Review – Clank! Catacombs

Boards? Where we're going we don't need...boards.

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Designer Paul Dennen

Artist Clay Brooks, Anika Burrell, Nate Storm, Dan Taylor

Publisher Dire Wolf

Category Deckbuilding, Dungeon

Length 45–90 Min

Release Date 2022

Player Count 2-4

In Clank! Catacombs players will face yet another dungeon delve, this time against a skeletal dragon in an ever-changing labyrinth. Instead of a board, players will build the catacombs using large square tiles that feature different sized rooms. Each play has the potential to be a unique trip, as no 2 dungeon layouts will be the same. So is it worth the trip, or just another treasure run? Read on for the review!

Review

If you’ve never played a game of Clank!, the premise is that you and up to 3 other treasure-seekers are delving into a dungeon ruled by a dragon. Every time you make noise (Clank), you have to place a cube of your color into the Clank! area. When the market cards are refilled, if any of the new cards have a dragon symbol, then all the cubes in that area are dropped into the dragon’s bag, and a number of them are pulled out equal to the dragon’s rage level. If one of your cubes comes out, you take damage. Should you take a 10th damage, you’re knocked out if you’re above ground, or you lose everything if you’re in the depths. Only by building a strong deck and using a smart strategy will players succeed in escaping with their ill-gotten treasures. 

The biggest change in Catacombs is of course the tiles replacing the game board, but this version also introduces a few new things as well. Prisoners, new secrets and market items, portals, wayshrines, and lockpicks all make for new choices and rewards for players. Prisoners can be freed that grant you both immediate and end-game bonuses, and some cards only work if you’ve freed a certain number of prisoners. Puzzle boxes turn into major secrets when you visit a wayshrine, and the Catacombs map lets you ignore one-way arrows for the rest of the game. Portals let you teleport across the map, while wayshrines grant you coins based on how many of them you’ve visited in the game. Lockpicks let you access prisoners, tomes, or secrets based on the tile you’re using them on, or they can let you pass through locked hallways. Also returning are the ghost cubes (formerly wights in Clank! Acquisitions Incorporated) which damage everyone in the game. 

Building the catacombs tile by tile has pros and cons. On the plus side, it lowers the ceiling for setup, since you don’t have to place out every single artifact and secret. But on the down side, it can make for some hard or impossible to reach places if you’re not careful. And while the new cards are an improvement, too few of them take advantage of the new tile system. Many of the gem cards actually give decent bonuses to offset their initial cost (usually +2 Clank), but the enemy types don’t feel as varied as they have in the past. Most of them in Catacombs are some form of skeleton. And while the game states that you can incorporate old cards into the game, since none of the old cards use lockpicks or reference prisoners, they won’t be as effective in this new version. This is my oldest and still-not fixed gripe: whenever a new Clank! Expansion or standalone game comes out, it doesn’t work with the last one(s) that were released. 

Clank! Catacombs would be a great entry point for someone looking to get into the series, but if you have previous versions I don’t know if this one is a must-buy. For reference, I have the original and its underwater expansion, as well as the Acquisitions Incorporated legacy version (still my favorite) and have played In Space! but gave it away because I didn’t want a shelf full of just Clank! products. Catacombs might end up with the same fate for me, but that’s not to say it isn’t good, it’s just more of the same. The differences make for some new and interesting choices, but in the end I think I prefer the planned out board and being able to choose my route, instead of just guessing and hoping the next tile I grab has an artifact or the room I need. In this sense, Catacombs might also appeal more to new or younger gamers, but for longtime fans or veterans of the series, I’d suggest you try before you buy it. 

A copy was purchased at the reviewer’s Friendly Local Game Store. Thanks, Uncle’s Games!

The Bottom Line

Catacombs might appeal more to new or younger gamers, but for longtime fans or veterans of the series I’d suggest you try before you buy it.

 

7

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Author: Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.