So, you’re in an airport on a layover with a flight that’s been delayed six hours because of snow. You’ve already finished the book that was supposed to last you the entire way back and your portable video game system is broken and at home. The only other thing at your disposal is a crummy laptop that you recently re-imaged and didn’t have enough time before your trip to find something fun to put on it. You look at the airport wifi and balk at the $20/day fee to use it. What do you do? Luckily, you’ve got Freecell.

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Freecell is a solitare game that has been packaged with nearly every version of Windows since Windows 98. Each deal possible is assigned a number (called a seed in the random world) that will allow anyone to play that exact hand.

The rules are fairly simple for freecell, and indeed they’ll seem familiar to any solitaire player.

First the deck is dealt out face up into 8 cascades, 4 with 7 cards and 4 with 6. Play continues similar to solitaire, with a few differences. Any card that is on the top of a cascade can be moved to a card of a degree higher and of the opposing color suit (so like a 7 of diamonds can be moved onto an 8 of club). Aces are placed up top in foundations which act as repositories for the various card suits. The cards placed on the foundations start with the ace and can be stacked upwards in ranks starting with 2 and always following suit. A card placed in a foundation is removed from play and cannot be pulled out.

The biggest difference between Freecell and solitaire is that only 1 card at a time can be moved and stacks do not count as a single movable entity. Thus, in order to move a large stack of cards, a player needs to be able to do so 1 card at a time starting with the bottom, a task made easier by freeing up a cascade (an empty cascade can have any card moved into it). The player also has 4 cells to utilize for these moves. Any single card can be moved freely into a cell, and from there may re-enter play via a legal move, or may be placed to a foundation and leave play.

Freecell has been a game that I’ve had to fall back on in a number of situations where I found myself having to wait a long period of time without otherwise having anything to do.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

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