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Astraware Solitaire

Mon Feb 25, 2008 - 9:43 AM EST - By Harv Laser

Killing time, without spending tons of money can be a real trick these days where simply going out for a plate of Fettuccini Alfredo (one of my favorite dishes) costs $14.00 or when ordering a hot pastrami sets you back a mind-blowing ten clams. That’s why, as ancient as they are, one-player solitaire card games remain hot and popular even in these days of massive on-line games and 3-D shooters.

As you may remember if you read my previous reviews of the fab Astraware Casino, Board Games Pack and Hidden Expedition: Titanic games, it’s this writer’s opinion that Astraware usually delivers us the most elegant, involving, beautiful and beautifully-coded games you can put on a Treo (or other Palms and WM devices).. all of which are packed with hundreds of hours of play time and challenge or simply amuse you, depending on how you approach each one.

Their games are sometimes so bafflingly deep, that I wonder if I’ll ever really reach that final screen and finish at all.

Twelve – count’em – twelve games in one

Astraware’s new Solitaire (“AWS”) (also available for WM Treos) game is no exception, as it packs twelve different variations of the venerable, single-player card games into one fat .prc file, weighing in at 1.8mb, that lives happily on your SD card. As with their other huge games, when launched, there’s a delay as the game loads itself into free, internal RAM, and plays “from” there.. then it politely frees up that memory and cleans up after itself, when you quit.

Optionally, there are several additional holiday and seasonal themed card designs that you can download as expansions, or add-ons, which hibernate on your SD card, saving valuable internal RAM. These themed card packs just give AWS a little extra eye candy. Nothing wrong with that.


The main interface of AWS resembles their last two multi-game titles, with a large wheel of rotating games from which you select the variant or, if you will, style of solitaire that you wish to play. Once in a game, there are both menus and buttons to perform nearly every function, including a hint button for those tricky moments (or when you just can’t help yourself and want a little nudge to cheat your way through).. and a button to review the pop-up game instructions.

You can opt to highlight all legal moves, or turn on or off the game’s “one touch operation”, which initiates a legal move by double tapping a card. You can also change the difficulty settings and game options both globally, or on a basis of game type. Thus, you can have different play settings for Klondike than for Spider or Pyramid variations.

The game also has a peek function with which you can cheat and look at otherwise hidden cards.

As with their other recent games, AWS gives out awards, this time in the form of special cards. Yes, you guessed it, there are 52 awards, and the game taunts you to collect them all, for when you do you can unlock a special bonus “Golden” deck. This game goes way beyond the simpleton-style Klondike Solitaire you normally find bundled on just about any computer.

Additionally, and again, like many of their other titles, AWS always saves your individual game sessions (for each solitaire game, for each player) both when you exit that game variation to switch to another, or exit the program entirely. Therefore, you can always pick up where you left off without worrying when your boss comes into the room, while you pretend to be working.

Run-through of Astraware Solitaire’s games:

Klassical Klondike

Klondike is, by and far, the most commonly known solitaire game. It’s not only the variant that most people play when they whip out a deck of cards to kill some time (and is used as a plot device in more movies than I can even remember).. and it’s been bundled with Microsoft Windows for ages, plus included on many other computers and gadgets, not to mention played for real money in Vegas casinos.

Who HASN’T ever played good old Klondike? But if you’ve been a desert island castaway for the past few decades and haven’t ever played this game, the essential formulae is that you must stack cards in order of rank, alternating between red and black suits until all the cards both in the playing field (tableau) to the stock piles on the top. You do this until you clear away all the cards in both the tableau and deck, or until you run out of legal moves, in which case you lose.


This one operates similarly, but instead of simply moving alternating cards from the tableau to the stock, you must arrange four piles of cards in the tableau and then shift them to the stock in suit. This version of the game is considerably more difficult than Klondike, although it gives you additional working space to stick unwanted cards until you may make proper use of them.

If it isn’t hard enough already, you can opt to use two decks, thus increasing the difficulty and time to play exponentially.


Spider resembles Freecell on its surface, but instead of using all four suits, Spider uses a customizable number of suits and decks, allowing you to work purely by rank (the value of each card) and set your own pace. Spider also strips away the additional spaces of Freecell, just to slice off a bit of your edge, and involves a considerable amount of luck, as unlike Freecell, where all the cards start in the tableau, Spider spews out more cards as the game progresses.


In Calculation, you need to shift cards in mathematical sets, the first being A-K (the ones pile), followed by 2-Q A-K in even and odd segments (the counting-in-twos pile). After that, we count in threes (e.g. 3, 6, 9, Q, 2, 5, 8, J, A, 4, 7, K) and finally a pile counted in fours. Whew! This one ain’t yer Grandpa’s Oldsmobile.

Calculation is one of the most mentally taxing solitaire games and requires a tremendous amount of planning and, as its namesake suggests, calculation. Try this one when you have plenty of free time and mental energy, as it consumes both rapidly.


Golf is a fast-paced and easy game that simply requires you to shift cards from the tableau back into the deck via the discard pile. One-by-one, you must select cards to add to the discard pile from the tableau, which you may add in ascending or descending value. Thus, you can place an eight on a seven, then play an eight off of that seven, followed by another eight, or a six. Get it? No? Well try it out. It’s easier to play than to explain.

While winning the game is highly dependant on how AWS deals up the tableau, you have to exercise some amount of skill in what cards you choose to play and in what order you play them. Therefore, you must employ a degree of chess-like forward thinking to win with any degree of certainty.

