Exploring the Depths of Deck-Building in Clank – Review

clank board game feature

In Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure you’re dungeon delving into the heart of a dragon’s mountain. It’s a game of risk, reward, and running away from a fiery death. Where you could end up with a mountain of treasure yourself, or you could end up dead.

You start each turn with five cards, using as many as you’d like to go deeper into this dungeon. Cards with boots allow you to move, cards with swords allow you to fight monsters, and cards with skill points allow you to buy better and more powerful cards.

This is Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure in a nutshell. You draw cards, steal treasure, fight monsters, buy more cards, and repeat. Trying to collect as many victory points as possible.

Except, Clank! is a game of tiptoes and rushed sprints. The cards you play have a chance to make a sound or clank, which puts you in jeopardy when the dragon wakes up.

Several times throughout the game, all of the noise cubes are put into the dragon bag. A number of these cubes are drawn, and if any are yours, then you get hit with a wayward fireball.

If you get hit too much, you’re dead and eliminated from the game.

But that’s not all, as after the first player leaves the dungeon. Everyone remaining only has four turns before the dragon awakens for good and makes a meal out of them all.

From here on Clank! transforms from a brisk-paced adventure into a mad rush for the exit. Only escapees get to count their treasure, with whoever collected the most winning the game and living to tell the tale.

Clank's board after a game, tokens are pilfered from the map. Red and yellow are both two tokens from dying.
Yellow was victorious

Not your average deck-builder

This ending to the game brings with it incredible pressure and atmosphere. Every player crosses their fingers, shoulders, knees, and toes in the hope that they draw the cards they need.

It’s a moment of push-your-luck brilliance. Usually reserved for shorter games like Diamant, it’s unusual to find it in a larger game, but it works so well.

However, even before this climax, the game is afoot.

Given the fast pace of the game and its rotating market, you can’t follow the same strategies game after game. For example, in some games, there might only be movement cards in the market, while others might focus heavily on fighting. So you need to be tactical about buying the best cards for you right now, rather than waiting for perfect combinations.

There’s a strangeness to this, as while you’re making tactical decisions. Bought cards go straight to the discard pile, so you won’t use them for several turns.

Additionally, without a consistent way of removing cards from your deck, buying cards is a decision you can’t take lightly. Because of this, it means the market isn’t as volatile as it needs to be. No one wants to buy awful cards.

Altogether this means the deck-building in Clank! isn’t nearly as interesting as it is in Dominion, or as exciting as it is in Dale of Merchants.

Thankfully there’s more to this game than pure deck-building. The key strategic questions you need to answer are how far should you go into the dungeon, and how do you get there with the cards you drew? The answer to these questions changes with each new hand of cards. As a result, despite the lacklustre deck-building Clank! is still an exciting board game to play.

The Swagger card that gives you skill points per clank you made this turn, and the Watcher monster.
Finally, proof I got swagger

Warning: Don’t play Clank! at two

When you require situational awareness of where everyone is and what they’re doing is when Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure works best. It boils down to the final standoff from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly where everyone is on a hair trigger to race back to the entrance of the dungeon.

When playing with two players, you don’t really get the same feeling. Therefore, it becomes a bit of a handshake game where you do your own thing, and leave when you’re ready. It’s missing the excitement, and chaos that comes from being worried you’re not going to make it.

Compared to playing with three or four players, it’s barely the same game. It’s board game genius in how it manages to capture a strategy game, with the essence of a push-your-luck game, all the while nailing its theme.

So much so, that despite the subpar deck-building Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure is still a blast to play. The way you move throughout the dungeon is so evocative, that you feel like you’re creeping through the dragon’s dungeon. Likewise, when you’re running away, you feel the rush of blood as you’re not sure if you’ve overcooked your escape.

But if that’s not enough, there’s also no end of support for it from Renegade Games. Who recently produced a single-player and separate game mode via their app, as well as many, many expansions.

Designer: Paul Dennen

Publisher: Renegade Games

See how Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure compares to all of the other board games I’ve reviewed.

Clank A Deck Building Adventure Cover
  • Build a deck that’s quick, quiet and gets you a lot of treasure
  • Don’t wake the dragon, or maybe do, and watch your opponents flee!
  • Push-your-luck perfection, in a light weight package

Chester the Corgi with his head on chair next to Clank board game box
Damn, Chester’s cute!

5 thoughts on “Exploring the Depths of Deck-Building in Clank – Review

  1. Dave, interesting. I like the new style. I’ve only played Clank once — I also thought the deck builder was a bit meh, but the real tension in the game is stay or leave. I think that is the core of the whole thing, and making sure you have a way back out while watching other players is part of the enjoyment. Thanks for the review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *