The story behind Grimes

Grimes has been in the App Store for a couple of days and has been downloaded from across 17 countries. I thought that now would be a good time to share some of the story behind the app and the game itself. After all, does the world really need another patience/solitaire app?

The game of Grimes patience has a special place in my heart. All of my family know it, and it has been part of family life for as long as I can remember. It was a regular part of family holidays, particularly those typically Tasmanian shack holidays when the wet weather sets in for a couple of days. But it would also come out when somebody needed to pass some time or provide a distraction. In my family playing a couple of hands of Grimes is a little like curling up on the couch to re-read a favorite old paperback (perhaps a Desmond Bagley).

Perhaps part of my affection for the game is that we only know one other family who play this game, the family who taught the game to us and after whom we have always called it. The Grimes app is my way of spreading the word.

All sentimentality aside, it is also a great form of patience. The full rules are described here, but the key to the game is that you get to pick up and rearrange the piles of cards that form the tableau of the game. This adds a larger element of strategic planning than in other games. Which piles, how many piles and the order in which you see them is determined by the deal and changes from hand to hand.

The number of chances to see a pile is the key indicator of how hard a hand will be. This is determined by the number of cards in the reserve pile after dealing the hand. Less than 13 cards in the pile makes it very unlikely that you can get it out, and many in my family would simply redeal at his point.

Regardless of the number, it is a challenging game. It is hard to get out, and all the more rewarding when you do. There is definitely an element of luck and you can end up with just a handful of cards to go and still be unable to get it out. This is frustrating, but also part of the fascination of the game.

There is also something satisfying about the look of the game. The game is played with a grid of six by four piles of cards (the layout is pictured here). Traditionally, once you have seen a pile of cards you return them to the tableau rotated 90 degrees so that you know which you have seen. Knowing this is important when deciding which card to play and deciding which pile to look at if given an option.

When writing the Grimes app I experimented with various other ways of indicating which piles had been seen, but couldn't find a better way than the traditional.

One challenge I had writing the app was what to do for cards, but that is a story for another post.

I am pleased with how the app has turned out. It has been fully playable for the last couple of months and we have enjoyed thoroughly testing it throughout this period. Testing is a great excuse for playing hand after hand. Despite having spent so much time on the code, I still find that I quickly forget about the app and just focus on the game, which is a good thing in my book. I hope other people find the same thing.

I really hope that people try and enjoy both the app and the game itself. If you have read this far and have an iPad, why not try the app (after all it's free). If you don't have an iPad, why not try playing Grimes the old fashioned way. The rules page gives enough detail to let you deal Grimes by hand.

However you play it, I hope you enjoy Grimes patience.