Join me, won't you, as I race to secure my reputation as the greatest thief in the land!
Clank!, released by Renegade Game Studios and designed by Paul Dennen is a strange little dungeon crawler/deck builder mash up that is so much ridiculous fun, it just might see an unusual amount of repeat plays with your group.
You and up to 3 of your friends are thieves competing to see just who among you is the greatest burglar alive, and like small children daring each other to undertake some semi-dangerous task, decide the contest will be decided by stealing from a dragon living deep under the castle.
For the uninitiated, here's a brief on deck builders :
The details might be different case-by-case, but instead of starting with a full deck of cards, typically you start with a deck of ten cards that contain an uneven mix of fighting and purchasing resources. You draw a hand of five, and usually play all the cards in your hand on your turn, even if their effect will go to waste, buying new cards to add to your deck from a common pool. The new cards become available for play each time you shuffle your discard pile to form a new deck.
Clank! Employs this exact mechanic, but where typical deck builders proffer an abstract notion of the world they're trying to convey with cards only, Clank! expands itself with the addition of a game board representing the dragon's underground lair, as well as a cornucopia of useful bits and bobs : meeples to track your movement, counters to track damage, and tons of tokens representing various artifacts and treasures and secrets.
Here's how it works :
The board is laid out, top to bottom, as an abstract of a castle above ground, and the dragon's lair extending away underground, with many paths running through numerous dank, dark rooms. Secrets lie long forgotten in these rooms, guarded by wandering monsters of all types.
You start above ground and, using the "boots" resource from cards you play from your hand, make your way from room to room, gathering loot and, using the "swords" resource from your cards, fighting these monsters.
The deeper you delve the better the loot, but along the way you might draw cards that add "clank" to the clank area : this represents your burglar making noise as they stumble and bumble their way through the caverns, which draws the ire of the dragon.
Along the way you might run into wandering salesmen, or hire able-bodied fighters, or even run into strange, otherworldly tech such as a teleporter. How a medieval thief knows what a teleporter is - let alone how to use it! - is something best not dwelled upon. Just know that it allows for instantaneous travel where travel might have been impossible before. And salesmen?!? In a dungeon?!? Best just leave it...
You make your way as deeply into the lair as you feel comfortable, snatch an artifact, and attempt to flee back to the surface. But take care : you can only carry one artifact, and the choice treasure is deep down indeed!
Oh, and stealing it makes the dragon angry.
One of the better mechanics I'm running into in games these days is the abandonment of dice and the inclusion of a bag you draw tokens from. When the dragon attacks, you and your friends add the clank you've built up in the clank area to the bag, and, depending upon his location along the rage track, draw a number of tokens equal to the number of hearts there. Every token of your color drawn is one point of damage.
To make this burn a bit hotter as the game progresses, each time you draw you set aside any of the black dragon tokens, ramping up the odds of your tokens getting drawn with each passing attack, as any tokens NOT drawn remain in the bag!
While it's not specifically stated in the rules, I foresee a home-ruled ability to set the difficulty level at the beginning of the game by leaving some of the dragon tokens out of the bag.
If you become a crunchy snack for the dragon while below ground, that's it : game over, man! Heck, even if you make it back out of the depths, if you're not carrying a artifact when the dragon (or any other critter) gets ya, the townsfolk will leave you for dead, deceased, passed on, ran down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.
Ah, but if you're carrying an artifact and can claw your way above ground before expiring, the townsfolk fly to your rescue, giving you a new lease on life....so to speak.
Clank! Is a fun little game that feels a little like playing a "vanilla" scenario in a role playing game. This might lend it an unimaginative air to those of us used to meatier fare, simply for want of deeper details, but if you approach it for what it is - a silly little diversion from gloomier prospects - then you'll likely get a huge amount of enjoyment out of it. I found the experience to be quite rewarding. I've often let fly the mantra "role playing without all of the pesky role playing" over games such as this, and this feels like it sums that up pretty succinctly.
The rule book lays everything out in an intuitive fashion, doesn't overstay its welcome, and makes for a fairly easy-to-learn system. Once you get a couple of games under your belt, it's a pretty easy game to teach, as well. Families in particular will get a good kick out of this game.
The meeples and damage tracking tokens are typical wood fare, and the tokens etc are your usual punchcard stock - the standard with this sort of game these days. The playing cards have a flimsier than usual feel to them, but as I like to preserve the life of my cards by sleeving them anyway, this isn't really an issue.
There's already an expansion seeing release soon, and it appears to be underwater themed. The way the game is set up, likely they could continue to pump out new expansions for some time to come. I'm hoping for a modular board eventually, as the included board - while double sided - could easily wear out its welcome very quickly, despite what I feel is a highly replayable game! Hey! Maybe play will get a bit deeper after all and we'll receive a campaign!
Thanks for reading, and if I'm not eaten by a dragon while trying to burgle a suit of armor from the deepest levels of its lair, I'll see you next time!
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