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Subject: Sid Sackson's Bowling Solitaire - A Detailed Review rss

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Image Courtesy of klausbh

This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type - Solitaire Card Game
Play Time: 5-10 minutes
Number of Players: 1
Mechanics - Memory, Math Calculations, Card Management
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in under 10 minutes)
Components - Not Applicable
Designer - Sid Sackson (Acquire, Bazaar, BuyWord, I'm the Boss, Sleuth and many more...)

Release - 1969

Overview and Theme

Every now and again in this hobby I am lucky enough to come across game design genius. Now I don't mean that as a 'negative comment' (as in most things are rubbish) about our hobby, as I like most of you, are astounded by the great ideas that abound on a daily basis.

What I'm talking about here though is pure genius...the kind that was born of a great mind, largely without the benefit of a million other ideas that can be drawn upon and tinkered with until something semi-new is created.

Here I'm talking about Sid Sackson and his twist on regular Solitaire, that uses 2 suits from a deck of standard playing cards to successfully create a 10-Pin Bowling themed Solitaire variant.

It is pure genius and has traveled all the way from the mind of Sackson way back in 1969 when it was published in his book, A Gamut of Games.

This was a time when we didn't have over 1,000 games being released every year. Is it simple? Sure, but it is also very clever. I rank this up there with Reiner Knizia's Decathlon, which is another largely unknown gem.

Many thanks must go to the 'Games Only You Have Played...' Geeklist for allowing someone to post their play and make me aware of this game's existence.

Shall we 'roll on'? shake

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The Components

Well this won't take too long. All the game needs to play is two suits from a regular deck of cards and only the cards 1 through 10. The Ace counts as a 1 naturally.

That's it except for some paper to score on.


Image Courtesy of klausbh


Set-up

The set-up allows the game to play differently with each frame and indeed the set-up will be required to create each new frame too.

The 20 cards are shuffled and 10 of them are placed face-up to form the 10-Pin formation. It doesn't matter where you build them from but it is probably easier to place them from back to front to create the rows of 4, 3, 2 and 1. The cards should be spaced as seen below to create the classic formation used in 10-Pin Bowling.

X X X X
X X X
X X
X


The final 10 cards are then used to create three piles of cards, known as the 'Ball Piles'.

The leftmost pile should contain 5 cards, the central pile 3 cards and the rightmost pile 2 cards.

The top card of each pile is then turned face-up.

The frame is now ready to begin.

The Play

Like regular 10-Pin Bowling, the game is played over a series of frames, with scores being earned with each frame. The game plays out in the following manner -

d10-1 Select a Card - At the start of a frame the player will always have 3 cards to choose from (the face-up Ball Pile cards), of which they must select one.

d10-2 Knock Down Pins - Using the card selected, the player must try to knock down one or more pins and to do so some simple maths is employed.

A single card can be used to knock down 1-3 adjacent pins, which is simulated by removing said cards.

To be able to remove cards the total of the cards in the formation must add up to a total that has a final digit that is the same as the value of the card selected for the turn.

For example -

A player selects an 8 card from one of the Ball Piles and therefore needs to try and make an 8, 18 or 28.

The pins look like the following :-

4 8 1 10
5 3 1
2 9
7


In this example the player could choose to remove the 5 and 3 from the [5 3 1] row or the 2, 9 and 7 from the front of the formation as this adds up to 18, with an 8 being in the ones or units place value position.

Once a player makes one of the above moves, all cards in question (the card from the Ball Pile and the cards/pins) are removed from play.

The next card in the Ball Pile that was used is then turned over, unless of course the last card used was the last card in that pile, in which case the player now has fewer options at their disposal.

d10-3 The Exception - The exception to the above rule is that the back row of pins cannot be knocked down on the first turn of a frame and nor can the central most pin be taken out on its own on the first turn of a frame. So in the above example the 8 in the back row could not be removed, nor could the 3 by itself in the [5 3 1] row.

d10-4 Further Turns and Adjacency - On future turns all remaining pins can be targeted...well almost. Any new pins or pin combos knocked down must always have at least one pin that is adjacent to a pin or pins that have already been taken out. This helps to simulate that in real life a ball cannot be in two places at once. It's really very clever.

In the above example let's say a player takes out the 5, 2 and 7 down the front left side. On their next turn they would not be allowed to knock down the 10 and 1 in the back right as none of those pins are adjacent to the pins already out of play. However taking out the 10, 1 and 9 down the right would be legal as the 9 is adjacent to the 2 and 7 that have already been removed.

d10-5 Ending a Ball - If a player is ever faced with the reality that no card from any of the Ball Piles can be used to take out one or more pins, then they have effectively bowled their first ball. The player scores points based on how many pins have been knocked down so far.

