Clank is deck-builder dungeon crawl where each player uses the cards in their deck to explore the rooms in a castle, sunken ship, or pyramid (depending on whether you’re playing the original or one of the expansions) for artifacts and treasure. Beware the monsters in the tunnels and, most importantly, the dragon. Players who either escape the dungeon with an artifact or at least make it out of the depths (the lowest levels of the dungeon you’re exploring) with an artifact before running out of health can vie for the win. Once everyone is out of the dungeon or knocked out, the players with characters who survived count up their victory points. The player with the most wins.
Players each begin the game with identical decks of 10 cards, an adventurer meeple, and a pile of “clank” cubes, which represent noise that they make in the dungeon. There is a deck of additional cards that players can purchase on their turn, with a offer row of 6 cards available each turn.
After shuffling their deck, players draw a hand of 5 cards. On their turn, players must play all of the cards in their hand, but they get to choose the order of play. The cards give a combination of various things – movement, skill points, swords, clank, or special abilities.
Movement allows you to move your adventurer around the board. Swords allow you to battle monsters, either in the tunnels of the dungeon or in the offer row. Skill points are used to purchase cards from the offer row to beef up your deck. Other special abilities (for better or worse) include clank – more on that in a minute – drawing another card, discarding or trashing a card, gold, or additional movement.
As you move around the board, you can pick up things that are in various rooms. Small secrets and large secrets give additional movement, health points, swords, or victory points. And, of course, the artifacts are what we are each seeking out. You can only carry one artifact. Also, if you land in a “market” space, there are a few things you can purchase with your gold – a backpack to let you carry a second artifact, a key to get through locked doors, and items to give you victory points.
At the end of each player’s turn, the offer row is refilled. If a “dragon attack” card comes out, the…you guessed it…dragon attacks. This is done by gathering up all the clank cubes that have accumulated since the last attack, putting them in a bag that also starts with black cubes representing the dragon. A number of cubes are pulled out of the bag, according to the dragon’s level (which rises as players pull artifacts or dragon eggs off the board). Pulling a player-color cube represent a health point that player loses, while pulling a dragon cube does nothing.
After grabbing an artifact, the goal is to get out of the dungeon to gather a mastery token, which is worth 20 points at the end of the game. The first person out sets a clock for everyone else in the dungeon. Each time that player’s turn comes around again, a dragon attack is triggered, and each time there are additional cubes that come out of the bag. The fourth time that player’s turn comes around, anyone left in the dungeon succumbs to the dragon. If they are out of the depths AND have an artifact, the villagers save them.
The player whose adventurer survives with the most points wins.
I have to say that I LOVE this game. It is easily one of my top 5 favorites right now, and is probably #1 depending on which day you talk to me. The idea of using the deck-building mechanism (one of my current favs) to move around a board collecting treasure is absolutely brilliant.
The game is often a push-pull between all the players, deciding whether to go for the high-point artifacts deep in the depths, and risk not getting out of the dungeon in time, or to go for lower-point ones and lots of secrets or other points. I nearly always go for the high-point artifacts, unless someone gets there first or I forget to get some additional movement in my deck. Of course, there’s the second “clock” in the game that is your clank and health meter – you can’t go in for too long or the dragon WILL get you.
I love looking at my hand and planning how to get around the board while picking up small and large secrets, but still moving as efficiently as possible to those artifacts. Gaining money is hard, but pays off with keys, backpacks, and other victory points.
I also have the two expansions. Sunken Treasure takes place in a sunken ship, with some of the rooms underwater. This adds a complication that if you start your turn under water, you must make it out of the water at least once by the end of your turn or lose a health (unless you get your hands on scuba gear in the market). The Mummy’s Curse takes place in either a pyramid or sphinx, depending on which side of the board you use. It introduces a mummy and curses. The mummy wanders from sector to sector, doling out curses if he enters your sector. The curses are negative points, but taking them can also get you some advantages.
I’m perfectly happy playing any of the maps – expansion or original game – they are all fun. Oh, and the flavor text on the cards are must-reads – this game has a sense of humor. Highly recommended.
How is it as a 2-player game? It works well as a 2-player game. As I mentioned, there are two “clocks” in the game – your health meter and how quickly the other player(s) leave the dungeon. There are fewer other players to keep an eye on, of course, with the 2-player game, but there’s still that push-pull of how far into the dungeon do you go…and has the other player decided to do the same. It’s maybe slightly better with 3 or 4 players, but I’m perfectly happy taking it out with just two of us.
How about the art and component quality? The components and art are great. The cards could be a little thicker, and I worry that they’ll become tattered at some point, but I’m okay with that…it means the game has gotten a lot of love. The art is wonderful – be sure to check out each card, and especially read the flavor text when you can. I love the custom meeples for the adventures and dragon – and mummy in the one expansion. The clank cubes are just cubes, but with so much other great components, it’s all you need.
Will this stay in my collection? A resounding yes…it is among my top 5 favorite games right now.
* Oh, I almost forgot. I put the asterisk on the player count because there is a 1-player variant. It requires an app, which defines little sub-quests and represents the timer for increasing the danger in the game. It’s fun and works with the base game and Sunken Treasures. The goal is to get out with the most points and beat your previous score – not my favorite solo mechanism, but it works to get a Clank! fix. I’m hoping they’ll update for The Mummy’s Curse soon, too.