Design by: Joli Quentin Kansil
Published by: Gryphon Games
1 – 2 Players, 30 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
Solitaire (also known as Klondike) is one of the best-known and widely played card games in the entire world. Why is that so? Well, the main reason must be because, as its name implies, it can be played solitaire using only a traditional deck of playing cards. So, folks can play the game whenever they have a small bit of time; no opponents needed. The fact that the game is widely available on most computers has only added to its popularity.
A confession is in order: I have never … and I mean NEVER … played Solitaire. My excuse? I never grew-up in a family that played traditional card games. Board games were our preference. As a result, I remain to this day woefully ignorant of most traditional card games. As a result, I came into Six Suit Solitaire & Solitaire for Two with little knowledge of the game that was the catalyst for its design. While ignorance may sometimes be bliss, in this case it was a significant hindrance.
Six Suit Solitaire & Solitaire for Two is designed by Joli Quentin Kansil, author of nearly a dozen games, including the popular titles Bridgette and Montage. The game is actually two different games in one package. Six Suit Solitaire is modified version of Solitaire, but using six suits instead of four. It was originally released back in 2001 as Indochine 2000. Solitaire for Two is similar to Six Suit Solitaire, but two players compete, scoring points as they successfully place and move tiles. The two-player version does allow for three or four players, with four players being played in partnership.
A major difference in this new Gryphon Games release is that there are no cards. Instead, one is treated to some impressive hefty plastic tiles depicting the suits (six suits in three different colors) and numbers. This certainly gives the game a more exquisite feel, but in practice the tiles are a bit more cumbersome that cards.
Six Suit Solitaire has many of the same features as traditional Solitaire. The goal is similar: successfully remove tiles from play by creating stacks of tiles from ace-to-king. Most rules and mechanisms will be familiar to the Solitaire player, but there are some interesting twists. A “rail” depicting nine columns (I – IX) is placed on the table, and a “tableau” of face-down tiles is placed above the rail. The first tile goes above column II, with each subsequent column receiving one additional tile. One more tile is placed face-up in each column below the rail. The remaining 36 tiles are then set aside in stacks of three and comprise the “stock”.
At the beginning of each turn, one tile from stock is revealed and placed aside, becoming the “talon”. Unusable tiles will be placed behind this tile in the “discard row”, eventually working their way to the front position so they can become the talon and potentially be played. Then, player will reveal one stack of three tiles from the stock. The object is to place these tiles into the “layout” (active play area) and eventually move all of the tiles “up top”, where they will be scored. Most rules of play follow those present in traditional Solitaire. A tile is playable from the three revealed tiles, the talon (only the end tile) or the bottom tile in one of the columns of the layout. A tile is playable if it is one value LESS than a current tile in the layout and of a different color. For example, the ten of spades (black) may be played below the Jack of Hearts (red), or the Queen of Wheels (green) may be played below the King of Clubs (black). Thus, one is building columns of tiles arranged in reverse sequence.
When a column becomes vacant (caused by moving tiles as described above), the top tile in the tableau above that column is revealed and placed in the vacant location. When a column is vacant and there are no further tiles in the tableau above that column, the player may move a King – with all tiles underneath it – to that vacant space.
Aces are a special case. They may be placed in the layout as normal or placed “up top” above the appropriate column on the rail, thereby forming the scoring stacks. These stacks will potentially build from ace to king if a player is successful. However, there is an incentive to place one or more aces in the layout. When an ace is present in the layout, the player may move either a king or a queen to an open column. When there are two or more aces in the layout, the player may move a king, queen or jack to an open column. This gives the player greater flexibility, increasing the possibility of being able to move more tiles up top.
Another twist is the presence of the three jokers, one for each color. A joker may be used as any tile of the matching color. However, a joker may not be used for a specific tile if that tile is present in the layout or already up top. A player does not need to declare the exact value and suit of the tile unless the joker is moved up top or the other alternative is already in play. Again, this gives the player added flexibility and more options. However, when a tile is revealed that represents a joker that is in play, it must be exchanged for that joker. The exchanged joker is moved up top to the matching location on the rail. When a joker is exchanged in this fashion, the player gains a “liberty”. He may move any tile in the discard row to the far right so it becomes the new talon. Note that later in the game the player may wish to play the joker directly up top. This can only be done if all six aces are already up top.
As mentioned, the goal is to ultimately move all tiles from the layout and discard row “up top”. During play, however, the player may also strive to complete a “Grand Sequence”, which is forming a column in the layout that runs from king to ace. This will entitle the player to a twenty-point bonus when scoring.
After making all possible plays and moves, any unused tiles from those revealed are placed in the discard row behind the talon. A new set of three tiles is revealed and the player again performs all possible plays and moves. This continues until all tiles are successfully moved “up top” or when the stock is exhausted and the player has no further possible plays. The player scores points for tiles that have been placed “up top”, with points ranging from 10 – 40 per tile, based on the suit. Grand Sequences are worth 20 points, while each face-down tile remaining in the tableau subtracts five points from the score. The object, of course, is to score as many points as possible.