The top cards of each remaining Ball Pile are then discarded and the top card of each pile turned up to offer the player new options, and this represents taking the second ball of the frame.

When a player is faced with no valid options for a second time, it simulates the bowling of their second ball and the frame is over.

d10-6 Strikes and Spares - In order to earn a Strike, a player must manage to knock over (remove) all 10 pin-cards before they are faced with a miss.

In order to score a Spare a player must manage to knock over (remove) any remaining pin-cards whilst on their second ball.

d10-7 Scoring - To score in Bowling Solitaire, the exact same method is employed as in regular 10-Pin Bowling. A point is earned for the number of pins that are knocked down with each ball.

If a player manages to score a Strike, they earn 10 points plus the number of pins they knock down on the next two balls.

If a player earns a Spare, they score 10 points plus the number of pins they knock down on the next ball.

Scores can be kept on any piece of paper but if you would like a score sheet that looks like the real thing then this file will do the trick -

Bowling Solitaire Printable Score Sheets

d10-8 New Frames and Ending the Game - Once a frame is complete a new one is created as outlined in the set-up.

If a player manages to score a Strike or Spare in the final frame then they will need to bowl that extra ball or two as in the real thing.

A player can then aim to beat their highest score with subsequent plays and there is no reason why multiple players couldn't play the game together (side by side) to simulate the real thing. One deck allows for two players at a time! meeple

Why Bowling Solitaire Works!

If you have found this review there is every chance you have a reasonable sized collection...that come with wonderful components, imaginative themes and are fun to play. So why in the world would anyone consider a game that makes use of standard playing cards?

Well I sit in the 700+ game category and I love the heck out of this. Here's Why -

d10-1 Thematic - I never thought it could be possible to create a thematic experience with just standard playing cards but that's exactly what this is.

The pin removal rules beautifully replicate the nuances of bowling a ball down your local alley. It is difficult to hit the back pins in isolation...so they are not up for grabs on the first shot. It is all but impossible to remove the central most pin by itself with all pins in play, so that too is not allowed.

The final element that makes the game feel 'real' is the ability to remove up to 3 pins at a time but further turns must knock down at least one pin that is adjacent to those that have already been removed.

This elegantly simulates the path that a ball could take, despite the fact that several turns can be used to replicate the bowling of 2 balls.

It's great stuff and something I would never have thought possible.

d10-2 Strategic Decision Making - Whilst the game can have some luck in its play (which I always prefer in my games), there is an undeniable amount of strategy and forward planning that can be employed.

First there is the nature of the deck to consider. With only two of each value in the deck a player can begin to consider how many cards of a certain value are already in play and how many more are still available (essentially card counting). But like regular solitaire a player cannot be certain of what order the hidden cards are in, or indeed in which pile certain cards reside. That is the beauty of the 3 Ball Pile design.

A player can also consider what possible totals can be made (and the options can be many) in order to try and keep their options as open as possible. Then there is the consideration of the pin positions and which ones to knock down with each turn in order to keep totals alive that may be on other Ball Pile cards and also to keep the pins in a formation to help avoid the creation of single pins (as these can be hard to remove).

Then there is the management of the Ball Piles themselves. Having three options is always better than two so it is in a player's best interest to use cards from the left-most pile if possible, but it won't always be the best option.

In truth I have played many a light game with far less going on in them. Well played Sid...well played. meeple

d10-3 Educational Merit – Another feather in the game's cap is that it is great for helping students make use of basic counting skills and number fact knowledge such as ‘doubles facts’, ‘tens facts’ and 'adding 9' (as well as basic mental addition and computation). It also reinforces place value concepts and the game is effectively open ended in how children can go about creating totals and removing cards. These are all excellent educational concepts and I will be teaching my students the game as well as my staff at an upcoming professional development day.

d10-4 Sports Simulation - The final thing I really like about the game is that it allows me to simulate a sport in a card game - which is neat. I have always found sports sims quite enjoyable in various forms so for me this is just another neat discovery that I enjoy. In particular I think it is the scoring that I like. Most games that can play solo and use scoring as the only way to measure success come across as rather dull. But here for some reason it is really engaging. Earning a strike or a spare can be quite tricky but when you pull one off it is quite rewarding.

And don't forget this is easily playable by more than one person at a time and can even be played alongside them at the same time. Given that only a deck of cards is required I can see this becoming a fun time in those downtime moments on camping trips. cool

The Final Word

This review will probably gain very little attention due to the title (although Sid Sackson in there might help) but I don't really care about that.

This game isn't going to have too many people rushing to their deck of playing cards and it certainly isn't going to see waves of people put aside a Village, your favourite Feld or Caverna for any length of major time to play this.

