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Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Dungeon Deck Building Delight rss

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A. B. West
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I've been seeking out deckbuilders after I finished my journey through Dominion. To be clear, I only played one expansion (Dominion: Intrigue) which I enjoyed, but quickly burned out on as well - and never purused the numerous expansions after that (I know, I know - many were very good). Most recently I played the quite well integrated A Handful of Stars from Martin Wallace, but along the way I've played a number of others - Ascension: Deckbuilding Game, Star Realms, DC Comics Deck-Building Game, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game, Heroes of Metro City, Valley of the Kings - yes, more than a few, but certainly not every one. And after each one, I felt rather empty. Each were quite mechanical to me somehow - even formulaic like my many plays of Dominion eventually became.

I also played Trains which was fairly well received because of its integration of a board into game play - but the deckbuilding mechanic was the primary driver of the game. The board portion was to me at least, academic. I actually thought the more interesting aspect to Trains was the management of "waste" in the game. But the other cards were often enough direct pulls from Dominion - and why not? It was the father of all this after all.

At Gen Con, I routinely scope out games of interest, often based on very little information at all. Such was the case with CLANK! Although I was fully aware it was a deckbuilder, I was actually more attracted to it based on the box art - and admittedly (rather sheepishly) the theme of it being a dungeon crawler. As you can maybe suss out from my journey through deckbuilding, I was seeking a thematic deckbuilder (recognizing but never being able to actually get into Thunderstone for whatever reason). I should mention here I own Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set which I have certainly not explored enough yet - and I wouldn't call it exactly a deckbuilder. But I digress.

This brings me to my experiences with CLANK! I'm flatly thrilled with it. So much so that I felt the need to report my feelings - mainly as therapy for me to figure out exactly *why* I am thrilled with it. A bit of deconstruction is in order - which will also be an examination of the rules.

The game revolves around deckbuilding of course, but the main feeling is one of dungeoneering. If you've played the venerable DungeonQuest, you have a good measure for what CLANK means by dungeoneering: you are hoping to get into and out of the dungeon before all goes south for you. It's an overall push your luck experience. It isn't nearly (and tragically) as deadly as DungeonQuest, but I feel the designer must have had DQ as a reference point. Because you will indeed find yourself pulled into "just one more treasure please" one too many times leading to (often enough) your inevitable regret that perhaps you should have headed up when instead you headed down. To me, this is certainly a significant part of the fun feeling generated by CLANK.

The deckbuilding aspect is almost mundane - use your cards to buy more cards. It has a conveyor belt display like DC Deckbuilder or Ascension and even some standard piles (one for swords - used to defeat monsters, one for boots - used to move about, one for gold - used to buy). So those aspects do not set it aside - but again indicate the designer knows his way around today's games. No, what sets this deckbuilder in a distinct class is the valuation of those cards. You see: you need all types of cards (nothing new there - that's just good tension in design), but the value of a card in the display I believe *changes* as play unfolds. What I need early in the game isn't what I really need later. Movement is always grand, but I really *do* need gold about midway through to obtain some room to hold another artifact or get the limited number of keys to allow efficient travel. Not to mention swords to help stop my own health from deteriorating.

And I should say here that the race feeling is very real. The first player to 'die' (yes, you can be eliminated in this game) sets the end game in motion - only 4 more rounds and all is at an end. What's worse, however, is in those 4 final rounds, you will most certainly be at risk of dying yourself. Here is where the title drop lands: certain cards generate (as a penalty) 'clank' - represented by your colored cubes placed aside (for the moment) in a display on the board. When the dragon is riled up (determined randomly by the conveyor belt of cards), those cubes are tossed into a bag and a few are drawn back out randomly. Each cube of your color is a single hit on your health. If your health fills up, you are out of the game. If this happens while you are too deep into dungeoneering, you are out of the game - and lose as well (you are not even given the opportunity to score). Perhaps this is too brutal for some to stomach - but then again, such types would avoid DungeonQuest as well.

For me, all of this brutality adds up to such a supreme level of enjoyment - I'm still surprised by my anxiousness during play and exhilaration upon just *barely* escaping with perhaps 1 or 2 health spots left. In my last game, I *did* manage to sneak around the corner and pick up just a few more points before whisking out quickly. Landing outside gives you extra points - further pushing you to run as fast as you can with as much as you can as far as you can. Isn't that the substance of good thievery in a dungeon setting?

I could add a few take backs to all of this. The card quality isn't quite up to perfect standards. It plays a touch sluggish with 4 players (a function of who is playing). Certainly it is under marketed (is that a fault?) which left me wanting to post so more would at least *know* about this gem of a game. But none of that really matters - I can sleeve cards, I can play with 2 or 3 (or 4 who know their turns ahead of time), and I can talk about it with strangers at conventions.

But what I really want to express here is this game creates a *fun* experience. And I don't use that term lightly. It is *fun* as a sublime conflation of what I believe are very deliberate design decisions. For goodness sake it even has a double sided board - variations on how rooms and passages are laid out - another example of going beyond the obvious. It is fun in ways that any single aspect might not have generated - fun in the tension of running away with goodies just in time - leaving your opponents running to catch up.

