuffle those cards and then draw 5, this is going to be your starting hand. On each of these cards there will be emblems. Some will allow you to move around the dungeon, some will allow you to fight the various creatures you encounter during your adventures and some will grant you skill, which is what you use to buy new cards to personalize your deck. Also in your hand are two cards which will automatically put Clank cubes into the Clank area, this represents the noise you are making and what the dragon hears. The object of the game is to maneuver yourself through the dungeon, grabbing items and making it out alive. You cannot leave the dungeon without an Artifact, which are the most valuable of assets in this dungeon. Each adventurer can only carry one artifact, unless they have purchased a backpack, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, let’s concentrate on the basics first.
On your turn, you are going to play your hand of cards, in any order that you wish, whichever way better benefits you. Later in the game this becomes more apparent when you have added some better cards and are seeing fewer of the starter cards. Along the path that you are moving on, you will stop in various areas and pick up Minor Secrets which usually give you a smaller benefit, like giving you more movement or healing. Or you may pick up some Major Secrets, these are like the Minor Secrets but they are bigger, and better. Also in the dungeon there is a Marketplace, of course there is, why wouldn’t some enterprising young entrepreneur set up shop? In the Market place you may spend gold that you have acquired to gain items, such at the aforementioned backpack or keys that allow you to pass through passages that have locks. Some passages are blocked by the various monsters that inhabit the passageways and to pass through those, you must either have swords to pass through unharmed, or take damage.
Also on your turn, you can take the skill from your played cards and you may buy new cards from the offering to put into your deck. Each card has various skill costs and after buying the card it immediately goes into your discard pile to be shuffled into your hand when your hand of cards is depleted. The cards available in the offering will have various effects and some really fun powers, but they will mostly concentrate on those basic tenants, movement, skill and attack.
You are of course doing all of this in hopes of getting the best Artifacts possible and escaping from the dungeon. Why do you want to escape? Well that dragon is going to be attacking at periodic times during the game. As you are making noise, you are putting Clank! Cubes into the Clank area on the board. When you replenish the public offering of cards, if you flip any over that has a Dragon emblem on it, the dragon attacks. When the dragon attacks, you take all the Clank cubes that have accumulated in the Clank area and you put them in the Dragon Attack Bag and you will pull an amount of cubes from that bag equal to the spot where the Dragon is, on the Dragon attack track plus any modifiers on the card offering. Those cubes that are pulled will go on the health tracks of the adventurers or just be set aside if they are the black dragon cubes. Take enough damage and you, the adventurer die. If you die below ground, in the depths, you gain nothing, no one remembers you. Die above ground and at least everyone can see that you grabbed some fun things and almost made it and then they take your stuff and give you credit. But if you get out, you trigger the end of the game and you speed up the dragon attacks, along with getting some extra recognition in the way of Mastery Tokens.
Points are accumulated gold, all the artifacts and marketplace items have point values, some Minor Secrets (Dragon Eggs) and some Major Secrets (Chalice), Monkey Tokens (I forgot to mention the wonderful Monkey Idols that can be picked up) add all that together plus any value that is on cards that you have purchased and the highest score of those above ground, wins the game.
Clank! Sunken Treasures
In Sunken Treasures you get a new double sided board and some new tokens, like the Scuba Mask for the Marketplace and a couple new Minor and Major Secrets and about 30 new cards that can be added to the mix. Most of those new cards are there to help you with the new underwater aspect on the new boards. Some of the new rooms are underwater, and if you start your turn underwater, you have to come out for air or else you will lose health. The purchasing of the Scuba Mask from the Marketplace negates this effect. Also, some rooms have pathways between them that require two movement to be spent or a Scuba Mask to be owned in order to pass through. To facilitate movement, the board also has a waterfall that eases travel on the board, but also makes more noise for the ever lurking dragon to hear.