But personally I feel like this game has opened my eyes to a new genre (perhaps sub-genre?) that I really didn't know much about and before now had never really shown an interest in. For me it has expanded my view of this wonderful hobby of ours just that little bit more.

I find this as enjoyable a 20 minutes as many other light/filler card or dice games and I'm glad to have written a review for something so unique compared to the mainstream titles that are usually covered.

I may even look to get some custom Pin-Cards made up to add to the theme just that little bit more.

Till next we meet may you continue to Shake, Rattle and Bowl! shake

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Dave's Running Club
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Thanks for the review Neil. Wow, what a fascinating game. I might try and play it myself using your review as a guide to play. meeple
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Simon Zed
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Really neat review!!

This is exactly the kind of game I am looking for! I love innovative games that make uses of regular playing cards. I dont know if you played it, but you might also take a look at Oneonta Whist. It's a solitaire trick taking game and I think that it is simply brilliant. thumbsup thumbsup thumbsup
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George Leach
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A great game and a good review of it Neil.

This is certainly a top solitaire game, for me it's a favourite... well, if I wanted to play solitaire games. It's a shame this didn't see widespread play before smart phones became popular.

On your general point about published games compared to traditional card games; I think most gamers would do well to learn some of the fantastic card games out there and reconsider them once they've played a few designer games to see what they have to offer that they may have missed.

There are also some great games that play somewhat like designer games that are playable with a traditional card deck.

I would suggest Deduce or Die, Indian Chief, WYSIWYG, Ninety-Nine, Haggis and Diamant/Incan Gold (see forums). I have long tried to convert Ra to a traditional card game but it's not easy!
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Excellent stuff, I'll be getting a pack of cards out for the boring bits of the footy tonight to give this a go. Gamut of Games is an amazing work, and I was delighted to see Acquire played at our games club last night - comfortably the oldest game that gets played at our evenings.

If you like Sid Sackson it's worth looking at Alan Parr's games. Alan is a UK hobby legend, with a long running postal games zine and many games designs based on minimal components among his contributions. My favourite was Middleman, a 3-player card game where you won tricks by playing the middle card. The winner was the player with the score in the middle.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/792/alan-parr

And we're still gonna win the league!
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George Leach
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PaulinTheLion wrote:
And we're still gonna win the league!


I like your optimism Paul, I just hope we keep our heads up!
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Mark Saya
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Really nice review. Thanks for drawing attention to this great little game in such an excellent way. Thanks too for the link to my humble scoresheet!
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Thanks for all the comments guys and other games to check out. I'll be doing that.
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Quote:
Many thanks must go to the 'Games Only You Have Played...' Geeklist for allowing someone to post their play and make me aware of this game's existence.

Yay - that was me!modest

Neil - what a fantastic review. With the current vogue for microgames such as Love Letter and Council of Verona I think it's amazing that this game is not already better known, but it looks like your writing and enthusiasm for the game might just provoke some more interest. Given that almost everybody on this site owns the equipment to play it, people really should give it a go and find out just how strongly thematic it is. Kudos to you for your work on this, but also, of course, to Sackson himself. Suffice to say that I now never travel anywhere without a pack of cards in tow.

(...and I also play Reiner Knizia's Decathlon cool)

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nickster1970 wrote:
Quote:
Many thanks must go to the 'Games Only You Have Played...' Geeklist for allowing someone to post their play and make me aware of this game's existence.

Yay - that was me!modest


WHOSE Geeklist, now?
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Thanks for the review. It was instrumental in getting this on my radar and getting it to the game table. It was a very positive experience for those playing for the first time.
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I'm enjoying this game a lot but one question. Is adjacent meaning right next to or just touching? Using the example above if I had knocked down the 7,2,3 with one card can I then knock down the 8 or 1?

Thanks, Billy
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sniderman89 wrote:
I'm enjoying this game a lot but one question. Is adjacent meaning right next to or just touching? Using the example above if I had knocked down the 7,2,3 with one card can I then knock down the 8 or 1?

Thanks, Billy


I can't remember - anyone able to help?
 
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I wonder whether the author of "Bowling Alone" played this game.

www.bowlingalone.com
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Thank you for this review. I found it through your review list from another review and this looks like a lot of fun and something I would have missed if not for you. Thanks again!
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Years after first reading this, I finally played it -- 6 frames in a row, with a strong just-one-more feeling. Love how it can be light and easy, or you can really think through and card count and try to calculate highest odds to maximize the changes of a strike. Hard to get that last card/pin down, just like in real bowling! A real delight. THANK YOU for bringing it to me attention.
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Thanks Neil,

I love this game and your rule explanation made it a breeze to learn!
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Coltcomics wrote:
Thanks Neil,

I love this game and your rule explanation made it a breeze to learn!


