(Edit: This is one of my Top 5 Games Played of all Time, as of February 2019 anyway. Check out the other games as well!)
Everybody loves a good scoundrel, especially in the Science Fiction genre.
When you were a kid, did you want to be Luke Skywalker or did you want to be Han Solo?
The scoundrel always got the girl (we need more SF movies where the female scoundrel gets the guy!). Sure, Luke blew up the Death Star, but he couldn’t have done it without Han.
And he got Princess Leia to fall in love with him to boot!
Why am I talking about thieves and scoundrels?
Because today we’re talking about Clank! In! Space! (and that will be the last time I include all of the exclamation marks in the name. Sorry, Renegade) (Editor: Coward).
Clank in Space is designed by Paul Dennen with art by Rayph Beisner, Raul Ramos, Le Rastislav, Nate Storm, and Franz Vohwinkel. It’s published by Dire Wolf Digital and Renegade Game Studios. It plays 2-4 players with a solo campaign as well.
Clank in Space is the sci-fi version of the classic (Editor: 2016 games cannot be “classics!”) deckbuilding game Clank! (What is it with the exclamation marks, Renegade?).
In the game, each player is a
thief scoundrel who has sneaked aboard Lord Eradikus’ pleasure ship to steal one of his valuable artifacts. Lord Eradikus is actually kind of an evil dude, so really you’re doing the galaxy a favour by stealing stuff from him.
You’re just a lovable rogue!
Let’s see how it works.
How it Plays
Each player starts with a deck of 10 starter cards that will give you some “Skill” (money to buy cards), “Swords” (laser swords used to fight enemies) or “Boots” (something to help you sneak around the ship).
And, of course, there are two “Stumble” cards that will just give you “clank”.
What is “clank?”
It’s basically the amount of noise you’re making as you wander the ship. Nobody ever said you were quiet
A row of six cards for purchase/fighting will be laid out from the deck. These are what you will either be using your Skill to purchase or your Swords to fight.
The goal of the game is to hack two data terminals to give yourself access to Eradikus’ living quarters, then run in to steal an artifact and try to escape the ship.
The modular map is laid out, with the Cargo Bay (where you start) always on the left and Lord Eradikus’ quarters on the right. The three modules in the middle are interchangeable, double-sided and able to be in any of the three spots.
This makes for some good replayability.
On your turn, you will play the five cards in your hand. You have to play them, even if they have a bad effect (or nobody would ever stumble, which we know is an impossibility).
In any order, you can move around the ship, buy an item from the market, hack a data terminal, buy a card or fight an enemy.
Moving requires Boots on your played cards. If you’re not careful, there will be many turns where you’re stuck in the same room.
If you stop in a Market space, you can buy an item from it before moving on. Each item costs seven credits (1 credit = 1 point at the end of the game). The item will only give you five VP at the end of the game, but will also have some use during the game as well. You can buy a Telepad key (will let you use the teleport terminals scattered in each module), a key that will let you get past locks, a Health kit, or some Contraband (which is worth 10 points but otherwise is only usable with a couple of cards).
Once you’ve hacked two terminals (which must be in two different modules on the ship), you get access to the living quarters. You can dart in, steal an artifact, and try to get off the ship in an escape pod.
But you don’t think Lord Eradikus is going to take this lying down, do you?
Any time you play a card that gives you Clank, you put one of your cubes in the Clank space for each Clank you earned. This would normally not be a bad thing, but as time goes on, Lord Eradikus gets more and more pissed off.
When the card market is refilled and a card with his symbol comes out, all of the Clank in this space gets put in the bag along with previous Clank earned and 23 (at the beginning of the game) black cubes that represent nothing happening.
Then, a certain number of cubes based on Eradikus’ “rage level” are drawn from the bag. If one of your cubes gets drawn, it’s placed on the Health Track. If your health reaches the skull, you’re dead!
If you reach the Cargo Hold with an artifact, then you will still get all of the points you’ve earned because your buddies drag you off of the ship (credit chips, points from purchased cards, your artifact, etc). If you get off the ship without dying, you get a 20-point bonus.
However, if you die before reaching the Cargo Hold, you will get no points.
Some people get angry at that.
There are lots of details that I’m leaving out for purposes of length, but that’s basically what you’re doing. Playing cards, buying cards, and moving around the ship to do stuff.
And trying to avoid dying. That’s in there somewhere.
Whoever has the most points wins! And if nobody gets off the ship, Lord Eradikus will laugh at you all throughout your time in Purgatory.
Is Clank in Space a light-hearted romp through space or is it a trudge through heavy-handed symbolism that makes no sense?
