A lot of people have probably never heard of the board game Clever Endeavor before. Outside of occasionally seeing the game for sale at thrift stores and garage sales, I had never heard of the game before. That was probably partially due to being really young when the game was first released and the fact that Clever Endeavor was never reprinted. What is interesting about Clever Endeavor is that it was basically a crowdsourced game which is pretty impressive for a game made in the 1980s. It turns out that the creators of the game ran adds in various magazines and newspapers looking for people to submit clues for the game that they were creating. They ended up getting submissions from over 7,200 people including people from every state in the United States and even some people from other countries. Despite the interesting backstory I didn’t have high expectations for Clever Endeavor as it looked like another generic trivia game. I was genuinely surprised by Clever Endeavor as it succeeds in improving upon a lot of other trivia games but also creates its own problems.
How to Play Clever Endeavor
- Each player chooses a playing piece and places it on the starting space closest to them.
- Remove the 24 venture cards from the rest of the cards and shuffle them. Place them next to the board face down.
- Place the card box next to the gameboard.
- The youngest player will be the first clue reader.
Playing the Game
The current clue reader starts by drawing a card from the box. The player will read the card’s category out loud. They will read through the rest of the card to themself to familiarize themself with it. After reading through the card the player will start reading out the clues one at a time. The clues do not have to be read in the order they are presented on the card. The player should read the least helpful clues first and the most helpful clues last in order to make it harder for the other players to guess the subject of the card.
After the clue is read the player should wait three to six seconds before reading the next clue. After four clues have been read the player can repeat all of the clues already given. When reading the clues the player is not supposed to read out loud any words inside parenthesis () as this information is only read after the card has been solved.
At any time any of the other players can guess what is being described. If a player’s marker is not in the red section of the gameboard, the player has two free guesses for the entire card. Once a player’s marker reaches the red section the player gets one free guess. After a player has used up all of their free guesses, they will lose one space for each incorrect answer.
If a player correctly guesses the answer they will get to move their playing piece forward spaces equal to seven minus the number of clues given. For an answer to be considered correct it does not have to be exactly what is written on the card but it has to be close enough that the person is referring to the same thing. After moving their playing piece, the player who answered correctly will be the next clue reader.
While moving if a player lands on a space with a triangle, they will draw the top venture card and follow the instructions on the card.
If the player lands on the space with an arrow pointing to another space, they will move their playing piece to the space that the arrow points to.
End of Game
The game ends when one of the players reach the winner’s circle. The player does not have to enter the winner’s circle by exact count. The player who reaches the winner’s circle first wins the game.
My Thoughts on Clever Endeavor
As I mentioned earlier I can’t say that I had high expectations for Clever Endeavor. It honestly looked like another very generic trivia game. I can’t say that I am a big fan of generic trivia games. While I like trivia in general, most trivia games are not that enjoyable as they feel like the designers took trivia questions and tacked on a gameboard and other mechanics so they could call it a game. Very little effort is usually put into the actual gameplay and the trivia questions are either way too hard or easy.
I wouldn’t say that Clever Endeavor is your typical trivia game but I actually think it is better than a lot of trivia games. Instead of answering trivia questions, you are given clues that describe a person, place, thing, event or a mystery item. You need to use these clues to figure out what is being described. Basically the players are competing to be the first player to solve the riddle. While the riddle solving gameplay is nothing original, I actually had fun playing Clever Endeavor. I think a lot of this has to do with the players competing to solve the riddles before the other players. It is surprisingly satisfying being able to solve a riddle seconds before another player.
As far as the riddles themselves I found it interesting that the clues were submitted by people from all around the United States along with a few submissions from outside the USA. Some of the riddles are better than others obviously but I would say for the most part they are quite clever. Some of the answers are pretty easy to figure out as the clues are kind of obvious but a lot of the answers have some really clever clues. There will be some clues that you don’t really understand at first. After hearing the answer though the light bulb will go on and you will wonder how you couldn’t piece the clues together earlier. I think the main reason that Clever Endeavor succeeds is that most of the riddles make you feel clever when you solve them.
Outside of the riddles I was impressed with Clever Endeavor because it succeeds in improving on a lot of trivia game mechanics that I have always had problems with. The first thing I like is that the game lets everyone but the reader play every card. Traditional trivia games can get boring pretty quickly as you have to sit around waiting for the other players to answer their questions. With almost everyone being able to answer in Clever Endeavor there is no longer a need to wait for the other players. It also adds competition to the game as the players have to answer correctly before the other players.
