Say you’re a power-mad warlord who collects things and holds them in a massive section of your space ship as you roam around the galaxy.
And say that, as said warlord, you’re getting sick and tired of these thieves breaking onto your ship and stealing said artifacts.
They really are truly annoying, aren’t they?
I mean, you have to spend all of your time trying to come up with more and better defenses against thievery.
It gets tiring!
What do you do to try and relax?
No, you don’t take a nice hot bath with your dogs.
You play arcade games and turn your ship into a massive Aladdin’s Castle!
Clank in Space Adventures: Pulsarcade is the first in the “Adventures” expansion modules for this illustrious deckbuilder. (I”m just going to shorten it to Pulsarcade from now on)
I’m assuming that means there will be more?
In the game, Lord Eradikus showcases his massive collection of old arcade game consoles and players have to get high scores on them in order to steal an artifact!
Does this mean that anybody who wasn’t a kid or teenager in the 1980s can’t win the game?
Let’s take a look.
Since my review of Clank in Space tells you all about how to play the game, I will forego that part and just talk about the expansion modules and how it all comes together.
Unlike Apocalypse or Cyber Station 11, this isn’t a big expansion with a bunch of cards and stuff like that.
Instead, there are three new ship modules that you can use and intermix with the other modules to form the board. There is also a new Command module with a new layout and a new way to get an artifact.
Essentially, in order to get an artifact, you need to collect video game console tokens and spend those tokens to get the artifact you want. Of course, the better the artifact, the more tokens it costs.
You still need to hack two data terminals in two different ship modules in order to access the Command module, but you also will be working on collecting tokens in a variety of ways.
For example, to earn the blue console, you just need to have bought Contraband. To earn the green one, you have to have 6 damage (that’s over half-way to being dead!)
Each console is worth a token, other than the “play a Memory Core” one (which for some reason isn’t pictured…I will fire the photographer) which earns you two tokens.
Once you’ve accessed the Command module, you can go to one of the Skill shot spaces and get an artifact.
One space is easier to get to, but the other space gives you +2 tokens so will make it more likely you can get a good artifact.
You can also spend 6 Skill to get one token or 8 Skill to get two tokens.
Then it’s time to get back off the ship!
In addition to this new game mode, there are three new double-sided modules that can be mixed in with any of the board configurations (even Cyber Station 11).
(Speaking of that expansion, the “video game consoles” game mode can’t be used with that setup).
First, there’s the Cloning Lab.
In this module, there are spaces where you can clone yourself and maybe keep the Bounty Hunters off of you!
If you enter one of the three spaces with four squares in them, you can use one of your unused Clank cubes and place it there.
Then, if a red cube is drawn during an attack by Lord Eradikus, you will remove the clone rather than taking a wound!
That can save your life (and win you the game, if you’re Vicki).
This is an interesting module that I really like, depending on where it is located in the ship. The labs are a bit hard to get to, either having to use 2 Boots or face 2 guards, or maybe have to stop at a security checkpoint first.
Also, the data ports aren’t that thrilling (and a couple even give you Clank) but since the module itself is so strong, that’s not surprising.
Then there’s the Black Market.
This module has a bunch of Market spaces, but they’re all just a little different.
One will let you buy an item for 5 credits instead of 7, but you have to take 2 Clank as well.
Another lets you pay 8 credits for an item but you heal one wound as well.
Interestingly enough, all of the data terminals that you can hack in there also give you credits.
It’s a win-win!
It is difficult to move around in there without a key, though. Lots of locks (or guards if you don’t have a key).
I took advantage of the Black Market in my first game with it, getting a key card for 5 credits and a couple of Clank (thankfully I had a -2 Clank as well that turn) made it well worth it.
It’s a pretty basic module, but oh so useful. And you can never go wrong getting credits for hacking!
Why not try the Danger Theater?
Yes, one of the new pieces included with this expansion is a little racing car for each player.
In Danger Theater, you are trying to get to the end of the track and score a bucketload of points! If you can escape the ship, anyway.
If you gain 3 or more Clank on a turn, you move your racer along the track one space. Once you reach the yellow level, you will have 1 Sword each turn for the rest of the game.
If you reach the red level, you no longer have to stop at security checkpoints!
But you will have gained a lot of Clank (unless you have ways to remove it). Yes, if you gain 3 Clank on a turn but also have -3 Clank (for a net gain of 0 Clank), you still get to move your racer! It only matters that you gained 3, not that you lost it all.
I really enjoyed this module, though we didn’t use it a whole lot. We were trying not to get 3 Clank in a turn, though getting up at least to the Sword level was lucrative. Having a Sword every turn was really cool.
This module would be especially useful if you were able to buy cards that remove Clank as well. It sort of guides your purchases, if they become available.
This is another module where all the data ports give you credits, except one that gives you Clank (hey, it’s helping you become famous!)
That was all in one game. The next game, we flipped all three modules and got the following.
How about cracking into the Vault for some credits?
In this one, each time a black cube is pulled during a boss attack, it gets placed on the next numbered square in the Vault.
When you get into the Vault, if you land in a space that’s connected to one of the sections, you can remove all of the black cubes in there and get credits based on the last filled number in it (so if all four boxes are filled in the yellow vault, you’ll get 8 credits).
However, robbing the Vault is a noisy business!
You’ll gain 3 Clank when you do it. But the money might be worth it!
Especially once you have hacked the two terminals and taken a pass. If the pink vault is filled up, you’ll get 12 credits.