There’s a reason Clank in Space was my #5 game played in 2017. It is a lot of fun (unless you’re one of those heathens who find the idea of not getting any points at the end of your game extremely aggravating).
I’m a big fan of deck-building games, especially when they have other mechanics as well (like Trains or especially Tyrants of the Underdark). Clank in Space adds some brilliant mechanics, moving around the board, fighting bad guys to get credits (or some other effects), deciding whether to push your luck and go for the high-value artifact or the lesser one that still allows you to get off of the ship.
I haven’t played the fantasy version of Clank yet, but I understand that it does have a viable strategy of rushing in to get a cheap artifact and then rushing out of the dungeon, thus triggering the end game. (This may be addressed in the expansions, though I don’t know)
Clank in Space mitigates that by requiring you to hack data terminals before you can do anything else regarding thievery. To me, it makes it a much more “complete” game because there isn’t that way to hasten the end.
Again, I might feel differently about that once I play the original.
The artwork on the cards is really great, with lots of nods to other SF movies and books. The Mad Scientist enemy pictured above (way above, sorry to make you scroll) is clearly the mad scientist from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
I also like how some of the cards have factions that allow a player to chain them together to great effect.
In the picture above, both cards are the purple faction. On the Nibbling Beast card, you can see that if you play another purple faction card along with the Beast, you will get an extra two Swords. It doesn’t matter when on the turn you play the other card. You just have to play it on the same turn.
Even without playing another purple faction card, the Beast gives you one Sword and a Boot.
The modular map adds a ton of replayability because not only are the three pieces double-sided, but they can go in any of the three spaces.
Thus, you can have one, two, three…a lot of different map layouts. (Editor: Math is hard)
I highly recommend getting the Renegade app that includes Clank in Space. Not only does it give you a solo campaign (which I haven’t tried yet) but it also gives you a map randomizer. A Godsend!
The four meeples are individualized and are really well done. The cubes are nice wood and since the player colours are white, purple, orange and blue, they’re easily distinguishable.
I do have a few issues with the components, however.
The cards almost need to be sleeved as they get scuffed without much effort.
The modular map pieces fray really easily as well. I’ve played it seven times now and it’s getting really noticeable. I guess that is going to happen when your boards fit together like puzzle pieces, but it is disappointing.
However, as an “insert guy,” I have to say I love the insert! It fits sleeved cards perfectly and there’s a place for everything.
Until you get the expansion, in which case that all goes out the window.
Everything else is pretty good, though. The credit chips look like computer chips, the data crystals are futuristic-looking, the data cubes that you use to denote having hacked a terminal are your colour but clearly different than your regular cubes.
It all comes together in a great package.
The game takes 90-120 minutes (seven plays have all fallen into that time frame), so keep that in mind. It will definitely take longer than the original game just because of the terminal-hacking requirement. There is no way you’ll finish this in an hour unless everybody just races through.
For some people, that is a problem. It does sometimes feel like it should be a shorter game, but most of the time I’m enjoying it too much to worry about it.
Also, be aware that there is definitely downtime after you’ve escaped/been killed. The game does have a really nice way to handle that, where eliminated/escaped players just draw four clank cubes from the bag, which could hasten the demise of those still playing.
However, that’s all you are doing, so it could get boring at some point. We find that by the time this happens (unless you play really poorly and die early), the endgame is in sight and we’re all rooting against the remaining player(s).
My final criticism of the game is the rulebook. It does a pretty decent job of teaching you the game. However, it is a terrible reference (other than the nice Token Reference Guide on the back). If you’re not sure of a rule, good luck finding it in the book. You will be doing a lot of scanning.
And, almost criminally (Editor: some dictatorships have the death penalty for this), it does not actually tell you what the “Clank” symbol is. I don’t know if it’s identified in the original game or not, but obviously not everybody has played the original. Some of the data terminals have the hacking penalty of gaining one or two Clank (basically because they’re fairly close to Eradikus’ living quarters).
Nowhere is this symbol defined in the rules.
What the hell?
Unlike a lot of deckbuilders, there are very few ways to get cards out of your deck, so it can start to grow quite thick. Those cards you purchase late in the game will probably not show up to be played again because they go into your discard pile. Hopefully they are worth points!
Again, that is a problem for some people (some deckbuilder fans live to thin their decks) but it didn’t bother me at all.
All of that being said, Clank in Space is one of the best games I’ve played, or at least the most enjoyable.
I highly recommend it.
(This review was written after 7 plays, if you didn’t catch that from the multiple previous times I said that)