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David Simon
1985
Card Game
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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39,40
Chris Bourne

Whether or not the Chinese really do play this version of Patience is irrelevant; David Simon, author of Eights which was voted best board/card/puzzle game in the 1984 CRASH Readers' Awards has produced another cunningly programmed card game in which one player pits wits with the Spectrum. The 'Chinese' version of patience follows the basic rules of one player patience, with a few twists and turns needed to make it into a competitive two-player game.

The rules are quite straightforward, and although they sound a bit complicated on paper they are very easy to pick up once you start playing.

The four aces are removed from the pack and dealt face up in a row. Four more cards are laid out, face up, to form a second row of cards. The remaining cards are dealt to the two players, who receive twenty two cards each, which are kept face down in a pile.

The player who starts, 'twists' a card from the top of his deck and places it face up on his discard pile. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards first which you do by moving cards from the top of your discard pile, placing them on one of the other nine piles of cards showing. The piles of cards which grow on top of the Aces follow suit and are added to in ascending order; the four piles which start with the other dealt cards follow the traditional pattern of patience, and grow in descending order in suits of alternate colours. You can also put a card on your opponent 's discard pile, providing the card you add is in the same suit and is adjacent in value in other words if his top card is a nine of hearts, you can add either the eight or ten of hearts to his stack.

Just to complicate matters a little further, while cards added to the Aces cannot be moved, you can move single cards from the end of the other four piles, adding them to the suits or to the top of your opponent's discard Pile. A complete pile of cards can be moved from one descending order pile and added to the end of another, providing the sequence of alternating suits is maintained.

Each time a player moves a card from the top of his discard pile he can twist another card from his deck and, during a turn, a player keeps twisting and moving cards until no more can be moved. The first player to get rid of all his cards wins, and scores points according to how many cards are left in his opponent s hand.

Successful play requires close examination of all the cards on show, and careful thought it's easy to finish your turn, hand over to the computer and then suddenly realise you missed something obvious. The computer plods through all the options open to it and grinds your mistake into your face.

Running Mr Simon's software, the computer plays a near perfect game, proving a worthy opponent. It also acts as tutor if you observe the plays it makes carefully, you should be up to the same standard as the machine before long, only losing by your mistakes or on account of very unfavourable deals.

CRITICISM

'Computer card games are often less enthralling than the real thing. Chinese Patience, for the money, is a neat and absorbing game which I found gently addictive. Concentration is vital, once you've picked up the rules. Having lost my first game 14 points down I was determined to get my own back. Playing best of five, I managed to leave the computer holding 19 cards in the second game, 10 in the third and 6 in the fourth. It's a compelling game - a pleasant way to while away a few hours now and again, trying to make sure you better the computer.'

'When I was given this game I was dreading playing it, let alone reviewing it as card conversions nearly always seem to be a flop for some reason. But I'm happy to say that this one isn't I quite enjoyed playing it although I didn't have a chance of beating the computer. I think David Simon must have a talent for making potentially boring games good fun to play, as I had the same feeling about Eights when I played it first. The only thing which spoiled Chinese Patience a bit was the sound - I can't help thinking it might have been a better game if it had been quieter'

'I have played a very similar patience game to this with slightly more 'human' opponents, and think it compares favourably on the Spectrum. Its chief advantage being that you have a ready-made opponent who (which?) knows the game. The main disadvantages with having the Spectrum as an opponent are the time it takes to make its moves and the fact it doesn't miss your silly mistakes - as I discovered! On the whole, if you like playing patience, you should enjoy this one.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: M to move card, T to twist, Z to end turn, 0-9 to specify pile, P to move a whole pile
Joystick: keyboard play only
Use of colour: plain and simple - fine for a card game
Graphics: Tidy, but nothing flash
Sound: a few tunes and prompts, repetitive
Skill levels: one
Lives: you win or lose!
Screens: one
General Rating: A neat little card game, which doesn't break new ground, but is fun nevertheless.

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Screenshot Text

I'm Thinking ... say the honlable Splectlum, while pondering the next move at the start of a new game of CHINESE PATIENC. Velly cunning stuff it thinks, too.