Flaming Falcon

As mentioned in my last post, I created a solitaire game on the flight back (the second leg, from Cleveland).  No, it’s not called Flaming Falcon, though …

I was asked what it would be called, and I think “544” is good enough, though 544 Flaming Falcon came to mind.  This is a joke nobody could possibly get.  It involves the Q Manual from the James Bond 007 RPG, the entry for the Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer, and how I wanted something with better stats.  Thus was born the Ferrari 540 Flaming Falcon.

Anyway, 544 refers to the maximum number of points that can be achieved in the game.

What inspired this?

I’ve really become a fan of the philosophy that restrictions breed creativity.  The restriction here was that the airplane tray is small, too small for a number of solitaire games I play or even dealing poker hands.  I needed something that took up a minimal amount of space while doing something new and different, as I wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of solitaire bridge.

Also, too many solitaire games either have the problem of obvious decisions or no decisions.  For instance, if you play Microsoft’s solitaire game, a tableau may have no decisions.  In contrast, while FreeCell is solvable if you spend enough time studying the tableau, that’s boring and it’s interesting enough to just start moving cards around.  Actually, I suppose I could say I hate Spider Solitaire because the decisions are undermined so by the randomness.

Rules

Shuffle the deck.  Draw 5 cards.  Each turn, until the last, draw a card, reveal a card, and either try to match the revealed card or bury it.  You can match the card in one of two ways.  You can either match it on suit, in which case it goes into one scoring pile, or you can match it on its numerical value, where it goes in another scoring pile (I did numerical matches face up and suit matches face down in one pile to save space).  You continue to do this until you get down to one card in the draw pile, which you reveal rather than draw.  You may match cards in your hand based on value or suit, burying any that you don’t match.

Scoring

Cards have values equal to their face value, with aces being one and jacks, queens, kings being 11, 12, and 13, respectively.  Cards matched by value are worth 10 points each, regardless as to their face value, so 20 points for a pair.  Cards matched by suit are worth their face values.  Cards buried subtract by their face values.  The total number of points available is 544.  The total number of points if matching all cards by value is, of course, 520.  The total number matched by suit is only 364.

Based on a number of plays, it seems that 400+ points is a good score.  My high is 446.  My second and third high scores are 444 and 440.

Strategy

There’s nothing terribly complicated about the strategy.  The point of solitaire games is not to agonize and create paralysis by analysis problems but to eat up time that is otherwise mindnumbing while feeling some sense of accomplishment.  Well, I like having some sense of accomplishment, which is why I rarely play games where you just run on autopilot.

Yes, there’s a luck factor, that’s not a problem to me.  You will likely lose some cards early, before your hand gets huge.  The decisions early on about how to match on suit are the most agonizing, however, there’s an element of how to play the hand at the end when you have a wealth of options.

Memory can play a part, if you care enough about maximizing score.  I’m not big on memory challenges in games, but I find that it’s a low hurdle for this.

If I seem vague about how to maximize scores, I think it’s worth allowing people to discover a bit on their own.  I definitely got better at the game as I thought through what should be done.

Variants

It’s easy enough to vary:  change hand size, change value matching points (down, up would be less interesting, methinks, increasing the luck factor, though I think there’s an optimal point and 10/20 seems like it might be about it), etc.

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