Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Elevenses For One

To be honest, most of us probably don't know what the word "elevenses" means, and if we do know its meaning then it is probably still not a word that's an intensely used part of our vocabulary. But "elevenses" is simply a British term used to refer to a short break for light refreshments, usually with tea or coffee, taken at about eleven o'clock in the morning. So why would a game about 11 o'clock tea-drinking be of any possible interest to me or anyone else? Well here are several reasons:

1. It is a spin-off from Elevenses. I've previously enjoyed the game Elevenses by David Harding (see my review here). Elevenses for One is a solitaire game designed around the same concept, with matching artwork. For me, this meant it had my immediate interest. Elevenses For One was first conceived as a promo item for the original Elevenses Kickstarter, but it needed more time and so ended up being published much later and as a separate title, and now here it is.

2. It is a solitaire game. Sometimes you don't have someone else to drink tea with, and you also don't have someone to play games with. On those days, what is a gamer to do? Well having a game that you can play on your own is a real boon, and there are some good ones out there. This is a good one, and because it plays quickly, it's also something you can pull out to play while waiting for other gamers to arrive.

3. It is a highly regarded game. Elevenses for One was a runner-up in the 2014 Golden Geek Awards in the Print-n-Play category, and also was the top "Small Game" in the 2014 BGG Solo Print-and-Play contest. These honours give it some very solid credentials!

4. It is part of the EGG series. Elevenses for One is a relatively new game, but it is part of Eagle Gryphon Games' attractive and portable E-G-G series. Fittingly, is number 11 in the series. I like several other titles in this series, so I had to give this one a go as well.

5. It comes with a bonus game. In the box, as an added bonus, is Sid Sackson's Bowling Solitaire, which is an outstanding solitaire game in its own right.

Altogether this gave me multiple reasons to check out this title. So let's take a look at what you get and how it works, and share some thoughts.



Components

Like the other games in the EGG series, Elevenses for One comes in a very conveniently sized and portable box, featuring graphic design and artwork that is familiar from the original Elevenses.



The back of the box advertises Elevenses for One as follows:

"You are Grosvenor, the maid to Lady Agatha Smythe, one of the wealthiest landowners in the district. She is holding a gala High Tea at 11 o'clock - but oh dear! You only have 15 minutes to get ready and where is that sugar? You mustn't be late, the madam's reputation is at stake!"



Inside we find the following components:
● 11 Pantry cards
● 2 Time cards
● Rules (downloadable here)



Game-play

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?

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!



Recommendation

So is Elevenses for One for you? In the end, 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 reasonably fun solo puzzle, even if it's not something I expect to play intensively or often. It will have extra charm and appeal for people who are already familiar with the original Elevenses, or who enjoy solitaire puzzles and games. The fact that it is packaged together with Sid Sackson's Bowling Solitaire (an excellent game in its own right, and some will say it is arguably even the better of the two!) certainly adds to its value.

On its own, Elevenses for One 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, especially for those who enjoy solitaire games.



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Dave Ross
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We backed this on Kickstarter, and received it right before a long trip this past summer. We quickly fell in love with both games (Elevenses for One, and Bowling Solitaire). I love playing Elevenses for One while my partner is finishing up some work on the computer. It's a great balance between simple play and some fairly deep play as well - engaging and great for "Ah, just one more play!". Glad that it has been so well received!
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