Clank! In! Space! is the sequel to the 2016 Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, taking the series from fantasy into a sci-fi setting. From designer Paul Dennen, the game sees 2 – 4 players sneaking around evil Lord Eradikus’ spacecraft. Playing in around an hour the task is to grab some loot and get out without dying. However, has enough changed, or even too much? Let’s find out!
Clank! In! Space! has a very similar premise to the original Clank! in the way the players must venture deeper into the location, out of the safety of the starting area, to loot for an artefact. For this reason, in this review I’ll briefly cover the common mechanics and explain the nuances that make this In! Space! version special. Players will still accomplish their mission by on turns drawing their top 5 cards and using them as they see fit. Cards can offer boot symbols for movement, sword symbols to defeat enemies and Skill symbols which are used to buy better cards from the adventure row shop.
New to Clank! In! Space! are factions which some cards are part of. Individually these do nothing but if a second card from the same faction is drawn on a turn grant an ability. These bonuses include things such as extra swords to being able to teleport to a teleporter space in the same area as you. Teleporters are also a new addition and can normally only be used as special spaces if a teleporter key has been purchased from the shop, in the same way keys were brought in the original. Teleporting isn’t completely without its downsides though. After teleporting players can no longer move that round, so make sure you’ve used your boot symbols before standing on and using the teleporter, otherwise those cards that offer boots will have been worthless.
Another new aspect that directly links to movement and causes the same movement-ceasing sickness is the hyperlift. While it costs movement to step onto the hyperlift you can then travel as far along it as you wish: though the final station players must own a key to get to. Initially, I saw this mechanism as one that would drastically reduce the game length, however this isn’t the case. Despite being able to zip along the centre of the ship players must still venture off into the side rooms, along the usual boot movement routes, to get rid of their data cubes and to grab an artefact.
To make the hyperlift even more interesting an “end game” Rage Track event sees the hyperlift effectively cease to be a viable escape route. The 3rd stage of the top section of the Rage Track sees the hyperlift barricaded before the final stop. What has been for most of the game a quick way to zip up and down the middle of the ship is suddenly massively nerfed. Whilst the hyperlift still works for getting between the other platforms the barricaded position means even when using it players will still have to venture through a good chunk of the ship, due to the location of the second hyperlift station. Therefore, it is wise to utilize the hyperlift before the barricade is put in place, or face potentially a lot of damage from Lord Eradikus and his bounty hunters.
These pesky bounty hunters are another thing added in by the top 4 tiers of the Rage Track. As Lord Eradikus reaches them red bounty hunter cubes are added into the bag, which when pulled from the bag damage all players. Bounty hunters are a potent new way of killing players off and make sticking round in the ship towards the end that bit riskier for all players, not just those whom have clanked about.
Make it back to the cargo hold and you’re safe, or at least your points are. As with the original, failing to get back to this safe zone and dying will see your hard efforts voided, completely eliminating you from contention. Get into this safe zone and even if you’re downed your points will count. There are 4 escape pods waiting at the far end of the cargo hold, at the opposite end of the ship to where all the shiny artefacts reside. After claiming an artefact get to one of these without dying will net you 20 points and trigger more destruction from Lord Eradikus, as instead of moving around the ship you only draw cubes from the bag each turn.
So, you’ve got some loot, got out and the game is over. Now it is time to find out whom was the best alien looter. Counting up points from cards purchased, shop items and artefacts it is time to declare a winner. Points from cards brings about an interesting trade off, as cards that feature a lot of points often come with minimal in-game benefits. This will mean they pad out your deck during play, allowing you to do less when they are drawn. It is left up to the player whether they wish to purchase these cards and more importantly when to. Grab loads but do less or only pick one up in the last turn are both viable tactics, I know this as unfortunately I have lost to both strategies.
One unique selling point for Clank! In! Space! is that unlike the original it is comes with a modular board. The front and back of the ship, which respectively feature the cargo bay and where artefacts are located, are always the same. Conversely, there are 3 double sided boards which combine to make the centre of the ship. As all 3 are always used this makes the modular element more of a subtle change instead of a game changing inclusion. Expect it to feel more like a way that extends the life of the game by making it a little different each time rather than making it a completely different experience. Note, there is a combination that is recommends to start with but the decision is completely left to the players.
The science fiction theme is a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst in the original the word clank made some thematic sense, of moving round in old world metal armour, there is more of a disconnect between the word, the noise and what it represents. It also begs the question of why, in an age where there are teleporters, data hacking and more, the evil Lord Eradikus wouldn’t have life sign detectors on the ship, still relying on intruders to make noise. For all the discontent, going down the sci-fi route has clearly allowed the developers to have some fun with the card deck, almost with more creative freedom than before. Boldly Go being a prime example, not just being Star Trek related in name but also depicting a red shirt running. This is before you see The Exterminator (Terminator), Dark Jidu (Jedi) and the red and blue pill Matrix reference. These are great nods that add some light-heartedness into the title.
The science fiction theming of Clank! In! Space! speaks much stronger to me than the fantasy theme of the original, despite the bigger disconnect of clanking around. As the gameplay goes there is more of a focus on customising your deck rather than strategies. This can be attributed to players being required to get rid of their Data cubes prior to looting, stopping to some extent the ability to perform a smash and grab heist. Having a modular board is a nice touch but it does less than I’d hope it would. On top of this there are expansions available for the original which can added that variety, something currently missing for Clank! In! Space! This being said, with elements such as the teleportation pads and the hyperlift, the map and therefore the gameplay is different to warrant having both titles on your gaming shelf!
[Editor’s Note: Clank! In! Space! was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available, so make sure to check it out at your local UK board game store, find your local store here]