The Saga Continues: ‘Clank! In! Space!’

Clank! In! Space! cover

Four intrepid thieves sneak on board Lord Eradikus’ spaceship to steal precious artifacts—who will get away with the most valuable treasure? Or maybe we should ask: who will get away at all? Lord Eradikus and all his minions are waiting for you to Clank! In! Space!

What Is Clank! In! Space!?

Clank! In! Space! (yes, that is how the title is spelled) is a deck-building game for 2 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about an hour to play. It was a surprise announcement from Renegade Game at Gen Con 2017, and releases today, with a retail price of $60. Although it’s a sequel to the previous Clank! games, it is a stand-alone and is not an expansion. It is a step up in complexity from the original, but I think it can still be played by kids younger than 13, particularly if they have some experience with deck-building games (particularly the previous Clank! titles).

GeekDad Approved 2017

Clank! In! Space! is GeekDad Approved!

Clank! In! Space! components
Clank! In! Space! components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Clank! In! Space! Components

  • 7 Game Board Pieces
  • 43 Reserve cards:
    • 15 FAZR
    • 15 Boldly Go
    • 12 Memory Core
    • 1 GØB-L1N enemy
  • 4 Starting Decks (10 cards each)
  • 100 Adventure Deck cards
  • 6 Artifacts
  • 11 Major Secrets
  • 28 Minor Secrets
  • 120 Clank Cubes (30 of each player color)
  • 1 Boss Marker
  • 24 Boss Cubes
  • 4 Bounty Hunter Cubes
  • 8 Market Items:
    • 2 Master Key
    • 2 TelePass
    • 2 Med Kit
    • 2 Contraband
  • 1 Market Board
  • 1 Blockade Token
  • 4 Command Code Tokens
  • 5 Power Crystals
  • 8 Data Cubes (2 of each player color)
  • 4 Meeples
  • 1 Boss Bag

Clank! In! Space! is a deck-building game, so there are a lot of cards, of course. There are starting decks, some reserve cards, which are always available, and then a big stack of cards that just gets shuffled all together. For the most part, the cards are very easy to interpret: the resources you generate are on the left side, points are in the top right corner, and cost is at the lower right. Various other effects can come into play, but most are well-defined and easily interpreted.

Clank! In! Space! Star Wars references
A few references to a galaxy far, far away. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The cards have a lot of fun artwork, and every card also has some flavor text at the bottom. In this case, there are a ton of references and allusions to all sorts of sci-fi: Star WarsStar TrekTerminatorTRON, just to name a few. I’m sure there are some references that I’ve missed, but it’s been a lot of fun seeing those as they come up.

Clank! In! Space! Star Trek references
These enterprising references are really crushing it. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The board is made up of seven pieces that fit together like a puzzle. I did find that the fit is pretty tight, and sometimes the pieces notch together better from one direction than the other. Three of the pieces, shaped like hexes with an added stem, are double-sided and interchangeable, so you can create different configurations.

Clank! In! Space! secrets
The secrets have a new look but many have familiar uses—but there are also new things, like the sonic grenade. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The components are pretty nice overall: the boss bag is a nice, heavy cloth bag with an embroidered boss symbol on it, and is plenty large so I can put my hand inside and mix up the wooden cubes inside. The cardboard tokens are nice and punch out cleanly; they’re all easily distinguishable by shape and size—market items, artifacts, secrets, and so on.

Clank! In! Space! meeples
The player meeples and the boss marker. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The meeples and player cubes in this game are in purple, white, blue, and orange, which is more color-blind friendly. I also love that the meeples have four unique silhouettes, too, matching the four characters pictured on the box cover (including a goblin and a droid). However, the four bounty hunter cubes are red—that may not be the best contrast with the orange cubes, particularly in low lighting conditions.

Clank! In! Space! box insert
The box insert. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The plastic box insert is almost the same as from the original Clank! It has a divided well for the cards that will hold the entire adventure deck in one section, the reserve cards in a smaller section, and has another small section for future expansion. I like the plus-shaped well, which can hold the starting decks and keep them separated. The one other large well can hold all the rest of the components (in baggies), though once again the market board is just a little too long to fit into any of the wells. The top lip of the insert has a cut-out to accommodate the tab on the largest board piece, but the rest of the board pieces just pile on top of that—there’s not really a perfect way to arrange them that I’ve found.

