Improving Klondike

Klondike solitaire isn't much fun to play. The strategic element is very weak, outcome is dominated by luck, and winning is very rare—perhaps 5-10% of games. Freecell is a much better game. While the initial deal is determined randomly, almost every deal is winnable in principle, and a good player can win upwards of 90% of the time, albeit with some difficulty.

There may be something about the mechanics of Freecell that makes it a better game than Klondike, but I suspect that the most important reason is that all cards are dealt face-up in Freecell but not in Klondike. Dealing the tableau cards face-down severely limits the player's ability to plan ahead, forcing him to guess rather than making an informed choice.

In a casino setting, this makes sense. A casino would go bankrupt if it allowed patrons to play a skill-based game against the house. But elsewhere it makes little sense to limit the strategic aspect of the game by dealing most of the cards face-down. I suspect that Klondike could be significantly improved by dealing all of the tableau cards face-up, and possibly the draw pile as well.

Since I can't find my deck of cards and the Windows implementation of Klondike doesn't implement this option, this conjecture remains untested for the time being. It may be that this makes the game too easy.

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Actually, Klondike has a

Actually, Klondike has a not-inconsiderable skill element if you keep track of the interleave that will appear in the deck on the next deal cycle. Then you can manipulate the cards that come up by making or refraining from making lower-valued moves that are legally available -- card counting for solitaire, as it were.

Dealing the tableau cards face-up would make it an even better cognitive test...