TableTopTakes: Ganz Schon Clever
It’s been a while since I’ve done a board game review. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of Point of Order articles come up and go in that time because I can buy games, but I can’t play all that many of them. But one that I was able to play three times in person and twice via Zoom, plus about a million times on the app has been Ganz Schon Clever. I won’t be talking as much about the app today, but more about the game.
Ganz Schon Clever is probably one of the more influential games in terms of putting the roll and write craze over the top. There had been games before like Qwixx that were out there, but Ganz Schon Clever hit the market and took off because it made a game that was interesting and challenging and put in so many combos into the game. So many combos. In this game, you are playing a number of rounds, 4 to 6 depending on player count, more rounds for less players. On your turn you roll six dice, you can then use one of the dice in one of the five sections. Each section corresponds to one of the dice colors and then there is a wild die, the white one, that can be used in any section. The trick for what die you’ll use comes down to the fact that any dice that are of a lower value than the one you select go onto a platter (this will be important later). Then you roll the remaining dice again, repeat the process, and do it all one more time. At that point in time, all the other players can pick and use one of the dice on the platter. Then the turn passes, next person goes, and so on and so forth. Doesn’t seem that challenging, but there are so many interesting things in it, as each section scores differently and can then let you activate other areas, possibly chaining even more things together.
Let’s do a quick run down of how each section works. In yellow you cross off a number, and for rows and the diagonal that you complete you get some bonus, like crossing off a spot in another section or adding a number. The columns when filled in give you points. In Blue, you always take the total of the blue and white dice and fill in the corresponding number, the more spots you fill in, the more points you get, and filling out rows or columns gives you bonuses. In green, you fill in from left to right and the number has to be greater than or equally to the number i the circle to cross it off, the more you fill in, the more points you get, and if you make it to certain points you get a bonus. Orange is the easiest, it’s just the number on the dice, and then there are bonuses that you get for filling in certain spots, but you have to work left to right. There are also a few spots that double or triple in yellow. Finally, there is purple, in purple you go left to right and the number must always be greater than the previous number, so you could go something like 1, 4, 6. When you put in a six, you can start over again, and there are a ton of bonuses in purple. Finally, there is the fox bonus. The fox bonus shows up in each section and for the fox, you score the number of foxes you’ve made it to times your lowest score, so you can’t just skip one section, because then your foxes would be X time 0 which would give you no points.
Really, that’s probably enough to get going on the game and be able to play it. The game is simple, but there is strategy. Plus, you do get some other bonuses that I haven’t mentioned yet. You can unlock rerolls, you can get +1 that you can use to use an extra dice after people are done rolling, and you can just fill in a spot of your choice in round four. So sometimes you can use the +1 die to chain into something else and fill in a few spots, or maybe the filling in a spot will do that for you.
Like I said before, this game is pretty simple to learn. But to master it, you need to figure out the strategy for it. Sometimes you’ll want to reroll just because to use the die you need to, or want to, will lose you too many dice. Saving the +1’s towards the end can also be a good strategy because you can use them to combo more sooner, but sometimes I’ll spend a +1 to get a +1 when it’s a harder +1 to get than others, if that makes sense. So there is way more going on than just rolling dice and putting down a number, and scores can vary wildly.
Now, if you don’t like luck, there is luck involved. You might roll all ones, reroll and roll all ones again. It’s improbable, but not impossible. Or someone else might be consistently rolling higher numbers so they can score the orange and purple sections better. But with that said, since the game is fast, and since you are using dice that someone else has rolled, it is possible that you’ll get to use better dice, or if you don’t, the game will be over quickly and you can try again. The luck factor though might be a turn off for some, but I do think with all the combos that it is hard to get completely locked out of the game and doing well at all in it.
I’m also looking at this as a big fan of a lot of roll and write games. There are a number that I’ve talked about before, such as Welcome To… Second Chance, Criss Cross, and Cartographers, all of them great games, and a number that I like better than Ganz Schon Clever, but one thing that Ganz Schon Clever does differently from all of those is the combos. With those there might be other variability in the game, but you never will get that really satisfying chain of doing one thing and then doing another and another because of that first thing that you picked. Sonora, the flick and write, has that comboing if not more going on it, but that’s one of the only others I’ve played that does that.
Overall, this is clearly a game that I like a lot. I think that the play is pretty clever (the English translation of Ganz Schon Clever is That’s Pretty Clever). I like that the game plays pretty fast, I think slightly longer than the box says, but with that game speed, you never feel like you have much down time since you are doing things on other people’s turns as well. It scales well, and the rules are easy enough to teach that I think I could with most people, with just a few reminders during the game.
Overall Grade: A
Gamer Grade: A-
Casual Grade: A