Solitaire for Two is played in a similar fashion, but with two players as opposed to one. Additionally, points are scored during the game as opposed to the end. Set-up is the same, but the first player does not reveal three face-down tiles. Instead, he makes any plays and moves from the nine original face-up tiles. On all subsequent turns players alternate revealing three tiles from stock and making their plays and moves. If a player manages to successfully place all three revealed tiles, he scores twenty-five points and continues his turn by revealing another stack of three tiles from stock. If a player is unable to place any of the revealed tiles, his opponent has the right to place them or make moves the other player may have overlooked. The opponent then reveals three tiles from stock and takes his turn.
In order to keep at least one ace in the layout, a rule prohibits moving an ace “up top” unless there are two or more aces in the layout. As an exception, an ace may be placed up top if a deuce is immediately moved up top on the very next play. This rule keeps the game a bit more fluid and allows players more options.
Play continues until either all tiles have been moved up top or the stock is exhausted and all plays have been completed. A second round is conducted, with the discards, talon and top tile from each column being mixed to form a new stock. At the conclusion of the second round, scores are tallied to determine the victor. Points are scored for tiles moved up top, trios, cashed jokers, Grand Sequences, and for moving columns consisting of 5, 7, 9 or 11 tiles.
These two versions of Solitaire should appeal to fans of the traditional game. They add some interesting new twists and scoring opportunities. The game is primarily one of spotting opportunities to play and move tiles, thereby revealing more tiles from the tableau and depleting the discard row. The main objective in the solo game is to move all tiles up top, while in the two-player version, one must take advantage of every scoring opportunity available.
That being said, the game is primarily one of keen observation as opposed to clever tactics. A careful player will spot most every opportunity to play or move tiles. It is rare when a player will make a combination of plays and moves that will astound his opponent. Spot the move and make it. Veteran Solitaire players may be more adept at spotting all possible moves, but I just don’t feel clever or particularly intelligent when all I’ve done is simply spot and execute these moves. Fun? Yes. Particularly clever? Not really.
I will also admit to considerable confusion with the rules. This, however, was primarily my fault, as I am admittedly not familiar with Solitaire and the terminology used therein. As such, I had a difficult time understanding the flow of the game, in spite of rules that are well written and illustrated. Those familiar with Solitaire will likely have few if any problems understanding the rules.
My wife is an avid Solitaire player, taking advantage of every slow moment at work to play a game on her laptop computer. She enjoyed the new twists this version offered, but felt the tiles were more cumbersome than using a regular deck of cards. She also preferred the two-player version to playing solitaire, but I strongly suspect that is based on the glee she experienced by regularly stomping me into the turf.
My final assessment of the game is mixed. While I’m not sure the game will have much appeal to those who are not fans of traditional Solitaire, it certainly offers something new to spice-up the traditional games for Solitaire aficionados. However, there is always the danger of those folks objecting to changes being made to a beloved and time-tested game. Still, the two-player version may offer a chance for those folks to play one of their favorite games with a partner. That alone may be worth it.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Dan Blum: I concur with Greg’s opinion of the rules. I have played traditional Solitaire, but only on a computer. I tried to read the rules of this game and gave up; admittedly this was at a convention, so it was easy to put it down and find something else to play, and I might have persevered otherwise, but it was somewhat discouraging. (This was a pre-production copy, so it is possible the rules have been changed since then.)
Mitchell Thomashow: Indochine was sitting on my shelf for years as I have greatly enjoyed Joli Kansil’s other games, especially Marrakesh, Montage, and Bridgette. However, I am not much of a solitaire player. I actually suggested to Rick Soued that if he published Indochine (now called Solitaire for Two) he might consider a two player version, modelled after the traditional Spite and Malice. This provides somewhat more flexibility to the game. Solitaire (and Solitaire for Two) is a hybrid puzzle-game. I don’t think it will convince those who are new to solitaire (like Greg) to begin playing it, as there are so many more interesting two player games out there. However, I did pick up the Solitaire for Two IPad app. I must admit that I’ve played it about fifty times. As Greg suggests, it’s mainly a game of keen observation. There are moments when you have decisions that require some thinking and you do actually improve the more you play. Although the chunky tiles are neat and it’s another great Gryphon production, the game is much better suited to solitaire aficionados. As I’ve become moderately addicted to the Ipad app, I have to grudgingly admit that I like the game, but more as a sorting exercise than a mental work-out. It reminds me of getting on line at Southwest airlines (getting into the right place on line is an amusing human collective sorting procedure).
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Mitchell Thomashow
2 (Neutral): Greg Schloesser
1 (Not for me):