The Algorithmics of Solitaire-Like Games (Extended Version)


One-person solitaire-like games are explored with a view to using them in teaching algo- rithmic problem solving. The key to understanding solutions to such games is the iden- tification of invariant properties of polynomial arithmetic. We demonstrate this via three case studies: solitaire itself, tiling problems and a novel class of one-person games. The known classification of states of the game of (peg) solitaire into 16 equivalence classes is used to introduce the relevance of polynomial arithmetic. Then we give a novel algebraic formulation of the solution to a class of tiling problems. Finally, we introduce an infinite class of challenging one-person games, which we call “replacement-set games”, inspired by earlier work by Chen and Backhouse on the relation between cyclotomic poly- nomials and generalisations of the seven-trees-in-one type isomorphism. We present an algorithm to solve arbitrary instances of replacement-set games and we show various ways of constructing infinite (solvable) classes of replacement-set games.

In Science of Computer Programming 78 (2013), pp. 2029-2046
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