Reviewing Donald Rumsfeld’s Solitaire App as Rumsfeld Might
Donald Rumsfeld made an app! Well, more specifically, app developers Snapdragon Studios and media agency Javelin made an app with Donald Rumsfeld’s input. It’s called Churchill’s Solitaire. Now, please recall that in 2002, Rumsfeld famously categorized the relation of the Iraq government to weapons of mass destruction in terms of “known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns,” so we’ve done him the same service here. Here’s our takeaway from trying his app.
There are things that we know about Churchill Solitaire. Such as!
The upfront cost is zero dollars, as this is a “freemium” game.
The size of the app is 134MB, which is all told not so big. About the size of Jetpack Joyride.
The app is rated 12+, which seems high for a solitaire game. The stated reason for the rating is “Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use References,” which raises all kinds of intriguing possibilities.
Churchill Solitaire opens with black-and-white archival footage of WWII (tanks, boats), with a Winston Churchill voiceover addressing the importance of “victory at all costs.”
The chosen hashtag for promoting the app is #NeverGiveIn, which arguably implies that the ultimate objective of Churchill Solitaire, Donald Rumsfeld’s new app, is quagmire.
One can choose between a “Campaign Mode” or a “Random Deal.” There are three “Trial Deals” (Easy, Medium, and Hard), that you’re pretty well stuck with unless you purchase “Campaign Deals,” 25 at a time.
You don’t actually play as Winston Churchill (in as much as you can “play” as anyone in a solitaire game?). You start enrolled at Sandhurst, a prominent British military academy, where “one of your classmates is a promising young cadet named Winston Churchill.” So, in practice, this is really more “Churchill’s Buddy’s Solitaire.”
The soundtrack is full of heavy drums and strings and a sturm und drang chorus that turns what could be a meditative card game into an operatic struggle between good and evil.
Before you begin to play, a pop-up instructs you to “summon your courage, cunning and grit so that you can deserve victory!” In this way Churchill’s Solitaire both eschews the Oxford comma and creates a false equivalence between “deserving victory” and actually winning something.
You’re allowed 10 “Undos” and 10 “Hints” in each round, which would also be nice in an actual war, wouldn’t it?
If you go about 30 seconds or so without making a move, the game will hide the board and prompt you to surrender. Strategizing is for the weak!
If you know how to play solitaire, you know how to play the Churchill version.
That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know about Churchill Solitaire. Like!
The price of each 25-deal level before you’re prompted for your Apple ID password. It’s almost as though you’re entering into a protracted conflict with no real idea of the material cost. (After you agree to pay, you realize the cost is a buck).
Whether Churchill Solitaire really is “diabolical,” as Rumsfeld calls it multiple times in his account of its creation, and certainly whether it’s “the most challenging and strategic game of logic or puzzle” ever played by the architect of the Iraq War. It seems mostly like solitaire-plus? Fun, though!
If the final rank of Campaign mode is Prime Minister, but you’re not Winston Churchill (just his buddy from school), does that mean this game exists in an alternate universe in which Churchill is not Prime Minister, and man what are the implications there, right? (It’ll cost eight bucks and a few hours of solitaire to find out).
Rumsfeld says also that “I’ve reviewed wire frames and branding guides. I’ve spent countless hours on beta releases. I’ve signed off on something they call ‘UX.’” What must those conversations have been like?
Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary during the 2002 invasion of Iraq, writes about Churchill Solitaire that “a number of hands are simply unwindable. But the most steadfast players will gamely soldier on to find their way to victory.”
There are things we don’t know we don’t know about Churchill Solitaire.
For instance, you never know what hand you’re going to be dealt. The key is just to recognize which ones are unwinnable.