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Clank in Space Review

Clank In Space! Board Game Review

Overview

Stealing stuff is bad, okay? But listen, this Lord Eradikus fellow is kind of a jerk, seeing as he conquered the whole galaxy and everything. So, if you want to board his ship and steal his favorite gaming chair, do it with a clean conscience. You can’t liberate the galaxy, but you can give the bad guy hemorrhoids, close enough.

Clank in space top down view

You can find a video version of this review on my YouTube Channel!

The only problem is that you aren’t the only liberator of consumer products. A few others are also bumbling around the ship, making noise, attracting unwanted attention, and scooping up the good stuff for themselves.

The longer you remain on the ship, the more dangerous it becomes. Plus if another were to escape or die first, Lord Eradikus will kick up the eradication efforts another notch. A good thief will have to choose between escaping quickly or taking the good loot. The best thief will manage to do both.

Clank in Space is a deck builder that pits you against your friends to see who can claim the most points by looting the ship and escaping alive. Being too greedy is a fast way to have Patrick Stewart wipe his tears on your red-shirted corpse. At the same time, playing it too cautiously will make your pitiful score the laughing stock of The Galactic Lords Of Artifact Thievery, or “GLOAT” for short.

Clank in space player meeples

Pretty much every action you take on the ship is dictated by cards that you can purchase for your deck every turn. These cards represent tools and allies you may have picked up, but beware. New cards entering the adventure row could also trigger an attack from the ship’s security systems.

If you make it to the cargo bay before taking one too many lasers to the face, you still get to add up your score because your allies will drag your loot-laden body to safety. You get even more points if you manage to maintain your consciousness, and dignity by reaching an escape pod. If you do neither, you get absolutely nothing.

Gideon’s BiasClank! In Space! Information
Review Copy Used: NoPublisher: Dire Wolf
Number of Plays: 10+Designer: Paul Dennen
Player Counts Played: 2 & 4Player Count: 2-4
Fan of Genre: YesGenre: Deck Building
Fan of Weight: YesWeight: Medium
Gaming Groups Thoughts: Love itPrice: $65

Presentation

Clank In Space Has a pretty unique style with a sci-fi aesthetic that’s neither gritty grimdark nor Saturday Morning Cartoon. Two extremes that the setting often bounces between. The artwork is playful, and the game is colorful, but the components still look relatively realistic between the credit chips, market items, and spaceship board. It’s kid-friendly, but not childish, an important distinction.

Angled view of Clank in Space

That said the game is packed with humor. Nearly every single card is a reference to a movie, game, book, or related characters. There is a ton of initial amusement as each card is revealed, and you try to decipher what it’s referencing. Nothing is safe from parody in Clank, and it adds an additional spark of joy to the game.

The board has some information overload at first, but once you’re familiar with the rules it’s easy to decipher. Learning Clank is fairly simple and straightforward, and the rules are written well, but often separated by fluffy thematic categorization. It’s okay on an initial read, but referencing a specific rule later can be frustrating as you need to figure out if the rule falls under concepts such as the Mission, Plan, Mark, Getaway, or End of the Line.

Light scooter and Don Uno cards

The board itself is partially modular, with three of the pieces having two sides for extra variety. That’s always a good thing in my book. Clank In Space also comes with tons of tokens, a set of unique player minis, and one for Lord Eradikus, as well as some generic cubes and a nifty bag to pull them from.

The component quality is good, but the nature of a deck builder means a lot of shuffling, so I would advise sleeving the cards anyway. You do get a lot of stuff in the box, and it matches similarly priced games in that regard.

Card Clanking

Each turn you play your entire hand of five cards, but you choose the order in which to play them. That can be massively important for striking combos and getting the most mileage out of your cards. Your starting deck consists of simple cards that give you boots and skill. Boots are used to move around the board, and skill is used to buy new cards for your deck.

Clank in space starter cards

You also have two Clank cards, they suck. They not only take up space for more useful cards but also force you to add Clank to the pool. Clank is basically noise, and when an attack occurs any clank cubes you have generated get added to the bag. Then some of them get pulled. If your color cubes get pulled, you take damage.

