FreeCell

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FreeCell is a solitaire-based card game played with a 52-card standard deck. It is fundamentally different from most solitaire games in that nearly all deals can be solved. Although software implementations vary, most versions label the hands with a number (derived from the random number seed used to generate the hand).

Contents

Rules

Construction and layout:

  • One standard 52-card deck is used.
  • There are four open cells and four open foundations. Some alternate rules use between one to ten cells.
  • Cards are dealt into eight cascades, four of which comprise seven cards and four of which comprise six. Some alternate rules will use between four to ten cascades.

Building during play:

  • The top card of each cascade begins a tableau.
  • Tableaux must be built down by alternating colors.
  • Foundations are built up by suit.

Moves:

  • Any cell card or top card of any cascade may be moved to build on a tableau, or moved to an empty cell, an empty cascade, or its foundation.
  • Complete or partial tableaus may be moved to build on existing tableaus, or moved to empty cascades, by recursively placing and removing cards through intermediate locations. While computer implementations often show this motion, players using physical decks typically move the tableau at once.

Victory:

  • The game is won after all cards are moved to their foundation piles.

For games with the standard layout (four open cells and eight cascades) most games are easily solved.

History

One of the oldest ancestors of FreeCell is Eight Off. In the June 1968 edition of Scientific American, Martin Gardner described in his "Mathematical Games" column a game by C. L. Baker that is similar to FreeCell, except that cards on the tableau are built by suit rather than by alternate colors. Gardner wrote "The game was taught Baker by his father, who in turn learned it from an Englishman during the 1920's" (p 114). This variant is now called Baker's Game. FreeCell's origins may date back even further to 1945 and a Scandinavian game called Napoleon in St. Helena (not the game Napoleon at St. Helena, also known as Forty Thieves).[1]

Paul Alfille changed Baker's Game by making cards build according to alternate colors, thus creating FreeCell. He implemented the first computerised version of it in the TUTOR programming language for the PLATO educational computer system in 1978. Paul managed to display easily recognisable graphical images of playing cards on the 512×512 monochrome display on the PLATO systems.[2]

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