A Glimpse Into the Vault: Clank!

Raid the dungeon. Take the treasure. Don’t get killed by the dragon. Backstab your buddies? This might sound like a standard Dungeons and Dragon campaign (maybe not the backstab your buddy part), but it is one way to summarize Clank!: A Deck Building Adventure by Renegade Game Studios. Rather than picking up a character sheet and some dice, Clank! instead operates as a combination of a deck building game (such as Ascension or the DC Comics card game) and a more standard board game.

Players have a simple enough goal: Get into the dungeon underground, acquire an antiquity, and get back to the surface with as much treasure as they carry. This is complicated by the horde of monsters and the angry dragon that oppose them, and the fact that they are competing with a bunch of other adventurers. The first adventurer to make it back to the surface alive begins a countdown for the entire basement to collapse, killing whoever does not make it back in time, forcing players to balance their greed against their odds of escaping in one piece.

Players maneuver across the board by playing the cards they draw each round. Each card has an effect that gives players currency to spend to buy more cards that offer them magical gear, movement speed throughout the dungeon, and the strength to slay monsters. There is a constantly changing inventory of five items and/or monsters that players can buy or fight, depending on what the players have to play that round.  

Most of this is standard for a deck builder, but they add an interesting wrinkle in the deck builder end with “Clank”. Clank is roughly equivalent to  the amount of noise you make as you go through the dungeon. For every Clank you generate, you put a cube (the same color as your token) into a pile. Every so often, an event occurs that rouses the dragon (most often as an effect of a monster, causing it to lash out. The cubes in the pile are placed into a bag along with a number of black cubes there at the start of the game.  A number of cubes is pulled from the bag corresponding to where the dragon is on the tracker, and players take a point of damage for each cube of their color gets drawn, and drawn cubes are removed back to their piles. The damage starts off lightly at first: the black cubes act as decoys to protect the players, and they greatly outnumber the amount players are likely to put in with their basic cards and relatively few cubes are drawn. However, as the game progresses, the dragon moves down the tracker and increasing numbers of cubes are drawn each time the dragon lashes out. Depending on how the cards fall, players can go from near perfect health to teetering on the brink. However, Clank can be manipulated by players. Some cards allow players to remove their cubes before the dragon is roused and the cubes are sent to the bag, and some even allow players to get extra purchasing power that turn.

Intersecting with the deck building is the board play. Players start at the entrance, and are able to maneuver through the spaces in front of them. Some spaces require an extra movement to pass through, some require a key, and some require you to choose between using up fighting power or losing health (running into a monster). What players have in their hands partially determine the path they take, and how quickly they can move. Once they delve below the surface, they can start collecting treasures, and all players require one before they return to the surface. All the treasures have different values depending on how difficult it is to get them, and players are all in competition with each other to get them. There is also a Market, where they can spend Gold (a currency that hangs around and is counted at the end of game) for useful items and treasures.

The end game becomes a balance of trying to pick up as much value as you can, and keeping an eye on your health as dragon attacks continue. Eventually, players begin to move to the top. The first player to make it back gets a bonus and starts the countdown for the others. Those who get back can get points, and all have to get to the middle levels to keep their treasure. At the end, players count up points based on their gold, the value of the treasure they took, and values indicated on the decks they built. Whoever has the greatest point total is the winner!

I took the game out for a spin with my brother-in-law and a few friends on a friendly game night. I have to say that I had a lot of fun in the process, even though I came in dead last. I attempted to build a combo that gave a purchasing bonus in accordance to the amount of Clank you generated in that hand, and it worked…exactly once. I hadn’t gotten any of the cards that let you exile undesirable cards from your deck, so my deck grew to a size where it simply wasn’t possible to repeat. In the meanwhile, I had run up a truly impressive amount of Clank. I decided that the risks were too high and that I should book it to the exit. I safely returned to the entrance, and picked up extra points for being the first one out.

In one way, I was right: the next few times the dragon was roused my cubes were repeatedly drawn, but I was already safely out of the game. The problem was, that meant the other players weren’t suffering the dragon’s wrath either, and because they had stayed longer they had items with far higher point totals. All of them were able to make it back to the surface before the countdown was over, and I found myself in dead last.

In spite of my rather humiliating defeat, I had a lot of fun. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have an evening of a few round of light gaming with friends…just watch out for your buddies!

Author’s Note: It’s been a little while since A Glimpse Into the Vault has received a lot of love. Board game nights happen somewhat regularly around me, so if you have any other board or deck based games that you are eager for someone to take a look at, please let us know and we’ll try to review it for you! Let us know about it in the comments, or on Twitter @HungryHalfling or @WHalfling!

Image credit to Renegade Game Studios. Clank! can be purchased here!

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