Buying new cards strengthens your deck as many of them have more boots and skill icons, as well as swords which allow you to block damage when crossing over enemy icons. Many of them also have abilities, such as allowing you to draw a card, or even force other players to add Clank to the pool.

Monkey Bot 3000 and Resistor cards

Cards also have combo effects, many cards have a faction icon. Outlaw, Science, and Prisoner, and some cards have an added bonus if you play another card with that icon on the same turn. The Monkey Bot 30000 lets you draw 3 cards, and that’s really good, but it also makes you add 3 Clank and that’s really bad. If you manage to combo it with another Science card, however, you get -3 clank, so you get all the gain with none of the pain.

Some cards are enemies, which can’t be bought. They can be defeated with sword icons instead for a bonus. To top it off, most cards also have a point value, which contributes to your end-of-game score.

Door Sentinal and Collector cards

The catch is, that buying cards is also the main way attacks are triggered. If a new adventure row card has the attack icon, cubes get pulled from the bag according to the rage track. The bag has 24 black cubes that do nothing, but those thin out quickly, and players can only take 10 cubes of damage before eating dirt.

Prepare to be Boarded

One of the most interesting aspects about games like Clank and Dune Imperium is that the deck building is used to actually do things on a physical board. In the case of Clank In Space It takes two relatively simple concepts and breeds depth by melding them together.

Clank Bag and Cubes

Being successful in Clank in Space means building a great deck and using it to cleverly get the most out of your board presence. You are free to move around the ship however you want if you have the right tools. The artifacts, however, are kept in a locked module and require a Command Code. To get one, you simply need to stop on a space with a data port and place a data cube there, gaining whatever is on the port. Once you have a data cube in two different modules of the ship. You can access those shiny artifacts.

The thing is, there are so many variables that it’s rarely so cut and dry. First of all, the artifacts worth the most points are in the deepest part of the ship, which means it takes longer to grab them and escape. But artifacts aren’t the only source of points. Credits can be spent on market tiles, but are also worth points.

Clank in Space Tokens

The ship has unknown loot lying around everywhere, some of which have useful functions such as healing you, while others grant even more points, and of course, the cards themselves grant points.

The longer you spend running around the ship, the more points you accumulate, but the riskier it gets. It’s really the best kind of push-your-luck game, where you have some control over the risks you are taking. Sure, you can still get unlucky. But 90% of your failures are going to stem from your own miscalculations, greed, or one other important variable, the other players.

Interaction by Proxy

Players rarely, if ever attack each other directly, it’s just not built into the game. However, what the other players do very much affects you, and you can’t play Clank like a game of multiplayer solitaire, or you will lose.

The most obvious interaction is taking cards from the adventure row. Card drafting is pretty common, but there’s a bit more beneath the surface in Clank. You aren’t just drafting or hate drafting cards, because every purchase chances an attack, and when that happens, it has the potential to affect everyone. If any player has cubes in the bag, they are at risk.

Eradikus Meeple

There may be times when you have generated very little Clank or have a bunch of health left and go on a shopping spree hoping Lord Eradikus eradicates your competition. Other times you may have to stick to purchasing the cards that are always available. Such as Boldy Go or Fazr so you don’t risk your own neck.

However, the biggest influence that players have on you is what they plan on doing. Clank In Space is a big game of chicken to see who is going to bail off the ship first. That fact actually lends a lot of potential strategy to the game. If someone takes a cheap artifact and leaves early, you might think you have the game in the bag if you stay and fill your pockets. However, any escaped or dead thief means Eradikus can dedicate more time to murdering you.

Crystal Runner card close up

Any player out of the game, either because they escaped or got knocked out, gets to pull cubes from the bag on their turn, like an extra attack. A well-timed escape can doom other players, while a poorly-timed one could hand them the game. It also makes a player’s failure a double-edged sword. You might cheer when a player gets taken down. However, if you aren’t prepared to deal with the extra bag pulls, you will join them very soon.

Clanking It Together

I played Dune Imperium before I played Clank In Space, so I really shouldn’t be surprised at how well the card play intersects with the board. Paul Dennen definitely has a knack for this kind of game. The cards in Clank In Space have several purposes between abilities, combos, and even point values. It all mixes with moving your meeple around the board beautifully.