The second improvement Clever Endeavor adds to the trivia genre is the idea of free guesses. While this wouldn’t work for all trivia games, giving players some free guesses allows players to make guesses that they otherwise wouldn’t make. Maybe it is just me but I feel like a lot of people don’t make guesses in trivia games that they otherwise would because they are afraid of guessing incorrectly. This is especially true in games where there is a punishment for guessing incorrectly. By giving players one or two free guesses, players are more likely to make guesses which makes the game more enjoyable as your guesses will be right more often than you would think.
The final thing I liked that Clever Endeavor added was that the player who correctly guessed the last answer has to read the next card. This does a good job preventing a runaway winner. A player could theoretically get every other answer correct and still win by a large margin but that is unlikely. By forcing a player to read after getting an answer it allows the other players to have a chance of catching up. This keeps the game closer which makes games more interesting as it likely won’t be a foregone conclusion who will ultimately win the game.
While I think Clever Endeavor deserves a lot of credit for improving on most of the problems with your typical trivia game, for some reason it decides to add its own problems to the genre. I would love for someone to explain why adding luck to a trivia game is a good idea? That is exactly what Clever Endeavor does though. I honestly have no idea why the designers thought it was a good idea to add the venture cards. While some of the venture cards are helpful, they seem to usually hurt whoever is forced to draw them. The space that sends you back is just as bad. I just can’t understand why the designers thought it was a good idea to add randomization/luck to a game that is supposed to test your riddle solving skills. The player who is best at solving the riddles should always win the game. In the case of Clever Endeavor this is not always going to be the case as a player can lose the game just because they were unlucky.
These mechanics are so stupid that I don’t know why they were included in the first place. Basically with these mechanics in place you want to avoid answering when you would earn enough spaces that you would land on one of these spaces. It is pretty stupid that you are better off waiting to answer a question and earn less spaces just so you can avoid one of these spaces that will usually hurt you. I would honestly recommend just ignoring the venture cards and the space that sends up back. These mechanics just make the game worse so you should just get rid of them. I know I would never play the game again with these rules in place.
Outside of randomly adding luck to a trivia game, another problem that I had with Clever Endeavor was the fact that at this point the game kind of shows its age. While I would say that most of the cards are still relevant you will encounter some cards that are outdated at this point. Most of the outdated cards relate to people that are no longer as famous as they once were. This isn’t a huge problem for older players but anyone under 35 or so will have some troubles when these cards turn up. To remedy this problem our group came up with the house rule where the reader would look at the answer and determine whether it is something that all of the players would know. If one or more of the players wouldn’t be familiar with the answer, we would flip over the card or draw a new one until we found an answer that everyone would be familiar with.
While I had more fun with Clever Endeavor than I was expecting, I wouldn’t really consider it to be a game that I would play regularly. The game is fun at first but it starts to get a little boring towards the end of the game. I think Clever Endeavor would have benefited from being a little shorter. Most games will probably take 45 minutes to an hour, maybe a little longer with more than four players. At around the 30 minute point the game starts to drag a little. After finishing a game Clever Endeavor is the type of game that I would put back into storage and wait quite a while before I would play it again. This is not necessarily a bad thing but if you are short of space or already have a lot of board games, it might be enough to dissuade you from picking up Clever Endeavor.
Clever Endeavor’s components are pretty typical for a trivia game. You get a board, some playing pieces and a lot of cards. The gameboard and playing pieces are nothing special. The cards are not much to look at but I applaud the game for the quantity of cards included with the game. The game has 500 cards and since each card is double sided there are 1,000 riddles in the game. You will be able to play a lot of games before you ever have to worry about repeating cards. I also thought it was a really nice touch that each card credits the person who submitted the riddle along with their signature.
Should You Buy Clever Endeavor?
It is rare that a board game surprises me but Clever Endeavor deserves credit for being quite a bit better than I expected it to be. The game basically adds riddles to your typical trivia game and yet it works better than you would think. I think that mostly comes from the riddles themselves which were actually submitted to the designers of the game from people around the country. Most of the riddles are clever where you actually feel proud of yourself for solving them. Clever Endeavor also solves problems with your typical trivia game by letting all of the players play each question, letting players have some consequence free guesses, and preventing one player from running away with the victory. For some reason the game decides to add some luck to the game though by adding the venture cards and the space that sends you back. I would recommend completely ignoring these mechanics as they just make the game worse. Some of the riddles are also somewhat outdated and games tend to take a little too long.
Clever Endeavor is a game that is not going to be for everyone. If you don’t really care for riddles or trivia games in general you won’t like Clever Endeavor. If you like riddles though and think the game’s concept sounds interesting, I think you could enjoy Clever Endeavor. If you don’t mind it being a game that you only play every so often, I think it is worth picking up Clever Endeavor if you can find it for cheap.