On Bill Harris's recommendation, last night I downloaded a game called Fairway Solitaire, the only computer sim that dares to combine the cerebral thrills of single-player card games with the fast-paced action of golf.
Whoops, I can't help the sarcasm sometimes. It's actually a fantastic game, to the point where the 60-minute cutoff on the demo elicited something like rage. I spent a few hours trying to resist dropping the $19.99 they wanted, but at that point it was essentially like heroin. Fortunately, the publisher is running a holiday special for 40% off. (If you're ordering the game, enter SAVEFORTY in the "coupon code" field. The offer expires on 12/31/07.)
What is Fairway Solitaire? It's set up like a golf game, with several courses to play through and a hilarious, cartoonish presentation that mimics the solemnity of a TV golf broadcast. Instead of hitting a ball, though, you play a modified solitaire game. Each "hole" on a course is a different layout of cards -- some face up, most face down. At the bottom of the screen is your anchor card, which dictates what card you can remove from the hole. If there's a 5 at the bottom, you can remove any available 4 or 6. If you remove a 6, you can then click on any available 5 or 7. The challenge is to go on long runs without drawing a new anchor card.
There are more twists, too. You must contend with sand traps and water hazards, and occasionally you can find a wedge to put in your bag. You can play a wedge as a normal number card without interrupting the run you're on. So if you've tapped a bunch of jacks and tens, but have a 3-iron in your bag, you can start removing threes or twos without penalty -- but then you might not have an iron when you need it later.
Sounds simple, and it is. Still, it's the sort of game you can feel yourself improving at with each successive round. Strategies begin to reveal themselves the more you play. Each hole takes just a few minutes to complete, but with nine holes per course, and dozens of courses, I can see this thing robbing me of innumerable hours of productivity. And I am perfectly fine with that.
With all that said, Fairway Solitaire has twice crashed my system and I've had it for less than 24 hours. Make of that what you will.