31st Jul2019

‘Twice as Clever’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

twiceasclever-box

Regular readers of Nerdly’s board game coverage may well remember that we recently reviewed the incredibly popular Ganz Schon Clever (That’s Pretty Clever) from the prolific and increasingly popular Wolfgang Warsch. In addition to creating a few bigger games like Quacks of Quedlinburg and its expansion, The Herb Witches, it looks like Wolfgang has been hard at work refining the formula that thrust him into the limelight. Today’s review is Twice as Clever, sequel to Ganz and possibly, the next big roll and write sensation.

When I first began playing Twice as Clever, I immediately had the sense that this was a more mature version of the original. The choices are less forgiving and whilst it’s rare to end up receiving a dice that you can’t use at all, it’s certainly possible. There are also several scoring areas that offer a huge amount of points for players that are incredibly focused, but achieving a high scoring balanced strategy will almost always beat them – but can be extremely difficult to pull off. When all these things are balanced, Twice as Clever is, as the name suggests, more of a challenging experience than the original.

To wind back a bit for anyone who hasn’t experienced the original, or perhaps any roll and write game, let me introduce the concept. Roll and write games are all based on the idea of rolling a handful of dice and then making marks on a scorepad in relation to what was rolled. Some games (like Corinth, which we reviewed earlier in the year) use a specific theme to increase interest, whereas others (like both of the Clever games) present a more or less straight mathematical puzzle. Each game will usually last a series of turns in which each player has a turn to act as the lead (to choose dice first) and one or more turns to follow, meaning that they choose leftover dice after the lead player.

In Twice as Clever, the rules are not much more complex than usual, but depending on your ability to process mathematical outcomes quickly, the decisions can be. The lead player will roll six dice initially, and then will choose one. Depending on the colour of the dice, that player will have a small number of choices to make about where to mark the chosen number. For example, a white dice is wild and can be used anywhere, but a yellow dice can only be used to circle or cross a matching number in the yellow grid on the scorecard – but there may be more than one of the same number and only one can be chosen.

If the chosen dice is a higher number than any other dice, then those lower dice must be placed onto a silver platter, which means that the lead player can no longer choose them (but the other players will be able to later.) The lead player will choose another die two more times (for a total of three) unless they choose a die that means all other dice move onto the platter. Any dice not placed onto the platter will be re-rolled between these choices, meaning that players will often be faced with hard choices about when to take a high numbered die.

Once the lead player has finished drafting their dice, those placed on the silver platter will be accessible to all following players. At this point, those players may choose any one die (all players may choose the same) and they can mark their scoresheets accordingly. Depending on the number of players, this cycle of leading and following may occur up to six times, and there are several different kinds of bonuses to unlock as the game continues, which can include rerolls or bonus die, for example. The objective is simple – to score the most points at the end of the final round, modified by any of the bonus fox markers (that multiply a players lowest scoring area.)

As a basic description, that would probably cover Twice as Clever. The concept is simple enough that anyone can learn it in about five minutes, but the real complexity is in the decision making process. When faced with six dice showing different values, the lead player will need to rapidly assess which dice they want to draft based on either the immediate benefit it gives (which might be points, bonuses or both) or as part of their longer term strategy. The immediate impact of that decision must also be weighed up, because if a high value dice is taken early, it will remove one or more dice from the selection, reducing choice in the second and third roll.

These decisions are made harder by the relative increase in complexity that Twice as Clever brings, when compared to that of the original. In Ganz, players were either marking off or adding numbers to relatively simple equations or tables. In Twice as Clever, the scoring areas introduce more complex maths and elements of chance that lead to bigger rewards. In yellow, for example, the players will need to both circle and cross each number, with the circle leading to bonuses and the cross leading to score. The more crossed numbers, the higher you’ll score – and the value ramps up quickly. The downside here is that if a player can’t repeatedly hit the required yellow numbers, then they can fall a long way short.

In green, on the other hand, the puzzle is perhaps simpler, but no less interesting. Each time a green number is added to a scoresheet, it will be added to a sum and in general, you’ll want to have a high number followed by a low number. The outcome of each sum will then result in a score after modification (depending on where on the green track the player is) leading to yet more decisions about whether to invest. Pink dice can simply be placed for their face value, which is a good way to earn points immediately, but will generally not score enough to be a focused strategy.

Twice as Clever is certainly an excellent and very polished roll and write that clearly takes the ideas from the original and iterates them forwards for the benefit of existing fans. I wouldn’t recommend that new roll and write players start here, but given the price of both Clever games, I wouldn’t think you’d be wasting your money if you grabbed both at once and then just occasionally alternated between them for a change of scenery. For an experienced player that enjoys the first game, picking up Twice as Clever seems an absolute no brainer to me, since it is certainly as good (and probably better) than the original in all the ways that matter.

****½  4.5/5

A copy of Twice as Clever was supplied by CoiledSpring Games for review.

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