Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Ulrich Blum & Jens Merkl
  • Art: Leon Schiffer
  • Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times Played: 5 (at 2 & 3 players) 1 (solo)

“You also have to be able to treat yourself”

                                                 -Google Translate

Every time that I think that I am done with the roll and write genre, someone points me to the “next big thing” and I jump at it, like a cat at a laser pointer. This latest flavor of the month comes with a strong pedigree, at least. The Klein & Fein line of games from Schmidt has been pretty much the saving grace of the roll and write genre for me. Ganz Schön Clever, Döppelt so Clever, Noch Mal, and Dizzle have all been hits here. So how does the newest entry stack up? Let’s take a look and find out. 

To set up a game of Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können, you start by placing the board in the middle of the table. This board is where you will find the cards that players can buy. Shuffle up the 29 scoring cards and the 20 bonus action cards and place them next to the board. Then place out four of each in their respective rows. 

Next deal each player two cards from each deck. From those four cards, they are going to keep three and discard the remaining card to the bottom of the appropriate deck. The three cards that players kept will be placed in front of them, adjacent to each other in some way to start the game. 

All of the cards have spaces on them with numbers or colors, sometimes both. Those spaces all have to be filled in order for that card to be completed, and completing cards is what you want to do as cards have to be completed for their benefits to be used. The benefits are on the lower half of the cards. The B cards, or bonus action cards, will allow the players to manipulate the rules of the game. The B cards can give a player the ability to use an extra die as the off player, or allow a player to adjust the value or color of the die they are using, among other things. Each of these B cards can be used three times before they are exhausted and cannot be used again. This is tracked by marking the three circles on the lower half of the card. The scoring cards are how points are scored at the end of the game. Scoring cards are marked with a laurel, and they will give you points at the end of the game if you have successfully completed them. Some Scoring cards will want certain color cards adjacent, or rows or columns of completed cards, or maybe cards of the same color, just as an example. 

How are the players going to accomplish scoring points and acquiring new cards? On a player’s turn they are going to roll all five dice, which are in five different colors. One thing to know before the player starts keeping dice. As the active player —  the one rolling the dice — you have to be able to finish a card with the dice you roll in order to use them, no partials. After rolling one time, the active player may choose to keep any dice that they have rolled, and re-roll as many as they want. The catch is, any dice that they re-roll can be used by the other players. They may choose one die to use on their own cards. The active player may roll the dice up to three times. So in theory the inactive players can use up to two dice. 

After the allocated rolls, or when the active player chooses to stop rolling, the active player may use their dice. If, through their rolls, they have dice in a combination that allows them to finish a card, they may use them to do so. Or if they have a three of a kind they may buy any of the four cards that costs three dice according to the board. Four of a kind lets the player buy any one of the eight cards on display. When you acquire a new card, you have to place it in your tableau. Your tableau of cards can never be any larger than three cards wide and three cards three cards tall. If the active player can do neither of those things, and they rolled the dice three times, they may take a chance and use two of their rolled dice on any cards they have in their tableau in front of them or they can draw a card from the top of one of the stacks. 

Play continues like this, with the active player being moved clockwise around the table. The game will end at the end of the round when someone buys their ninth card for their tableau. Whomever has the most points from those Scoring Cards in their tableau is the winner.

Solo play wise, it’s pretty simple and I think that it captures the feeling of the multiplayer version pretty well, but it’s definitely not my preferred way to play. Most of the game remains the same, but without other players, you have to have “Bot” player of sorts. The player will roll all the dice like normal, but the number of re-rolls determines how many dice they can use on the passive “bot” roll. So if the player used no re-rolls, they could then use three of the dice from the “bot” roll. One re-roll equals two dice and so on. After an active phase and a passive phase, the player must remove one of the cards from the far right of the display. Use these cards as a round counter. A solo game ends based on a number of rounds noted on the solo play card in the box. There are varying levels of difficulty, so the number of rounds varies. The player will add up points just as in the multiplayer game and compare their score with the goal. It’s an interesting way to play and an interesting way to give you a bit of the somewhat cooperative feel of the multiplayer game. 

The first thing that many folks caught when photos of Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können appeared, was that it was not one of those roll and writes where someone was going to upload the score sheet to the web and everyone would then be playing freely. It becomes not worth the effort to pirate these roll and writes when folks have to do a bit of work to do so. I don’t know if Schmidt thought of this as part of the design for the game, but kudos to them for finding a way around all of the piracy and laminating of sheets and have created a really good roll and write game that uses a truly unique system of scoring. 

