Can you beat this game?

One night I called a friend to see what she was up to. “Oh,” she said casually. “Just relaxing by the fire after a hard days work.” “Really,” I asked. “Are you reading?” “Well, no …” She didn’t seem to want to confess but then she blurted, “I’m playing FreeCell. I’m addicted!”

And that’s how I first heard about this great little game. FreeCell solitaire a timeless classic, played with a deck of 52 cards but for most people, played on a phone or tablet.

The goal of this game is to move cards from one stack to another until they are all in numerical order starting with the Ace, then two, three, etc. until the King cards are in the four empty slots at the top.

In order to move cards, you must use your cards wisely to free up other cards. When aces become available they must be placed in the spaces provided on the upper part of the board immediately. This can make it challenging because cards must be moved in the right order. The only way you can reverse a play is to use the Undo button.

But the thing is, most apps will be keeping score. How long did it take you to solve the game? How many moves did it take you to solve it? Every undo and all the cards that you ‘undo’ count as moves.

There’s also a Hint button which I used often when I first started out and even now, I sometimes ask for a hint. But that, too, counts against your score.

At the beginning of a new game, you are invited to play known hands or random hands, which adds to the challenge. You can keep track of hands, replay hands (something I do quite often) or play famous hands.

According to Wikipedia, FreeCell’s origins date back to 1945 and a Scandinavian game called Napoleon in St. Helena (not the solitaire game Napoleon at St Helena, also known as Forty Thieves). A medical student, Paul Alfille redesigned the game to build according to alternate colours then implemented the first computerised version in the  TUTOR programming language for the PLATO educational computer system in 1978. Alfille was able to display easily recognizable graphical images of playing cards on the 512 × 512 monochrome display on the PLATO systems. Pretty amazing when you think that desktop computers wouldn’t really be mainstream for another two decades.

In 2023 you can easily find Free Cell online for free or download it as an app onto your phones and tablets. You can find various versions of this classic card game in app stores, on websites such as Google Play, or even by searching “Free Cell cards game” on your favourite search engine.

FreeCell is a fun and challenging game and a great way to pass the time in waiting rooms, lineups, or at bedtime. Give it a try!

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