App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Arnold Rauers, the mobile developer who leads a team of talent at Tinytouchtales, makes some of the very best digital card games out there. Card Crawl, Card Thief, Miracle Merchant, and Maze Machina all find brilliant new ways to use simple cards to create surprisingly deep and novel experiences. Gnomitaire is the latest release from Rauers, and it's a great entry point into his work, as it gives you a glimpse of the creativity and polish of his releases without asking you for anything in return.
As you can probably guess from the name, Gnomitaire is a Solitaire-like game. You play with a deck of 16 cards that are randomly shuffled into four piles at the bottom of the screen. Your goal is to organize these stacks into four columns while following the game's rules for matching which cards stack on which, much like a conventional game of Solitaire.
What's unique about Gnomitaire is the cards you play with. As opposed to cards with strictly individual suits, each card in this game has an overall suit and between one and three sub-suits which determine what can be stacked on top of it. This is to say you might see a card with a heart in the top-left corner, but a diamond and a spade at the bottom. This tells you that the card's primary suit is a heart but any card that is a diamond or a spade can be stacked on top of it.
It's gnome picnic
Depending on which mode of Gnomitaire you're playing, there are some slight nuances to the rules that change the game significantly. In Casual Mode, you must stack all 16 cards such that no suits repeat in any four columns. Expert Mode, on the other hand, challenges players to avoid repeating suits in any given row or column, which makes Gnomitaire significantly harder and presents the possibility of reaching no-win scenarios.
Finally, there is also a game mode in Gnomitaire called Challenge Mode, which is essentially a version of Expert Mode that presents a daily deck that players can compete with others against via a leaderboard. Success on this leaderboard is determined by how few moves it takes to complete the deck.
Shuffle things up
Gnomitaire is a completely free game. There are no ads or in-app purchases of any kind, which is rare these days for games on the App Store. For the price, Gnomitaire is definitely worth picking up, but I'll also say you get what you pay for. Of the games in the Tinytouchtales catalog, Gnomitaire definitely feels the shallowest. If you enjoy the game's style and mechanics, I suggest looking to their paid titles if you want something a little more robust.
Beyond the thinness of the game, there are a couple of small things that may irritate when playing Gnomitaire. Specifically, there are animations between quitting or restarting rounds that feel just a tad too long for their own good, especially considering the need to resign is its own form of frustration. I would have also liked if the game incorporated some teaching tools in the Casual Mode that could let you know moves to make that might build you up into a competent Expert Mode player, but alas, you just have to figure that out for yourself.
The bottom line
Overall, Gnomitaire is a nice little surprise and a fun little Solitaire game to boot. Don't come to it thinking you're getting a follow up to something as meaty as Card Crawl or Card Thief, though. Still, it's hard to complain about having a lite, fun Solitaire game on your phone that provides a fresh twist on the game at the sweet, sweet price of free.