Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever Review

Released 2018
Designer Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher Schmidt Spiele (Website)
Stronghold Games (Website)
Players 1 – 4 (Have been solo playing a lot)
Playing Time Solo with App – 5 min
Physical Game – 8-10 min per player a good guide
Category Roll and Write
Combination Builder
Push your luck
Similar to Worker Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

You just roll the dice and fill in numbers, where is the fun in that?  Wait, how did you score 4x my score?

Roll and Writes continue to come out at an amazing rate, and pretty much all of the publishers are now adding Roll and Writes to their lineups.

Last year, I kept hearing about this amazing one from Wolfgang Warsch (The Mind, The Quacks of Quedlinburg) called Ganz Schon Clever.

And of course, it sold out.  Then I heard Stephen Buonocore talking about it, and an English distribution via Stronghold Games. “Yay!” I think to myself, I can finally play it!

So I ordered it, and lo and behold the German edition lands on my doorstep just prior to moving.  But that didn’t stop me from playing it in the end.

You can play That’s Pretty Clever on almost anything it seems

Sadly putting the physical game in a box (and even sadder, as of this morning it’s still in there!), I thought I would not be playing Ganz Schon Clever until June.

But then on the Google Play store, up popped a recommendation based on apps I purchase.  Ganz Schon Clever! The universe decided I was going to play this game after all.

So I fired it up, started a new game, and was immediately lost.

Where there is a will, there is a way!

Wait, is this an app review or a board game review?

A little bit of everything to be honest. Once you are into a solo game, the digital versions (yep, versions – more on that soon) are a great implementation.

The confusion came simply because of an assumption on my part. I have gotten so used to the start of any digital game being the tutorial, I didn’t stop to read the rules, I just jumped in. The confusion was 100% my fault, and my problem.

The basics of Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever are really simple.  Roll six coloured dice, and select which die you want to use to cross of an area of your play board.

Yellow die are used in the top left corner.  If the pips on the die match the value on a square, cross it off.

In the blue square, you cross off the sum of the blue and white die that roll, but only lock one of them.  This will make sense as you play, but it is the most complicated placement rule in the game.

Fill out the sections to maximise your score. Simple in premise, not so much in execution
The app does make it easy to see your legal choices - and consequences. Sure I can use the 6, but look at all the dice I lose!

The final three sections are filled left to right.

The Green die face value must equal or exceed the value on the sheet.  Orange you can place any value, and Purple must go in ascending order, with a 6 resetting the count.

So as you can see, it looks pretty simple. Roll dice, mark off where you want it to go.  Basically, dice worker placement, right?

Well, sort of.  There are catches, and when first learning the game it’s these little quirks that can catch you out.

The first thing is the old ‘select which die to use’.  It’s true, you can pick any of the rolled die.  But any dice with a value lower than the one you selected get discarded for the rest of the round.

This adds a timing and luck element to the game. You really want to use green for that 5 places, but it’s the first roll of the round and everything else is ones and twos.  You will effectively end the round if you pick it!

It’s these kinds of little quirks that makes That’s Pretty Clever work so well, but it’s also not quite a game you can just roll and teach.

The other thing that takes a game or two to click is the positioning of the dice.  Each section has a different scoring method, and your final score is the total of all the sections.  But on top of that, there are also bonuses that can be utilised.

Some are instant use, like mark of any unmarked yellow square.  Some you can use when you want, like reroll the dice or reuse a die – possibly the most powerful move in the game.

If you ignore a section, you will get very heavily penalised as the fox head multiplies your lowest section score

So you enjoy it?

Solo – absolutely.  Once you know how to play, the digital versions let you belt out a game very quickly.

I will probably only pull out the physical version for a multiplayer game.  And there is the typical catch for a lot of these strategy heavy games – you only really want to play against people at around your experience level.

Because of that, That’s Pretty Clever is going to remain a solo or teaching game in my library I think.

So how can I enjoy it?

If you want to play with others, grab the board game.  Learn together, play together, and have a great time.

Only want to play solo?  Grab the app.  It handles all of the bookkeeping and rules for you and lets you focus solely on your technique.

Want to learn first and give it a try for free? First, go to Board Game Geek and get the English translated rules.  User nyfilmfest has a great easy to follow translation, and it will explain everything I have left out – and there is a fair bit.

Then, go to http://m.brettspielwelt.de/ganzschoenclever/ and give it a spin!

Yes it's in German, but the game is almost 100% iconography. Just remember Wurfeln is basically Roll 😀

The rules are solid and will give you a solid background into the game.  The main difference between the web and app version is stat tracking, so if you want to just play for free and mark down your own high score, go for it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Ganz Schon Clever/That's Pretty Clever

Final Thoughts

Ganz Schon Clever/That’s Pretty Clever is one of those games that scratches the logical pattern part of my brain really well.  My best game to date is 287, but I want to keep playing until I can break 300.

