FreeCell - Where Did It Begin?

FreeCell is a card game which is solved, in the majority of cases by strategy. It is played with one deck of cards - 52 cards in total which are all shown to the player throughout the game.

The game of FreeCell was created by Paul Alfille whilst he was a medical student, and is a variation of an earlier game called Baker's Game. Alfille didn't invent FreeCell on computer, he actually used cards to work out the game moves.
At the end of each game he commented that the cards ended up in suits, and it took quite a long time to shuffle them completely as he wasn't very good at shuffling cards.

Alfille's main objective in FreeCell was to know how the mathematics worked and the probabilities of achieving a perfect result.
He thought that he wanted to know how many games were winnable - and continues along the lines of - however there is a difference between the number of games which were winnable and the number of games which were actually won!

That of course, is a really interesting point. Just because there is a way of achieving a result, if the player doesn't correctly process the information given by the cards, he may not win the game, although had he taken a different route an altogether alternative outcome may have been achieved.

The usual game of FreeCell has eight columns - however Alfille played around with variations giving between four and ten columns and between one and ten free cells. Every variant had its own ranking system for dedicated players whose objective was to get the longest winning streaks!

Variant Games

There are quite a few variations from the FreeCell game. There was Baker's Game which was the game used by Alfille to enable him to invent FreeCell and prior to Baker's Game there was another game called Eights.

There is a recent variation called Hardcell Solitaire, which is for advanced FreeCell players and although using the same basic principles, the variation is that twenty of the cards in Hardcell are initially placed face down, so that at the beginning of the game the player isn't aware of the position of all of the cards.
This obviously makes it more difficult for the player to be able to plot any sort of strategy.

The Choice of Variations

Going in the opposite direction another variant which is fairly recent, is called Klondike FreeCell and in this game which appears to be a combination of Klondike Solitaire and FreeCell there are three additional free cells which are allocated to the player to give more opportunities of winning the game.

A much older variation of FreeCell is a game called Napoleon in St Helena, which possibly dates back to around 1945.
The only apparent difference between this game and Alfille's FreeCell is that the last four cards, instead of being dealt from the left as in the usual FreeCell, they are placed in the four free cells. This would make the game considerably more difficult, as this area is usually reserved for those cards which are out of sequence and is used as a temporary holding bay.
The other difference in the earlier game only allowed Kings to start an empty column.

When everything is considered, every new game created is a variation of another earlier game. This will always happen, but aren't always recognised for this - it doesn't mean that Paul Alfille didn't invent his game - it just means that there may have been a close version of it than was known at that time.