It can be hard to know where exactly to begin when reviewing an expansion. Clank! The Mummy’s Curse isn’t a standalone game; it requires components from the original Clank! game and so is only playable when combined with a copy of the original game (or with Clank! in Space: see below…) The appeal of Clank! The Mummy’s Curse then is only going to be to those who already have Clank! or who love the new Egyptian theme so much that they are prompted to go out and buy the original Clank! game just so they can play this expansion.
Specifically with that last group in mind, therefore, I’ll offer a brief in-a-nutshell summary of the original game. Clank! is a deck builder adventure game. I’ve gone on record in the past as crediting Clank! as the game that converted me into appreciating the deck builder mechanic after I’d all but given up on it as a result of some poor experiences playing other games.
Why is this deck builder different from other deck builders?
In Clank! (as in most other deck builders), players each begin with identical hands of starter cards. In this case, they are cards that allow movement, have combat strength and have a value when used to buy other (better) cards. The players’ starting decks also include some completely useless ‘stumble’ cards that just make a noise – the ‘clank’ sound that’s the name of the game. Each turn, players draw five cards (initially from a deck of 10) and they have to play all five. Every time a player uses a card that generates a ‘clank’, one of his wooden marker cubes will end up in the bag from which cubes are periodically drawn whenever the big boss dragon wakes. Cubes drawn dish out damage which accumulates and can eventually kill the player’s character. Unlike most other deck builders, players rarely get to ‘burn’ their starter cards (take them out of play); they will, however, be diluting their impact as the player adds more powerful cards to their deck as the game progresses.
But deck building in Clank! isn’t an end in itself. Players will be using their movement and combat strength cards to explore a dungeon, where they’ll be trying to collect as much loot as possible and then rush back to safety. Aside from the existential threat posed by the dragon, players need to be able to get at least to a safe level on the playing board by the time the game ends or their scores will count for nought. This adds a race element to the game: it can sometimes be a viable winning strategy to just go for a quick in and out grab; gathering up the minimum requisite amount of loot but getting all the way out of the dungeon in the hope that the other players will not be able to get to safety quickly enough.
The original Clank! game has proved so popular because it is such great fun to play. It has already spawned a previous expansion (Clank! Sunken Treasures) and another standalone game (Clank! in Space – essentially a tongue in cheek rethemed reskin of the original game). The publishers (Dire Wolf and Renegade Game Studios) don’t recommend combining both Clank! The Mummy’s Curse and Clank! Sunken Treasure, so if you do go all in you’ll probably want to keep the expansions separate from the main game.
What’s in the sarcophagus?
So what does the Clank! The Mummy’s Curse expansion bring to the table? You’ll still be playing with the cubes and bag, cards and tokens from the original game – pretty much all of the components except for the board. The new expansion comes with a couple of additional ‘major secret’ and ‘minor secret’ tokens (tokens that are randomly placed face down on the board and picked up when a player’s piece passes over them), a card to represent the marketplace and a couple more marketplace tokens, 40 more cards to shuffle into the dungeon deck, and a new double-sided playing board: one side representing a pyramid and the other modelled on the Sphynx. There’s a second (quite unnecessary) wooden dragon marker and a new wooden marker representing the Mummy. This is moved between sections of the board according to the roll of a ‘pyramid die’ (a custom four-sided die).
The Mummy, and various cards and tunnels located on the boards, can force a player to take a curse (a token that deducts points from your end-game score); and it’s these curses that are the main new element in the Clank! The Mummy’s Curse expansion. The card representing the Mummy is treated just like the Goblin in vanilla Clank!: he can be combated multiple times and just flips when fought – he is never removed from play. Some cards allow players to discard a curse but it is combating the Mummy that is likely to be the main method of reducing the number curses you accumulate during the course of the game.
I realise that for Clank!’s army of fans, I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re one of many who have already fallen in love with the original game, Clank! The Mummy’s Curse is probably going to be an automatic must buy. You’ll enjoy playing it and the two alternative boards offer some welcome variety. The new game play additions, however, are actually relatively minor, so the overall package is mostly a case of more of the same. Though most fans will have little problem with that, there will be some, like me, who would have liked perhaps to have seen this second expansion throw just a little bit more game play novelty into the mix. On the plus side, the fact that the expansions adds only a small tweak to the core game rules means that it is very easy to teach and learn; so it’s the hieroglyphic equivalent of swings and roundabouts.
The appeal of the Pharoahs
Of all the mythologies from history, there is something unique about Ancient Egypt that takes a particular hold on people’s imagination. In part, this is probably because some of the key iconography is still very tangibly with us: the Great Pyramids still stand and, 4500 years after it was built, you can still visit the Sphynx at Giza. In Britain, Ancient Egypt has been a regular topic in the National Curriculum for primary schools, so almost everyone in the United Kingdom knows a smattering of factoids about Ancient Egyptian culture – even if the only thing they remember is how the embalming process involved hooking the prospective mummy’s brains out through its nostrils using a tool resembling an unfolded wire clothes hanger.
Familiarity breeds affection. Museum exhibitions involving Egyptian sarcophaguses and golden death masks invariably generate long queues. That probably also mean that the Ancient Egypt theme will draw some folk to Clank! who hadn’t previously been attracted by the fantasy theme of the original game. In that sense, it’s a pity Renegade didn’t offer the option of a standalone version of an Egyptian themed Clank!…
Could this be the Stargate game you’ve been waiting for?
Clank! The Mummy’s Curse maintains a broad thematic tie to the original game. If you found Clank! in Space more appealing, however, and bought that instead, you can in fact use that with the Ancient Egypt expansion in place of the original fantasy themed game: the components in Clank! in Space are equally compatible. You can, I guess, get around the seeming disjunction of mixing Ancient Egypt with the space theme by imagining the games combining as a kind of homage to Stargate, which I think could work rather well. And like Clank! in Space, Clank! The Mummy’s Curse incorporates some character cards that bear a distinct resemblance to relevant movie memes (you’ll recognise, for example, a Tomb Raider-type character and Indiana Jones bullwhip), so the artwork may jar less than you might think.
When I first played Clank!, I never expected it to turn into a franchise but, with two differently themed editions and this second expansion, it seems to be heading the way of Ticket to Ride. Clank! The Mummy’s Curse scores 7/10 as a worthwhile addition to the Clank! family. What direction will Renegade take us next? I’m putting my money on the Norse myths. Clank! Ragnarok anyone?
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Selwyn has been playing, collecting and writing about board games for more years than he readily admits to. He has written about and reviewed games for Games & Puzzles, Spielbox and Tabletop Gaming, and his Board's Eye View page on Facebook includes short reviews and commentary on both old and new games.