Clank! In! Space! 3 player setup
Set up for 3 players. (Building little sculptures with your Clank! cubes is optional.) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to Play Clank! In! Space!

If you’re already familiar with the previous versions of Clank! and you just want a brief outline of the differences, skip down to the “What’s New” section below!

The Goal

The goal of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game by accumulating treasures, credits (money), and valuable cards—but in order to score, you must make it back to the cargo bay alive, and you must have collected an artifact.

Clank! In! Space! artifacts
Artifacts include a Gameboy-like device and a robot dog. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Setup

To set up, first assemble the spaceship board. The rulebook shows a recommended first game setup, but the three hexagonal modules are double-sided and can be flipped over for a different map. Set up all of the tokens on the game board in their indicated spaces: artifacts, major secrets, and minor secrets ( secrets are placed face-down and shuffled). Note: if there are fewer than 4 players, you’ll remove 1 or two artifacts at random before placing them. Market items (keycards, telepass, med kits, and contraband) are placed on the market board to the side, and escape pod tokens are placed on the four escape pod spaces on the left edge of the board. (Note: in a 2-player game, you only use one of each market item.)

Clank! In! Space! starting cards
Your starting deck includes 2 Stumbles, 6 Hacks, 1 Access, and 1 Scramble. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Give each player a set of starting cards, 30 Clank! cubes, two data cubes, and a meeple, which is placed at the top left section of the board in the space showing the meeple icon. Credit tokens and power crystals are set aside. The boss marker is placed on the rage track at the right, in the spot marked with the number of players, and the black cubes are put into the bag. On the rage track, place the four red bounty hunter cubes and the hyperlift block token in the spaces marked.

Clank! In! Space! rage track
The rage track shows how many cubes you draw each time the boss attacks. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Separate the Reserve cards into the four types and place them next to the board. Shuffle the 100 adventure cards, and turn 6 of them face-up to form the adventure row, replacing any that have the boss attack symbol and shuffling those back into the deck.

Clank! In! Space! reserve cards
Reserve cards include the G0B-L1N enemy, FAZR (good for attacks), Boldly Go (skill points and movement), and Memory Core (points). Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The first player adds 3 cubes to the Clank! area (the big banner at the top right), the second player adds 2 cubes, and so forth.

Gameplay

Clank! is a deck-building game, so each player will have their own deck, hand, and discard pile. As you acquire cards, they are placed into your own discard pile, and if your deck ever runs out when you need to draw a card, you reshuffle your discard pile to form a new deck, thus adding the new cards to the mix.

On your turn, you must play all of your cards in any order, using effects as noted. You will also generate resources from your cards, represented by the icons shown at the top left of each card: skill (blue diamond), attack (red swords), and movement (yellow boots). Skill points are used to acquire new cards. Attack is used to kill monsters. Movement is used to move around on the board.

You may play cards, acquire cards, and take actions in any order that you wish, but you must use all of your cards before you end your turn. Any time you gain credits, you take credit tokens from the supply.

Clank! In! Space! acquire effects
Some cards have one-time effects when you first acquire them, shown at the bottom of the card. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Here are the various actions:

Acquire a card from the reserve or adventure row by paying the cost shown at the bottom right—place it into your discard pile. Some cards have effects that happen immediately when you acquire them.

Fight a monster in the adventure row (or the G0B-L1N robot in the reserve) by paying enough attack points to match its cost. Gain the effect shown on the card, and then put the monster in the adventure discard pile (except for the G0B-L1N, which always stays in the reserve row).

Clank! In! Space! market
The market holds four different types of items, 7 credits each. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Buy from the market: if you’re in any one of the market spaces (marked with a small “M” on the board), you may spend 7 credits to buy any of the items: contraband is worth 10 points and there are some cards that give additional bonus effects if you have it; a keycard lets you travel through all locked passages; a telepass let you use the telepads to teleport across the board; med kits instantly restore 2 health. (All of the items are also worth points at the end of the game.)

