Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure is all about going into a dungeon, acquiring some shiny artifacts, and escaping before the dragon can eat you . . . so it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that the adventuring company that’s known to acquire™ anything you ask for would eventually take an interest. In Fall 2019 we’ll see Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated, a standalone version of the game where you’ll build your own Acq. Inc. franchise across several games of Clank! It seems that corporate wants to check things out first, though, because right now we’ve got the Acquisitions Incorporated Upper Management Pack expansion bringing Omin Dran, Jim Darkmagic, Viari, and Môrgæn into the dungeon!
Adding It To The Game
First things first, this is not a standalone product. It’s backward compatible with the base Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure, and it’s also forward compatible with Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated. This also isn’t an expansion you just tack on; it replaces cards from the games it gets attached to, rather than simply adding to them, specifically the starter decks. The Upper Management Pack comes with a little insert explaining all this, including the fact that the decks within are more powerful than the base starter decks, so you shouldn’t mix and match them. It also says that you probably shouldn’t start Clank! Legacy with them for narrative reasons; presumably Omin Dran and co. are the ones handing out jobs to their hapless franchisees in that game.
To understand what the Upper Management Pack does for Clank! gameplay we need to take a look at the starting decks from the base game. Each Clank! player starts play with ten cards: 6 Burgle cards that give you Skill points, 2 Stumble cards that grant +1 of the eponymous Clank! that will get the dragon after you, a Sidestep card that grants movement, and a Scramble card that grants both Skill and movement.
Each of the four characters in the Pack have their own ten card starter deck that replaces the starter decks from the base game. Each has five cards that function exactly like Burgle cards, although they’re named differently: Prayer for Omin, Conjure for Jim, Loot for Viari, and Hunt for Môrgæn. Each also has two Stumble cards. There’s unique art and text for these cards, but that’s about it – if you replaced them with the base game’s Burgle and Stumble nothing would change mechanically speaking.
It’s the last three cards in each character’s deck that makes them stand out and, from a gameplay perspective, makes the Pack worth looking at. There’s a card that grants Skill, a card that grants movement, and a card that grants both, but across the different characters the additional abilities are all unique. Viari’s Acrobat, in addition to Skill and movement, allows his player to defeat one monster with Skill instead of Swords, which aside from being very in-character allows him to defeat monsters right out of the gate. Omin’s Cure grants Skill, but if he’s already got an artifact his player can trash the card to heal two points – and then heal every other player one point, provided they each pay two gold. Môrgæn’s Markswoman doesn’t just grant Skill and movement, but if she generated any Swords the turn it’s played it actually reduces her Clank! by 1. Jim’s Perform might just grant movement, but once he has an artifact in hand it also allows his player to draw two cards – in exchange for +2 Clank!
Each of these unique cards makes the character’s starting position much stronger than a base game’s starting deck, and each really fits with the Acquisitions Inc. characters we’ve come to know. In that, the UMP is a success. It’s not without issue, though.
The Deck-Building Problem
I’ve got one criticism of the design for this expansion, and it’s tied into the very nature of Clank! as a deck-building game. As I mentioned above, what makes the UMP starter decks stand out from a gameplay perspective are the unique cards and the abilities they grant. First round of play you’re going to have a good chance that at least one of them is going to be in your hand. But you’re going to be adding to your deck. That’s how you play the game. So from a sheer numbers perspective, the longer you’re playing the game the less likely you’re going to be able to draw one of those unique cards, and the more similar to a plain old normal Clank! deck your own will be. That steals a certain amount of oomph from the Pack as a whole.
It doesn’t stop the cards from being useful or fun even as they become rarer, and several of them are designed for post-artifact play or to be one-use anyway, like Omin’s Cure. I just think that the Pack’s decks would come off as more unique, as they’re touted to be, if more of the Burgle-equivalents had been ditched in favor of more actually-unique cards.
This might not be such a problem with Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated, though. We don’t really know what the new version will offer yet, but in the UMP’s little insert it mentions that if you’re playing with a UMP deck you should replace one of the Burgle-esque cards with a ‘Role’ card. First, that makes me feel pretty good about my thought to include more unique cards in the UMP decks. Second, if you add that up with getting to play with a character through multiple linked games, and surrounded by other Acq. Inc. cards to boot, you might just eliminate the problem entirely.
The overall quality of the UMP is very high. The art on the cards is good, and in the case of the Burgle-equivalents actually takes up the entire card instead of just the upper half. Each character also gets a character board to place your cards on and around, sturdy and again with good art. Then we get to the real jump in production values: the miniatures.
Characters in the base game are represented by slightly-unique meeples, but these are detailed character miniatures and even in grey plastic they look good. Dire Wolf Digital had a few painted examples at their PAX East booth, and let me tell you, they looked gorgeous. If that side of the hobby is your thing, they’ve given you some great material to work with, here.
There’s also the consideration that if you’re interested in buying an Acq. Inc. expansion for a card/board game then you’re almost certainly at least interested in D&D, and thus perhaps excited about a new book coming out. Maybe you’ll need some Upper Management miniatures for your campaign . . .
So, is it worth your while to acquire™ the Upper Management Pack for yourself? I’d say so. It’s not quite as flashy as I’d have liked it to be in terms of gameplay, but it will bring a fresh spin to your game of Clank!, it has a lot of potential for the Legacy expansion coming in the Fall, the quality of its physical contents is very high, and it accomplishes its goal of bringing Acq. Inc. flavored fun to the table. While you’ll be crossing your fingers for the cards to show up later in the game, when they do they’re going to enable some really great moments.
Acquire™ your way to adventure in Clank! with the Acquisitions Incorporated Upper Management Pack today, but remember: watch out for that dragon, and always be branding!
Thanks very much to the Dire Wolf Digital crew at PAX East for talking to me about the UMP and giving us a review copy!
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