In Clank! the players are raiding a dungeon for treasure, with the not inconsiderable caveat that if you’re caught by the dragon you may not ever be spending it…
The board shows the map of the dungeon and the players start above ground, on the battlements of a castle, ready for adventure. On your turn, you deal yourself five cards from your personal draw deck, and choose which order to activate them: Boot symbols allow you to move around the dungeon, Sword symbols allow you to pass monsters without incurring damage (or potentially reap rewards for defeating them) and the blue skill symbols can be spent acquiring more cards to add to your deck: face up on the table will be a display to purchase from. Some have the basic move/skill/swords but others have special moves or points rewards at the end of the game. And some cards have clank on them: which means you are making noise, and disturbing the dragon! You add a clank cube to the Clank! area on the board – more on that in a moment.
When your turn is over you move all your cards into your ‘discard’ pile – and when you run out of a draw deck, these are shuffled again to form a new one.
If necessary, the display of cards are replenished back to six after a turn, and if one or more new cards has a dragon symbol on it, the dragon attacks: All the clank in the Clank! area goes into a bag of dragon cubes, and a certain amount are drawn out again. If your cubes are among them – you take damage! And you can only take a certain amount of damage before you are considered ‘knocked out’ – at which point you cease to take any turns. Whenever a player picks up an artefact or dragon egg, the dragon advances along his track – next time he attacks, more cubes will be drawn! So as the game continues more and more player cubes go in the bag, and the likelihood of you taking damage gets ever greater.
The moment any one player returns to the surface, there are a maximum of four more turns each before the game ends – but the dragon may speed up that process, as he will attack once (or more!) per remaining round, with increasing ferocity! The game ends when all players are either back on the battlements, or knocked out.
Everyone who makes it back to the battlements is rewarded with a Mastery token worth 20 points. If you’re ‘above ground’ but not out in the open air when the game ends, you still count up your score. If you’re down in the depths, you are considered lost for ever!
Clank! (or to give it its full name, Clank! A deck-building adventure) is great fun. Dominion was the first game to introduce the idea of deck-building and although it proved hugely popular, I was never a massive fan of shuffling cards, dealing cards, adding more cards… it all seemed slightly mechanical. Many other games adopted deck-building and I avoided them. Then I played Flamme Rouge which subverted the deck-building idea (lose cards!) and added a race-track. I loved it. And now here’s Clank! which we’ve had a ball playing. I’m by no means a fantasy theme nut, but the variation in how you build your deck, and the tension of whether you’re going to make it out or not… it’s a super game.
Nobody can steal from each other, and although one or two cards can affect other players, it's mostly the Take That of fate and lady luck.
Low. You do need to make sure you're building a deck with a good balance of cards - enough boots to move around; enough swords to stop the worst of the damage. But the main thing really is to get out while the going is good. There are few other decisions too: a backpack means you can carry two artefacts instead of one, a key can get you through locked passageways!
Tokens scattered around the dungeon help you out (just pick one up when you enter the room they are in) and these are seeded randomly. The game comes with a huge deck of cards, and you can also try different strategies - in and out quick, trigger the game end? Or push your luck and delve deeply? There's a lot of variety here.