A friend recently purchased an extra copy of German game designer sensation Wolfgang Warsch's roll and write Ganz Schön Clever from Amazon.de. In the past few weeks we've played the game many times with all player counts. It's a deceptively simple-looking game, with some pretty clever mechanics hiding underneath.
In Ganz Schön Clever, you will be rolling dice and attempting to fill as much of your grid as possible by picking the dice you need to advance your scoring in each colored section. The gameplay is very simple, roll the six dice and pick one die, write a check or a number in the matching colored area. As you fill up each section, it will become more and more valuable for end-game scoring, and also unlock mid-game bonuses that will allow you to fill in even more areas.
Stand Out Features
Simple, Engaging Gameplay: There are only a few concepts to explain with the game, so it only takes one round for most players to catch on. Once you do understand how the game is played, there is a lot of depth to the strategy. Do you focus entirely on one area? Do you focus on scoring or combos? Do you prioritize getting bonus actions, or foxes? There's a lot to think about each time you pick a die.
Co-co-combos!!: by far the thing that makes this game rise above the many Roll and Writes currently on the market is the combo system. The combos are sneaky, they don't do much in the first couple of rounds, but at Round 3 players start activating them, and if they line up correctly, they can cause a cascade of effects that can help players quickly complete sections of the board.
Foxes: Foxes are a really neat element in the game. At the end of the game, you will score each colored area individually. Each fox that you manage to score, will net you the equivalent of your lowest-scoring area. This gives you an incentive to fill in all areas, and not completely ignore one in order to fill up one or two.
Player Interaction: One thing Roll and Writes are known for is a lack of player interaction. This isn't true in Ganz Schön Clever. Players remain engaged on other players turns because they will be picking a die to add to their sheet from whatever the player doesn't use.
What We Liked
Don't let the dice rolling fool you, this is a strategy game, and it is tightly designed. The game gives you a plethora of options that can drastically alter your score in unexpected ways, and there is almost always a way to salvage a bad die roll. Will you take a higher number and push your luck to get the numbers you need with fewer dice? Will you focus on advancing one area for max combos, or attempt to balance them out and collect as many foxes as you can?
This extends to game duration and game pace. I feel the game ends at exactly the right time, with the length automatically adjusting to the number of players to ensure a consistent 30 minute experience each time you play.
The game also works very well with 1-4 players. While it's a bit more exciting to play competitively against others, it's actually still a lot of fun playing solo and trying to hit the high scores chart included in the manual.
What Could Be Improved
I honestly wouldn't change a thing in this version of the game. It would be nice to get more score sheets with the same gameplay to create some variety and extend replayability.
Ganz Schön Clever is a pretty clever Roll and Write that will stay in my collection for as long as I'm still interested in the genre, and have room for its tiny footprint.
Time To Learn: About 15 minutes reading the rules.
Price: This is currently not available in the US, and the first printing appears to have sold out in Germany as well. The unofficial rules translation is quite well done, and is available on BGG. Since this is nominated for the Kennerspiel de Jahres, it will likely get a huge German reprinting as well as an English import (soon hopefully!)
Thom: (10/10) Outstanding - will always enjoy playing.
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