Chase all the points in this great roll-and-write!
Android & iOS
# of Players
Ganz Schön Clever (referred to as “Clever” for the remainder of this review) is a solo dice placement, roll-and-write game which tasks players to wisely choose which die to use in order to rack up as many points and bonuses as possible over the six turn game. A game can be played in about five minutes.
Note that the digital version of the game contains only solo play, not the multiplayer the physical game allows. The developer has stated that multiplayer might be considered if the app is popular.
Clever has hit app stores before the physical game has actually hit US shelves, which is basically unheard of in the board game port world. It’s an interesting strategy. The game has been getting solid buzz in Europe and is slated to hit the US in the coming months, so why not release the app to give players a chance to try it out? The app doesn’t get the benefit of name recognition to sell, but the game is so simple and addicting, I bet those that do find the app will be much more likely to order a physical copy once they have the chance.
Clever involves rolling six dice. Five colored to match five different scoring tracks in the game, and a sixth white die which can be used anywhere. The game is broken into six turns, each with an active and a passive phase. In the active phase, the player rolls all six dice and chooses which to use. The used die is placed on an appropriate space in the matching scoring track. Any remaining dice which have a value greater or equal to the die used get to be rerolled, while the rest are placed in a silver tray never to be used again (at least for about 30 seconds). Players may use up to three die this way per turn, but if you use higher value die first, you may not have any left to be able to use all three. After the active phase, the passive phase begins. For the solo version of the game, this means all six dice are rerolled and the lowest three get placed in the silver tray. The player then uses a die from the silver tray to complete the passive phase. The game carries on over six rounds, once the final die has been placed in round six, the game ends and the points are tallied.
Roll dice, place dice, earn points. Pretty simple setup for this game, but it’s quite a bit more interesting than is sounds. The scoring tracks are each unique. Some will give you points equal to the die you place on them, others give a set number of points per amount of dice on them, regardless of their face value. Yellow will only provide points if you complete an entire column. It wouldn’t be much fun if you could place any die on any space in a scoring track, so four of the five have restrictions. For yellow you must match the number on the space exactly. Blue you take the total showing of the white and blue dice combined to match a space on the track. Green must meet the requirement of the next empty space, which starts as being any die great than, or equal to, one, but works up before resetting down to one again. Purple allows you to start with any die but the next one you place must be greater than the last one, this resets with a six. Orange is the outlier in that you can place any number die there at any time, this becomes a life-saver in crucial times.
The real goal of Clever is to trigger bonuses. You will get some for free as the game progresses, but you will want to earn as many as you can on the scoring tracks to achieve a high score. The come in a few different forms, but most can be boiled down to a few categories: an extra die placement, a reroll, a free space on a particular scoring track, or a fox. Those tricky foxes are a key to high scores, as each fox you have at the end of the game will provide points equal to the lowest scoring color track in your game. A balanced, fox-heavy game is the first step to breaking 200 points.
The crux of the tactical decision making is which die to use early in your active phase. You ideally want to use a lower number in order to save as many as remaining dice as possible for your subsequent rolls, but often that isn’t the optimal play. Rerolls and +1 bonuses become crucial to playing the spaces you need, but the ebb and flow of when to play them is also vital. If you find yourself in a spot where you need high numbers for most of your tracks, you could back yourself into a corner pretty quickly, for example.
Addicting is simply the best word to describe Clever. The game plays so incredibly short and, as an admitted sucker for dice placement games, the decisions to be made are satisfying as you try to string together a few bonuses on a turn.
Barrier to Entry
Clever comes with a rulebook to explain the game, but no tutorial. The rulebook is okay, but has some holes. With the rulebook as a knowledge base, players should be able to get the basics down enough to start playing, but it will take a few games to really understand what is happening. Luckily at about five minutes a game, this isn’t a big deal, but the app certainly could have done a better job here.
Checking out the rulebook
Start of a game
Look and Feel
The app is a weird mix of striking, vibrant colors and some pretty basic looking aspects. The menus look a bit crude, but the actual gameplay is full of nice looking dice and a great looking scoring board. The mix is a bit weird on the eyes, but it’s worth noting that the in-game visuals are well done, if not especially great.
Control-wise, Clever works well. Buttons are used for rolling, then select a die and choose where to place it. The possible locations for placement are highlighted in red initially, but once you select a die the places for that specific die are turned green. A simple, yet extremely useful visual touch, especially for new players. The only downside in this area is the lack of an undo button which would really come in hand at times, like inadvertently choosing to use a bonus, for example.
Clever does not contain multiplayer, online or locally. The game does have weekly online leaderboards where you can check in to see how bad your scores are compared to the best.
Everything discussed in this review applies to the single player game. The app uses the official single player variant which has the dice re-rolling after the active phase to determine which get placed in the all-important silver tray.
Wrapping up a game
A halfway decent score, for a change.
The developer on Clever also handled the similarly under-the-radar port of Friday released in 2017.
The game features a handful of achievements to unlock, but they don’t seem to be working quite right at this point and there is some odd redundancy. I have unlocked a 200 point achievement, but the “200 Club” achievement is still locked. If there is a difference between the two, the descriptions don’t outline them. This is a minor issue, at best.
One weird downside to the app is that, for a point chasing game, the lack of a local leaderboard is strange. Your high score is kept buried in the achievement screen, but a local top ten would be great and seems like an obvious addition for a point chasing game.
The Wrap Up
Clever is a completely surprising blast of fun. The game should be an automatic purchase if you happen to like dice placement/roll-and-write and point chasing games. The only thing to “do” here is try to beat your own best score and rank on the weekly leaderboards, but if chasing points is something that appeals to you, Clever will get a lot of play on your mobile device. It can’t be overstated how well the scoring tracks are designed and how it forces planning ahead even in such a tactical game.
Clever the app as a marketing strategy for Clever the board game is also an interesting angle. I hope it works well for them, I know they have sold at least one extra copy of the game when it hits the States, and I imagine I won’t be the only one. This app-before-game isn’t something we’ve seen before and it will be very interesting to see how it works out for those involved on both sides.