The Alphastream Game Design Blog
My family was very impressed with Pandemic Legacy, but we were absolutely blown away by Clank Legacy! Find out why this was the best board game experience my family has had… ever!
Clank! Legacy Acquisitions Incorporated is a fantastic gaming experience that I highly recommend. Mechanically, it is a mix of exploration and deckbuilding, with both aspects extremely well designed and satisfying. You get many hours of play, with each session offering new surprises in both story and new mechanics. The game is incredibly fun. It is humorous and light in tone.
The game is set in the Acquisitions Incorporated universe, as seen in liveplay streams and in the recent Acquisitions Incorporated D&D book. Acq Inc is all about a medieval fantasy business that bears a tongue-in-cheek resemblance to the profiteering corporations of our world. These aspects provide great comedy as you play. If you are new to Acq Inc, you will still get the jokes (my wife hasn’t watched a single show). If you are a fan of Acq Inc, the inside jokes and familiar characters will resonate even more deeply with you.
Gameplay is a fantastic meld of cooperative and competitive, and will vary according to your group’s tastes. We often collaborated to share the narrative discoveries, then competed for points. You could almost give up on competing if you wanted. A more cutthroat group can instead dial up the competitive aspects, racing against each other in all ways and choosing options that further such play.
My wife is generally lukewarm on boardgames, especially longer ones. She loved this game. My son, 14, also loved this game. As a family, we enjoyed this game more than any other game we have played… and we have played a lot of games together!
A legacy game is one where each time you play, the choices you make result in permanent changes to the game itself. You might apply a sticker over a town space, turning it into a forest. You might tear up a card, because the person it depicts died. You might get a set of new cards offering a new element, and now the game uses those instead. You might be told to open a secret envelope.
This might sound nuts, and it is. Most legacy games are a one-way trip. When you are done with the final chapter, the game is also done. This one is a bit different. When it is over, you get to make a few more changes and then the game is still playable in that final state! Very cool.
You can see below another look at the contents. There is a ton in this box!
This is the hardest part of the game to cover, because I don’t want to spoil the amazing story. The game is extremely good at allowing the players to take meaningful actions that tell many small stories as well as a large campaign-spanning story. If you have played other legacy games, this may sound familiar. However, the depth of the story and how we interacted with it was far deeper for us than in other legacy games such as Pandemic Legacy.
The story is so good, that I can’t help but wonder if this game will fundamentally drive new and different variations on legacy games that more closely mirror roleplaying games in a board game format!
Cost and Length
The most intimidating aspect of this game is the $100 up-front cost. However, you get at least 10 sessions in the legacy campaign. After the campaign you can keep playing in non-legacy mode. A game runs 90-120 minutes according to the box, though we generally spent 2-2.5 hours including setup. This is a length my family would not normally tolerate. It’s a sign of how awesome the game was that we never complained about the length of a game!
A Bit About Non-Legacy Clank!
Let’s lay down some very quick basics. While this is a review of the legacy game, the board game Clank! was first available as a non-legacy board game with many different expansions. The game is one of exploration. You go down into a dungeon, and as you do so you may make noise (that’s why it’s called Clank!) that attracts a dragon. The dragon shows up and deals damage to you, which could kill you. Your job is to grab treasure and get back to your town alive.
Mechanically, Clank! is a combination of exploration game and deckbuilder. As a deckbuilder, you start with a set of “starter” cards and through play you can choose from available cards to acquire. Over time, your deck gets better with a particular strategy you have chosen. As an exploration game, you use the cards you draw to move a pawn around and find the most valuable treasure possible, plus defeat foes, so you gain victory points. Some spaces have random boons, face down, so as you explore you aren’t sure what you will get until you explore the space. The random element keeps the game fresh and surprising.
Another fun aspect is that the Clank! board has two sides and you play on both! In this game, one side is the Overworld surface level (towns, forests, mountains) and the other is underground (caverns, fungi forests, underground rivers, etc.).
