Everyone enjoys a good roll-and-write game, right? Making good use of the dice you’ve rolled and being able to use them to effectively chain several effects can be tough, but if you can pull it off successfully you’ll be having everyone at the table saying, “That’s Pretty Clever!”
That’s Pretty Clever (also known in German as Ganz schön clever) is an abstract roll-and-write game for 1-4 players. Over the course of the game, players will use the six colored dice rolled both on their turn and other players’ to fill in their sheets and score points! All that’s needed to set up the game is to give each player a scoresheet and a writing implement, set out the box and the six dice, and you’re ready to play! The game is played over a certain number of rounds, depending on the number of players (four rounds for four players, five for three, and six for one or two). Each round, every player will have a turn to be the active player, and will be a passive player for all the other players’ turns. On an active turn, a player begins by rolling all six dice. Then, they choose one of the dice, make a mark in its corresponding section (described in detail below), and place the die in one of the three slots on their scoresheet. Any dice of lesser value than the chosen die are placed on the silver platter inside the bottom of the game box. Then, the active player rolls the remaining dice and repeats the process two more times. At the end of all three selections (with leftover dice going to the silver platter), the passive players may write the value from one of the dice on the silver platter on their own scoresheets. Play then passes to the next player until all of the rounds are complete. There are two powers players can earn over the course of the game that can be used on their turns. The reroll ability can be used as an active player to reroll all of the available dice, and the “Plus one” ability can be used to select an extra die at the end of the turn, either from the dice selected by the active player or those on the silver platter.
Each color of dice has its own section on the scoresheet, and they all behave differently. With yellow, numbers are scattered about in a grid, and crossing off all the numbers in a column earns points, while completing rows gives special abilities. With the blue section, you must add together the blue and white dice and cross off the corresponding number (from 2-12). You earn points for crossing off more numbers and special abilities for completing rows and columns. For the green section, you must cross off boxes from left to right, and each box requires the die selected to be greater than a certain value. Like the blue section, you get more points for completing more boxes. The orange section has no requirements to add dice, and at the end of the game you total up all numbers written in the orange boxes. Similarly, in the purple section, you will earn points based on the numbers written in the boxes, with the added requirement that numbers must increase from left to right, until a 6 is written and resets the row. At the end of the game, players total up all of their points from the different sections, and if they have earned any foxes from filling out their board, each fox is worth as many points as the lowest scoring section. The player with the highest score wins!
Sometimes you need something with no-frills, simple, easy, and fun. Ganz Schon Clever keeps the gameplay simple; you roll the dice, pick the dice, and write stuff on your sheet. Boom, you have a game. While Wolfgang leaves to frills to the other games, this doesn’t make it any less clever. With each die color representing a different way to score points, each round can be tricky, especially when you potentially discard dice each turn. The can cause a bit of analysis paralysis for each dice roll; with only six rounds to complete your game, each pick of the die matters. The wait can be frustrating to the other players while they wait to see what dice they will get to choose on the passive turn. Even if you can choose an extra die with your abilities, you must wait until the rolls are over, causing a bit of a lull when it isn’t your turn to pick. Luckily, unless you have a player that has difficulty choosing, this shouldn’t take too long, but with the entire game involving a bit of luck, it can be hard to keep focus.
Like many roll and writes on our shelves, the small box size and portability make it easy to share with others, spreading the gaming joy. Roll the dice inside the tray gives this game an even smaller footprint, allowing gamers to play while waiting for their food, on a plane, or wherever space is limited. Wooden dice to make rolling a bit wild, so if you’re playing on a tabletop, there is a chance the dice may go flying if you’re not careful. The markers are a bit lackluster as well; it’s nice to have thicker pens that fit in the box, but I struggle to write with the smaller utensils; if you’re the same as me, you may want to find or invest in a better quality marker. Although I have some gripes about the quality of components, you can’t go wrong with this price point.
Ganz Schön Clever made a big splash when it was released in 2018, earning a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination, and contributing to the roll-and-write game boom of the past two years. However, despite its popularity, I didn’t get an opportunity to play it until this year. Once I did finally get to play it, I realized that it wasn’t very clever of me to have waited so long, because it’s a really fun game! As the name implies, there is a lot of cleverness to how you draft dice and how you can chain effects from the different colored areas on your scoresheet. In the latter half of the game, you may place a die that starts a chain reaction involving filling in 3 or 4 other boxes. I really enjoy that kind of puzzle where you’re looking to optimize what you do on your turns. And even if you’re not optimizing things, almost everything you do will get you points, so there are very few objectively bad decisions you can make. On top of that, the game seems to play well and be balanced at all of its player counts. With the varying number of turns, you should get around the same number of dice picks in a 2 or 4 player game, though in the latter case more of them will come from passive turns. I feel like the game is equally enjoyable either way, which makes it great for whatever player count you have!
While the game and it’s gameplay is fairly clever, its abstract nature and lack of any sort of a theme might be a turn off for some. Many of the other roll-and-write games we’ve reviewed have had at least a semblance of a theme (even if they may be pasted-on at times), but Ganz Schön Clever is unabashedly just about rolling dice and filling in your scoresheet to get the best score you can. While that is not a problem for me, I recognize that there are gamers out there who might not enjoy that, even if they would otherwise enjoy the gameplay. Another less than favorable point for the game is that there isn’t a lot in terms of dice mitigation, which I like to see in roll-and-write games to balance out the luck factor. You can earn a few rerolls over the course of the game, but once those are used up, you have to take the dice as they come, even if you aren’t able to place any of them. This can be frustrating at times, but usually with planning and foresight you can place dice on most turns, and the game is short enough that you can play 2 or 3 games in a sitting, so if one doesn’t go well for you, you can always try again. I definitely think that overall Ganz Schön Clever is a top-tier roll-and-write game, and I’d almost always be down for a quick game or two!