Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Freecell

Go To

"At first Freecell appears to be just another solitaire game, a time waster, something to do during coffee breaks. But sadly for many it eventually becomes something more.... The player will often sit at the computer for hours, intensely focused on the game, at the expense of all else in their lives."

Freecell is a variant of the Solitaire card game, played with a standard 52-card deck. The game plays similarly to the classic Klondike solitaire, but has a few distinct features:

  • It is an "open" game - that is, all cards are visible from the start and there is no hidden information, allowing players full freedom to plan their strategy.
  • There are four "free cells", each of which can temporarily hold a single card for the player.
  • You can only move one card at a time. This may seem like it would make the game much harder, but the free cells actually allow you to transfer a lot more cards than seems possible at first, due to the fact that you can temporarily stack cards on the tableau during a move operation.

What makes Freecell particularly significant is that almost every game is winnable, regardless of how the cards are dealt. While some games are certainly very difficult, it's vanishingly rare for Freecell to produce a game that is outright impossible. The FreeCell FAQ puts the win rate at "almost 99.999%" with perfect play. Few other popular solitaire games are able to come close to this level of winnability.

Much like how Windows 3.0 introduced Klondike solitaire to millions, Freecell exploded in popularity when it was bundled with Windows 95. It was so popular, in fact, that some later independent compilations of solitaire games even went so far as to emulate the random number generator used by the Windows version, just so that they could provide the same seeded games that fans were familiar with.

Freecell provides examples of:

  • Artifact Title: Windows FreeCell, starting with Vista, has an artifact icon — originally, a chest-up shot of the King of Hearts was situated between the two sets of card slots at the top, and would face whichever set a card had most recently been added to (or moused over). He was nixed when Vista overhauled the look of all its games, but the icon remains. The king is dead; long live the king?
  • Difficulty Levels: has levels from 1 to 12, where 10 is a uniformly random deal. The lower levels bury high cards (like kings) near the tops of columns, and expose low cards (like aces) near the bottoms of columns. The default settings start each player at level 5, and raises the difficulty after every 10 wins, until it reaches level 10. It takes a streak of 50 wins to reach level 10, but a single loss sends the player back to level 5.
  • Easter Egg:
    • In Windows FreeCell, entering game number -1 or -2 results in an Unwinnable Joke Game, while (in Vista and 7) entering -3 or -4 yields a deal that can be instantly won.
    • The Vista and 7 versions are fully compatible with Xbox 360 controllers, a feature that isn't described anywhere in help files.
  • Gameplay Automation:
    • Many computer versions autoplay cards to the homecells when it is safe. Microsoft autoplays aces and twos, but does not autoplay a red three when a black two is still out, because one might want to move the black two onto the red three. is smarter but still safe; it can autoplay the red three if the black two is out but the black ace of the same suit is already home. This is safe because it can autoplay the black two later.
    • The rule is to move one card at a time. As a shortcut, Windows FreeCell can move sequences of cards if there are enough open freecells to do the same, one card at a time. In Vista, one can move longer sequences if there are empty columns.
  • Meaningful Name: The game is named after the four "free cells", each of which can store a single card for the player.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: While nearly every Freecell game is winnable, that doesn't mean it's going to be straightforward to do so. Games of Freecell tend to land all over the difficulty spectrum with equal probability - one deal could be easy and the next could be brutally hard. It generally depends on how unlucky you are with getting low cards buried under high ones, or how deeply buried the Aces are. Some versions of Freecell can control the difficulty somewhat by stacking the deck (eg. by burying the Aces deeper on purpose).
  • Tag Line: — "...draining workplace productivity since 1996"
  • The Key Is Behind the Lock: In an unwinnable game, the cards you need are locked underneath cards you can't move anywhere.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Almost 99.999% of the possible Freecell deals are solvable. Of the 32,000 standard games from Windows FreeCell, exactly one (#11982) is impossible to solve. XP and onward have 1,000,000 deals. Out of those million, 8 are unsolvable. note 
  • Unwinnable Joke Game: Windows FreeCell has two Easter Egg selectable games, #-1 and #-2, where it's clearly impossible to move enough cards to move any cards to the home cells. (On the other hand, Vista introduced games #-3 and #-4, where making any move will instantly win the game.)

The "12 Step Program for Freecell-aholics" provides examples of:

  • Fun with Acronyms: The document mentions "One More Game", and yes, the letters OMG are bold in the document.
  • God: Described as "The Big Guy".
    Note: even if you don't believe there's a Big Guy, you have to admit that even a non-existent Big Guy couldn't make more of a mess of your life than you have already.
  • Just One More Level!: The "12 Step Program" is all about addiction to Freecell.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: A recovering Freecell addict shall help other addicts. Where do addicts meet? At the website, where you may play just One More Game.

Alternative Title(s): Free Cell