Clank! In! Space! security checkpoints
Security checkpoints (with red striped edges) end your movement. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Move by spending boots to move from one location to another. Paths with footprint icons require two boots to cross. Paths with monster icons require you to spend an attack or take a wound (by placing one of your cubes on your health track at the top right section of the board). Paths with locks are impassable unless you have a keycard from the market. Arrows are one-way paths. If you ever enter a security checkpoint (the rooms with the red striped edges), you may not use any more boots this turn to move. You may however, still use other abilities that may teleport you.

Clank! In! Space! hyperlift
The hyperlift snakes down the center of the ship. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Speaking of teleporting, if you move onto a hyperlift, you may then move to another hyperlift space on the board for free. If you have a telepass and you move onto a telepad, you may teleport to another telepad for free. Note: because of the dizziness caused by these modes of transport, you may not use any more boots for movement afterward.

Clank! In! Space! Telepads
Telepads are scattered throughout the ship. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

If you move into a room with a token, you may immediately take one token. Major and minor secrets are revealed immediately and used–some of them may be stored for later use. You may only carry one artifact, and if you pick up an artifact or a archive token (one of the minor secrets) then you immediately move the boss marker up one space on the rage track. If you step into a space showing credits or a power crystal, you may immediately take one from the supply.

All of the artifacts are stored in the Command Module at the front of the ship (the right side of the board), and the entrances to these are marked with a little icon. You may not cross into the command module by any means until you acquire the access code.

Clank! In! Space! data port
Orange has just placed a data cube on a data port. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Crack the code by placing one of your data cubes on an empty data port, the small green areas attached to certain rooms. When you place your cube, you immediately get the bonus (or penalty) shown in the space. If it is your second data cube, you take one of the command code tokens … and move the boss token up one space on the rage track. You may now move in and out of the command module.

Clank! If you play any cards that say to add Clank!, you add that many of your cubes to the Clank! area on the board. Some cards will allow you to remove Clank!—you may use those to cancel out Clank! that you generate this turn, or to remove cubes from the Clank! area of the board, but you may not remove cubes from the bag.

Clank! In! Space! draw cubes
The two black cubes have no effect, but purple and orange each lose 1 health. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

At the end of your turn, after you have played all of your cards and used as many of your resources as you’d like, discard all of the cards in your play area and draw five new cards. Then, if you have removed any of the six cards in the adventure row, replace them with cards from the deck.

Clank! In! Space! arrive effects and danger effects
“Arrive” effects occur when a card is placed into the adventure row; “Danger” effects make you draw more cubes for a boss attack. The Boss head icon (seen on the Dark Jidu, far right) triggers a boss attack. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

If any of the cards have a boss attack symbol on them, you will trigger one boss attack (even if multiple cards have the icon): put all of the cubes in the Clank! area into the bag, and then draw the number of cubes shown on the rage track. Some cards in the adventure row can even increase the number of cubes you’ll need to draw. Black cubes are set aside, and colored cubes are placed on the matching health track.

Clank! In! Space! blockade
If the boss gets angry enough, he blockades the hyperlift, making retreat to the cargo bay more difficult. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Bounty hunter cubes will cause every player to lose one health, and then the bounty hunter cube is placed back in the Clank! area, ready to attack again. If the boss marker reaches the hyperlift block space, put the blockade token on the left end of the hyperlift track, where it prevents movement into the cargo bay via hyperlift.

Clank! In! Space! health track
Cubes drawn from the boss bag go onto the health track as wounds. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

When your health track fills up with cubes, you’re knocked out: if you’re in the cargo bay module and have an artifact, you get rescued and still score points. If, however, you haven’t collected an artifact or you die somewhere in the rest of the ship, then you won’t score anything at all. If you manage to get an artifact and make it all the way back to an escape pod, you take the escape pod token, worth 20 points. (Note: each escape pod is single-use, so if somebody beats you to it, you’ll have to make your way to another pod!) Either way, you are now out of the game, and your Clank! cubes drawn from the bag no longer affect you, and you don’t play any cards on your turn.

Clank! In! Space! escape pods
The right-most escape pod has been taken already! Orange needs to find an alternate route. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

If you are out of the game, either because you’ve been eliminated or because you made it to an escape pod, you don’t take your turns as normal. Instead, when it would be your turn, you trigger a boss attack with exactly 4 cubes (regardless of the status of the boss marker or “extra cube” effects in the adventure row). In a 2-player game, you draw 6 cubes instead.