Glad I could help.
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Came to this post after seeing this show up on the monthly solo game subscription feed. This is fantastic! Thank you for taking the time for this write up of this hidden gem. It is pretty amazing what they were able to do with less than half a deck of playing cards. Will definitely break this out again and again this weekend at the lake. I understand why it was left out but I do wish there was a way to try to pick up "splits" (7 10) with your second ball (though I would make that almost entirely luck based for a card game).
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Steve Oliver
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Sir Phobos wrote:
I understand why it was left out but I do wish there was a way to try to pick up "splits" (7 10) with your second ball (though I would make that almost entirely luck based for a card game).

You can take out a split with your second ball. It will take two cards to do it, and you'd have to be very lucky that both cards were the same as the two pins in the split. Since each frame is played by two balls, but each each ball is played by one or more cards, your second ball can take out a split; it just takes two cards.
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steveoliverc wrote:
Sir Phobos wrote:
I understand why it was left out but I do wish there was a way to try to pick up "splits" (7 10) with your second ball (though I would make that almost entirely luck based for a card game).

You can take out a split with your second ball. It will take two cards to do it, and you'd have to be very lucky that both cards were the same as the two pins in the split. Since each frame is played by two balls, but each each ball is played by one or more cards, your second ball can take out a split; it just takes two cards.


Not sure I quite understand this. Your first ball makes the split, regardless of how many cards you played. For your second ball it is impossible to hit both remaining pins as there is a gap between them making it so they are in no way adjacent to one another so a second card played wouldn't work. For example:
6_x_x_8
_X_x_X
__X_x
___X


No way to pick this up with your second ball as per my understanding of the rules. As they are not adjacent.
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Meat Popsicle
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Sir Phobos wrote:
steveoliverc wrote:
Sir Phobos wrote:
I understand why it was left out but I do wish there was a way to try to pick up "splits" (7 10) with your second ball (though I would make that almost entirely luck based for a card game).

You can take out a split with your second ball. It will take two cards to do it, and you'd have to be very lucky that both cards were the same as the two pins in the split. Since each frame is played by two balls, but each each ball is played by one or more cards, your second ball can take out a split; it just takes two cards.


Not sure I quite understand this. Your first ball makes the split, regardless of how many cards you played. For your second ball it is impossible to hit both remaining pins as there is a gap between them making it so they are in no way adjacent to one another so a second card played wouldn't work. For example:
6_x_x_8
_X_x_X
__X_x
___X


No way to pick this up with your second ball as per my understanding of the rules. As they are not adjacent.

You can pick up the spilt, but as was mentioned it will take two cards. Each ball can comprise the use of one or more cards, as was also already mentioned. You can continue to take out pins with your second ball provided the math and the luck works for you. As long as you have cards in your ball piles you can keep rolling. Each ball ends once you have no more moves. Does that help?

EDIT: One could technically take out a split with the first ball provided the correct cards are drawn. It doesn't make sense, at first, in the way we know bowling, but for this game it's possible. In the above example, one could reach that setup during the first ball and have a six and eight in the draw piles, thereby achieving a strike.
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No, I understand that multiple cards take out multiple pins but my example is the game state after you have just bowled your first complete ball (regardless of how many cards you used). This is now the set up for your second ball and is a traditional 7-10 split. The rules say you can keep using ball cards to knock down pins as long as the are adjacent to the previous pin hit. So starting your second ball there is no legal way to play a card to hit the first pin and then play a card to hit the final pin as they are not adjacent due to multiple open spaces between them. That is my question. Though I've already made a house rule based on luck, as I'm a terrible real bowler and knocking down a 7 10 split is 100% luck at my skill level lol. Fantastic game regardless.
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Sir Phobos wrote:
The rules say you can keep using ball cards to knock down pins as long as the are adjacent to the previous pin hit. So starting your second ball there is no legal way to play a card to hit the first pin and then play a card to hit the final pin as they are not adjacent due to multiple open spaces between them.

After your first play, the requirement is that at least one pin in each of your plays be adjacent to a space (IE, a pin card already removed).

The 7 and 10 are both adjacent to previously-removed pins. They don't have to be adjacent to each other. They also do not have to be adjacent to the same removed pin.

It takes two plays to take them out. You play a 7 and take out the 7 (which is adjacent to a removed pin). Then you play a 10 to remove the 10 pin (which is also adjacent to a removed pin).

In this game, that takes 2 card plays. But they are both part of the same ball of the frame. (As noted above, it might even be the first ball, and taking out this split achieves a strike.)

Here's what Sackson wrote in Gamut of Games:

Quote:
After cards have been removed, subsequent plays must have at least one card adjacent to a card already removed.
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Thanks for the clarification I was reading it that pins removed had to be adjacent to the ones you just removed on the previous ball card.
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