((Note: The original subtitle to this article was “Clank! you fallettinme be in space again”. I was advised that references to classic Sly & the Family Stone were no longer au courant. Hence the “more obvious” ST:TOS pun.
Back in February I wrote about Clank!, a late-2016 delving/heist game that used deckbuilding tropes to excellent effect. Clank! hit tables regularly this year, especially after the Sunken Treasures expansion came out, which added new maps, a new “breathing” mechanic, new cards, and was marred only by a substandard board which split almost immediately.
Word then began to seep out that yet another addition to the Clank! universe would be emerging, this time a standalone version set on an evil space-lord’s ship. Ye gods, did Paul Dennen (the designer) have any spare time? There is such a thing as over-saturation, after all.
Turns out we needn’t have worried. Clank! In! Space! (CIS hereinafter) is no simple reskinning. No indeed, not only does CIS make significant (yet thematic) changes to the base game, it also tightens up certain elements of the design, introduces a truly modular gameboard, and even tosses in a sharpened comedic sensibility to boot.
Yes, the basic scenario and format remains. Players are out to loot the ship of evil Lord Eradikus, which means snag as much loot as possible (including one Artifact) and then scarper off in one of the escape pods in the Cargo Bay. From time to time Eradikus attacks, with increasing ferocity, and the more noise you’ve made the more likely it is you’ll be the target. (For a fuller explanation of the base game mechanics check out my original article on Clank!)
The board in CIS depicts the five modules of Eradikus’ ship. Two of them, the Cargo Bay and the Command Module (where all the Artifacts are stashed) are static; the other three are two-sided and interchangeable, meaning there are 48 possible configurations. One of the modules is called The Promenade. Score one for major replay value, and another half point for #trekkerinjokes.
But there are more changes in the board in store for Clank! Veterans. For one, there are now two ways to whiz around (aside from cards which allow you to teleport to adjacent spaces): Telepads–which require a key purchasable in the Market–and the Hyperlift, which doesn’t require a key but is a little less useful.
Next is the matter of how to enter the Command Module. You need to hack into two different consoles (which are sprinkled throughout the ship) to acquire the two parts of the Command Code. Only then can you access the area with the Artifacts. Naturally, acquiring the Command Code pisses Eradikus off…
…which is as good a time as any to mention another twist: bounty hunters. Yep, as Eradikus’ rage reaches certain levels he dispatches armed minions in the form of red Clank cubes which, when drawn from the bag, damage all players and then return to the bag. You can’t keep an evil bounty hunter down.
Another thing that happens at the highest level of Eradikus-rage is the shutting-down of the Hyperlift, which makes escaping a teensy bit harder. In my last game, one of my opponents managed to ride the lift back to the Cargo Bay just before the gate came down…infuriating.
Which leads me to the escape pods. In Clank! everyone left by the same exit–not so in CIS. Now there are four escape pods in distinct locations; once a thief makes it back and blasts off, that option is gone. And you don’t want to get stuck in the maze of one-way corridors in that part of the ship…
…especially because once a player makes their escape or gets knocked out, their turn consists of drawing more cubes out of the Clank bag. No more four-turn timer, just cubes, cubes, and more cubes. You don’t want to hang about, is all I’m saying.
The last thing I want to touch on is the Adventure Deck. CIS introduces a factions mechanic very similar to Star Realms, which encourages players to tune their decks to take advantage of faction-triggered effects. But it is the Adventure Deck that really rewards the player in the form of nod-and-a-wink references to all the major (and several minor) s.f. Franchises. My favorite is the Acoustic Spanner, but ymmv.
Clank! In! Space! appeals to both Clank! veterans and newcomers. Old-timers will be pleasantly surprised at the tweaks in the game experience and indeed, may not feel the need to return underground for the base game. N00bs face a slightly higher learning curve but benefit from slightly tightened-up design decisions. And best of all, publisher Renegade Games promises to update the (optional) companion app to include variant and solo modes. More Clank! for everyone, I say!