It’s not always easy getting around in the Vault, though. Locks, multiple boots required, guards, all can make things a little hairy.
However, the data port that gives you a Power Crystal when you hack it?
Yep, that’s right. It’s oh so good.
We actually didn’t end up using this module at all during our game, mainly because we had multiple times where black cubes were placed back into the bag due to a timely card arrival in the Market Row. It just didn’t seem worth 3 Clank to get 4 credits.
I can see how it would be useful, though, and if things go right during the game, I’m there!
Or, again, if you have cards that remove Clank as well.
It would go well with Danger Theater, though (many of these modules want to give you more Clank! Were too many people playing it safe before?)
Just as an aside, this module cannot be used when you’re using the Apocalypse expansion and the schemes, as you’ll have conflicting uses for the black cubes.
This one has possibilities, but probably was my least favourite in our plays.
Then you have the Research Lab.
This module has four special data ports that you can hack, which will give you research benefits as well as help you get into Eradikus’ lair.
The four ports attached to the divided circular chamber will each give you a benefit for the rest of the game.
These four abilities are:
When you’ve hacked the data port (and received one Clank if you choose the Swords or the Boot), you get the research token.
For the rest of the game, if you play a Memory Core, Boldly Go, or FAZR card from your hand, then you can use the research token’s ability that turn (in the case of the Draw 1 and get a Clank, you have to use it).
This can be very handy and actually saved my bacon with an extra Boot a few times.
I really enjoyed this module, and three of our four players used it in our game. It can be very handy, especially when it’s a module close to the Cargo Bay.
Finally, there’s the Race Track.
This module is a fairly easy source of end game points, though granted there aren’t that many to be had (10 points can be quite a boost, though!)
This is a fairly simple concept.
When you buy/defeat the second card from the Market Row in the same turn, you move your racer one space forward. So if you only get one card, nothing happens!
You can take the short cut and try to win that way or you can take the longer route and gain 2 credits (the first space gives you 1 credit).
The first player to cross the finish line gets 10 points at the end of the game (assuming you survive!), second place gets 7, etc.
If you don’t finish the race, well, then you’re a loser and don’t gain any points.
Was that too harsh?
Tough, deal with it.
This was an enjoyable enough module just because it’s quite often that you will be gaining/defeating more than one card in the Market Row so it’s easy to do. I think that’s why it’s not worth as many points as Danger Theater.
I also like that two of the data port hacks will move your car forward!
That’s all that’s in the expansion, so it won’t take up too much more room in your box (though seriously, mine is full now).
Is Clank in Space Adventures: Pulsarcade a wicked game of Space Invaders? Or is it a boring game of Skee-Ball?
(Editor: “oooo shots fired”)
Pulsarcade is a really fun expansion, adding some great stuff to one of my favourite games.
The new mode with tokens to get an artifact means that you don’t have to decide how deep into the Command Module you want to go. The only choice like that is “do I want the +2 tokens space or not?”
That space is a bit tougher to get to than the regular one. And much harder to get out of.
However, you still need to make choices as far as how much you want to push things.
Getting those arcade machines does require you to make an effort that may be against what you would normally do.
One machine requires you to get 4 Clank in a turn. Who wants to do that?
Another requires you to play a Memory Core. Most people avoid getting Memory Cores until near the end of the game because they are a lot of points but they just clog your deck in the meantime. They have no use when being played.
Now you can get an arcade machine with two tokens. But you have to have a useless Memory Core played early.
You may not want to do that.
Another machine requires you defeat the G0B-L1N three times in a single turn. That’s using 6 Swords, which is a lot!
So maybe you don’t do all that stuff and get a cheap artifact instead?
That’s always a choice too.
I like those decisions, and I also like how this (and the new modules) encourages you to get Clank and take some risks.
The Danger Theater and the Vault require you getting Clank in order to use them. Sure, you can avoid them if you want and try to play a quieter game.
But maybe it would be worth it? Getting 17 victory points could be pretty good! So can getting 12 credits (though that would mean that 10 of the 23 black cubes are already out of the bag…also dangerous!).
In our two games with these modules and this expansion (both 4-player games), we have had two players escape, four players die in the Cargo Bay, and two players die before reaching the Cargo Bay.
That’s not a bad mix.
I think the Research Lab is my favourite, though.
Most people start out getting Boldly Go and FAZR cards, and it also gives another good reason for early Memory Cores. Getting that effect every turn that you play one of those three cards can be quite useful.
There were a number of times in our game that I was one Boot short of what I needed, but the research Boot put me over the edge.
I loved it!
Thus, this expansion is well worth getting if you really love the game and want to add some variety to it. I haven’t tried these mixed and matched with any of the other modules, nor have I played the gaming mode without the modules that came in the expansion.
But I imagine they will fit in well.
That being said, as much as I enjoyed Pulsarcade, it is not a necessary expansion.
If you love the game already and feel that it’s perfect, you don’t need this.
It adds some great stuff and I think you will enjoy it, but it’s not a “must-have.”
I encourage you to at least try it out, though. We had a blast with it and it does encourage you to use strategies and tactics that you might not use with the base game.
I’m looking forward to seeing what comes in future “Adventures” expansions for the game, and I’m happy that Renegade and Dire Wolf are still paying attention to the game.
Just don’t start being like Arnie if you participate in the Danger Theater.
Really, your fake accent sounds terrible.
(This review was written after 2 plays. Many thanks to Renegade Games Studios for the review copy)