Elevator Pitch - Clank! is Ascension styled deck building mixed with a dungeon delve press your luck game.
Opening thoughts - I've played a good number of hybrid deck building games (with a board) in the past year or so. Thanks in no small part to the "success" of Trains we are now seeing a surge of games that try to mix deck building into other types of games. We've seen some brutal co-op deck building games. We've seen area control deck building games. Clank!, as far as I know is the first time I've seen deck building mixed with a press your luck dungeon delve game (Mystic Vale admittedly does use a solid press your luck mechanic though).
What do I like about Clank!?
1- Good looking art and layout design. The artwork is consistent (done by a single artist) and is an above average "cartoony" style that most players should find appealing. Its isn't the flashiest, or sexiest art I've ever seen in a game, but it is on the whole, very good. The layout design of the cards is all done very well, although, the choice to put the purchase cost on the bottom and the VP value of cards on the top is a bit counter to what you would normally find in a game like this.
2- The game comes with 2 vastly different board designs. Wow! Just wow! The game boards are gorgeous, and easy to understand (one you get over the initial learning curve). Having 2 game boards out of the box makes for a HUGE difference. It gives you more diversity in game play then I would normally expect to get from a game like this. It goes a long way to keeping the game feeling fresh after repeated plays.
3- The "clank" mechanic feels new and innovative. You are adding cubes to a bag as you make more noise and you take damage when your cubes get drawn. It sounds like something that should have been done in dozens of games by now, but to my knowledge it hasn't. The truly brilliant thing here is that it gives players 2 ways they can mitigate risk. You can try to put fewer cubes in the bag OR you can try to keep from drawing cubes OUT of the bag. Its a very clever and subtle detail that is easy for players to not notice.
4- Navigating the game board makes for a very interesting push your luck element that folks aren't talking about. The branching paths of the game board give you an almost overwhelming number of options for how to make your way through the dungeon. Some choices will be dictated by your cards. Sometimes you'll have to weigh risk versus reward. Other times you'll find yourself tweaking your deck in very specific ways so that you can run through a very particular part of the dungeon. There are tons of navigational choices to be made, both in how you make your way across the board but also in how you build your deck.
5- The tone of this game is pitch perfect! This is not a game that takes itself serious. Its as if the designers realized that if the game took itself too seriously that some folks would be turned off by the take that nature of the game. As it stands though, the game encourages you not to take the experience too seriously so that when things go sideways, you aren't left yelling at your opponents. Further, the lighthearted tone of the art/theme plus the in jokes hidden in the flavor text are perfect for younger kids. My 10 year olds found the fluff text quite enjoyable.
What are my criticisms of Clank!?
1- There is room for some AP. AP prone players may have some challenge with this game. You don't want to play this game with someone who is going to try and min/max every branching path through the dungeon.
2- I wonder just how long lasting the appeal of this game is. After a half dozen plays, I began to feel that some of the raw joy I felt in earlier plays begin to dissipate. I think that this is a game I'm going to enjoy getting to the table once or twice every few months or so, at least for now, but does it have enough staying power to feel magical over the long haul? I'm not sure.
3- There is no deck culling. This isn't really my criticism, but I've heard enough people talk about it. The fact that there is almost no culling in this game is a very interesting wrinkle to this game. Some will love it (I do) and others won't. For me it adds into the calculation of when you want to leave the dungeon. Generous culling abilities would make it simply too easy to move quickly and to minimize Clank!.
Final Thoughts - Clank! is a winner. There are some genuinely innovative ideas here and they are executed with just enough flair and fun to engage a loyal fan base. If it weren't for the truly outstanding Mechs vs. Minions, Clank! would have been my choice for the best family game of 2016. I expect that we will see more in the "Clank!" series over time and I for one can't wait to see what the designer has in store for us. Fans of deck building games, buy this with confidence! My BGG rating: 8.0
I've felt that the game is so quick that culling your deck is unnecessary. There's just not enough turns that you would really need to slim your deck down.
I say that as a good thing. It doesn't overstay its welcome.
Fans of deck building games, buy this with confidence!
I'm not even a fan of deck builders, but I played this once and then had to buy it.