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Donald Rumsfeld debuts first game, promises more to come for Churchill Solitaire

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The 83-year-old politician is trying his hand at game design

Donald Rumsfeld has been playing Churchill Solitaire for more than 40 years.

The politician, who's best known for his work as Secretary of Defense under past presidents George W. Bush and Gerald Ford, has officially moved into the world of game design with the release of his first game.

Churchill Solitaire was first taught to Rumsfeld by Andre de Staercke, "a young diplomat [who] became a protégé and confidante of Churchill's after he escaped his native Belgium during the Nazi occupation of World War II," according to an FAQ for the game. When asked by Polygon why he was finally releasing the game now, Rumsfeld said the technology wasn't available before, and since this was a project he's always wanted to work on, was glad to finally be able to do it.

"Only recently has technology given someone the ability to play it on a handheld device anywhere in the world with a click of a button," Rumsfeld stated in an email.

Besides the inclusion of Winston Churchill quotes, audio files, video files and pictures, the FAQ points out a couple of key differences between how regular Solitaire is played in comparison to Churchill Solitaire. This version of the game is played with two decks of cards instead of one and there's a row of cards included in the game's setup called the Devil's Six that can only be played a very specific way. A video demonstrating how players use the second deck and Devil's Six can be seen below.

Rumsfeld touts the game as one of the most challenging versions of Solitaire available to play, and it's something that game designer Matt Fiocca of Snapdragons Studios echoed.

"Development was pretty difficult on this game, actually," Fiocca told Polygon from his Indiana office. "When we initially built the game, it was extremely difficult to play. What they [Rumsfeld and company] essentially wanted to do was make sure they had 200 winnable possibilities for people playing the game."

This led Fiocca and his team to develop one of the more complex "algorithms slash simulators" they had ever built. Fiocca explained that they essentially built a simulator that would play the game autonomously until it found an algorithm that would allow players to win the game.

Churchill Solitaire

"Technically, there are 200 ways for players to win the game right now," Fiocca said.

Making sure that the game wasn't too difficult and accessible to all players was a facet Rumsfeld was very adamant about over the 18-month development period, Fiocca said.

"He was very particular about getting through the frustrations of the game being too hard. He and the team at Javelin [the publishing house and PR firm Rumsfeld worked with] played through it constantly and spearheaded the gameplay concept and how difficult it should be," Fiocca said.

Now that the game has launched, Fiocca said he and the team at Javelin are still very hands-on, and constantly exploring where they can bring the title next.

Churchill Solitaire

When asked if he had plans to expand the game, Rumsfeld told Polygon that while they were already working on bringing the game to Android devices, he was also working on additional levels to the game and adding more deals for players.

The game is currently available for free on iOS devices, but there are a few in-game purchases that can be made by players. According to the game's official site, all proceeds go to various charities that support wounded veterans.

Although it's only Rumsfeld's first game, when asked if he had plans to develop any other titles or start working on other tech related projects, Rumsfeld joked that it was something he had quite some time to figure out.

"I'm only 83, so who knows?"

The official trailer for Churchill Solitaire can be viewed below.

You can listen to this story — and more — below in the episode of Minimap, Polygon's daily news podcast.

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