Publisher: Renegade Game Studios, Dire Wolf Digital
Game Length: 45-90 minutes
MSRP: $60.00 (Clank in Space), $25 (Apocalypse expansion)
In space no one can hear you scream, but Lord Eradikus will surely hear all that noise you’ve been making while snooping around his ship. All that clanking will summon his wrath, and your only hope is to run faster than your friends.
Clank in Space is a brilliantly fun board game that combines the strategy of a deckbuilding card game with a space-themed dungeon crawl. The recently released Apocalypse expansion adds new villainous schemes to thwart your heist plans even more, creating an always exciting and memorable race through the mother ship.
The original concept for Clank: A Deck-building Adventure in 2016 resulted in a traditional fantasy-themed dungeon crawler. Clank in Space launched as a sequel a year later, infusing a sci-fi theme filled with hilariously on-the-nose references to every science fiction movie and show you can think of. It also features a modular board of multiple double-sided sectors, adding a welcoming amount of variety to every game.
As a deckbuilder each player starts with the same starter deck of 10 cards, which can generate either Skill, Swords, Boots, or Clank. Skill lets you acquire more and better cards. Swords allows you to defeat villain cards for rewards. Boots let you move around the map, while Clank forces you to add your colored tokens to the bag. When certain cards arrive at the marketplace, Lord Eradikus will attack, forcing players to draw cubes from the bag to see who gets attacked.
Players take turns playing cards, moving around the board, collecting secrets, and hacking modules to gain access to the final area. The goal is to steal an artifact, then high tail it back to the entrance to count their victory points. Lord Eradikus’ rage builds over the course of the game, represented by drawing additional clank cubes from his bag.
The beginning stages feel calm. But by the end you’ve drawn most of the black cubes (misses) from the bag, players are wounded, and you’re running out of options to heal and time to escape. If you die before returning to the starting module, you’re eliminated.
Player elimination can be harsh but they often get their revenge; on future turns they become additional boss attacks. I’ve played at least one hilarious game in which all three players died early thanks to a string of risky choices and bad luck, and we all ended up laughing about it.
The new Apocalypse expansion adds 35 adventure cards, two new module map pieces, and eight schemes. The cards and modules help add even more variety and flavor to a game already rich with replayablity, while the schemes are an all-new gameplay addition.
Instead of adding new mechanics and complications, schemes smartly use a resource already in the base game, the black boss cubes. When these starter cubes are drawn from the bag they represent misses from Lord Eradikus. They’re important for making the early game sting less, while the late game gets excitingly challenging as the ratio between player cubes and black cubes has shifted.
When playing with one of the schemes, drawing these black cubes adds to an ongoing counter. Each scheme includes three different stages, with each stage activating a global effect. The Microbot Army Scheme, for example, deals 1 damage each to all players upon reaching stages one and two. But after the third stage, players take one damage every turn if they fail to generate any Swords.
To combat these threats, each scheme allows players to purchase the black cubes before they fill up a stage, with the purchase cost thematically tied to the scheme (Microbot Army requires Swords). Many of the new cards and both of the modules then add new abilities that can be activated using these black cubes.
It’s a clever way to use a resource that was already included in the base game, though the schemes were rarely as impactful as I was hoping. It’s not too difficult to stay on top of most of the schemes. The final stage usually activates so late in the game that it rarely creates much of a disruption to the already exciting end-game.
As a deckbuilder, Clank requires comprehension of card text, though synergy between cards is less important than other card games. The simple iconography of Boots, Skill, and Swords is easy to grasp.
With the emphasis on working toward the same goal with a few Take That mechanics, Clank makes for a great family game with older kids and teens.
The best part of Clank in Space is how perfectly balanced it feels. Every game consistently ramps up into an exciting, nail-biting conclusion. No matter how many players I was playing with it always became a tense, tight race. The Apocalypse expansion integrates perfectly, adding more variety without making anything too complicated, though some schemes are far more interesting and enjoyable than others.