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It’s been a while since the last Tabletop Spotlight, but now that we’ve introduced deck-building, I get to talk about one of my absolute favorite games! So here it is: Clank! Game: Clank! Players: 2-4 Ages: 12+ Playing Time: 30-60 minutes Rules: https://tesera.ru/images/items/879640/Clank_Rulebook_5-31-16c.pdf The objective of Clank! is to sneak into a castle and loot as much treasure as possible. Easy enough, except the castle is guarded by a dragon that wants to eat you. And stomping around the castle and lugging treasures around is a great way to get eaten. Clank! is a deck-building game, so the ABC’s I mentioned in my Dominion spotlight apply. Play your cards, buy new ones, then clean-up. One difference is that in Clank!, you play your entire hand… which isn’t always a good thing. Some cards give you Clank! which take the form of little red, green, blue, or yellow cubes. Certain cards trigger Dragon Attacks when revealed. Any Clank! you’ve earned go into the Dragon Bag and a number of them (determined by the Dragon marker, which moves every time you pick up an artifact) are randomly drawn. If your cubes get drawn, they get added to your Health Meter. Once your Health Meter is completely filled, you’re toast. Other cards will give you resources: Skill - used for buying more cards. Boots - used for navigating around the board. Swords - used to defeat or protect you from monsters. All the cards are shuffled into the Dungeon Deck and six are dealt into the Dungeon Row. These are the cards available to be purchased using Skill during your turn. At the end of each turn, the Dungeon Row is replenished. Getting around the castle can be tricky at times. You can only move between rooms that are connected by tunnels. Some tunnels require two Boots to pass through them, some have monsters in them that you’ll need Swords to get past (unless you want to sacrifice some of your Health), while others have locks that can only be accessed if you’ve purchased a Master Key from one of the Market rooms. Some rooms are Crystal Caves. Once you enter a Crystal Cave, you can’t use any more Boots during that turn, so plan your moves carefully! So how do you win a game of Clank!? You’ll need to pick up an artifact (some are worth more than others, but are more difficult to reach) from the Depths (the bottom half of the board). If you make it out of the castle with your artifact, you earn an additional twenty points. As long as you make it out of the Depths, any points you collected still count, even if you get knocked out by the dragon. The player with the most points wins! My favorite thing about Clank! is that it’s a test of nerves. Having multiple resources (Skill, Boots, and Swords) and a variety of cards opens up different strategies. But it’s usually not enough to grab the first artifact you see and escape as fast as possible. You just won’t get enough loot playing that way. In fact, the general rule of thumb during our game nights is last one out is the winner. Which usually means getting out of the Depths with sweaty palms and one space left on your Health Meter. There are some mechanics here and there that I didn’t mention (The End of the Line comes to mind), but I hope I at least covered the gist of it. You’ll just have to play it for yourself to figure it all out (and check out Clank! In! Space! while you're at it)!
This next spotlight is dedicated to my First Love: Dominion. If Settlers of Catan is the king of Euro-style gateway games, Dominion is the king of deck-builder gateway games. It spawned an entire genre of games, simple enough to pick up right away, but complex enough that skilled players can overcome beginner’s luck slightly more often than not. Game: Dominion Players: 2-4 Ages: 13+ Playing Time: 30 minutes Rules: http://riograndegames.com/uploads/Game/Game_278_gameRules.pdf In this game, your goal is to build the best deck possible. Your deck is your ‘Dominion.’ Each turn, you will (hopefully) add more cards to your deck: Treasure cards, Victory cards, and Kingdom cards. To set up, you’ll need to create a ‘Supply,’ containing Treasure cards (Copper, Silver, and Gold), Victory cards (Estate, Duchy, and Province), and Kingdom cards (we’ll go over those soon). Treasure cards are the games primary resources. You use them to buy other cards, including other treasure cards! Each card’s cost is shown at the bottom left of the card. Victory cards are points and 8 (or 12, if you have 3-4 players) of each go into the supply. You need them to win at the end of the game, but they don’t really do much else until then. Part of the game is deciding how to balance Victory cards with the other cards -- if you buy too many victory cards too early, your Dominion is going to get pretty ugly by the end of the game! In each game of Dominion, you will select ten types of Kingdom cards. The instruction manual has a handful of ‘recommended sets’ of kingdoms, or you pick them randomly. Kingdom cards allow you to do different things, like take extra actions during your turn, draw or buy extra cards, or ‘attack’ your opponents by forcing them to discard or take curses (cards that give you -1 point). Each player then starts with 7 Copper and 3 Estates. You shuffle these cards together to form your starting deck and draw five. Now you’re ready to play! But before you take a turn in Dominion, you need to learn your ABC’s! Action phase - play an action card. This is where Kingdom cards come into play. You can only play one action per turn, but as I said before, some cards give you extra actions so once your deck gets going, you might be taking several actions each hand. Occasionally, you may have to decide between two action cards. Buy phase - count up your Treasure cards (some Kingdom cards give you extra moulah to spend as well!) and choose which card you want to buy. You only get one buy per turn as well, but certain cards give you extra! Clean-up phase - Discard your entire hand. Everything you played AND everything you didn’t play. Then, draw five new cards from your deck. If you run out of cards in your deck, shuffle your discard pile to create a new one. Once you’ve mastered your ABC’s, specifically the Clean-up phase where you shuffle your discard pile into a new deck, you can pick up any deck-building game straight away without too much of a learning curve. They all follow the same, or very similar, patterns. Players then take turns performing actions and buying cards. The game ends when one of two conditions are met: The stack of Province cards (the most expensive and most valuable Victory card) is empty. Any three stacks in the Supply are empty. When the game ends, each player goes through their deck and adds up their points. The player with the most points wins! The base game of Dominion offers 26 different Kingdom cards. You use ten in each game, and each set of ten interact with each other in different ways. In one game, you might want to hoard a bunch of Gold and use a Council Room to draw a bunch of them all at once. In another game, you might want to string a bunch of Laboratories together to play your Witch as often as possible. The challenge of Dominion is trying to figure out the best way to play each set of cards, and that alone gives Dominion a lot of replayability. Getting old isn’t the problem for Dominion (I mean, it only has ELEVEN expansions). It’s still a blast whenever I get the chance to play it. The problem is that there are now so many different games that fill that same deck-building niche. Why would we play Dominion when we could play Legendary, or Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, or my personal favorite, Clank!? Still, it’s my First Love, and I’ll come back to it every few months to brush up on the skills I developed over several months worth of best-of-fives against Scarlet. If you’re new to deck-building, Dominion is a great starting point. If you’re already into board games, it’s a must-have. And if you love Dominion and want to purchase an expansion or two, I would suggest investing in other deck-building games instead.