The Cadillac of Solitaire
The reader may be familiar with Klondike and Freecell. In Klondike, exposed cards are always ordered. For instance, if an exposed Seven of Hearts is covered by another exposed card, the latter must be one of the two black Sixes. This means the number of legal game states is much smaller than a game with “random rules”. The “non-trivial” part of Klondike of course comes from the face-down cards. Freecell is a famous game because it should almost always be won with perfect play. With all cards exposed, any initial game state can (in theory) be analysed to a certain win or certain loss before making a single move. The “non-trivial” part of Freecell comes from the fact exposed cards are not necessarily in order. For instance, the Seven of Hearts can be covered by any other card, not just the black Sixes.
As you might have guessed, Spider Solitaire combines the non-trivial aspects of both Klondike and Freecell. With half the cards face-down there is no question of certain victory or defeat at the start. The fact that exposed cards are not necessarily in sequential order yields several orders of magnitude of extra possible game states, and hence much greater scope for interesting strategy.
Oh, did I mention that Spider is played with two decks instead of one?
Local vs Global
The last point I wish to discuss is the concept of local vs global. If you have played board games like Die Siedler von Catan or Agricola, you probably know that the early rounds of a game have “small-scale plans”, but the middle game is where “deep strategizing” and “maximum tension” occurs. The endgame is where the tension ceases, presumably because everybody knows one player has a decisive advantage and it is basically impossible to lose, except by tanking. The ideal curve is shown below (disclaimer: I only got ‘C’ in Year 10 art).
Note that the peak is not centred, but is closer to the end than the beginning. Although I am not the world’s greatest expert on Board Games in general, I think the most successful games tend to obey this curve. Obviously if you play Catan 100 times, not every game will have the ideal curve: for instance, one game might be easily won by Player 3 thanks to some lucky rolls at the start. But most of the games will be “fair” and everyone feels they started with a decent chance to win.
In my experience, I think Spider Solitaire has a reasonable time-tension curve. In the beginning the player is concerned with short-term plans such as exposing as many face-down cards as possible. In the middle game, the tension increases because there are a large number of cards in play, and the player is usually aiming to clear a complete suit or two. Spider only allows complete suits (instead of single cards in Klondike or Freecell) to be moved to the foundations and it is rarely possible to achieve this with short-term planning alone. Assuming the player is successful, the tension decreases because the player is practically certain of victory. Technically one can still search for the very best moves, but by this stage the player is probably playing on auto-pilot.
So there you have it. Hopefully my first blog post gives you some idea of why I consider Spider to be the Cadillac of Solitaire. Okay, this entire post probably didn’t make much sense because I haven’t even explained the rules … I should probably start with that on my next post 😊
Toodle pip and piddle too, ciao 😊