Rolling dice, making check marks, seeing if you can make more checkmarks, repeat. If you’ve played That’s Pretty Clever or Twice as Clever, you’re familiar with how a simple concept can lead to a decently engaging experience of trying to figure out how to maximize your score by picking the right dice at the right time to link together the combos.
If you’ve played any of the Clever games, you can go ahead and skip to the score, but if you’re still interested in learning about the latest iteration, then stick around for this extremely lengthy non-repetitive review.
Clever Cubed is a roll-and-write game for one to four players that plays in under 30 minutes. If you’ve played any of the Clever games, you can go ahead and skip to the Game Experience, but if you’re new to the world of dice-chucking-combo-connecting, then stick around for this extremely lengthy detailing of the game rules.
On your turn, you toss all 6 colored dice, picking one of the dice and marking off a spot in the zone of that dice color’s area of the score sheet. All dice valued lower than the selected die are removed to the “tray,” and then the remaining dice are rerolled, which happens a total of three times per turn. Then, all the players who did not roll get to pick one of the dice on the “tray,” to use to mark off their own score sheet. Play the rotates through a particular number of rounds.
Die values determine which spots get crossed off, and as you mark off spots, bonus actions get triggered, providing the player with rerolls, capabilities to change dice values, claim additional dice, and mark off extra spaces for free. Each zone has its own specific rules on which spots get filled in and in what order, and as more spots get filled in, the ability to string together combos becomes possible. In the end, points are scored based on the number and type of spots filled in each zone, with the highest scoring player declared the winner.
If you’ve played any of the Clever games, you can go ahead and skip to the Final Thoughts, but if you’re still interested in the world of clever-combo-roll-and-writing, then stick around for this extremely lengthy detailing of the game experience.
We can rationally explain that roll-and-write games are, at their core, nothing more than an exercise in weighing probabilities, but I can also simultaneously forget all that if we’re presented with an engaging game experience. For us, Clever Cubed skews far towards the former—an exercise in mathematics where a player is most successful by being able to play the odds the most effectively. While we certainly enjoy such games at times, it is important to realize that Clever Cubed is not going to blow you away with any interesting or exciting theme.
Rather, the elegance in Clever Cubed (as with the rest of the Clever series) is the thrill that is delivered when you are able to link a series of combo plays that then trigger even more events down the chain. Like running through your whole deck in a game of Dominion, or being able to lay 3 different tiles on your turn in Castles of Burgundy, the ability to get your scoresheet positioned in such a way to be able to have a single roll knock over the whole row of dominoes is pretty neat. Admittedly, our plays of Clever Cubed had this happen more accidentally than purposefully, but we still enjoyed it nonetheless.
Our major quibble with the game is existential in nature—does Clever Cubed need to exist in a world where That’s Pretty Clever already exists? For us, the answer is an unequivocal maybe. For players who have burned themselves out on the original (and I have seen people online claim they have played it solo hundreds of times), perhaps this edition is just what is needed to maintain interest. However, for those who maybe have a play or two in, the new rules and scoring conditions add an unneeded level of complexity to what is already an elegant game.
As with many roll-and-writes, downtime is an issue, with Clever Cubed falling prey to analysis paralysis from those players who want to crunch the numbers and analyze every possible scenario. While there is some interaction when all non-rollers can choose off the tray, gameplay can bog down if you’re playing this with a very deep-thinking group. Your mileage may vary.
Clever Cubed is a lightweight but thinky roll-and-write, but is not bringing much of anything new to the table for both the series and the genre. Maybe worth picking up if you’re new to the Clever series of games, or if you’ve played the other iterations so many times you’re bored. Maybe.
Final score: 3 Stars – Decent, repetitive, and unnecessary.
• Familiar gameplay if you’ve played other titles in the Clever series
• The joy of stringing together a massive combo
• Repetitive gameplay if you’ve played other titles in the Clever series
• An exercise in probability that can fall flat