Idiot’s Delight

This is probably the silliest of all the solitaire games in Astraware’s package, and is entirely luck-driven, requiring as much skill to operate as a soda can, or possibly less. It sounds easy: all you have to do to win is remove all cards except Aces from the tableau to the discard pile. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to do so in the given space, so you’ll likely play a few dozen games or so before winning even one.

To make things worse, according to the instructions, you can only move cards to the discard pile when the card you are moving is both the same suit and of lower rank than the card showing in the discard pile. Unfortunately, the game play doesn’t seem to follow the rules at all, and valid moves seem to be (at best) random and aggravating.

Although this Solitaire variation was entirely new to me, from the instructions given by the program, I think there might be some bug or broken function that wouldn’t let to, for example, move a six of diamonds onto a seven of diamonds, but will allow me to move a trey of diamonds instead. On top of that, the instructions don’t explain how to move cards of differing suits, though I was able to shift a jack of clubs onto a trey of hearts for some inexplicable reason.

When you come right down to the line, Idiot’s Delight is exactly as its name implies.


Another classic form of Solitaire, Canfield is an easy game in which, you must build four stock piles from the cards in order of King, then A-Q. On the left is a stack of 13 random cards from which you play, and a deck from which you may draw. The object of the game is to clear all the cards by playing the cards both from the tableau and from the pile, which requires coordinated thinking and a small degree of luck.

Thankfully, you can opt to draw from the deck in easy mode, which flops one card at a time, until you get used to the game play, after which you may flop up to three cards. Because of its diversity and ease of play, Canfield with its devilish icon may easily become your new favorite solitaire game.


Here’s another Solitaire flavor that I’d never seen before: Clock, which like Idiot’s Delight entirely revolves around luck, is easy to play, but thankfully, easier to win. In this game, you have to place cards according to rank on their matching “hours” on the clock. Jacks and Queens represent 11 and 12 respectively, but Kings (or 13s) are bad news. You have to complete the clock, thus removing all the other cards in play before you reveal all four Kings, or else you lose.

Four Seasons

In Four Seasons, you not only have to remove all the cards from play, but the order in which you do so is determined by the rank dealt to the “seasons”. The playing tableau consists of five playing fields in a cross shape, and the four seasons in the corners. You may build stacks of cards into the tableau piles in descending order of alternating suite, and then place cards into their appropriate seasons in suit, in ascending order.

Although this one’s game play isn’t too treacherous, it requires a lot of luck to win. Because of the lack of legal moves, the game demands little planning, although once you get used to its oddball rules, it becomes simpler. You can also change the number of re-deals from one to two, three or (my favorite), unlimited.


This game plays almost identically to Klondike, except that instead of using a deck for a stock pile, the game deals all the cards as hidden cards that you must uncover. Thankfully, you may shift stacks of cards around using any card in their tier, rather than having to shift only sequential stacks as in Klondike.

Thus, if you have a stack of “6, K, Q, J, 10”, you may move it onto a pile with a 7 showing, as only the topmost card counts. This makes the game a little easier than Klondike to win, but slightly more confusing because of the sheer volume of legal moves. Nonetheless, Yukon is probably the second most popular style of Solitaire in the package and you’re probably going to find yourself playing it for hours.

Sultan’s Harem

In this unusual 2-deck game, you must surround the King of Hearts with all eight queens, thus completing the harem using the four foundation piles. Nearby the foundations are four reserve piles, plus the deck and discard pile. This is another luck-based game, that is easy to play and win, and given the numerous piles in which you can slam cards, easy to finagle.

Actually, as far as I can see, it’s impossible to lose this game, so have fun with it when you are bored silly, as its essential component is simply free time.


The last game in the AWS line-up is Pyramid, yet another game of luck, but this time it’s extremely hard to win, though nowhere near as impossible as “Idiot’s”. In this unusual variation, you have to remove all the cards from the board by selecting two of them at a time, for which the total value of the pair must be 13. You can use cards from the waste pile and a pyramid card, or two pyramid cards, but you can’t use two cards out of the waste to do so. Kings have an assigned value of 13 and thus you remove them signally, and aces are always one.

This game reminds me of the 9-Ball touchscreen video game you often see in bars, eating up pocket change, and requires a bit of forethought when making moves. With the right planning and a degree of luck, you can win more often. You can also pump up the re-deals if you want a higher edge.


Regardless which one of its dozen Solitaire game you play, AWS slaps a big, honkin’ Customize button right on the title screen for each one, so you can easily twiddle the rules and game settings to match your mood and level of skill (or luck factor) whenever the mood strikes you.

All the games end with a snazzy “flying cards” animation, and the high resolution graphics are all clean, crisp, and simply striking all around.

In closing, Astraware’s Solitaire builds upon their already rich reputation for delivering extremely high-quality and high-value games that look sharp and behave themselves, while using as few system resources as possible, and are jam-packed with help screens and other thoughtful features.

This is definitely a gem of a game that will maintain its play vs. pay ratio for a long time to come. Every time I dive into a new Astraware title, I’m just knocked out by the overall quality, inventiveness, and features. This software house really knows how to deliver, and I’ve got a couple more new Astraware titles simmering on the review burner, coming soon to a TreoCentral.com near you.

Treo accessory store



GUI Aesthetics 5
Usability 5
Functionality 4
Value 5
(not an average)
  • Vivid, beautiful, realistic graphics and sounds.
  • Set game difficulty and options globally, or by individual game.
  • Includes 12 different Solitaire games.
  • Card animations
  • Gives hints, and has options to auto-highlight moves.
  • Multitude of options for each game.
  • Multiple people can play the same installation and have unique, separate scores.
  • Lives happily on and runs from your SD card.
  • Cons
  • "Idiots Delight" variation is largely unplayable.

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