Delightful!
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Jack
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Hoping to play this tomorrow night. Anything deckbuilder is usually of interest to me, so I'm hoping I love it!
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Mark Johnson
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
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I was interested until I saw it has player elimination yuk

Good review though.
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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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'With great risk comes great reward'. In this case, player elimination adds to the tension and fun. And a player is only sitting out for at most 4 rounds of play - usually watching others be systematically eliminated.
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Jimmy Song
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Any chance you know what card sleeves you are going to go with? (want to know the appropriate card size)
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Arthur Rutyna
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Yeah, this review along with Tom Vasel's video review have made me really want to get this game.

I am curious though, since you mentioned it, what are your thoughts on A Handful of Stars?
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Jack
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Eeeville wrote:
I was interested until I saw it has player elimination yuk


Not that big a deal with 2p.
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Kent O.
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Eeeville wrote:
I was interested until I saw it has player elimination yuk

Good review though.


Don't let the "player elimination" fool you or set you back. Sometimes the "elimination" is that you have escaped the castle and established what you think is good enough to be a winning score and you are daring the others to beat you. Although you have no more turns, you've thrown down the proverbial gauntlet, and forced the rest of the players to hurry up and get out of the castle (or at least out of the depths). It's very exciting.

And if you are eliminated all together from the final scoring (by being "knocked out" in the depths), it is usually your own fault. It could be a really bad draw, that's true, but more likely, you pressed your luck too far. Nobody eliminates another player in this game. You (mostly) eliminate yourself by poor or risky play.

This was my best acquisition at Gen Con. Awesome game.
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Marc Webber
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Great review. I'm curious about solo play. Is solo possible if the person plays 2 characters, and end game; is it win/lose or beat your last score/level?
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Orlando Neto
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Stormpeak13 wrote:
Great review. I'm curious about solo play. Is solo possible if the person plays 2 characters, and end game; is it win/lose or beat your last score/level?

So so I. On the other topic I asked for it. Hope that with little effort we can make it.
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Scarlatch
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Thomas Sidener has (just started?) a Lonely Gamer series and posted some solo rules for Clank!.

Here's his link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy-BoE7wLjI

(Are we allowed to post the youtube link here? Can move it if not.)
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A. B. West
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Neo_1 wrote:
I am curious though, since you mentioned it, what are your thoughts on A Handful of Stars?

Only one play and it is very much a smash your opponent feeling (there really is no other way to win here). The deck building is extremely well done and is an integral part of the game (much like Clank). Sluggish with many players - again a function of how well they plan their turn before it comes time. The board is very different each time you play - due to the random 'blackholes' during set up. It is a very smart game.
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Orlando Neto
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Scarlatch wrote:
Thomas Sidener has (just started?) a Lonely Gamer series and posted some solo rules for Clank!.

Here's his link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy-BoE7wLjI

(Are we allowed to post the youtube link here? Can move it if not.)


wow awesome!!
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Madelyn C
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Played again last night with three new players. They all loved it and laughed as I was the first to be eliminated. But I did make it above ground and scored 56 points.

I love this game.
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Joshua N
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I actually preordered this after seeing you rave about it on other threads Adam. It's nice to read a more fleshed-out review from you about the game.

I really enjoy deck building as a mechanic, but Clank really looks like it'll take it to another level. The other deck builder I'm eagerly awaiting is Aeon's End later this year, although that is more traditional albeit cooperative.
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A. B. West
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I am raving a bit! I'm surprised and delighted - very nice to have that feeling generated from a game. So I felt the need to go on a bit here. I hope you are not disappointed by your purchase!
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Jack
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It was very fun. Played both maps tonight and it was a great experience. Was ahead in the 2nd game, but died in the lower level - one step from safety. Very enjoyable stuff.
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A. B. West
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I played again tonight and my wife got 142 points. She had an amazing run. The game is holding up *very* well to repeated plays - but the card quality is starting to concern me.
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Destrio Dai
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Card importance changing during the game is exactly why star realms is so good and I am enthused to hear that you feel this game has that as well.
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James P
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ok, this review persuaded me to preorder. good job!
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Joshua N
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@Adam

After preordering largely based on your review, I received my copy of Clank and have played it 3x. You were spot on in your review, what a cool game! The push your luck aspect, deck building, and racing are combined very well here, and even at 3 players you can finish in under an hour.
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Great Review!
adamw wrote:
For goodness sake it even has a double sided board - variations on how rooms and passages are laid out - another example of going beyond the obvious.
That's good to know - I was a bit worried about replayability after seeing that Clank! is using a fixed board. (I think I'd have preferred tiles or cards to generate a different setup each time, ah well...)

I really like Thunderstone, but it's a bit lengthy, so this may be a good alternative if there isn't the time - and of course I have some nostalgic feelings towards DungeonQuest.
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