So Clover!

Designer: Francois Romain

Artist: Not credited

Publisher: Repos Production

Oh So Clever, the title! I see what you did there. (Photo credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

This is the final word game on my wishlist and I think it fits nicely into my collection. I have picked up a few word games for my partner who seem to enjoy this genre, and also for my daughter whose vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds each day. I also enjoy a good word puzzle, but usually prefer a good NYT crosswords instead. Still, we have mostly enjoyed every word game we own: Cross Clues, Letter Jam and Just One. I also have Codenames Duet and regular old Codenames. So how does So Clover stack up?

So Clover! is a word association game not terribly different in concept from other games in the genre. Like other word games, So Clover! is a cooperative endeavor with one clue-giver and multiple guessers, which means it is most similar to Cross Clues and Codenames and further away from Just One or Letter Jam. In So Clover!, every player gets a dry erasable 4-leaf clover that can fit four puzzle pieces in a 2×2 grid. On each square puzzle piece are four random words printed on each edge of the square. Because the puzzle pieces are randomly placed on a 2×2 grid, 2 of these outward-facing words – one each from a puzzle piece – will be presented on each side of the clover. So as you can guess by now, players must come up with one-word clues to link the two associated words on each clover by writing their answers with the dry erase pen. Thereafter, the puzzle pieces are removed, an extra puzzle piece is then drawn from the deck to act as a decoy and all 5 pieces are shuffled and handed to the audience to reassemble.

The other players must discuss and decide how the puzzle pieces are assembled in a way that all the words form a reasonable connection to the target words as written by the clue-giver. Because 2 edges of each puzzle piece contribute toward an associated word, part of the challenge is to assign the pieces in a way that makes sense for all answers. Now sometimes, the clues are closely linked and dead easy to come up with a clue. Other times, the connection is not so clear and one really must stretch the imagination to come up with a good clue that the other players can guess. That’s where the fun comes in for the clue giver: finding a clue that everyone or someone in the group can make that extra leap of logic to connect. For the players collectively solving the puzzle, part of the fun comes from hashing it out with other players or arguing your point on how the pieces come together. The back and forth with all the players can be hilarious and fun to watch, especially as the clue-giver. It can be hard to keep in it.

So how does So Clover! compare to the other word games in my collection? Well, it is a different beast from Just One and Letter Jam. So those comparisons are out. I think the game is closest to Cross Clues. In Cross Clues, players are all working against the clock to lay down as many answers in the grid coordinate. There is a maximum of 25 possibilities to lay down your choice in Cross Clues at the start of the game, if you play the 5×5 grid. However, the difficulty level in Cross Clues declines over time as the game progresses and the grid is filled up. Your choices become more constraint. So, there can be an anti-climactic feeling toward the end, at least for me. The scoring matrix in Cross Clues makes a little more sense if you want to keep a record of your wins and losses because it is sort of a race-against-time game that allows you to track and compare your points over several games. In So Clover! there are more combinations to assemble the puzzle pieces. But, you can easily rule out most words as they not linked to the clues. Once a few puzzle pieces are confidently placed on the board, it can become easier to guess the remaining choices. The extra decoy puzzle piece drawn from the deck can really throw a wrench in your predictions. I think it was a stroke of genius from the designer or publisher to add this extra piece in the equation. It really ratchets up the tension.

While there is clearly a feeling of overlap when playing Cross Clues and So Clover!, the mechanisms are different. I do like So Clover! better. Not quite sure why. The rules feel a little more structured and a little less loosey goosey than Cross Clues, but that’s just how our family plays them. Often times, we play Cross Clues sort of half-heatedly, failing to adhere to the timer, which makes the game a little bland. So Clover! doesn’t really have the timer element, so you can take your time to give clues and to guess them. Overall, if you love word games, I think So Clover! is a decent addition to your collection, even if you already own a bunch.

Initial impressions: Good

Kids Corner

7 years 7 months: While some word combinations can be challenging, I don’t think So Clover! is terribly hard for a kid who reads and has a growing vocabulary. For sure their vocabulary must be sufficient to enjoy the game, but I think a 6-7 year old can take a stab. Besides, I tell my kid that if she doesn’t know a word, she can rotate the puzzle piece to choose one that she know. For adults, once the pieces are placed, you are not allowed to rotate them. We also make things easy by allowing proper nouns. I am actually unsure if you are allowed to do that in the game. Unlike other games, one thing that So Clover! does that others don’t do as well, is the back and forth discussion. You do that with Cross Clues too, but usually, the choices are between A or B, and so the discussion is brief. In So Clover!, the interpretations are a little more open to debate and I have fun listening to my child argue her point. It can be funny. Some of her interpretations are logical, but others not as much. I think part of the challenge is to let them argue their point and then either accept or counter. I try not to dismiss her argument outright even though I know it is probably incorrect. Some of her choices stem from inexperience with the real world, but she does come up with gems every so often and surprise us. Those are the moments to live for. Get the game if you think your child’s vocabulary is up to par. Even if not, allow them to choose their own word pairs and it will still work. Otherwise, you can purchase and wait for them to grow older.

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