Rush in, grab treasure, rush out, win. "I got this." I thought to myself as I stood next to a few strangers who had also stepped up to the demo table next to me in the Direwolf Digital booth at PAX West. I shuffled up my deck of cards in the lighthearted dungeon runner Clank! and planned my course into the dungeon, towards one of the valuable Artifacts contained therein.
I got burnt to a crisp.
You see, a dragon lives inside Clank!'s dungeon, and the dragon is none too pleased with adventurers who trespass into its domain, trying to make off with its treasures. It especially doesn't like adventurers who try to make off with dragon eggs, which was my greatest undoing. I couldn't stop myself from snatching up the valuable eggs, and the dragon rained hellfire onto me for it, burning me to death and putting me out of the game. I had a blast.
Clank! is an interesting mix of deckbuilding, racing, and points rush that has players competing against each other to score the most points by the end of the game. The game can end when someone manages to secure an Artifact and dash back out of the dungeon to safety with it, but often the game will end when the intrepid, if clumsy, adventurers meet a toasty, burn-y fate like I did.
What really makes Clank! stand out in the realm of deckbuilding games is the dungeon itself. The cards will generally give players currency to buy more cards, fight to take on various minor monsters that appear, or movement points. Those movement points allow players to slip, slide, explore, and stumble their way through the dungeon, room by room, in search of all of the best and most valuable goodies. Moving quickly is key, but making noise is very bad.
As players make noise, or Clank! as the game calls it, they must put cubes of their color onto the Clank! section of the board. The dragon, ever looming, can, and will, be triggered to breath fire by various cards and effects in the game. When it's time for the dragon to exhale his killer breath, all of the cubes from the Clank! space are placed into a bag, and a certain number are drawn. If cubes of your color come out, you take damage. Take too much damage and you are dead.
The dungeon itself provides some hazards and obstacles that you have to deal with as well. Movement can be tricky, and there are different paths throughout that only go one way, are harder to move through, have deadly monsters, and even keys that you have to acquire to unlock them. The movement, hazards, and desire to grab as much loot as possible all need to be considered when deciding what cards to purchase and add to your deck. There are even cards that can be purchased that do nothing other than give you points at the end of the game but end up clogging up your deck as you purchase them.
The combination of deckbuilding and dungeon exploration work incredibly well together. The looming, ever present danger of the dragon provides a fun motivation to try to find a good balance between moving quickly and moving safely, and contrasts well with the motivation to outrace your opponents to the juiciest bits of treasure.
Even though I go torched, I had a great time with Clank!, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy so that I can redeem myself. Well, I'll attempt to redeem myself, but knowing my tendencies, I'll probably end up getting flambéed more often than not.
All images courtesy of Direwolf Digital.