Learn to Play Freecell the Dreamagic Way
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Lesson #1: The Essentials

The object of Freecell, as in
Klondike...the solitaire game with which almost everyone is familiar...is to move all the cards, suit by suit, to the four empty "home" slots at the upper right of the board. One legal move is to place a card...starting with the aces which can be played in any empty slot in the home area...or any card of the same suit on top of a card ranked one lower in that suit which has already been played in the home area. A second type of legal move is to place any single card in an empty slot at the upper left of the board, the "buffer" zone. Finally, again as in Klondike, one can move a red or black suit card on top of a card of the opposite color which is ranked one higher than that card. If you have enough free spaces...explained later...you can also move a sequenced stack of cards to another stack or to an empty column, as long as the sequence of red-black or black-red and the card order is maintained. The game is won when all the cards have been moved to home. It is lost when there are no more legal moves or no more productive moves to be taken. Illustrations in the next lesson will make all this clearer.

Now let's thoroughly explain the various controls in the game, including those that we have left out of our implementation. Look at the file drop-down menu, pictured at the left. The choice "New Game" picks a game number at random and starts it up. "Select Game" allows you to choose the number of the game. "Restart Game" allows you to replay the same game over from the beginning when you have reached a dead end, where there are no more productive plays. In that case, or in the case you invoke one of the two previous choices while the current game is still in play, will cause the program to ask if you wish to resign that game? A "yes" answer will invoke the choice. A "no" answer...especially in the case where you have mistakenly invoked a game-ending choice...will take you right back to where you were.

The "Statistics" choice...which we have not implemented...will produce a popup-window like the one illustrated at the right. In this case, the player has won 21 games and lost 3, for an overall percentage of 88% won. Since the player has only played one session of games...which means he has not left the program during play...the statistics for the session and overall are the same. The bottom set of numbers count the longest streak of won games, of lost games and the current streak...how many games in a row have been won in the current run...including continuation from multiple sessions.

The "Options" choice...which we have also not implemented, is illustrated at the left. Our implementation behaves as though all three choices have been checked, and we recommend you do the same. The choice "Display messages on illegal moves" will do just that, if you try to make an illegal move. The choice "Quick play (no animation)" doesn't do much on most modern computers, since if this left unchecked, the "animation" is so rapid it is indistinguishable from "no animation." Finally, the choice "Double click moves card to free space"...which we will call an empty "buffer slot,"...will also do just that.

The help drop-down window, which we also haven't implemented looks like the illustration at the left. As we said in the home page, this function is little help in any case, at least in learning to play skillfully. However, it will answer questions for you about the operation of the program if you pick the right key words. The top choice will give you a very short overview of the game, briefly stating its goal without telling you much about how to reach it. The second choice will lead you to the interactive screen illustrated on the right. By the way, this choice contains information about all the choices. The third choice will explain how to use that screen and the fourth choice just gives version and licensing information. The interactive search screen works pretty much like all such windows. Enter a keyword or pick a choice on the left and explanations will appear at the right.

To summarize. The object of this game is to somehow get all 52 cards played in stacks in each suit from Ace through King in the upper right squares. You can use the free cells in the empty buffer slots for intermediate play or move stacks of red/black or black/red cards which are in sequence. The key issue is to maintain enough free spaces to manipulate the cards in order to accomplish the object.

Please send your comments and suggestions to the author, Willy Chaplin at:
willy@dreamagic.com (Willy Chaplin)