Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated offers a unique variation on the legacy board game format, with a focus on fun, exploration, and friendly competition. Late last year, Dire Wolf Studios and Renegade Games released Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated, a new version of the popular deck-building game Clank! that features the characters and unique corporate humor of Penny Arcade's Acquisitions Incorporated. Like other "legacy" games that have become all the rage in the industry over the past few years, Clank! Legacy requires players to tear up cards and components, add stickers to their cards and board, and make other permanent changes that eventually culminates in a "unique" version of Clank! that's unlike anyone else's copy. However, Clank! Legacy never loses track of the simplicity and tongue-in-cheek humor that has made it so popular, and focuses more on crafting a quality gaming experience than trying to overcomplicate things with unnecessary rules or components.
At the outset, Clank! Legacy starts off like any other Clank! game - players have a starter deck of cards and a mission to retrieve artifacts while trying to be as stealthy as possible. As players progress through the board, they fight monsters and purchase cards using resources generated by their hands. Certain cards require players to generate "Clank," represented by small colored wooden blocks. When certain cards are revealed from the Adventure Deck, players place the generated Clank into the Dragon bag and then draw blocks from it, representing the damage they take from a marauding dragon who reigns over the land. Players have to retrieve at least one artifact and return back to their headquarters before they take too much damage from the dragon or other monsters, competing for a high score and a shared goal of improving their fledgling Acquisitions Incorporated franchise.
As players progress through Clank! Legacy, they'll have the opportunity to customize their starter decks and place new locations on their board, all the while slowly adding new rules to the game. Some of these rules will be familiar enough to Clank! veterans, while others are new to the franchise. One of the more unique parts of Clank! Legacy is the addition of contracts, missions that need to be completed over the course of a single game session. All of these contracts are one-off parts of Clank! Legacy, meant to advance the story and give players more reason to explore the board instead of just grabbing an artifact and rushing back home as soon they can. Completing some contracts result in new cards getting added to the adventure deck, while other provides upgrades to cards or spaces. And while most contracts are "optional," leaving them unfulfilled means giving other adventuring rivals an advantage.
At first, I wondered why Dire Wolf Studios chose to make their Clank! Legacy game focus on Acquisitions Incorporated, Penny Arcade's running Dungeons & Dragons campaign about an adventuring corporation. While I initially feared that the game would be bogged down by unnecessary lore or tie-in material, it steers clear of any deep references and instead takes only the basic trappings from Acquisitions Incorporated and its humorous tone. Basically, players found their own Acquisitions Incorporated franchise at the outset of the game and seek to build prestige and squash competition from Dran Enterprises, a rival adventuring corporation. The satirical corporate humor of Acquisitions Incorporated fits well with the already quirky humor style of Clank! and that strive to climb the corporate ladder provides the game with a balance between working together to accomplish goals during a game session and trying to win the game by hitting a high score.
Since this is a "legacy" game, Clank! Legacy does have a story element that plays out over 10 game sessions. It also adds a cooperative aspect to Clank!, one that wasn't present in other versions of Clank! Player deaths and unfulfilled contracts give Dran Enterprises more advantages, so there's a balance between making sacrifices to keep other players alive and completing your own goals. In one session of Clank! Legacy, I died because another player purchased cards and caused the dragon to attack. In a subsequent session, I held off on buying cards to assure that another player made it to the board's safe area, only to see her snatch victory from my hands at the end of the game. It makes for a fun competitive (but not too competitive) balance, one where winning or losing only provides minor advantages to players in the next round of the game.
My only real criticism of Clank! Legacy was that some sessions featured about as much reading from the game's Book of Secrets and placing stickers on boards and cards as they did actual gameplay. Maybe it was just our style of play (my wife is a notorious completionist and often risked life and limb to make it to one more optional story waypoint) but there was a session or two that led to a whole lot of sticker placements, which of course was time not spent actually playing Clank! I will admit that all the pageturning and instruction following was at least in line with the corporate drudgery mocked by Acquisitions Incorporated, so that little irony made some of its excessiveness a bit more bearable. And, the stickers and other legacy requirements were no worse than other Legacy games, so this seems to be a balance issue with the entire genre rather than Clank! Legacy itself.
I've had the opportunity to play a bunch of Legacy-style games over the past few years, but none has ended up on my table as much as Clank! Legacy. I liked how the game eases you into new rules and additions, giving newcomers a chance to learn how to play Clank! before overwhelming them with options. And I appreciated how Clank! Legacy used the tone of Acquisitions Incorporated to help build a unique Clank! experience rather than just slap the name on the box and use a few characters on cards. Most of all, I enjoyed that Clank! Legacy found the perfect balance in terms of game sessions needed to complete its story. You can complete Clank! Legacy in 10 game sessions, which is just enough of a time commitment to get something out of the game, but not enough to feel like it's your only hobby. All in all, this is one of the best Legacy games I've played yet and should be on your "to play" list this year.
Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated is available now at game stores and at online retail stores.