Game End

The game ends when every player has either escaped or been knocked out. If you made it back at least as far as the cargo bay and you collected an artifact, you score points—otherwise, you score nothing. Your score includes the little green value on artifacts, tokens, and at the top right corner of cards, plus the number of credits you accumulated. Highest score wins, and ties go to the player with the most valuable artifact.

Clank! In! Space! game in progress
A game in progress. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

What’s New in Clank! In! Space!

First off, the title has 300% more exclamation points, so if you like those, then you’re in the right place!! Here are the other significant changes.

The Board

The most obvious difference (aside from the theme) is the change from a square folding board to a spaceship-shaped board, made of puzzle-type pieces. Instead of a double-sided square, there are three hex-shaped modules that can be flipped over and rearranged, making for more potential combinations.

Clank in Space
Trying out Clank! In! Space! at our Game with GeekDad event at Gen Con 2017. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Here are a few other changes to the board:

  • Hyperlift: You can travel along the “spine” of the ship, getting between modules quickly.
  • Telepads: Teleport between telepads if you have a telepass from the market.
  • Security checkpoints: The red-striped areas are like the crystal caves from Clank!: you may not continue moving on the same turn you enter them.
  • Command Module: All artifacts are in the command module, which cannot be entered by any means until you gain the access code.
  • Data ports: These are small green areas attached to rooms on the board; place your data cubes in free data ports to gain the effect shown in the space. Once both of your data cubes are placed, you gain the access code and may enter—and the boss gets angrier.
  • Escape pods: Instead of one exit, there are four pods and each one can only be used once.
Clank! In! Space! faction bonuses
Some cards are have bonus effects if you are also able to play a card from a particular faction. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Cards

The starting cards and reserve cards are about the same as before (though re-themed), though the Memory Core (the equivalent of the Secret Tome in Clank!) is only worth 5 points instead of 7.

There are no more devices: those were the purple cards that were one-time-use and were discarded from the dungeon row as soon as they were purchased.

There are now three factions that can create combos when you play cards. Some cards have a faction symbol shown in the effects area, along with a special effect. If you play another card with that faction symbol in its top left corner sometime during your turn, you gain the bonus effect. This can allow for more directed deck-building, where you really want to build up strong combos rather than dilute your deck by getting all three factions.

Clank! In! Space! contraband and power crystal cards
Some cards give you bonus effects if you own contraband (left); others give you bonus effects if you have a power crystal (right). Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Power Crystals

Power crystals are a special, limited resource that can be gained in a number of ways (spaces on the board, playing particular cards); if you have a power crystal, you gain additional abilities on some cards. There’s also a major secret that makes power crystals worth points at the end of the game.

Clank! In! Space! rage track
The last four spaces of the rage track will add bounty hunters and the blockade. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Bounty Hunters

Near the top of the rage track there are 4 red cubes—these are bounty hunters. When the boss reaches a space with a bounty hunter cube, you add it to the Clank! area. Whenever there’s an attack, the bounty hunter cubes are added as usual, but if one is drawn, every player gets a wound, and the bounty hunter is returned to the Clank! area, ready to attack again.

No Countdown Track

In the original version, a player who escaped or was eliminated would start a countdown, triggering worse and worse dragon attacks and eventually ending the game outright; other players who were eliminated did not do anything else. In Clank! In! Space!, any player who escapes or is eliminated will instead trigger an attack and draw 4 cubes from the bag, regardless of where the boss is on the rage track or any attack effects in the adventure row.

Clank! In! Space! references to old Clank!
Some cards reference cards from the original Clank! game. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Why You Should Play Clank! In! Space!

As you may know, I’m a big fan of the original Clank!, as well as the Sunken Treasures expansion. This series includes a lot of my favorites: deck-building, press-your-luck, tough choices as you move around on a board, and a lot of humor. A quick recap:

Deck-building: I’ve been hooked since Thunderstone and Dominion, and I always love seeing new ways that game designers incorporate deck-building in their games. Deck-building’s not for everyone—some people hate the constant shuffling, some people aren’t a fan of trying to build up card combos or figuring out what to add to their decks. Some deck-building games felt like “multi-player solitaire,” in that your deck-building was largely independent of the other players and you didn’t feel like you could affect anyone else. Not so in Clank!, of course, since this is a race for artifacts, so there is a lot more interaction here.

