Ryan: So, Alex, would it be wrong to say that you are a big fan of deckbuilders?
Alex: Absolutely. In fact, if I’m going to get in a game with my wife, most often it will be some kind if deckbuilder. I think part of the appeal comes from “building” something out of practically nothing.
Ryan: Right! Or something minimal, anyways. Something that EVERYONE at the table starts off with. Balance in a game is important after all, and I think a large part of appeal for myself over other card games like MtG. I know if I got into that, I would always be self conscious about the size of my…deck…but with deckbuilders, everyone starts off on the same footing, using tactics and strategy to try and defeat their opponent. We both have experience with various games in this area, but Clank! brings a freshness to the genre. Something new.
Alex: For sure. What I appreciate most about Clank! is how it takes a deckbuilder and–excuse the pun–builds upon it. Instead of the back and forth combat style that most DBs follow, Clank! pits players against the dungeon itself without turning the game into a co-op.
Alex: The idea is players must venture into a dungeon and steal as much loot as they can. Traversing the catacombs isn’t always simple, as certain paths may take you toward some treasure but away from others. On top of that, different pieces of treasure are worth different amounts of victory points. This makes strategy incredibly important. Do you go after one big piece, or do you snag a couple? And the trick is you must act fast because this dungeon isn’t empty. The longer players spend gaining victory points, the more noise they’ll make, attracting the attention of the dragon. So on top of deckbuilding, there is almost a push your luck element.
Ryan: Oh, definitely a large push your luck element and even just some plain “luck”. Yes, each player wants to see just how far they could venture into the dungeon to secure the more precious loot (which is worth more points), but as we saw, when it came time to draw the dreadful little clank cubes from the bag to see who the dragon attacked, mine were certainly pulled more often then yours! This had a pretty significant effect on when I would potentially be knocked out. And I don’t believe it was so much related to how much noise I was making in the dungeon, as it was chance. With that said, the game was amazingly fun and I simply had to react and adjust my strategy to my looming death.
Ryan: How did you feel about the playtime? The box says 30-60 minutes.
Alex: As it was our first time playing, I’d guess we were right around the maximum if you don’t count the set-up time. Like all first time games, I’m sure future playthroughs of Clank! will go faster. I know that when we first set everything up, you were questioning whether we’d even spend 30 minutes, and it does seem like that. But once we started, it was clear that it wasn’t always easy to advance your character unless you constructed your deck to allow for better movement. That said, even on turns when the cards did not allow me to progress in distance, I could do something to either strengthen my character or potentially disrupt your progress.
Ryan: I agree. It seems like you only need to recover one artifact from the dungeon, but purchasing items from the market to allow for multiples or just collecting other treasures, definitely helps keep the game to a happy length. Really though, I think play-style determines how long or short the game can be. You could have for instance: dived down real quick, grabbed the first artifact you find, leave the dungeon, which would trigger the four final rounds. It wouldn’t be much fun, but it is interesting how that can be controlled and worked into game tactics. The explore cards (for movement) do play an important role, as you mentioned, and their limited supply can put you in a tight spot if you don’t get enough in your deck.
Ryan: As far as the rulebook goes, I found it to be sufficient enough to get through the game. It was clear in most places, but did leave a couple things to question. There were certain areas, like the monkey idols, the market rooms, and the handling of dragon Clank! cubes after they are drawn, that I felt they could have expanded and gone into more detail on.
Alex: You’re right. This rulebook left a lot to be desired. For the bits they didn’t mention (or that we missed), we just “house ruled” it based on how other parts of the game worked. One nice aspect was the set-up breakdown. There are FOURTEEN steps involved, but I feel after a single play I wouldn’t need to read through the section again. But let’s talk about set-up. Do you feel that the strict placement of the pieces somewhat kills the replayability level?
Ryan: I could see that happening since you always know exactly what route connected to which artifact (in reference to the less advanced side of the board anyways. It is double sided). What might have made things a little more interesting is to have three or four of the higher value artifacts be randomly spaced on the more difficult spots. It also would have been cool to see some of the artifacts include points AND a market item.
Alex: Yeah, I’d even consider flipping the treasure pieces over to hide their true value. It would even somewhat fit thematically.
Alex: As for the pieces, I won’t say anything “wowed” me, but the production was very nice. The stock they used for everything was sturdy, which is always a plus for me. I tend to be someone who goes out of his way (though not obsessively) to ensure the components are well taken care of, so I appreciate when the publisher helps in my crusade. The art and graphic design blended well to create a cohesive product.
Ryan: The red insert that allowed room for sleeved cards was also a nice touch. While there is plenty of room for more cards from the expansions, I have heard complaints that the additional boards won’t fit in the box, so that extra space could be a bit useless. The dragon bag and wooden piece were nice, but I think I would have preferred linen cards. That is a bit of a personal preference however. In my eyes, the art fit and was ‘good’, but nothing that blew me away. I actually felt the art on the board was better than what was on the cards but they still were cohesive.
Alex: Hmm…I suppose I’d need to get another look at the game, but I remember really enjoying the cards more so than the board. That is not to say that the board was a disappointment, but rather it felt rather one note.
Ryan: We’ve kind of touched on the gameplay throughout the review, but overall, its quite smooth. I didn’t feel anything was clunky or bogged down by unnecessary steps or rules. Anyone familiar with deckbuilders will have few issues reading through the rulebook and just playing. And guess what? It’s fun! The deckbuilding element is pretty basic, but I think it has to be since it is only half of the game. Traversing the board has many decisions, and too much on the deckbuilding side might have made this into more than it needs to be. I played a bit more risky and pushed deeper into the dungeon. I grew nervous not knowing if I would make it out alive as you made your way back out of the dungeon. And the best part, Alex? The best part is reaching down into that bag to pull out the clank cubes! Few games can capture that tension, that anxiety, of not knowing if your going to be the one attacked by the dragon. I honestly sighed in relief a few times when I was a couple inches, no ‘cubes‘, from death and the reveal showed none of my cubes. Other times I cursed. A lot.
Alex: You were feeling the tension far more than I was mainly because of the luck factor. For the most part, we had an even number of cubes in the bag, but yours seemed to find their way out far more than mine. I like that you brought up our opposing strategies. Instead of running after the big points, I decided to try for a grouping of the medium to low points, and get the hell out of there as fast as I could. I loved that both strategies are totally viable. Our point difference came down to only two, which, to me, is the way every game SHOULD be. In the end, I guess the replayability comes down to the people you are playing with and what they decide to do in any given game.
Ryan: Obviously, not every person is going to love every game, but Clank! will be (and is) loved my most of them! If you like heavy euros or games that involve zero luck, or are not a fan of deckbuilders, then Clank! is might not be for you. It’s a light game. I even want to say that it would make an amazing gateway game; but it’s better. it offers you a lot more interesting decisions than games of similar weight. If this sounds like a game you might like and no one in your group has it yet, I feel confident telling you to buy it. You will love it. That does bring up another point however: cost. It’s from a smaller publisher and because of that, it gets a little bit of a pass, but even on sale it is a bit pricey. I would prefer to see this with an MSRP of $39.99 and actual retail at $34.99. I do like it enough that I would purchase it again at the current retail pricing (around $45).
Alex: This is spot on. While the MSRP of $60 is outrageous, in my opinion, the game is worth the ~$40 price point. Like Ryan said, if you are looking to have a light, fun time with a group of buddies, but want something a level above a filler, this is your game.
Authors: Ryan Vollmer and Alex Rupp