The number of roll-and-writes that have surfaced recently has been staggering. Many publishers have been revising popular games and converting them to roll-and-write form. Yspahan, a Rio Grande classic, was revived as Corinth by Days of Wonder and Sébastien Pauchon. Foxtrot Games’s Lanterns: The Harvest Festival also received a dice spin-off this summer, developed by Chris Bryan.
A considerable amount of roll-and-writes based on original ideas have also been conceived. Among the most noteworthy of these are Blue Cocker Games’s Welcome To… and Horrible Games’s Railroad Ink.
What caused this sudden trend? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly, but Wolfgang Warsch’s 2018 masterpiece Ganz Schön Clever could be responsible. Published by Schmidt Spiele, the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee took the community by storm. Despite its small packaging and low retail price, the game offers fantastic and engaging gameplay. It’s a beautiful synthesis of dice-rolling mechanics that rewards you with combo bonuses as you play. The game is even enjoyable solo, as its award-winning smartphone app managed to prove.
It only made sense that Warsch would revisit his accomplishment, envision a new score sheet and implement new mechanics. The result is Doppelt So Clever (translated as Twice as Clever); a sequel that puts your proficiency to the test. Let’s roll on and double-check what this entry has to offer.
Doppelt So Clever uses the same dice-picking, silver platter-choosing mechanics as its predecessor. If you’re unfamiliar with these, I’d highly recommend learning about them as a prerequisite. Feel free to check out Ryan Hemming’s Ganz Schön Clever review for a condensed overview.
If you know how to achieve high scores in Ganz Schön Clever, chances are you have a strict game plan. I won’t spoil anything in this review, but there’s an optimised, high-scoring strategy that works consistently. Once you know the strategy, there are two ways to approach the game. You can simply conclude that the game has been ‘solved’ and feel no need to play it again. Your other option is to continue playing, hoping to reach the fabled ‘perfect score’.
Doppelt So Clever attempts to tackle this issue and provide a more meaningful game for people with the former mindset. By creating more possible in-game decisions, the game isn’t quite as clear-cut as its predecessor. I’ll give a detailed overview of each change and discuss how the new zones impact the game.
A new ‘reclaim’ action is included in this version, along with the +1 and re-roll actions. This action allows you to return a die from the silver platter back to your pool of dice for future rolls. This is especially useful due to how the new silver zone works in this game.
When you choose a silver die, you mark off one of the four squares matching the value of the die you took. However, you do the same for all dice put onto the platter as a result of taking that die. The squares are also colour-coded, meaning putting aside a blue four marks off the blue four square. Since you ideally want to be putting aside 2-3 dice each time, being able to reclaim them proves to be quite useful.
The yellow zone is somewhat similar to that of its predecessor, however there are some interesting changes. Taking a yellow die permits marking off a square containing its value, and completing rows and columns gives you a bonus. However, squares must be marked off twice in order for it to score points. This means that you must decide between bonuses or points as the game progresses.
The blue row requires you to write numbers equal to or lower than the previous number in the row. The blue die’s value is also always combined with the white die’s value. For example, if you choose a blue three die and the white die’s value is six, you can no longer write numbers higher than nine. There is a notable risk/reward element, as writing down low numbers too early might impact your future turns. The further up the row you progress, the more points you earn at the end of the game.
The green row operates in sets of two; the second number is subtracted from the first to determine the set’s point value. Larger multipliers apply to both numbers as you progress further down the row. Let’s use an example to demonstrate. For the fourth set, your first number is six and the second is two. Six gets multiplied by three while two is doubled, meaning your set’s point value is 18 minus four. It’s quite challenging focusing on writing larger numbers followed by smaller numbers in order to maximise your point totals.
The pink row is the simplest of the zones, however it still has some unique features. Any value can be written in the next available square, but getting bonuses is a little more complex. Some squares have greyed-out values inside them; you need to write a number equal or higher to get that square’s bonus. Of course, you can ignore this if you’re purely focusing for points or just want to progress further.