And that is the first part of what hurts That’s Pretty Clever’s score.  Longevity wise, I think I have cracked the strategy, so it’s a self-imposed goal that keeps me going.

Plus, there is already a follow-up – Twice as Clever – which would probably be the games killer.

Give the web version and/or the app a try, and if you like it, probably just grab Twice as Clever. If you do grab That’s Pretty Clever though, you will enjoy it – even if it might have a limited play span.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  •  Very addictive gameplay. You always know you can do better.
  •  Free web browser game – limits to solo, but hey!
  •  Small footprint, easy to take with you

Cons

  •  Long term play I don’t think is there
  •  Already followed up by Doppelt So Clever/Twice as Clever
  •  Different scoring sections can be intimidating to new players

The Mind is coming to test your psychic skills

The Mind Feature

Oh, we can’t talk?  I have ‘two’ go ‘four’ a drink.

There is a game I enjoy called The Game.  I enjoy it, but it is the single worst thing to find anything about on an internet search.  The concept is simple – you have two stacks of numbers that ascend, and two stacks that descend.  Without talking about what is in your hand, you need to play all 98 cards numbered 2-99 out to win.

The Game shares a mechanic that is not widely used in gaming – it actively attempts to stop specific communication between players.  Most games (and especially cooperative games) do everything they can to encourage players to work together, but there is an emerging category that is adding the ‘don’t talk’ twist to increase the challenge exponentially.  Such games include Hanabi and Magic Maze.

Another thing these games have in common is some hilarious ways I have seen my friends trying to game the system.

Hanabi Components
Hanabi - the first of the restricting information cooperative games I ever played

In Hanabi, where you can only give one piece of information about the cards in another players hands (that they can’t see), it is common for such sentences as “These ‘two’ are Green”.

In Magic Maze, the rule is when you flip the timer everyone can talk until someone moves a pawn.  It suddenly became the rule to put it on its side to pause time to let players talk as long as they wanted, and with no game time penalty.

And in The Game, suddenly the rule was you could play the piles in columns so you could see what had been played rather than having to remember what had been played.

Now, while these ‘cheats’ are against the spirit of the game, at the end of the day if the players are enjoying the game I can’t really say it’s wrong.  I prefer players try and play the game ‘properly’ before making the game simpler, but you play games for fun.

For this reason, I put these under house rules rather than cheats.  Modifying the game to play how they prefer is something that happens all the time, and as long as all players agree to the rule change, that’s how the game will be played.

So, what has all this got to do with The Mind?

Well, that’s simple – The Mind is the next game that will drive some players crazy with house rule variants.  If you are one of those players that cannot play the aforementioned games with people that modify the rules, The Mind may not be for you.

But if you sort of to really liked those games, The Mind will be a great addition to your library.

Gameplay is similar to The Game while also being very different.  You are still trying to put cards from your hands into play in ascending order only, but this time it is only one pile.

The Mind Feature
The Mind - for whatever reason, this game will get deep into yours

But where a lot of players felt frustrated at trying to get through The Game’s entire deck to win, The Mind implements levels that give you another challenge.  Instead of trying to beat the game each time, you also have your previous best level to use as a milestone as well.

So the gameplay is simple.  Basically set out a number of lives depending on the number of players, and deal a number of cards to each player equal to the Level you are playing on (starting at one).

Then, without discussing your cards, players play their lowest card in any player order.  The goal is only to empty your starting hand, not go through a deck.  So if you are playing a three player game, to beat level one you literally have to get three cards out in ascending order.

The Mind Components
The Mind also gives you Levels with rewards such as Lives and a chance to share info

If someone plays a higher card than you have in your hand, you call ‘stop’ and all players discard cards lower than that card.  When all these cards are discarded, you remove a life, and as long as you have lives left the game continues.

There is also the Throwing Star card, which you usually start with one and can get as a reward for finishing levels.  If all players agree, you discard a Throwing Star to allow all players to show their lowest card.  This gives a surprising amount of information to players, and as such, should be used as sparingly as possible.

These few tweaks by themselves may help players frustrated with the difficulty of some of the other games mentioned.  The door is still open for players to for ‘accidentally’ play the number 99 card and instant win the level.  The rules do say you must play your lowest card, but you know someone that is going to try and do this.  Again, if your having fun then play this way by all means, but to me for The Mind this is taking the ‘game’ part out of the game.

I can’t wait for The Mind to start distribution in July 2018 – hopefully it will be a quick release in Australia and I can get a proper review up soon!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD