Introducing Elevenses For One and Bowling Solitaire
Don't be deceived. There is more than one game in this box! Elevenses for One is a relatively new game, but it is part of Eagle Gryphon Games recently started an attractive series of small box games entiteld the E-G-G series. The choice for #11 in the series? A small solitaire game called Elevenses for One by David Harding. But to make this game even better value, the publisher decided to include a second solitaire game as well, namely Bowling Solitaire by famous American designer Sid Sackson.
And so that's how we end up with a two-for-the-price-of-one offering, under the title: Elevenses for One (with Bowling Solitaire).
So let's show you what you get, and tell you a bit about how these two games work and what I think.
Like the other games in the EGG series, this comes in a very conveniently sized and portable box, which focuses on Elevenses for One:
But the back of the box tells us that there is more than meets the eye here - notice the mention on the bottom right of the bonus game, Sid Sackson's Bowling Solitaire.
That means that inside we get components for two games. So before we take a look at each game individually, let's show you the complete package, and everything you get.
ELEVENSES FOR ONE
Components for Elevenses for One are:
● 11 Pantry cards
● 2 Time cards
● Rules (downloadable here)
With the Tea Trolley card face up in front of you, you shuffle the remaining cards numbered 2-11 and put them in a face-up row known as the Pantry. The aim is to move cards from the Pantry onto your Tea Trolley card in order from 2 through 11, within 15 minutes - not real time minutes, but minutes which you keep track of using the Timer cards. At the start, you may move any card to the front of the Pantry at a cost of 1 minute.
To play, you can do one of three things with the first face-up card in the Pantry:
a) Score it (+ lose 1 minute): if it's the next number in sequence from 2 through 11, you can move it onto your Tea Trolley, and also perform its action.
b) Use it (+ lose 1 minute): perform the action on the card and turn it face down. Actions include things like flipping any face-up card face-down (Tea), flip two cards face-down (Milk), switch two face-up cards (Biscuits), or move a card from the front to the back of the pantry (Sandwiches).
c) Discard it: put it into a temporary discard pile, which can have no more than three cards at any time.
After doing this, you move to the next face up card in the Pantry and do one of these three actions, and continue to repeat this process (including going back to the start of the Pantry and reshuffling all the remaining cards once you've gone to the end) until your time of 15 minutes is up, or until you are stuck and can't play any further. You win if you manage to "score" all cards from 2 through 11 before your time is up, and score points by adding the value of the top card in the Tea Trolley to the time remaining.
What do I think about Elevenses for One?
Decisions: This game plays quite quickly, and in your first game you might feel that you don't have much control, with the pace of the game determined largely by the cards in the line-up. But there are small nuances that become important: if a card can't score, is it better to discard it or execute its action? And if you do execute its action, how can you best take advantage of the effect? How can you manipulate your limited options to try to set-up the cards remaining in the pantry in an optimal order, so you can score as many as possible, or either maximize or avoid their actions? At times, it can even be a bit brain burning to figure out the optimal moves, at least if you are serious about playing well, so despite the simple rules you can't play on auto-pilot.
Length: Playing a game of Elevenses for One only takes 5-10 minutes, depending on how deep you get into analyzing things. But it's a perfect length for the kind of game it is, and that makes it an ideal little time filler to pull out whenever you're on your own somewhere and have ten minutes to kill. Given the short game time, I almost like it more than Elevenses, which can drag a little, although in the most recent edition the win condition for that game has been modified to shorten it.
Abilities: You need to optimize the special abilities on the cards, but you can't always use them. Sometimes you get some unusual situations that come up, and so it's not unsurprising that there's quite a few questions in the BGG forums about the use of specific cards and specific situations. There is an FAQ that addresses most questions here. It can be a little frustrating initially looking up how the various exceptions work, and the game loses some elegance because of this, but once you master how these work the game becomes a very fun little puzzle.
Solitaire: This is more of a solitaire puzzle than a game, but it plays very quickly, and certainly is a fun solo challenge, that will play out differently each time depending on the cards in the line-up. I admit to being a bit skeptical after the first couple of plays, but the more I played it, the more I enjoyed it, and appreciated the cleverness of the design. As I played it more, I came to like and appreciate it all the more.
Components: As for the artwork and components, these are of good quality (although I did prefer the cardback artwork in some of the print-and-play copies), and will especially appeal to fans of its namesake. The charm of the game is enhanced by the components, and these can really grow on you - much like drinking tea, really!
Components for Bowling Solitaire are as follows:
● 20 cards (two each of cards numbered 0 to 9)
● rulebook (downloadable here)
Scoring works just like standard ten pin bowling, which I won't explain here - I'll just explain how a frame is played out. At the start of each of the ten frames that make up a full game, you shuffle all 20 cards, and set them up with ten cards randomly placed face-up in the same pattern as the pins are arranged for a normal game of ten pin bowling, while there are three piles of face-down cards (five, three, and two cards each) representing your bowling balls.