One other nice addition is the ability to earn bonuses for maxing out re-rolls, +1’s or reclaims. Other than these differences, the flow and mechanics of the game are maintained from its predecessor. Opponents will still choose one of your leftover dice from the silver platter or use +1 actions once your three dice are chosen. The white die returns as a wild die and can be used to copy any other colour’s effect. Foxes are each worth the score of your lowest-scoring zone, and you can now earn a fox by maxing out your re-rolls.
Once Bitten, Twice Clever
Before I played this game, I considered myself to be a Ganz Schön Clever veteran. I had studied the aforementioned optimal strategy and strived for perfection. With a high score of 324, I assumed I was ready for Doppelt So Clever. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My first score was a soul-crushing sub-120; it was surprisingly difficult to keep all zones in check. It was a bittersweet relief, however, this was a sign that I had plenty left to learn.
Doppelt So Clever succeeds in being a much more tactical affair. Doppelt’s zones are not quite as straightforward, with no clear, consistent strategy to filling them. Filling the silver area is ideal, but it’s difficult to achieve without sacrificing multiple dice. It’s more ideal to react to your current situation and build accordingly. Focusing on earning foxes for large score bonuses still applies here. That being said, finding a balance between zones is where the challenge lies.
One of Ganz Schön Clever’s many assets was its combo potential. I discussed the delightful feeling of chaining numerous bonuses in my Five Games with Satisfying Combos article. Thankfully, Doppelt So Clever delivers in this regard as well. In fact, it’s possibly more satisfying here due to the extra level of improvisation. When you’re following a strategy, bonuses feel more like requirements than achievements. The uncertainty of not knowing what zones to focus on makes getting bonuses feel more rewarding.
The game works equally well with all player counts. You’ll always have the opportunity to use dice on other players’ turns, which helps with engagement during downtime. The number of rounds also decreases depending on the number of players, keeping game times consistent. If you’re eager to chase some high scores by yourself, the game works perfectly solo.
The production quality is also adequate considering the game’s price. The dice and score sheets are vibrant, and the game comes with a considerable amount of the latter. However, I suggest laminating four sheets and using markers to ensure infinite replay-ability. The box doubles as the silver platter also, and you can find a way to fit both games in one box.
Despite the extra mechanics, the game still maintains the soul and atmosphere of its predecessor. Despite both games being completely themeless, engagement levels are surprisingly high here. I find that all players tend to watch eagerly as dice are added to the silver platter. There is also a sense of encouragement as players discuss the best die to choose for the current situation. There isn't much player interaction that impacts gameplay, but the game’s atmosphere is quite refreshing. You can intentionally put dice on the platter which players don’t need, but it’s not as important as other matters.
All of this is not to say that Doppelt is strictly better than Ganz Schön Clever, of course. The extra decision-making can prove tricky if you’re completely new to the series. Some may enjoy following the more cohesive strategies that Ganz Schön Clever incentivises also. If you’re seeking an extra challenge, however, Doppelt So Clever will provide. It’s a brand-new learning curve as you work towards the highest score possible.
Final Thoughts on Doppelt So Clever
Wolfgang Warsch’s sequel triumphs in retaining the original game’s atmosphere while creating a whole new experience. Doppelt So Clever provides complex gameplay for those who desire it, and will demand multiple plays to build familiarity. Replay-ability is stronger here, however it does not retain the simplicity of its predecessor as a result.
If you enjoy Ganz Schön Clever by any means, you have little to lose by picking this up. This game is a fantastic progression and will put your knowledge to the test. If you’ve never played either game before, I strongly recommend acquiring Ganz Schön Clever first. Many mechanics carry over, and playing Doppelt first will hamper the magic of experiencing Ganz Schön Clever for the first time.
Once you’ve prepared yourself, don’t think twice, and be sure to step it up with Doppelt So Clever.