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Clank!

I recently spent an afternoon playing Clank!, a deck-building game with a board component.

We play a lot of Dominion in my household and have played some Ascension at parties. Clank! is the next evolutionary step. It is a natural integration of deck-building and board game, requiring a more flexible strategy.

Shhhhh... We're Hunting Dragons

The goal of the game is to descend into the dungeon, grab an artifact, and make your way back to the surface—without enraging the dragon too much. Artifacts and some of the other tiles you come across while exploring the dungeon are worth victory points, as are some of the cards in your deck.

The deck-building aspect is standard; there are cards that are always available, as well as a rotating row of special cards. You can slay monsters, purchase a flying carpet, or pick up a gem. Some of the cards give you movement—necessary for escaping the dungeon. And some of the cards cause clank—noise that potentially rouses the dragon. For every clank you trigger, a cube of your color goes into the bag. And when a dragon attack is triggered, cubes are drawn essentially as hit points. If you run out of life in the bottom half of the dungeon, you are dead. If you run out of life in the top half of the dungeon with an artifact in hand, the villagers will come and rescue you.

The board does a good job of balancing movement. There may be a shortcut to where you want to go, but it's going to cost you extra boots or a wound (this is where flying carpets and teleporters come in handy).
We had fun working our way through the different cards and exploring the dungeon. I don't yet have a handle on pacing; one player's strategy can really impact everyone else's. If someone decides to duck in, grab the first artifact they find, and run out of the dungeon, everyone else is left scrambling to escape rather than continuing to explore the depths of the dungeon. At least one player wished they had more time to just wander the dungeon and get a sense of how it all worked together.

I liked the dragon aspect. Clearly the dragon found me most delicious with or without ketchup, but it does impact your strategy if you take too many hit points. Or if your opponent does ;)

It takes some adjustment to get used to the uniqueness of the cards. Due to the size of the deck, you may wind up only seeing one card come up that permits trashing or anti-clank. And if that card is taken by the player before you, then that's an advantage you've missed out on. Hopefully later expansions will balance this out a little more.

If you like deck-building games, definitely check out Clank! and its expansion, Clank! Sunken Treasures.