How crazy that after making an episode all about risk, I had the opportunity to play Clank! by Renegade Games. This self-styled “deck-building adventure” gives you the opportunity to compete with your fellow rogues to see who can gain the most and best treasure before the dragon returns to send you scurrying from his hoard with fangs and fire.
As players enter the castle, they take their first steps on a web of pathways leading through the castle and into the dragon’s deeps. In the deeps are a series of different artifacts, each worth a different number of victory points. Players must grab one of these and then race back towards the entrance before the dragon kills everyone.
Seems simple enough, but in order to win this game, players need to balance how deep they go in the castle, how valuable of an artifact they grab, and how quickly they can get back to the start. The game is complex enough that this balance is tricky to master! Plus, the deck you build defines how well you escape! So, things get really frustrating when the cards you need to move don’t show up.
Meanwhile, the dragon ramps up throughout the game every time a player grabs an artifact. More damage comes out the more artifacts are stolen. Which means a perfectly valid strategy is to grab the cheapest artifact you can and then run for it before damage becomes overwhelming. Since other players will need to go deeper, they’ll be forced to spend more turns potentially taking damage. In order to score any points at all, players have to at least escape out of the deep and into the castle proper, where their can be safely recovered if a dragon burns their thief to a crisp.
Is this the best strategy? Well, simply delving deep and grabbing a better artifact can’t make up for failing to escape the castle. However, spending more time in the dungeon can grant you gold coins to spend at the traditional underground market! Whether you buy a key, a crown, or a backpack, you will gain new options and very likely more victory points. There are also plenty of victory points waiting to be found by players who are willing to thoroughly explore the Deeps. Finally, once you escape, you can’t improve your deck anymore, which means you stop gaining victory points by purchasing special cards.
This game quickly becomes a Stag Hunt problem for a group of friends, when one player decides whether or not to try the Escape strategy while everyone else is engrossed in heading into the Deeps. While it is absolutely a great strategy to win the game, you may hear some groans from your friends when you try it out.
Clank! is a fantastic game with a novel approach to the deckbuilding genre. The race for artifacts is tons of fun, and the dragon mechanic builds the kind of tension that makes you hold your breath. I’ll be picking up my own copy as soon as humanly possibly.