So Clover!, the new release from Repos Production and designer François Romain, is being marketed as a party game in the vein of Repos’ smash hit Just One. All the trappings of that wonderful game are present here; dry erase markers, player boards that double as white boards, and cards with keywords. The boxes are the same size, and the design schemes are similar yet distinct. Much like Just One, So Clover! is a cooperative game where players use word association to steer their comrades to the correct solution. There are some differences, of course.
So Clover! takes place over a single round. Each player draws four cards and covertly sets them in the four slots of their clover-shaped board. When placed in the slots, the cards, which are square with a hole in the middle and one word along each edge, create four pairs of random keywords. Players then have to write one clue for each pair on the edge of each clover leaf. For example, in my first game one of my pairs was “snow” and “chicken,” so I wrote “penguin.” In another, “hood” and “sponge” were united with “carwash.”
Once all the players have completed their clues, they remove their four cards, draw a fifth one at random from the deck, and shuffle them together. The first player places their board in the middle of the table and reveals the five cards for the other players to see. It is then up to the group to work together and reverse engineer the original layout of cards that created the four clues on the leaves. Once every player’s board has been tried, the game ends.
It’s Not a Party Game and I’ll Cry If I Want To
It’s pretty clear that the team at Repos want people to think of Just One when they look at So Clover! It makes good business sense; Just One is great and it has sold incredibly well. In their rush to capitalize on its success, though, I think Repos is burying a nice design under untenable expectations. It’s not just that I don’t think So Clover! can withstand comparison to one of the best party games on the market; I don’t think So Clover! is a party game at all.
I tried it with six players and it had nothing to recommend itself. There was none of the tension or laughter or conversation that comes naturally with great group games like Skull, Ghost Blitz, or Bohnanza. With five people attempting to solve each clover—an activity that is simply not all that demanding—two or three players were inevitably left with nothing to contribute each round. When the game ended, none of the involved parties were interested in playing again. We boxed it up, my roommate said “Let’s play Just One,” and that was the end of it.
Clover and Out
What charms So Clover! has, slight though they may be, revealed themselves during a small, late-evening game with two of my roommates. We hadn’t planned on playing a game that night and we were tired, but we knew it would take around 15 minutes, so we collapsed into our chairs and got to making clues. It was nice. It was relaxed and relaxing. I felt a lovely tingle in the back of my head as I wrote down my clues. In a three player game, with only two people guessing at a time, figuring out the solutions became a conversation between equal partners. In such an exhausted state, the opportunity to space out while your own board was under discussion was welcome. The whole experience was pleasant, even if it isn’t something I’m eager to try again.
What I love most about big group games is how they manipulate the social fabric of the table, how they force players to respond to one another in some way. If that’s what you look for too, you won’t find it here. So Clover! is a cooperative game that doesn’t create any sense of comradery, and it is a puzzle that doesn’t require much puzzling. Repos can market it as a party game all they want, but this game is at its relative best with a trio of people, tired after a long day, sitting down at the table with drinks in hand, writing clues and swapping boards. In that context, where the player count allows for a sort of intimacy, So Clover! is just clover enough.