Flow of Play
You flip up all three ball cards, and choose one to "bowl" at the ten face-up pins. You can remove a single pin card if it matches the number on the ball card, or two to three adjacent pin cards that add up to the number of the ball card (just consider the last digit of their total). There are a few special restrictions that I won't describe in detail here (e.g. you can't use a ball card played to knock over any pins in the back row; pins knocked over must be adjacent), but that is the gist of it. All the ball cards must have a face-up card on top, so you can keep doing this multiple times.
If you manage to get rid of all ten pins this way, you have achieved a strike, i.e. all ten knocked over with just one ball! Otherwise you can roll a second ball by discarding the top card from all the ball piles and playing with the new top cards on each, again trying to knock over as many of the remaining pins as you can. The total number of pins knocked over with those two balls represents your score for that frame, with strikes/spares earning bonus points just as in regular ten pin balling. At the end of a frame, you reshuffle all 20 cards and repeat the process, until the completion of ten frames.
What do I think about Bowling Solitaire?
Theme: If you enjoy sports in general, and bowling in particular, you're almost certain to take a real liking to this game. The scoring system Sackson has used is derived from the actual game, and since the arrangement of cards also reflects bowling pins, and adjacency rules for removal simulates the path of a moving ball, there is a strong sense of thematic flavour. Very thematic, and very clever!
Strategy: The gameplay is fairly straight forward, but there's a lot of scope for careful play. To play well, you'll want to keep track of what cards have been played (there are only 20 in total, so card counting is not difficult), and exercise some basic probability and risk management to maximize the chances of drawing what you need. You should also remove cards in such a way that the remaining cards are more likely to correspond to the ball cards remaining in the game. Giving careful thought to your options and possibilities before playing anything will definitely lead to better scores (to illustration: our first game we only scored 93, whereas in our second game we'd already improved enough to score 138!); a score of over 150 is very good in this game, and scores of over 200 have been reported. There's definitely a lot of room for skilful and calculated play, and that's what makes this game so good.
Luck: There's also also enough luck to ensure that each frame plays out differently. You can never be entirely certain what cards are face-down in which pile, so there's enough of an unknown that requires some calculated risk-taking, while at the same time the majority of your decisions are going to be made on the basis of the knowledge that you do already have from the face-up cards. So there's just enough luck to ensure replayability, while not so much that it becomes frustrating or takes away too much from the genuine sill required to play well.
Solitaire: You can play competitively with two players if you wish (it will take twice as long), but it would be a multi-player solitaire experience, but the same can be said of a real game of bowling! But to my way of thinking, the fact that Bowling Solitaire is intended firstly as (surprise, surprise) a solitaire game is a positive, and will be especially welcome for solo gamers looking for a small and thoughtful game like this. It does take 15 minutes or so to play, and offers a lot of decisions in that time. Sid Sackson developed this in part as a result of his distaste for `traditional' solitaire games (e.g. where you lay a red 9 on a black 10), and he certainly succeeded in coming up with a far more interesting, original, and thematic game that feels worlds apart from the solitaire you've probably played on your PC.
Components: The theme is particularly enhanced with the artwork of the published game. Although you can certainly play Bowling Solitaire with standard playing cards (two suits of cards numbered 1-10 will work), it is more enjoyable with this edition, also taking into account that it comes with a handy score pad. The cards themselves are of high quality and should prove very durable. And of course, you don't just get one solitaire game, but two, since this is included in the same package as Elevenses for One.
So is Elevenses for One (with Bowling Solitaire) for you? Both of these solitaire games are quite strong and worthwhile in their own right. I came in somewhat skeptical, because I rarely play solitaire games, but in the end I was won over by both games, particularly because they are easily to get into, quick to play, and each is satisfying in their own way:
Elevenses for One is quite a light game, but feels just right given the short time it takes to play. Considering it is a microgame that utilizes only 11 cards (plus two for the timer), it is a fun solo puzzle, that will have extra charm and appeal for people who are familiar with the original Elevenses, but will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys solitaire puzzles and games, or is looking for a thoughtful filler that occupies 5-10 minutes.
Bowling Solitaire is a longer game, but is very clever and remarkably thematic. Despite its age, it feels fresh and modern, and playing it is a very satisfying experience. Eagle-Gryphon Games has done us an excellent service by making a quality published version, and hopefully this will lead to many more discovering this Sid Sackson gem.
On their own, these games might be somewhat hard to justify picking up. But since you get two games for the price of one, this is definitely worth considering, and is a great little package. While it will especially please those who enjoy solitaire games, it's suitable for any gamer looking for something to fill time while waiting for other gamers, or even as some light entertainment for those moments you're on your own. Final assessment: better than I was expecting!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Great review. All we need now is for the game to be available.
Gee, thanks so much for this awesome review, Ender! Really appreciate the time you put in to playing and reviewing :) Glad you like them!!