Okay, so I goofed. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted an embarrassing typo or two in my last post. Mainly because I made a last-minute decision to change “hierarchy of needs” into “hierarchy of wants” which led to inevitable consequences. This should be fixed now. Lesson learnt!
The basic idea of MHoW is that given our current game state we should assess how well or badly we stand with respect to each layer. Then we have some idea of which part of the game to focus on. Sure, there may be some trivial decisions such as making a reversible move to build in-suit but inevitably there are critical points in a game where the right or wrong decision can decide your fate.
I should point out the Hierarchy of Wants is not necessarily linear. Either two items should be swapped or you could work on them simultaneously. As an extreme example, you might be able to remove a complete suit without obtaining an empty column at any stage of the game – which would be a cheevo in itself! There is certainly no law forbidding you from doing so, if the card gods were kind enough to allow it. But for most hands I would expect the above pyramid to be a good approximation of how an expert player would plan to win. In any case, you should feel free to tweak this pyramid as you gain experience.
Let’s look at an example or two:
If Simon Anthony from Cracking the Cryptic were playing, he might be waxing lyrical about some promising signs: a suit of Spades has been removed, we have plenty of in-suit builds and excellent potential for obtaining empty columns (most columns have no face-down cards). Meanwhile Captain Obvious is yelling at the Screen, vainly trying to convince Simon the winning chances are exactly zero. With MHoW we immediately see the problem: we have failed at the lowest layer of the pyramid – and everything above this layer is rendered useless.
Okay, this was admittedly a trivial example but I only mentioned it because most losses are conceded before the player actually reaches a game state with no legal moves (and therefore “at least one legal move” is something we take for granted). So, this is something to bear in mind.
Now look at a second example:
We have plenty of turnovers already and no problem finding legal moves. Although we cannot turn over extra cards before the final deal, we don’t really need them. We have one empty column – and hence some flexibility – and some promising in-suit builds. Clearly, we need to work on removing suits. For instance, we can immediately see a long run of Clubs in column 4 so one possible plan is to look for the remaining clubs (K-Q-J and 2-A).
Things look fairly promising. We immediately see two empty columns in four moves and further analysis shows we can actually clear at least one suit of Diamonds. With only six face-down cards remaining, either the game is mathematically won or the odds are very much in our favour. Therefore, we can jump to the top of the pyramid and start thinking about cheevos.
This example demonstrates another important lesson: don’t be intimidated by the sheer number of face-up cards in the tableau: It may turn out your position is very strong without realising it.
As a final word: it may be tempting to monitor the number of cards left in the stock to help decide which layer of the pyramid you should be working on, but that only works “on average”. I’ve had games where I could only ascend to the second level with only 10 cards remaining in the stock – yet still managed to win. Conversely, I’ve seen things go sour after a promising start. Use your common sense, and if something in the tableau screams “not an average hand” then listen to your gut and watch your results improve.
Until next time, happy Spider Solitaire playing 😊 May all your builds be in-suit and may all your long-term plans come to fruition!