Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Time for Tea

If you are of a certain age, then you may perhaps associate ‘elevenses’ with sticky buns and hot cocoa served at a certain  antique shop on the Portobello Road by its owner, Mr. Gruber. A more modern reader or film goer might associate it with the meal served somewhen between second breakfast and luncheon. Most of us though are not bears (from darkest Peru or elsewhere) or indeed hobbits, so we shall have to make do with elevenses, that quintessentially refined repast consisting of tea—never coffee (how uncouth), sandwiches, cakes and biscuits, served from a tea trolley at precisely 11 o’clock to one’s guests.

Elevenses is also the name and subject matter for a card game from Australian publisher, Adventureland Games, successfully launched on Kickstarter in 2013. Now the publisher being Australian could have led the game to be called ‘mornos’, but fortunately, Elevenses - The Card Game of Morning Tea has nothing to do with the Royal Australian Navy. Instead, it is a game in which respectable 1920s socialites strive to serve the finest morning tea!

Designed for between two and four players, aged eight and up, Elevenses is a hand management game that can be played in thirty minutes. It consists of forty-four Tea Party cards, four player aid cards, a Sugar Bowl card, six Special Guests, a Starting Server cards, and thirty wooden Sugar Cubes.  The Tea Party cards are actually four identical sets of eleven cards, each set having a different coloured back for easy identification. The cards in a set are numbered consecutively and include a Tea Trolley (1), Tea (2), Milk (3), Sugar (4), Cups & Saucers (5), Fine China (6), Biscuits (7), Sandwiches (8), Cakes (9), Servants (10), and Elevenses (11). Each card is marked with its title and number, a piece of colour text, a rather charming watercolour illustration, an action, and possibly a number of silver spoons (these are Elevenses’ victory points).

For example, the Tea (2) card has the colour text, “My tea is the finest tea in town!”; a single spoon; and the action, “Choose a player. Flip one of her spread cards valued 2 - 9 face-down.” Other cards force everyone to pass cards round the table, force a player to swap cards with another, force a player to reveal his Kitchen, and so on. In general, the higher numbered cards have more silver spoons on them and actions that often hinder a player rather than help him.

Each player is attempting to arrange his Spread in the correct order, getting each of his cards in their right position so that he has as many silver spoons out as possible when he—or another player—plays his Elevenses card. Each player’s Spread is made up of two rows of four cards, the remaining three cards forming his Kitchen. At the start, each player shuffles his set, lays eight cards face down to form his Spread, and looks at his Kitchen.

On his turn a player can do one of two things. He can play one card from Kitchen to his Spread face up and enact its action. This must be in the correctly numbered position. Two cards—Tea Trolley and Servants (10)—can be alongside the Spread, but not on it. Or he can arrange two of his cards on the Spread, essentially moving into their right position, but leaving them face down. Once a player has four or more cards face up on the Spread, then he can play his Elevenses (11) card. This marks the end of the round. The player with the most visible silver spoons wins the round and is awarded two sugar cubes taken from the Sugar Bowl card. The player with the second most visible silver spoons is awarded one sugar cube. Play continues with more rounds until one player has won seven sugar cubes and thus served the finest tea and won the game.


Now if multiple players have more than seven sugar cubes, then they give each other a kiss on the cheek, and agree to share the victory! How very polite.

Tactically, Elevenses is a light game. If a player has to swap or pass a card, it should be card that the other player has already placed in his Spread. This presents the other player from playing it again—plus it gives the play of Elevenses that little bit of an edge. If he has it in his Kitchen, a player should know when to play his Elevenses card, ideally when he will score as many silver spoons as he can or when he can prevent another player from playing more silver spoons.

The advanced version of the game adds six Special Guests. Each is a member of polite society and each has specific requirements. In particular, three cards that need to be face in a player’s Spread. The Special Guest is kept hidden until it has been fulfilled when it scores a player more silver spoons.

Physically, Elevenses is a lovely game. It has a genteel charm, the art is a delight, and the addition of the wooden sugar cubes is a nice touch. Another nice touch is that barring a little bell, all of the rewards from the Kickstarter edition are in the retail version too. Elevenses - The Card Game of Morning Tea is a charming little filler that plays better the more players there are, a delightful blend of art and theme with indecently quick game play.