by The Fox
This is intended to be an occasional column, from the perspective of a mostly non-technical user. The premise is that items discussed may not be "new" in any objective sense, but they were new to me at the time. Maybe they are new to you also, and hopefully worthy of your discovery.
I seem to recall reading somewhere that Napoleon was one of the notable historical figures who was intrigued by Solitaire-type card games. Ah, but then I rather doubt he or any of the others
ever saw the likes of FreeCell, which combines Solitaire with a spatially oriented puzzle. It is a game which - like Chess - rewards an ability to visualize several moves ahead. And many find it more than a little addictive. Professional writers in search of a productivity regimen are typically urged to remove such games from their computers, advice that most often goes unheeded.
Warp 4.0 already came with a standout version of Klondike Solitaire. But FreeCell on the computer has been a standard of the game bundle included with Windows ever since Win 3.x. There was a FreeCell game that was part of the shareware game pack from Germany "Card Games for OS/2," circa 1996, but I found it very lacking in comparison to the familiar Win version. I was about to give up on finding a suitable equivalent for Warp, when some kind soul in one of the newsgroups turned me on to the relatively little-known SeaHaven Towers by Daniel Kulp. (Kulp also worked on development of the Mesa 2 spreadsheet, both before and after the program was acquired by Sundial Systems.) What a pleasant surprise, then, that this turns out to be the best implementation of FreeCell I've ever seen!
I'm going to assume you are familiar with FreeCell, which provides four initially vacant slots along the top row, in and out of which you can shuttle individual cards, as you attempt to arrange your valid Solitaire combinations in the card stacks below. The top corner stacks - one for each suit - must be filled in sequence. But each additional card you place onto the four "free cells" increases your odds of becoming gridlocked, with no viable moves remaining. Having more than 2 of the 4 free cells occupied at any one time can be living dangerously, in this game.
SeaHaven Towers (ST, for short) for OS/2 can be played full screen, which I think only the Win-98 edition among Win versions of FreeCell will allow. It is highly customizable to individual preferences, with Rule settings (both for its own native mode and standard FreeCell play-alike mode), levels of difficulty, game appearance and optional sound, Win / Loss statistics, and a variable-level UNDO. The latter may seem like a boon to cheaters and sore losers, but it does become legitimate for those quasi-dyslexic moments where one was certain that an actually Black card happened to be Red, or vice versa, and the unintentionally illegal move only screwed things up.
An Optional Autoplay default will complete certain "obvious" moves for you, like pulling freshly exposed next-in-sequence cards up to the top corner stacks. This has the effect of speeding up the game, but can leave you wondering 'How'd I pull *that* off?' Or else, over-estimating your own cleverness. ('I saw that move!' Yeah, sure you did.) There is also a "hint" feature, introduced in the last version of ST (3.01), that you sort of have to stumble upon. The Help System for SeaHaven seems useful and complete. Browsing through it, you will find a number of game options that you were not previously aware of, even if you've been playing ST for some time.
This is really just about all one could ask for in a FreeCell game. Only if you happen to be fixated upon the exact design layout of the Windows FreeCell are you apt to be disappointed. SeaHaven Towers, now released as freeware, can be downloaded from Hobbes.
At time of writing, there was some possibility that it might be included with the GA release of EComStation. If not, it certainly should be.
The author welcomes your suggestions for future discoveries. Email the cunning fellow at
The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA
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