Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich1
Tea Time Tricks
Bring out your best doilies, tea cups and cucumber sandwiches for Elevenses: the compact card game perfect to play during tea time. 2 to 4 players can enjoy a morning of serving the most delectable delights and polished dishes in their spread while trying to politely out-do their fellow tea party enthusiasts. For such a small game, Elevenses has much more player interaction and strategy than it appears but is casual enough to play with all the guests at your next tea party.
Elvenses is a successful Kickstarter (from December 2013) by Adventureland Games and designed by Phil Walker-Harding who also created Sushi Go!. I was drawn to this card game because it featured an elegant array of watercolor art and featured a theme I found interesting. I enjoy going to tea festivals, have been to girlfriend’s tea parties and dream of having the fancy tea time accessories that are beautifully illustrated in this game.
There are 11 cards in a player’s deck including cups, saucers, sugar bowls, tea trolleys, biscuits, etc that represent varying levels of Victorian-esque tea time finery. The mini expansion featured in this Kickstarter copy includes Guest Cards which include an array of possibly tea guests that could show up to your party from the picky socialite to the local vicar but only if you have their preferred spread for tea time.
Elevenses features a few thematic touches that makes it feel like you’re throwing a real tea party. The sugar cubes are placed on top of a card with a sugar bowl and if you were a Kickstarter backer, you also received a shiny, silver-colored bell which players can use to elegantly signal when it is time to score.
My only gripe about Elevenses is the card back art. As you can see in the pictures below each separate player deck has a basic zig-zag pattern that is a different color: red, green, blue or yellow. The pattern feels and could actually be from a basic poker card deck. The harsh, patterned card back faces players most of the game and breaks the elegant feel of the overall theme. I wish the designers had created a card back that better suited the tea time theme like featuring a different shaped doilie or tea cup on each player deck.
This tea party has sustenance as such a small game and is more just a thematic copy of a simple game mechanic. To set up the game, each player receives a color coded deck which contains 11 cards. Each player randomly deals out 8 face down cards in front of them which makes their spread. The remaining 3 cards go into a player’s hand and becomes their kitchen.
Players then take turns placing cards face up in their spreads in the set numerical position as indicated by the reference card or rearranging their face down spread by replacing them from cards in their kitchen. This constant back and forth will really test your memory skills and test your ability to plan ahead depending on what actions and what points you want in your spread.
Just placing cards in your spread is a challenge of timing. Each numbered card has an action that happens immediately when placed face up in a spread. The lower numbered cards, with the least amount of victory points, will have actions that tend to benefit the active player. The higher numbered cards in the spread are worth more points in the final scoring but has an action that is usually to the detriment of that active player like showing their kitchen to all players or having an opponent swap a card from their hand for a card in your hand. These actions mean that cards from your deck will end up in other players’ hands and possibly be part of their spread in the future which will deny your opportunity to use them.
To win at Elevenses, a player must have the most impressive spread in front of them when the Elevenses card is played calling to score the players’ spreads. The most impressive spread is indicated by the total number of spoons shown in their face up cards. The winner of that round receives the appropriate number of sugar cubes for their victory and players reset the game and play again. When a player has 7 sugar cubes, they win the game.
Elevenses is another game that features a theme that I haven’t seen regularly addressed in tabletop game format.With newer themes making their way into the market, I hope that these themes convince even more friends and family to give board games a try. Elevenses is definitely a game where you want to engage with the maximum number of players. Having 4 players means there is constant swapping of cards and strategies are constantly changing depending on other player’s spreads and actions.
There are some helpful game tips on the back to the rules for new players. For example, trading a card that an opponent already has in their spread will mean that player now has a useless card in their kitchen. I found those tips very helpful. One of the most interesting decision of Elevenses for me is choosing when to play your Tea Trolley or Servants card.
Playing the Tea Trolley or Servants card early in the game means that your hand size is reduced for the rest of the round. This smaller hand or kitchen means you’ll have less options rearrange cards and fewer options of cards to trade with other players (and whether that’s good or bad depends on the cards in your hand!). I feel that the scenarios are fun and very interesting from a small game. I was surprised by Elevenses and am super glad I backed this Kickstarter.