War

      “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
                        – Joshua, War Games

For years I had a Solitaire game called SolFree on my Palm. When I got the iPod, SolFree was available in the app store (a lot of Palm developers moved on to become iPod developers). It is completely free (doesn’t even include ads). So I figured for all the years of playing solitaire and the years to come on the iPod, I could go ahead and pay $2 to the people that make Solfree which would also get me 40 new Solitaire games. I usually don’t like new solitaire games, just classic Solitaire (Klondike, deal 3) and Freecell is pretty good too. But one person who reviewed Solebon (the full pay version of Solfree; Card Shark Collection is another card game collection for $2 but it includes Euchre and a couple of other games where you play against the computer) said they played Colorado, so I tried that out and it was pretty decent once I figured out what was going on. But in order to figure out Colorado, I had to go to Wikipedia, hoping they would have more information about how to play than Solebon’s help had, and also maybe provide some strategy, because at first it seemed like it was totally random and you would almost always lose.

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The total randomness (just playing the cards dealt by rules with no decisions by the player) reminded me of War, a game I played as a kid and then with kids like Andrew and now Michael. I always like to tell Andrew and Michael how good they are at that game and they enjoy the compliment (and I like the irony of being good at something that is all luck). In fact, there probably aren’t that many games where they can generally win 50% of the time against an adult, so in comparison to other games, they really are good at it.

So I went to the Wikipedia article on War, which pointed out it was totally random and usually only played by children. But, they also had a neat thing in the article where someone programmed a computer to play War against itself and let the program run to its conclusion 1 million times. Now it gets interesting. When you play one card against another, that is called a “battle”. When the battle is tied and you put 3 cards face down, that is called a “war”. In a million games, the shortest game consisted of 9 battles before the other player lost all of his cards. They must have had a lot of wars because you start with 26 cards. The longest game was 2,958 battles. At 5 seconds per battle, that game would have lasted 4 hours. There are an average of 248 battles per game with 15 wars. With the 5-second rule, the average game would last 20 minutes.

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