Clank

Two weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity of Games Master a.k.a. the Tabletop Gaming Team Lead for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who are not familiar with the Expo, the CCEE is like your typical comic cons. For four days I would lead my amazing group of volunteers in running this awesome area. Although it was an overwhelming area to run, I was just enjoying this opportunity to play and teach board games to the patrons of the Expo.

I was on the floor for all four days and it was hard for me to find a moment to duck out of the tabletop gaming area and enjoy the Expo. So when I did get a chance, I got to look at some of the booths including some of the gaming shops. One of these shops had a game that I’ve been looking for for a long time. Of course the worker said that this was their “last copy” so I had to buy it before I started working again at the Tabletop Gaming area.

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Clank is a 2 – 4 player dungeon deck builder created by Paul Dennen and is published by Renegade Games. In this game you act as thieves diving deep into a dungeon, searching and scavenging for treasure. Unfortunately, in the dungeon lies an angry dragon, poised in killing people who enter her lair. The only way the dragon can get you is through the noise you make, called clank. The more clank you make, the more likely the dragon destroys you. The thief who is able to steal the most treasure and make it out of the dungeon is the winner.

Set-up for the game is more extensive than some games that I’ve talked about. Place the board on the center of the table. Give each player a deck of ten grey starter cards and have each player shuffle their decks. Also give each player their respective clank cubes and have them place their meeple at the start of the dungeon. Separate the cards that have a yellow banner as well as the goblin card and put them somewhere outside of the board. The remaining cards, which have a red, blue, or purple banner, are shuffled altogether and then six of these cards are placed face up. These six cards are part of dungeon row. Place the tokens in their appropriate places; the artifacts, two minor secret tokens and a major secret token on their respective places, the crowns, keys and backpacks in the area labelled “market”, and the three monkey idols in the monkey idol room. Place the dragon marker on the spot on the rage track equal to the number of players. Have the gold coin tokens somewhere nearby and put the twenty black clank cubes in the provided cloth bag and you’re finally ready to go.

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In Clank, you have two goals. First you, have to venture the dungeon and acquire an artifact. The deeper you go, the more valuable the artifacts become. Afterwards, you run out and escape the dungeon.  You use cards from your deck to move around the dungeon, battle monsters, and buy new cards to either utilize their abilities immediately, or to add the card to your deck. On your turn, you will draw five cards from your deck and play the cards. Each card may have one or more of the following symbols: a blue skill diamond with a number inside of it, an orange square with a boot inside of it, or a red circle with a sword inside of it. Skill diamonds earn you skill points, which you can use to buy cards either in dungeon row, or the common yellow banner cards and add them to your deck. Orange squares allow players to traverse into the dungeon and potentially get tokens. Red swords allow players to battle monsters found in dungeon row and earn the benefits for defeating a monster. Cards may also have text that give you additional instructions, such as drawing new cards, or earning points for having certain cards in your deck. Cards may also ask you to place clank, in which case you will take clank cubes and place them in the clank area.

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Once a player moves, attacks, and purchases new cards, they will then replenish dungeon row. If cards come out of dungeon row that have a dragon symbol on them, then a dragon attack occurs. All cubes that were placed in the clank area are now placed in the bag and cubes are drawn from the bag depending on how where the dragon is on the rage track. If a player’s cube is drawn, then that player takes damage from the dragon.

Play continues until either a player dies from taking on too much damage, or a player escapes the dungeon with an artifact in hand. In both cases the endgame is triggered. The player who triggers the endgame will put their meeple at the top of the dungeon and it will act as a marker for how many turns players have in the dungeon. Each player now has four turns left to escape.  Once it reaches the trigger’s turn again, a dragon attack occurs automatically with more clank cubes being drawn from the bag. The game ends when all players escape the dungeon, or when the trigger’s meeple reaches the last space at the top of the board, in which case all players die. Only the players who are above the depths will score points. This is indicated by whether or not the player is above the green field line. Also, any player who exits the dungeon with an artifact also earns a twenty point bonus.

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Players who do make it past the depths will now count their points, either earned by tokens they collect, or on the cards they bought. The player who has the most points wins.

Clank is a unique game that is super fun. I’ve never seen a deck builder – slash – dungeon crawler –  slash – press your luck game before, which was one of the reasons why I had to purchase it during the Expo. Talking about the deck builder part, the cards and the artwork are very well done. The abilities of the cards also make players start to strategize on what kind of deck they want to work with. Do you choose to create a deck that makes you move a lot, but force you to place a lot of clank? Do you go for a deck that makes you sneaky and prevents you from putting clank? You can even start adding cards that force other players to add clank, or even force the dragon attack. No matter what the case may be, every time you start a new game of Clank, you will have to come up with a new strategy because there are so many cards in the dungeon row deck.

The dungeon builder part of the game is also well designed. The board is two-sided, with one side being a lot easier than the other; play the blue side if you want to learn mechanics and try the game with some new players, or play the red side if you want to have a bit of a challenge. Because there are multiple ways to get to the different artifacts, players also have to strategize on how to use their cards effectively to traverse the dungeon and maximize the number of points. For example, if you want to get to the high valued artifacts, you may want to consider stopping by a market and buying a master key.  If one of your cards says you get more points for obtaining monkey idols, you may want to head to the monkey idol room. The design of the dungeon also gives you that authentic exploration and adventure feel, whether you are exploring crystal caverns, stealing monkey idols, or running away from a fire-breathing dragon. 

Finally, I want to touch on the press your luck aspect of the game. I’ve always liked press your luck games like Incan Gold, Dicey Goblins, or even Can’t Stop. Clank has found a way to fuse this element in a deck builder. Depending on the number of clank cubes you put in the dungeon, you may start to consider how long you want to spend in the dungeon. The more clank you make, the more likely you are killed by the dragon. The dragon bag and clank cubes simulate this very well. Every time I have played this game with friends, I always get that tension and anxiety when watching the cubes come out of the bag.  You always hope that it is any other colour but yours and the deck builder element allows you to control how the clank cubes are distributed.

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The only con regarding this element is that winning this game is not necessarily based on how hard you worked to build the deck and hunt for tokens, but rather on how the cubes are drawn out.  You could be getting high scoring tokens and have tons of cards that earn you points, but if you get bad draws coming from the clank bag, all the work that you’ve done is in vain if you are still in the depths. I have seen a few players just livid because of this. If you are going to play Clank, be aware that you could lose not because of bad playing style, but because the dragon was just picking on you more than expected. 

Clank is a highly engaging game that beautifully mixes deck builders, dungeon crawling, and press your luck elements. It is entertaining and consistently lets players juggle many variables to successfully loot the dragon’s lair. This is definitely a game you want to add to your personal collection. 

Pros: 

  • Great components and artwork
  • Really fun and unique deck builder
  • Butt clenching press your luck game embedded in this dungeon crawler.

Cons: 

  • Setup is fairly long because of the many components that have to be placed.
  • Players might be ticked off if after all the work they put into getting points, they still lose because of bad draws.
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