Clank! The Mummy’s Curse
The Mummy’s Curse expansion adds a new double sided board with one side being Sphinx and the other side being a pyramid. The pyramid board seemed more straight forward to me, and the Sphinx one seemed to offer more options. The other new thing that Mummy’s Curse adds is a mummy, and guess what, he’s throwing curses around. So, along with the dragon, who is still angry that you are trying to come in and take all of his hard earned loot, you have to worry about the mummy that wanders around handing out curses, which are negative 2 points at the end of the game. Instead of just having a Goblin to hit for a coin, you also have a Mummy that can be hit. If you use 2 attack to hit the mummy, you gain 4 gold, but you also gain a curse. But if you hit the Mummy with 3 attack, you will be able to get rid of half of your curses, rounded up. Each time the Mummy is hit though, you will roll a 4 sided die that is in the game and the Mummy will move to the location indicated on the die after it is rolled. If anyone is in that same area as the Mummy when it moves, they gain a curse. Along with that, The Mummy’s Curse comes with 40 new cards, and some of them even help remove those curses.
I kind of skimmed through the rules here as I think that most folks who read this, or listen to our podcast know about Clank! as we talk about it quite a bit and you all have probably heard about it numerous times, if you haven’t already played it yourself. But I think from this, you definitely get the gist of just what is going on in Clank!.
To me, Dominion is still the deck building game to beat, sure there are a lot of others out there that are fun distractions, but for pure deck building you can’t top it. But of those deck builders that have followed, Clank! has to be next in line. The movement aspect and the way it adds a fun push your luck aspect to deck building is wonderful, even when you get trapped in the depths because you’ve ran out of movement in your draw pile and just need to cycle through to get it all back out (not that that has ever happened to me). The Clank! cubes while there are some ways to mitigate how much noise you make, you will be making noise, so you have to be careful as to not add too much to that draw bag because when the dragon hits, it hurts. Never fear though, there are ways to heal damage, just not a lot.
My biggest complaint about Clank! would be that unlike Dominion, there are very few ways to cull your deck, to get rid of cards that are only getting in your way. There are a couple cards that can be bought that allow you to discard cards, but not enough to go around so you can sometimes feel like your deck is getting a bit bulky or filled with stuff that you just don’t want and can sometimes make it feel like you don’t get the combos that you want to get with card play.
Unless I am mistaken, this is the game that put Renegade Game Studios on the map, it showcased their eye for finding wonderful, unique games and for making them look as wonderful as they play. The art on the cards, on the boards, and even the wooden pieces (minus those boring Clank cubes) are fun and evoke a light hearted, fun game. The art showcases the talent of their artists and graphic designers as the design is easy to understand and the art is absolutely wonderful. Be sure to read the flavor text on the cards, don’t just look at them and not read.
The expansions add interesting twists to the gameplay, from the movement hindrances in Sunken Treasures to that always on the move Mummy and his curses in The Mummy’s Curse. You get more cards, which is always a good thing in deck building games and those cards can be used together or you can take them out, I just wish the marking to separate them was a bit easier to see. Of note, if you do play with all the cards mixed up, just be aware that due to the sheer number of cards, you’re liable to not see some of the cards. If you play with the Sunken Treasures board, some of those cards that help with water movement may never have the opportunity to come out, but I don’t think it really hinders the game at all, you just have to approach things a bit differently sometimes. The boards each add distinct flavor to the game and are great additions to have, I just wish that they had planned for the inevitable success of the game and made the base box large enough to hold the new boards but as it is now if I want to keep the insert that helps separate the cards, I have to keep the expansion boxes just for the boards, which is kind of a nuisance, but as you can tell, not a big enough one to keep me from picking them up.
Clank! is a fantastic deck building system, at least I think we can call it that now. It continues to grow, but it continues to grow in that way that doesn't ruin or soil the base game experience. You still want to add new cards to the deck that do different things and the new boards add enough variety that we haven't looked at them yet and thought, "Oh joy, another Clank board". in that lovely sarcastic tone. I'd say, if you are a board gamer who is a fan of deck building in board games, you should pick up Clank! if you already haven't, and if you have, add the expansions if you feel like adding a bit more variety to the game.