Churchill Solitaire
Cost: Free to try ($4.99 for full version)
Seller: WSC Solitaire, LLC
Devices: iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone
Rating: E for Everyone

Pros: Free to try. Challenging Solitaire. Winston Churchill.
Cons: Don’t disappoint Churchill.

Look for Sir Winston in the App Store.
Look for Sir Winston in the App Store.

First impressions

We’ve all wished for the day that Winston Churchill and the game of Solitaire come together in one amazing and entertaining package. I know, I know … you’ve laid there awake at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering how you can make such a miracle happen, as visions of the great Prime Minister dance through your head.

Then there’s that hope of a Maggie Thatcher Backgammon combination. Or is it more like a Maggie Against Humanity card game?

Well, the Thatcher invention is still up for grabs, but I’m here to tell you that yes, indeed, there is now a Churchill Solitaire app on the market. Can you believe it?

I was exploring the App Store, looking for some new diversion, as Jane Austen would say, and this app popped up on the screen. “No! It can’t be!” I exclaimed. Were mine eyes deceiving me?

Not just that, but it was free to try!

I put aside my search for the ultimate first person Valentine shooter game, and downloaded Churchill Solitaire in a trice.

I wondered, would The British Bulldog approve of his countenance being displayed front and center in a game app? I could not wait to investigate for myself.

I suggest you start off with "Easy" first.
I suggest you start off with “Easy” first.

How it works

From the moment you begin, you’ll see that this is no ordinary Solitaire app. Gone is the simplistic design with cards in different columns on a green background.

For starters, you do not even see the layout and options until you’ve been prepped with black and white footage of England in wartime with that familiar, gruff voice speaking over it.

You are given the option to skip past it, but you’ll probably want to see it and hear it, at least the first time.

After that opening comes the main menu screen, and the Game Center login pop-up appears. You do not have to log in – you can just cancel out of it – but if you want to play with others over the Internet, blah-de-blah, you’ll need to register.

Regardless of what decision you make about the Game Center, you will, at one point, find yourself at the main menu. It explains, via pop-ups, what each of the options offers, and invites you to play three free trial games before you either buy the full version at $4.99, or buy packages of games at $0.99 a go.

From the initial deal you'll see that it uses two decks and is more challenging than your average Solitaire game.
From the initial deal you’ll see that it uses two decks and is more challenging than your average Solitaire game.

There is also a settings icon where you can adjust the rather majestic music in the background, and change the design on the backs of the cards.

You’ll start off at the Cadet level, and can choose between Easy, Medium and Hard. My suggestion would be to go with Easy in the beginning. Even if Sir Winston would frown on such cowardice, you do not really know what you’re in for here, so perhaps caution should be used.

A “Welcome to Sandhurst” paragraph tells you about Winston Churchill, your classmate, and then you’re instructed to “Stand up straight! Make those salutes crisp! And don’t be daft, Cadet!” Crikey!

Next is the playing surface, and it’s not just any old surface – it’s an impressive heavy wooden desk looking toward an equally impressive window.

You cannot fault this app when it comes to clear explanations – it offers help without being asked for it, giving you basic rules of this version of Solitaire – and points out the “Hints” button with the number 10 beside it. Yes; you have 10 hints should you wish to use them.

Once it deals the cards, the game is set up thusly: you’ll see familiar columns of cards, moving from shortest on the outsides to the longest in the middle. Then there’s a deck for dealing once you’ve exhausted what you’ve got before you, and another set of cards in a small window above. The game warns you that these cards can only be pulled over to the “Victory Rows” corner in the top right, and you are not to forget about them, otherwise you could end up losing the game. All Aces you find anywhere are to be put in the Victory section as well.

Play on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
Play on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

The aim is the same in this game as it is with any other version of Solitaire – to get columns starting with kings at the top, descending in value in opposing colors of red and black.

There are more cards, however, than in a standard pack. Right off the bat, when you see the Victory Rows, you’ll note that there are eight slots for eight Aces.

Make sure that you’ve done all you can with the cards on your play area, because when you hit the dealing deck, it will send out a whole slew of cards in no particular denominations and order, mucking up some of your lovely columns.

As you familiarize yourself with Churchill Solitaire, you may very well want to use hints more than you usually would. They will help you see moves that you might not be trained to look for, or make you feel like a flaming idiot. One of the two.

The app senses when you’re stuck and asks you if you wish to “Surrender” or continue. Maybe it’s the feeling of Churchill himself over your shoulder, but I bet you’ll feel compelled to go on, cadet.

Should the cards be getting close to the bottom of your screen after a furious dealing frenzy, it will advise you to turn your device lengthways for more space. It knows all.
When I played it

I’m used to the simple dimple Solitaire, so being faced with multiple decks and Churchill’s face staring back at me, daring me to fail, gave me quite a start. After all, I was just a young thing. I was not expecting to go to war at this age.

I’ll admit to using all of my hints pretty early on, as of course I needed keen insight in order to write this review.

I have to say that it was extraordinary the number of times I missed moves that were so obvious, once they were pointed out.

The app asked me a few times if I wanted to surrender (always flattering) and I did not give up until after desperately pounding on the “Hints” button, I was told that even the app couldn’t find a way to help me.

At least I had a better idea of what I was doing now, and it gave me some points anyway, probably to boost my spirits.

My only beef with the Churchill Solitaire app came when I foolishly tried to move one of the cards in that special window down on the game area, completely forgetting that they were to be sent only to the Victory Rows. Immediately a pop-up appeared saying “You’re doing it all wrong!”

That is TERRIBLE English, and Winston Churchill would weep at the sound of it. Tut, tut creators … what were you thinking?

What it should have said was something like “I say, old chap, I think you’ve taken a wrong turn,” or similar.


Final thoughts

I really like this app. It’s a great design with lots of extras in the way of images, film and facts. I do not know that I’ll make it out of military school, based on my performance so far, but I’m willing to keep trying. I think you will too.