Campaign Session Goals
In Clank! Legacy Acquisitions Incorporated you begin as brand new employees of an Acq Inc franchise. Your boss, Omin Dran, gives you your first orders… to get some treasure. In almost every session, your obvious goal is to find the most valuable treasure you can get and return back to your headquarters. To do that, you work on building your deck while moving towards the treasure you want to get (assuming another player doesn’t beat you to it… always have a plan B).
Looking at the board, less than half of it has roads, towns, mountains, hills, forests, and other spots. Some of them have numbers on a scroll icon. And, you may get a patron or quest card which also has some numbers.
In each session, you have the continual danger of the dragon! There is a whole mechanic for this (also found in the non-legacy game) that has you placing cubes into a bag at some points (when you generate Clank) and drawing them when something alerts the dragon (such as taking a treasure or drawing a particular card). The dragon is a big part of the plot, developing each session in a very cool way.
The Book of Secrets
Those numbers are references to the Book of Secrets, containing all kinds of cool game-changing impacts! Let’s say you go to a forest and it has a number 53. You go to the book and look up entry 53, and you read out loud how your character has run into a hag. She offers you a reward if you do something, involving going to another spot on the map. Now you have two things to do. Find that treasure and bring that thing to the hag. Other players might unlock other quests… and you could try to do those too.
You get to choose how competitive the game should be. When you unlock a quest, it goes in a central area and anyone can compete it. Each game usually has a variety of things to unlock and complete, so we tended to discuss these and take turns doing cool things. You could choose to make it more competitive and race for the glory.
Completing quests usually comes with rewards, and seldom poses a drawback. Often it works like a choose-your-own-adventure book, where the entry gives you a narrative choice. You find bandits holding a hostage. Do you fight them? Bribe them to let you pass? Offer them a job? The choice you makes leads to a specific and different resolution in the Book of Secrets, forever changing the game board and perhaps offering you something cool. For example, you might get to add a cool card to your deck, or you might choose how to change the board… permanently!
Start and End Reveals
Each time you play a legacy session, you will read an introduction that sets the tone. This is a great narrative element and introduces the patron (often but not always a famous person from Acquisitions incorporated) and new elements. The end also brings a story from the book of secrets, adjusting for how well the franchise has done at the goals. It often sets the game up for the next session. These are SO GOOD and often really make you want to play as soon as possible to see how it will play out!
Patron Cards and Cardporium and Stickers
Each legacy session has a patron, tied to the overall story. This has conditions for ending the game and one or more triggers for things to happen. These do a great job of adding some pressure, as you feel you will lose if you don’t do what the patron wants. Acq Inc has competitors, and if you fail, they get more powerful!
The game also comes with the Cardporium, a big box full of cards. The story book and other elements often direct you to the Cardporium to pull new cards to add to the lineup of cards anyone can purchase, or even directly into player decks. Sometimes you add stickers or even other game elements to the game. These often change the game in some small but impactful way. For example, you might add a road to a new territory. Or, you might add an entire new element governing how you travel or what items you can buy in a town.
Customizing Your Deck and Roles
You will generally reset to a starter deck each game. However, you will make a few lasting customizations. If you are familiar with the Acquisitions Incorporated D&D book, you will get to take on the Roles as cards, plus take an item of loot with you. This adds some nice strategy at the beginning of each game. You get opportunities to change roles, sometimes at unexpected moments!
Customizing Your Franchise!
Similarly, you get to trick out your franchise as you make progress. You will follow a progress track tied to the box you use to store your starter cards. Doing well in sessions will propel you along this track, unlocking benefits you can use to improve your deck and the franchise itself.
Franchise improvements have some parallels to those in the Acquisitions Incorporated D&D book, and have neat alterations to the game. Many of these can help with the dragon, but you can even choose options to highlight competition and give players more options to mess with each other. We didn’t choose those, but some groups will love those options.
There are so many other aspects to this game that are amazing. So many cool cards, so many neat play strategies. So many great surprises to the story! But I have to stop somewhere and I don’t want to spoil anything.
My family strongly recommends this game. If there were a second one released, we would buy this in a heartbeat! My son even wants to buy another set to play again. It’s that good! Get this game!
Pingback: Holiday Shopping Guide for the D&D Fan | Alphastream