review by Kendra

Clank! is an excellent push-your-luck style deck building game with a chaos-bag mechanic for dealing damage to characters. It is easy to learn and quick to teach, though I personally wish the manual had included an image of a fully set-up boardgame state for my first playthrough. This game is a delight, but really comes alive on the sunset-colored option on the back of the game board itself.

Central to this game is the idea of movement, of delving ever deeper, which brings greater riches but also sets one progressively farther from escape. Many cards will generate Clank!, a metric of how loud a given character is, as an open invitation to push one’s luck. Clank! is stockpiled until a card is drawn that raises the dragon’s ire (the dragon’s shorthand name is Nicki, which is adorable), at which point all that noise is entered irrevocably into the black felt bag of malice. Any cubes of your character’s color drawn represent damage taken by said character and begin to fill a damage meter, which invites even further risk taking, as this damage, so long as it does not kill you, can potentially be healed via potions or specific rooms of recuperation.

All this is to say that pushing one’s luck is a key element of the fun and it’s usually not the damage that ends the game, but the player deciding they’ve had enough risk and darting for the surface. When that initial escape happens, the game becomes a mad scramble as there will only be, at most, four more rounds before Nicki eats everyone.

To navigate these terrors you have an ever-evolving deck, buying cards from a rotation of available dungeon cards OR from a few almost-always available standbys, giving you the ability to purchase cards, use devices, or even to fight monsters to garner additional resources.

This game’s theme is fun, in the exploration, and the table interactivity heightens to brilliant levels the moment someone appears ready to bolt for the exit. It’s all fun and mutualistic until someone leaves the party to be eaten by the dragon, after all. The mix of building a personal deck and charting a personal course is thus disrupted to create a climactic and exciting tail end to the adventure, which leaves the entire group elevated and often ready to play deeper into the night. It feels like a bread and cereal game in my collection – one I draw out early, followed by dinner or some other interruption, and followed after with something middle-light or heavier to close the evening. It’s better as an earlier game than a later game, as being abandoned in the dungeon can leave some folks a little bit salty, but the amping up caused by this game is magnificent for starting the evening.

This game is also nice for introducing dungeon-crawl video gamers to boardgames. It opens with that same introverted feel, but ends as an extrovert’s dream, following the same adrenaline curve as many FPS games with a lean toward exploration. While the item tokens are simple to help novice boardgamers, anyone with experience in the dungeon-exploration genre, digital, analogue, or literary, will understand much of the game within only one or two turns, and most games engage with between fifteen and fifty turns.

This game has won a number of prestigious awards, including the 2019 Gra Roku Game of the Year Winner, the 2019 Gra Roku Family Game of the Year Winner, the 2018 Tric Trac d'Or, the 2017 Mensa Select Winner, and has been nominated for many more, such as the 2016 Meeples' Choice, the 2016 Golden Geek Best Card Game, the 2016 Board Game Quest Awards Game of the Year, the 2016 Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game and the 2017 JUG Adult Game of the Year.

I had a lot of fun with Clank! and look forward to the many iterations the team has created to stand shoulder to shoulder with their first.

Clank! is available now from our webstore.