This would all be for naught if the cards themselves weren’t dry erasable and they are, and they clean off well so you don’t have a lot of remnant markings on them, even after a half dozen plays, with kids, who don’t know how to clean things all that well sometimes. Good quality markers in the box as well, all in all a really good deal that I ended up spending about fifteen dollars US to get from Germany. 

I will say, the rules were translated, and they were translated by someone who does a good job with German translations, so I trust that we’ve got everything correct in gameplay. I will be anxious though just to see the English rules set just to make sure. 

My favorite thing about the game has to be that decision of whether or not to reroll those dice. You just know that you are going to be giving your opponents dice most of the time and that is going to help them, and knowing my dice rolling abilities, it’s going to help them more than it’s going to help me. The ability to take a chance though after three rolls is certainly a reason to push your luck from time to time. You need to be able to fill in one or two spots now and then so that you can finish those cards on your turns in the future. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t take eight dice on my turn when I only got to roll five of them. So in the game there are a lot of times where you have to help others work towards their goals, in order to help yourself. The tough part comes when you decide to start cutting them off. 

So Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können is a bit more difficult to teach than any of the aforementioned Fein und Klein titles. But, I think that most of that came from me teaching from a translation and not having photos with that translation. It’s a bit difficult to tell at first what some of the icons mean. After playing it a time or two though, they become fairly second nature and you don’t even have to bother trying to look them up. Once again though, that’s mostly me, not knowing German. 

Ultimately, Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können, manages to take some very familiar roll and write things — rolling dice, marking off boxes — and turns it into a new style of roll and write. One that requires planning and more than a bit of luck and even a bit of teamwork, at least while it is helping yourself, more than others. 

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Dale Y – So, I think this is a genius twist on the R+W genre – in that the copy-protection is that the entire game is written upon.  Sure, you could still make your own copy, but it’s a lot harder to copy 50+ cards than it is to copy a single sheet. That being said, the game itself is really good.  There is an interesting balance between racing to acquire cards – it helps to have cards just to be able to fill in spaces; as well as trying to get the right cards that you need for scoring.  

For me, this game gives a nice way of keeping everyone busy.  The way that the inactive players use the re-rolled dice values is a great way to keep everyone watching the dice rolls, and it also adds some interesting strategic plays.  A few of my opponents (Karen and Ryan) went out of their way to take suboptimal first rolls in order to not give any numbers to their opponents.

I have enjoyed the novelties provided by this game, and it has somewhat renewed my interest in the R+W genre – a lot of the recent releases had felt same-y, but this one felt a bit fresh as I liked being able to write on the actual cards.

James Nathan (1 play): It was fine.  Yes, I enjoyed the decision of when and what to re-roll, but I had a hard time feeling invested in the available cards/tiles. The bonuses were what they needed to be (e.g. fudging die values, knocking down the price of new tiles, etc.), but they never excited me –it never had those Ganz moments where you are excited to get that purple 6 to reset that row, or that yellow whatever so that it will trigger a green x that will trigger the blue square to do that other thing. I have the same feelings about the scoring cards too.  Maybe there’ll be some sequel or expansion cards that I can be more excited about. The system has potential, but I wasn’t invested in this implementation. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it. Brandon K.

I like it.  Dale Y, W Eric M

Neutral. James Nathan

Not for me… 

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7 Responses to Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  1. Florian says:

    Google translated the title in to the exact opposite meaning. “you have to be able to give” would be a proper translation.

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      That’s what I keep hearing and reading. I thought it a bit odd, but in my head it also made a little sense that you had to be able to finish cards as the active player so you have to be able to treat yourself, but I like the give translation better.

      Thanks!

  2. Mikel says:

    I think it loses something in that translation. I’m not sure there is a good translation for gönnen in english.

    My attempt would be: You have to be able to not begrudge someone something.
    Or you musn’t/shouldn’t begrudge others something.

    It’s a difficult one.

  3. Pingback: Man Muss Auch Gönnen Können (Game Review by Brandon Kempf) – Herman Watts

  4. william sargent says:

    The idea that humble dice games need to be copy protected is hilarious. How tight and miserable can gamers really get??! I would personally refuse to play a ‘pirated’ version of any game as I would just feel so disrespectful and greedy.

    The way these games could guarantee some form of hilarious ‘copy protection’ is to include interesting hand-made, etched dice as opposed to the depressing real world dice that the publishers use to save a huge amount of money.

    I also think the huge success of the AMAZING Silver and Gold will inspire a whole host of write-on card games like this.

    Great review, though, and another strong game. I just can’t get past the basic dice used in these games and only just managed to squeeze Noch Mal into the collection (with its also common dice design), alongside Dice Stars and Qwixx (for different reasons).

  5. Pingback: The Opinionated Gamers (Try To) Predict the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres – 2020 Edition | The Opinionated Gamers

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