With only a couple of hours left for gaming after advancing our epic Pathfinder adventure, we were able to play through a game of Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure (2016) and it was great fun. It’s a deck-building game with a dungeon map, treasure, and a fearsome dragon. You’re a treasure-stealing thief type with your aim to be the one to get the most loot from the dragon’s treasure trove.
A fun romp through a dungeon! This is a really good game, in the light and fun category, a bit like Colt Express in its overall tone. I appreciate that it’s easy to learn, and compared to a lot of stuff we play, it’s fairly quick. We got through a game in a couple of hours with 4 of us playing, 2 of us for the first time and none of us with a ton of experience. It seems like you could go through the game in 60-90 minutes with more experience, though of course, I don’t know if the game will hold up through that many plays, as it only has so much going on (though it has an expansion now). This is not the most in-depth strategic game, nor the one for the most serious gamers, but it’s strategic to where it’s not for non-gamers either. It captures a feeling of sneaking through a dungeon for loot, like Munchkin or Dungeon or Dungeon Roll, but there are no real monsters besides the bad old dragon. It’s less about bashing and more about stealing, and getting away with it.
About a medium level of setup, nothing out of the ordinary. You need to sort some cards, sort some different tokens into their respective piles, and then set up the board with the tokens in the right spot. It’s no more than you’d expect from a game like this, but not really less either.
Theme and Components
One of those games that makes less-than-stellar components work for it. The cards have pretty solid art going on them, but the board and the tokens are a bit more cartoony, and the playing pieces are rather clunky wooden meeple. The dragon is also a wooden cutout, nothing special, but it really works for this game and is a fun piece. The theme is of swords and dragons, but there’s almost an Indiana Jones feel to it as well, with your backpacks and artifacts. The map doesn’t exactly fit together either, as it looks like a house right on top of a dragon’s lair, but the disparate themes hold together well enough for a good time of a game. Overall the components are solid enough to work, but don’t really add anything special to the game.
Interesting Mechanics and Game Play
The best thing about the game are all the mechanics going on, especially the “Clank!” mechanic and the dragon. It is a standard deck-building game, only the deck interfaces with a board in interesting ways. You use your deck to manage buying power and fighting power, a bit like Ascension, but also with big point-scorers you can buy, like in Dominion. However, as sort of a third dimension to keep track of, you also use your deck to manage the movement of your playing piece on the board.
On that board are a bunch of races going on, the first to get to a “?” space will get a random reward, so you have to strategize how you’re going to build up your buying power, combat power and movement, and which movement races you’re going to prioritize. As you do, you draw and play your “Stumble” cards which add Clank! In other words, you’re making a lot of noise and the dragon is on to you, increasing the danger he is to you. The level of danger the dragon presents increases as the game goes on and you do things to anger him, such as stealing artifacts or dragon eggs. There are some various tricks to the board itself, special spaces and movement restrictions along with areas that have a lot of loot if you’re willing to lurk around them, but also multiple ways to score. The board is a bit of a puzzle, where you make decisions as to whether you will go for a key, for crowns or both, or will you take a backpack for an extra artifact? Finally, the ever-looming threat of the dragon adds another unique element to the game. All your “clank” chits are a chance for you to take damage, and when the dragon strikes, you throw all the chits in the bag, and pull out a few to see who takes the damage.
All of these represent damage and if you take enough, you die.
If you’re below ground or without an artifact, you’re out. If you’re above ground, you’ll be rescued but won’t get out for a “Mastery” token worth 20 points, which is a lot in a game with final scores around 100. So early in the game, you’re trying to build up your deck with buying power and combat and descend, but as the game progresses, you’re trying to figure out your escape plan, building your deck more around movement, or buying cards for victory points with the end game in sight. Another thing I like about the game is that it was fairly easy to learn. We had two new players, one of them won the game with 107 points, the other had 93 points for fourth place, and the other two players were in between, so we’re talking a very narrow spread of points, meaning everyone was in the game to the end. The winner was the one player to escape the dungeon alive and gain those 20 points for doing so, the difference in the game.
You’re going to sneak into the dragon’s dungeon and try to avoid him while you steal his loot. Not the most do-somethingy game ever, but not too shabby either. There’s not a ton “accomplished” in this game as some others but you’ll have a nice little horde of treasure at the end of the game to show for your effort, which is all that matters to thieving sorts.
It was a lot of fun and I could see myself playing the game we just played many times before it would get old. Plus, there’s another board on the other side for another variant, plus a new expansion with “underwater” lairs to explore, but that’s about all I know about it. The biggest reason to play it repeatedly is that it doesn’t take such a long time, and it’s a well done fun romp of a game.
I’ll steal from the dragon any time. It’s a bit of a mood-oriented game, more of a light and fun game with a good deal of luck involved, versus a serious strategic game, but there’s plenty of deck-building and movement strategy going on. Still, it would be hard to make this the main event of a gaming get together, more the warmup variety, but one that I’d be into. There are so many great games out there, and this is definitely one of them.