Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Casual games part II: Solitaire

Another game I like to play is Solitaire. Everyone knows Solitaire. Some of us even know how to play it with actual cards on a table. This is actually how I played the game for the first time. Oh, how fun were these days without computers :)

Klondike Solitaire, also known simply as Solitaire, is the most popular solitaire video game. This is because it was added to the Microsoft Windows operating system in the early nineties. From then on, people spent countless hours playing it instead of working on their computers.

So why is Solitaire so fun? Well, this is a game which allows you to relax. It has the right mix of strategy, perceptivity, and luck - with the strong emphasis on luck. It does not require you to think to much, it has a little of a gambling aspect, and makes you feel good when you win it – which actually does not happen too often, even with the lowest difficulty settings. The game actually does not allow you to win most of the time – even if you play perfectly.

So how to play Solitaire? You can watch my video with an example of gameplay, or you can visit one of the games I made. There just click on the “Help” in the menu up top and scroll down to the “Solving Example” section. This is actually the second version of the online Solitaire I made. The first one can be found here. So why do I have two versions? Well, the first is older and a bit worse – fonts are smaller, there are no tutorials etc. When I decided to make an upgrade, I figured it is not good to overwrite the old game with a new one. Many people are familiar with the old look and will be upset with the new one. And so, I made a new version and published it alongside the old one, despite being quite similar.

So the question is: is this all to Solitaire that there is? No. Solitaire in general is a genre of card games whose objective is to arrange originally disordered cards in nice stacks, starting with aces and ending with Kings. The fact the this particular game – Klondike Solitaire – uses the name assigned to the entire genre – Solitaire – may be confusing but it is a reflection of the game’s popularity.

So, what are other solitaire games? Currently my favorite solitaire game is Spider Solitaire. While Klondike Solitaire puts more emphasis on luck when it comes to the strategy vs. luck balance, Spider Solitaire puts much higher emphasis on Strategy. It has four difficulty levels. The easiest difficulty is played with only one suit (or color) of cards. That is, all 104 cards that you have on the board are, for example, Spades. The medium difficulty (2 Suit Spider Solitaire) uses two opposite colors. For example Diamonds and Spades or Hearts and Clubs. Or Diamonds and Clubs. Or Hearts and Spades. You get the idea.

Having more colors complicates the game, because of the game rules – you can move a stack of cards only if all the cards in he stack are of the same color. Obviously, it is the easiest if there is only a single color on the game board – you can move any stack you want. But with two colors things get more complicated. They get even more complicated if the player chooses hard difficulty setting, that is a game with four colors, otherwise known as 4 Suit Spider Solitaire. Now the player plays with two full decks. If you want to learn how to play Spider Solitaire you can watch my walkthrough video or read the tutorial on my second Spider Solitaire game site, which is in the “Help” section.

In my experience 1 Suit Spider Solitaire is quite easy to solve. 2 Suit Spider Solitaire is much harder, but apparently it is also almost always solvable. However, I solve it only in around 1/3 of times. 4 Suit Spider Solitaire is the hardest. I solved a few times in my live. And I made many more attempts. Apparently, it is supposed to be solvable in around 1/3 of cases, but I have no idea how to achieve that. And so, for now I concentrate on the 2 Suit Spider Solitaire.

I made and published two such solitaires on the Interent. Here you can find the first Spider Solitaire game I made. And here, you can find the second. The story is similar as with the traditional Klondike Solitaire. When I was creating the games, I wanted to make sure that the graphics are very user friendly and that the cards occupy as large portion of the screen as possible – many published games occupy a very small rectangle in the middle of the screen. This includes the game made by Google and it makes the game really annoying to play.

The third game I wanted to talk about is Freecell. Freecell is another simple solitaire game available on Windows since time immemorial. It is quite easy once you learn to play it. This game is almost always solvable and so it can be said that it does not require any luck, and your performance depends on logic alone. Freecell is not as popular as Klondike Solitaire or Spider Solitaire and I play it only occasionally. But it is always a lot of fun :) As with the two other games, I made my own versions of Freecell Solitaire which are available here and here. And if you want to learn how to play it, visit the second of these two links and click on “Help” or go to my YouTube walkthrough video.

Hopefully, at least some people will share my love for these games. As for which games I recommend? You can probably start with Klondike and then move on to Freecell and eventually to Spider. And I hope you will play with the games I made as they are (of course) the best available on the Internet :)

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