iOS, Android •
I didn’t pay much attention to the Spiel des Jahres this year, so I’m a little behind on telling my Azuls from my Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburgs. Yes, that last one is a real game and it actually won the Kennerspiel des Jahres. Thus I was unaware of another nominee vying for “complex game of the year”, Ganz Schön Clever. A quiet release of a digital version has allowed me to give the game a go, however, and I’ve determined that the English translation of Ganz Schön Clever is “what the hell have I stumbled on?”
Clever is a solitaire roll-and-write dice game but don’t let that scare you off. It’s not Yahtzee. It’s more like the bastard child of Yahtzee and Advanced Squad Leader. It’s on the complex side is what I’m trying to get at. In fact, I’m still not quite sure if I’m doing everything right from a strategy perspective, and we’re talking about a dice game here.
The rules are convoluted enough that trying to explain them all is pointless. Basically you’ll roll dice over six rounds and place them in different categories, each one scoring a little different. Big deal, you say, but you have to place dice by color and when you keep a die, all the dice with a lower value are removed from play. Thus, while you’ll need a few 6s here and there, getting them at the right time takes some work.
It’s not all luck, however. Mixed in each of the scoring sections are bonus dice to fill in other sections. This makes planning just as important as rolling well. Play your dice right and you can have a cascade effect, filling in different rows and sections with free squares from here and there. It’s immensely satisfying to cross off 3-4 boxes with one roll of the dice.
I think that’s really Ganz Schön Clever’s strength: it’s satisfying. It feels like a complex puzzle that changes with each roll of the dice, and having your plans go just right feels so damn good. Each roll offers multiple choices to parse through all with the goal of getting more boxes checked than seems possible.
The app itself is fairly barebones. It offers a solo game and nothing else. You can compare scores online with others, but that’s the extent of multiplayer functionality. That’s it, honestly. There’s a copy of the rules that you can only read when you’re at the main menu…that’s it. The screen is static other than the 3D dice, but it somehow does everything it needs to. It’s not a complex game in terms of components, so one screen is all you really need.
Ganz Schön Clever is another brilliant mobile time waster right up there with the likes of Card Crawl, Threes, or Onirim. Games take a few minutes to churn out, but there’s never a dull moment. For only $3 it’s a no-brainer to get this on all your mobile devices as soon as possible.