There’s a new player in the world of computer card games. His name is Donald Rumsfeld.
The former secretary of defense helped develop Churchill Solitaire, which is now available for iOS devices (an Android version is in the works). For a mobile card game, it’s quite beautiful. The title sequence features grainy newsreel footage of World War I. The game is played on a simulated walnut campaign desk instead of against a generic backdrop of green felt.
The story is simple: the year is 1893 and you’ve been accepted to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. As you win hands of two-deck solitaire (“the most diabolical version of solitaire ever devised”) , you climb the ranks from Cadet to…I’m not sure. Let’s call it a known unknown.
We spoke with Rumsfeld about this latest turn in his career path.
Why an app?
I think the game is fascinating. I like history. It would be a shame if the game was lost to the ages. So we set about the task to see if it was possible to build something to play such a complicated game.
Had you ever played a computer game before?
Not much. Maybe once or twice. When [the digital agency Javelin] was making it, they called me their beta tester. There would be glitches, and I would send off a snowflake. By the end, they had 40 or 50 memos on it.
You learned the game from Belgian Diplomat Andre de Staercke, who learned it from Churchill. Is it definitely true that Churchill invented the game?
No. All I know is Andre de Staercke learned it there. I just got a note from [co-developer] Keith. It says, “Churchill flew back to London yesterday after winning two bouts with pneumonia on the Riviera. He apparently still was determined against the advice of his physicians to visit his wartime comrade, President Eisenhower, in Washington late this month. The plane crew said Churchill played solitaire with a whisky and soda at his elbow and a big cigar clenched in his teeth all the way back.”
I’m still a cadet. What’s your rank?
I’m prime minister. At the moment it is [the highest]. We are thinking about adding a few things above that.
Do you have any hints?
There’s a tough call over whether or not to make a move that allows you to turn over a new facedown card or to move a card over from the Devil’s Six. In life, it’s important to have priorities. You know the saying, “If don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there?” In [Churchill Solitaire], the Devil’s Six is the priority.