Clacks is a game based on the highly popular novel Going Postal which is set in the Discworld, which came from the genius mind of Sir Terry Pratchett.
The Discworld is a world similar to ours with a history and growth that develops through the series. In Going Postal, the newly owned postal service must race against the traditional semaphore style system known as the Clacks. The Discworld is one of my personal favourite series of fantasy books and I could write pages on reasons why you should go and read every book written by Terry Pratchett… however, I won’t, just yet.
Clacks the game places you as a clacks operative, either competitively against opponents or co-operatively racing against the game itself. In essence, this is an abstract puzzle game, trying to create letters out of set tile patterns. Help and hindrance come in the form of playable cards and stress limits make planning your moves and looking at all angles critical to success.
Even if you have never heard of Discworld it is not imperative for the enjoyment of the game.
First Impressions Count
The artwork by Amber Grundy is spectacular in bringing the image of the clacks system to life, the blurb and images on the back give just enough info to entice buyers, whist also keeping the info open to those who are fans of and those who haven’t heard of the series.
My only thoughts is that the imagery on the front is quite dark, so in comparison to other games for the younger age group so it may be overlooked, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the series and Sir Terry's work.
Overall, yes of course I would buy it, but then I am a huge fan, my wife however often picks it out to play as she really enjoys the mechanics despite not having read any Discworld books herself.
Out of the Box, On to the Table
Clacks comes with the following components:
- A game board.
- Blank tiles.
- Light and dark stickers to represent the lights being on and off.
- Three types of action cards.
- A set of clacks meeples, used in the co-op and solo game modes.
- A golden post officer maple, which represents the character Moist Von Lipwig - the hero of Going Postal (but its also adorable so doesn’t matter too much if you know the story, its just a nice touch).
- Player pawns.
- A rule book.
- Clacks cards (the words you can create).
- Jacquard tiles (these represent the lights patterns you can change on that turn).
The components themselves are of very high quality, the artwork on the board is beautiful and perfectly encapsulates the imagery evoked in the novel and all in all its very nicely presented and sticks with the theme.
That been said, different colours on either side of the tiles, rather than stickers that can peel and fade over time, would I think have been a better idea, but that's probably my only crumble, the rest looks great.
Them's the Rules
So, the rule book is created to look like an old machinery manual which I love, the diagrams are clear, and the rules themselves are relatively simple, however, the wording of the rules, for us, was a bit confusing. As I said, it's a simple tile flipping game but the rule book seems to over-complicate things. This is nothing a few play throughs won’t fix, but it is something that could do with being revised.
My other bug bear is the use of the word Jaquards…even after a Google search I still can't fathom why they didn’t just use the word tiles! Personally, it threw me off any changing it to players tiles or light tiles would have, for me, made things clearer.
Gameplay is relatively simple; play cards up to a certain stress and put value, which is represented by small gears, on the jacquards. Simpler moves require fewer stress points but mean it takes more moves to create your given letter.
Words are determined by dealt cards at the beginning of each game and are similar to semaphore in that patterns of on and off lights represent letters. The aim of Clacks is to move your pawn along the towers in the centre to create your letters, the trick being your moves can interrupt your opponent.
Action cards are also useful in sabotaging your opponent and securing victory.
The main issue in the competitive game is that while the active player is playing the inactive player just has to wait to see the outcome, turns are relatively short, but it takes some of the edge out of the game.
However, the co-op game mode does remove the issue, in co-op and solo modes players play against the game, the golden meeple moves along the outside map for each stress point played by a player. Players must create eight letters and place clacks towers for each built letter along the same route before the meeple reaches the finish line.
Playing this version solo I find really enjoyable and I have heard a lot of feedback saying that co-op is the preferred game mode, it leads to greater player interaction and a greater feeling of satisfaction when a letter is completed.
The weird thing for me having read the book, is that you're technically playing the antagonist as the post office is the would be heroes of the book, it's not game changing, it's just, odd. But then it works thematically so it's not a huge issue.
Another Game of Clacks?
As a Discworld fan and board gamer this game ticks all the boxes for me, but even if I wasn’t a fan of the books this is a great abstract puzzler. As a competitive game Clacks could benefit from more action cards or rule adjustments to give the inactive player options outside of their own turn. However, the co-op and solo modes more than make up for this and make a great all round game.