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Occasionally when I am bored at work during my lunchtime I find myself playing Freecell on my PC. For those of you that do not know what Freecell is then I shall explain during the course of this review, but should you decide to have a mess about with it, then be warned because believe me it is very addictive.
SO WHAT IS FREECELL?
Freecell is a card game, which comes with most versions of Windows. I use Windows XP at both Home and Work and it is on that, although prior to Windows XP I used Windows 98 and it also came with that. If you are unsure if it is on your PC then have a look in your program files, which can be accessed via the start menu. If it is pre-installed in your version of Windows then it should be located in accessories within a folder called "Games."
If it is not on your PC then don't despair as it can be downloaded for free from many different sites on the Internet or alternatively it can be played with real cards. Freecell is a solo game designed to be placed by just one person.
If Freecell is played using real cards then it does take up quite a lot of floor space.
HOW DOES THE GAME WORK?
Playing the PC version of the game you will find a rectangular box in the middle of the screen as you open a new game, this is dark green in colour.
To open a new game select the "Game" tab located at the top left hand side of the box and then select "New Game."
The rectangular box has a space at the top left hand corner to place 4 cards inside it and there is another space in the right hand corner for a further 4 cards too, these are the "Free Cells" from where the game gets its name.
At the beginning of the game there are 8 piles of cards laid out in the middle of the screen, these consist of 4 rows of seven cards and 4 rows of six cards, all of the cards are facing upwards so that they are visible and they are placed on top of each other, overlapping slightly.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THE GAME
The four blank spaces at the top right hand corner of the box are where you build up your four piles of cards on top of each other. So the first objective is to place all of the four Aces in these boxes and then the four two's, threes and fours etc.
The four spaces at the top left hand side of the box are used to place cards into to get access to the cards in the piles that you are trying to stack. For example if there is an Ace positioned as the second bottom card on one of the piles below say a Queen then placing the Queen in one of the Free Cells will enable you to get to the Ace.
It is only possible to move a card which is competently visible i.e. the lowest card at the bottom of each pile. Cards are moved by clicking on them and then moving them to the desired location.
There are three different reasons for moving a card. These are to build the piles, to move cards into the Free Cells or thirdly it is possible to move a card onto another card of the next value and alternating colour. i.e. a red nine can be placed beneath a black ten. This is where the main skill of the game occurs as moving cards around in this way and into and out of the Free cells will allow you to empty columns. Cards placed into the Free Cells can be taken back out once a card has been freed up to place it on.
It is only possible to move cards if there are enough Free Cells available to do this, but emptying a column of cards will help to free up another Free Cell, for instance, if there is a black Ten on top of a red Jack which is on top of a black Queen, and there is a minimum of three free cells available, then if there is a red King also available, you can move the Ten, Jack and Queen into the Free Cells temporarily, then move the King into an empty column and then take the Ten, Jack and Queen back out of the Free Cells and pile them beneath the King.
THE STRATEGY OF FREECELL
Every game of Freecell is possible to win and I find that when I have been playing regularly I can win almost every game.
The first thing that I always do is study the cards and work through each column that has an Ace in it from left to right working through in my mind three or four moves in advance and seeing how many Free Cells will be left after placing one of the Aces on the pile. The option which leaves the highest number of Free Cells available is the option I will choose.
I then repeat this process for each of the twos and threes. As soon as a card becomes available that can go onto the pile it automatically jumps up onto the pile, and once up there it cannot be brought back down. This is an important thing to know as sometimes it is necessary to not put a card onto the pile to early in the game.
I always try to keep the four piles fairly even as allowing one pile to build up out of proportion to the rest will from experience cause difficulties and generally make the game un-winnable.
If you can empty one of the columns of cards this will create an extra Free Space. Only Kings can be placed in an empty column but from here it is possible to sort the cards in descending order. This is by far the most successful way of completing the game.
Once a game has been started it cannot be saved part way through and must be completed. The statistics of each game are saved and can be looked at anytime, they can also be reset to zero.
I find this game to be very addictive and I usually play it constantly for a few days at a time until I become bored and then I don't bother with it for a few weeks.
I find it to be very mentally challenging knowing that each game can be won no matter how difficult the cards seem to be laid out. Some games are very easy and can be completed within just a few minutes whilst other more difficult ones may take the best part of an hour.
I would definitely recommend the game of Freecell as a time filler for anyone who enjoys these type of games and above all it is free.