Clank in Space cards

There will never be an alpha strategy you can rely on every time because the other players are always a factor. Even if they don’t intend to be. Maybe they decided to take the route you wanted and got the loot tokens that were there first. Maybe they bought the last keycard, so you have to go around locked doors. Perhaps one of them screwed up and died early, so you have to deal with extra cubes being pulled.

While you’re pushing your luck, they are deciding how to push theirs, and both of you meet in the middle. Who’s gonna chicken out early? And who’s going to race you to the good stuff? You might try to keep an eye on what adventure cards they want, not just to potentially hate draft them, but to figure out what their plan is. The amount of nuance underneath the game’s relative simplicity is really impressive.

Module close up of Clank in space board

The whole game just works together very well. Each little icon and mechanism has a distinct purpose and exists for a reason. Clank In Space Captures the joyful fun of deck building synergy with the puzzle-like nature of moving around a hazardous board and collecting shiny things. Finally, it wraps it all inside the tight tension of a racing game, and one where the finish line isn’t set in stone.

Clunk

There are a few issues that I take with Clank In Space The first is the theme feels a bit off when it comes to some of the mechanics. Most of the cards you obtain are other living beings that are basically allies. It makes sense on the surface but ends up feeling less and less like infiltrating a ship as you pretty much travel with a clown car of misfits.

Not all abilities fit the cards either. Going back to MonkeyBot 30000. Generating Clank makes sense, a mecha ape is probably pretty noisy. But you would think it would generate sword icons and be combat oriented as opposed to drawing cards.

off Center view of Clank in Space

It may be nit-picky, but there are several instances of this spread throughout the cards. It can sometimes feel like the cards are just icons while serving as a vehicle for an unrelated parody, and I definitely think there was room to combine the two better. This isn’t always the case, but enough for me to take notice. Coming from Dune Imperium. A game by the same designer where the cards mix theme and mechanisms beautifully, I’m a little disappointed.

Next is player count. I played Clank In Space at two and four players, technically solo as well byl using the game’s excellent optional app. The game works perfectly fine with two players, however, it does feel a little off. Mainly due to the distribution of cubes.

Cargo bay view

With two players. Your cubes are much more prominent since there are only the starting 24 black cubes and one other player’s cubes to dilute the bag from your own. The rage track starts higher up, so more cubes are being pulled from the bag faster at the beginning. Mathematically it probably evens out as you also get to take more turns at two players, but it feels faster, not just because there are fewer players at the table. But because death comes at you much quicker.

I found that I was pressured to leave earlier, and not build my deck out as much. It may be an issue with my own perception, but I couldn’t shake that feeling.

Verdict

It’s really difficult to condense all the great things that Clank In Space does into a reasonably sized review. Much of it isn’t obvious and really speaks to Paul Dennen’s talent as a designer. I felt much of the same way when I reviewed Dune Imperium.

For example. Deck Builders have an inherent flaw that goes against what makes them fun. Adding new cards to your deck is just straight-up fun to do. But in most deck-building games, it’s more beneficial to have as few cards as possible so that you constantly cycle your best ones. The most effective strategy is the least fun. To some extent that strategy is effective in Clank In Space. However, the fact that cards have point values that score at the end of the game throws a wrench straight into that strategy.

Psychic master and Jidu Laser Sword cards

You could build your deck to be thin and efficient so you can be the fastest player in and out of the ship. But if another player stacks points in their deck and survives, they will beat you, and by a lot. The thin deck strategy is one of many, rather than the best choice and that’s fantastic.

Clank In Space is full of small details like that. The average player probably wouldn’t realize the significance, but that’s part of its brilliance, it just works, so that you never have a reason to think about what’s behind the curtain in the first place.

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Pros

  • Combining deck building and board movement is a great combo
  • Funny references on the cards are entertaining
  • Easy to learn but a lot of depth
  • A deck builder where having a thin deck isn’t always the best strategy
  • A great game of push your luck mixed with chicken
  • The cohesive design makes for a solid game
  • Great optional app for solo play

Cons

  • Theme and mechanisms don’t always line up
  • The game can sometimes feel too fast when playing at two players