In this week’s issue of The Robot Plays, I’m sharing a very, very cool new-ish game: Clank! by Renegade Game Studios.
Judging by the tagline alone, you might be skeptical of Clank! because a “deck building adventure” doesn’t seem like the most intuitive of mash-ups. But this is where Clank! truly shines. It brings in the best of deck building and adventure board games, without it feeling forced or clunky.
Essentially, players take the roles of sneaky thieves, venturing into the dragon’s lair, attempting to steal treasure and make it out alive. Each player starts with a standard deck of 10 cards that are played as a hand of five each turn. Cards let you gain skill points (to buy more cards from a central drafting pool), gain swords (to kill any monster cards that might be part of the central drafting pool), gain footsteps (which let your meeple traverse the board), or gain Clank (the noise your thief makes, represented by putting cubes of your color into a bag). The more advanced cards, of course, confer other benefits like gaining gold (victory points), healing (every time a card is added to the drafting pool with a dragon icon, the dragon has a chance of dealing damage to the players based on drawing Clank cubes from a bag), etc.
At its core, Clank! brings to the table what everyone loves about deck building games, and in a very classic way that feels more like old school favorites like Dominion, rather than more complicated offerings like Android: Netrunner (both favorites of mine, but for very different reasons). The mechanics are simple enough to grasp the key concepts during a first playthrough: build your deck to get the most icons possible. There’s no harm done if you have extra skill, swords, or footsteps… and more victory points are generally a good thing (unless you don’t want to waste any of your five slots early in the game on just gaining gold). The simple mechanics might leave you thinking there’s no real room for strategy, but Clank! doesn’t disappoint when it comes to strategy. Unlike a lot of deck builders which give you just a basic offering of card combinations which later forces you to buy lots of expansions, Clank! has quite a few viable combinations. The sheer volume of different cards was impressive to me; even after several plays, I found myself saying, “I haven’t seen this card before!”
Plus, there’s another entire level of strategy and tactics embedded in the fact that Clank! is a board game. Yes, you’re building a deck of cards to ultimately win… but you can only do so through the pathways and rooms set up by the board. The better treasures are deeper in the dungeon, so the board acts as a scaling mechanism as well. Also, the board is the pacing mechanism; once a player successfully snatches an artifact, they can leave the dungeon which starts a ticking clock for the rest of the players to nab what they can and high-tail it out of there.
All in all, Clank! is a brilliant combination of two very successful tabletop genres. It’s materfully well-done, and it’ll see the table quite a bit on game night. The only thing I can think that may cause the game to get a bit stale is the fact that there are only two board set-ups (one on either side of the board), so the overally strategies for where to move and how to navigate the dungeon may get a bit repetitive. I am confident, however, that the expansions will offer more boards, as well as more cards.
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,