Press-your-luck: You have to get in, get an artifact, and get out—or at least far enough out that you can still score points. So do you grab the lower-value artifact that’s closer to the exit, or do you make your way deeper in—past locked doors and enemies—but risk scoring nothing? That’s one of the key aspects of Clank!, and it’s still present in this iteration, of course. The other press-your-luck element has to do with the Clank! cubes: often the more powerful or valuable cards will make more Clank!, which means a greater risk of taking wounds each time the boss attacks. Do you avoid making Clank! as much as possible, or do you just bash your way through, full speed ahead, hoping that the benefits of the cards will outweigh the noise you’re making?

Tough choices: Throughout the game, you’ll have to make decisions that may have a lasting impact: which path to take, which card to add to your deck, and so on. Do you get as many boots as possible so you can run fast and pick up secrets to make up for not having as many swords, or do you build up on swords so you can kill monsters, earning money to buy helpful equipment in the market? It’s hard to collect everything, so whether you have extra boots or swords or a key may influence which direction you’re able to travel.

Humor: There has always been a lot of humor in the Clank! games, particularly in the flavor text at the bottom of the cards. The original game had an odd fixation on monkeys and bananas, though that only carries over in the form of the Monkeybot 30000 in Clank! In! Space!. The new version has a vast universe of sci-fi tropes to mine for humor, and in many cases just the title and illustration on a card is enough to make me chuckle.

Clank! in Space
Clank! in Spaaaaaaaace! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

So, if you’re a fan of the originals, is it worth getting the new one?

In my opinion, yes—but I’ll qualify that. Clank! In! Space! isn’t just a re-skinning of the old one, so it’s not just a change in setting. If you can’t stand sci-fi and you want to stick with fantasy, you may still prefer the originals. What the new version adds is a layer of complexity: I think the original Clank! is a good entry-level game and I’ve been comfortable teaching it even to people who have never played any deck-building games before. While you can learn Clank! In! Space! without having played the original, it’s certainly a lot easier if you’re already familiar with it—I can skim over the basic explanation and just talk about all the new things. Explaining all of the rules for Clank! In! Space! with no prior explanation can take a while just because there’s so much going on.

There’s a little more deck-weeding in the new version, but still not a lot. There are some cards that specifically let you trash “Program” cards, which include your basic Hack and Access cards, but not Stumble. The faction bonuses are reminiscent of Star Realms, and building up combos can make your deck much more powerful if you can manage to draw those cards together. I think players who really like the deck-building part of Clank! will appreciate these faction effects.

The new board seems more punishing than the original. The first time I played, at Gen Con, all four players died without making it back to the cargo bay, let alone an escape pod. The boss gets angrier more quickly, thanks to the command code requirement—even before anyone has grabbed an artifact, it’s possible for the boss to move up four spaces on the track just because everyone has placed their data cubes. And when the boss gets to the bounty hunter spaces? Things get really brutal. For those used to the original, you’ll have to adjust your pacing to make it out alive. Also, since every eliminated player (dead or escaped) will pull 4 cubes per turn, rather than the old countdown track, things will escalate quickly toward the end.

The command code requirement also makes it slightly harder to pull the grab-and-run strategy, where you snag the cheapest artifact and high-tail it out of there, hoping to kill everyone off before they make it back to the cargo bay. But it’s not impossible—depending on whether you invest in a warp key or if you make use of the hyperlift, you can still move across the board rapidly even though it’s larger. Some disliked the fact that it was possible to win that way, but I felt that it was in keeping with the press-your-luck aspect—you’re still taking a risk, because if anyone else survives, they’re likely to score more than you if you left early.

Clank! In! Space! Short ship
A super-short ship. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

A silly aside: I noticed you can remove two of the hex modules and the small hyperlift piece to make a very short ship, making the board much smaller. I’m guessing it probably wouldn’t make for a very interesting game (particularly because there aren’t enough data port spots) but it’s kind of funny.

To sum up: if you’re perfectly satisfied with the complexity level of the original Clank! or Sunken Treasures, then you might not need this one. If you like the core game but you’d welcome an increase in the difficulty level and complexity, then boldly go get a copy of Clank! In! Space!

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.