17th Apr2019

‘Ganz Schon Clever (That’s Pretty Clever)’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

ganz-box

Although it has been a quiet revolution, the “Roll and Write” genre has been carving out a large proportion of the traditional board game market share over the past couple of years. There are now numerous well-loved examples of this style of game, but few have experienced such ferocious popularity as Wolfgang Warsch’s Ganz Schon Clever, which translates directly to That’s Pretty CleverGanz Schon Clever is so popular that it won the 2018 Kennerspiel Des Jahres award, which loosely indicates that it is the top choice for the German “expert” gamer. With such a high bar to leap, let’s find out if it lives up to expectation.

First of all, let me explain a little bit about what a roll and write game actually is. Whilst the range of themes can span the usual spectrum of building, creating railways and even planning restaurant menus, the common factor in games of this kind is the mechanics that led to the name of the genre. Simply put, players will be rolling dice and then writing numbers as a result. Ganz Schon Clever actually uses a generic theme (in effect, it has none) and presents itself as an abstract puzzle. Think of it as something similar to multiplayer Sudoku. Does that sound addictive to you? Spoiler alert – it is!

Before we dive into the gameplay mechanics, let’s talk about components and price point. On the latter, Ganz Schon Clever can be purchased from any friendly local game shop and will cost you around about fifteen pounds. Inside the box, you’ll find a quality rules pamphlet, a handful of colourful dice and a thick pad of score sheets to write on. You’ll also find some tiny little markers that do the job, but can be a bit fiddly in large hands.

Roll and write games are regularly modified by players, and one thing you can do with Ganz Schon Clever is to print your own boards, mount a set of scoresheets and then laminate them to enable use of dry-erase pens. Alternatively, you can just buy or print more scoresheets when you need them. Whatever solution you come up, let it be known that Ganz Schon Clever represents incredible value for money when you realise how many hours of fun you and your family will get out of the game. Ganz Schon Clever is truly an experience that players of all ages can enjoy, from children of about seven or eight, to grandparents in their eighties.

Mechanically, Ganz Schon Clever is simple to play, but the nuances of the game don’t leap off the page in the instruction manual. Given the popularity of the game, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t taught from one player to the next on most occasions, rather than via the manual. In summary, the game is split into four to six rounds, depending on the number of players. The fifth and sixth round are added at three and two players respectively, which is because a key mechanic in Ganz Schon Clever is the ability for inactive players to gain a benefit from the dice rolls of others.

During each round, the players will take turns to be the active player. When active, a player initially rolls the six dice and then chooses one of them. Any dice that are of a lower value than the one chosen will be placed onto the silver platter with their current value showing, effectively locking them. The player will then look at the chosen die and mark one of spaces on their scoresheet based on its colour and value. More on that in a moment.

The active player will then repeat this process twice more, each time placing any dice of a lower value than the one chosen onto the silver platter. This can sometimes result in the player only being able to choose two or even one die, because the others are locked out before the third choice. Once this is done, each of the inactive players will choose one of the locked dice (multiple players can choose the same one) and use it to mark their scoresheet.

When marking a scoresheet, there are several sections, each of which relates to a different coloured dice. This is made obvious by the colour around the edge of each section, but you’ll also notice that there is no white section, which is simply because the white die counts as wild, and can be used in place of any other colour.

The sections all provide players with different methods for scoring points and gaining bonuses. Yellow, for example, encourages the players to complete a bingo style grid that has points running from top to bottom and bonuses running from left to right, each achieved when the row or column is finished. The blue box is similar, but the way in which boxes are checked off is based on the sum of the blue and white die added together. Green and purple boxes allow numbers in sequences, whilst orange scores points based on whatever the die face shows.

At the end of the agreed number of rounds, the players will flip over their scoresheet and total each of their different scores. Fox bonuses can be used to multiply whichever colour has scored the least and Ganz Schon Clever supports multiple routes to victory – be that maxing out one or two colours, or spreading your efforts across all of them relatively evenly.

One of the most exciting things about Ganz Schon Clever when scoring is the way in which some of the boxes can trigger combos that will ripple across the scoresheet. Trigger a box that allows you to add a check to another box, which in turn does the same, triggering a fox bonus, for example, will feel really powerful just for choosing a single dice.

Ganz Schon Clever is a simple, effective and attractive game that is cheap and – as the title suggests – smart. It plays in a short amount of time and has an addictive quality that will keep the players returning time after time, perhaps getting through four or five games in a single evening on some occasions. A mobile version of the game is also available, but rather than detracting from the face to face experience, it actually makes it even more addictive.

Overall, considering the price point, any gamer – whether casual or serious – should have Ganz Schon Clever in their collection. It’s a great advert for the roll and write genre, as well as being a fun and addictive game by any standards.

****½  4.5/5

A copy of Ganz Schon Clever (aka That’s Pretty Clever) was supplied for review by Coiledspring Games.

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