Solitaire is a category of card games that can be played by a single person, eliminating the need for additional players. In most solitaire games, players use a standard 52-card deck, excluding the Jokers, although some variations permit the use of multiple decks.
In all solitaire games, the objective is to organize the cards by moving them across a tableau. Depending on the specific variation of solitaire, cards are typically ordered based on their rank or suit. Some versions use ascending order, while others use descending order.
This guide covers the numerous variations of solitaire and provides strategies for increasing your chances of winning. Whether you’re new to the game or seeking to improve your skills, read on to discover everything you need to know about solitaire.
Solitaire Brief History
Solitaire originates from Germany. It first came into the limelight in 1788 after appearing in a book called Das Neue Königliche L’Hombre-Spiel. Some sources claim that solitaire was first used in fortune-telling, but later on it evolved and required strategy to play this game. Even today, some solitaire variations are exclusively used during divination.
After it was introduced in Rhineland, its popularity then moved to the French. It’s why many solitaire terms today have a French origin. For instance, Tableau means Table and Talon means Heel in French. There was a rumor that Napoleon spent his exile days playing this game.
In the 19th century, this game became very popular and was adopted into England as Prince Albert loved it. The first solitaire plays in English were released in the 1870s.
Soon after, they were made available in a book known as Illustrated Games of Patience. From then on its popularity moved to other parts of the world and engineers designed the first digital version that can be played onto computer screens.
Solitaire Game Rules
Before delving into the rules of solitaire, it’s important to understand the terminology used in the game. The playing area is called the tableau and consists of seven card piles. There are also the foundation piles, which are four piles for each suit that run from Ace to King. The stockpile is a set of cards that are not used to create the tableau, and the talon or waste pile consists of cards from the stockpile that cannot be used to make legal moves.
Most solitaire games use a standard deck of 52 cards, without the Jokers. While there are different variations of the game, they all have similar basic rules. The objective of the game is to transfer cards from their starting position to the foundation piles while following the solitaire rules.
Here are the rules of playing solitaire:
- You can only move cards from one pile to another while following the specific solitaire rules. For instance, you can move a 6 on top of a 7 or a Queen on top of a King.
- Players must arrange cards in alternating colors. For example, if the above card is red, the next one must be black.
- Moving a card from one pile to the next frees up the next face-down card.
- Foundation piles must be filled in ascending order and must match the appropriate suit. For instance, the two of hearts can only go on top of the ace of hearts, followed by the three of hearts.
- Moving an entire row to other positions creates an empty tableau.
- Stockpile cards can only be used when a player runs out of moves. If a stock card cannot help you, it is moved to the talon (waste pile).
- Once all stockpile cards are moved to the talon, a player can start going through them again.
Now, let’s explain the different ways you can deal the remaining cards of the deck from the stock to talon. These are:
- You can turn three cards at the same time to the waste without any limits on passes via the deck
- You can turn them at once to the waste through three passes via the deck
- You can turn a card at a time to the waste with 3 passes through the deck
- Turn one card at a time with a single pass through the deck
- Turn a single card at a time to the waste, without a limit on passes through the deck.
The game ends after moving all the cards from the stock and tableau to foundation piles, or when there aren’t any further legal moves that you can make.
Players can move face-up cards in a partial or complete pile as a unit to another tableau on the pile in descending order.
The Main Solitaire Variations
1. Bowling Solitaire- it requires a deck without face-down cards, only Aces through 10s. Once you shuffle your deck, you set up pins by building a pyramid using flipped-over cards consisting of 4 rows.
Therefore, your first row will have 1 card, the second 2, and so on and so forth. You then set bowling balls by making 3 piles, with the first one having 5 cards, the second having 3, and the third 2 cards. You can only flip the top card in these balls, and then you’ll use them to try to “knock” the pins down. Scoring is done like in a regular game of bowling.
2. Emperor- it’s a time consuming game that is similar to Spider Solitaire. It’s played with 2 standard decks of cards. It has 10 piles of four cards that you deal with. The first three cards in a column come as face down but the 4th card is placed face up.
You can’t move cards in groups, they must be moved one at a time. Your objective is to free the Aces, and then build the foundations in the tableau.
3. FreeCell- was invented back in the 1980s. It is a winnable game that consists of 52 decks of cards that you deal to 8 tableaus. The first and the last piles each have 7 and 6 face-up cards, respectively.
Players are given four storage piles where they can store cards. You can’t move more than one card in a single move in the FreeCell, hence the game can take some time.
4. Yukon- it uses 52 decks of cards, but there are not stock or talon piles. You use all the cards to make a 7 tableau pile when starting this game.
After making a traditional 7 pile tableau, you then need to add 5 extra cards to piles 2 thru 7, all face-up. A group of faced-up cards can be moved within the tableau, no matter its sequence.
5. Spider Solitaire- is a difficult version of the standard solitaire. It uses two card decks and a 10 tableau pile. Players are required to arrange cards in a similar suit in a descending order starting by King all the way to Ace within a pile.
After completing a pile in the correct order, you can then place it in one of the 8 foundation squares. You are required to make the sequence stack eight times. You win the game once you have filled all the 8 foundation piles.
6. Forty Thieves- also called Napoleon at St. Helena, doubles the cards that are used in Spider Solitaire. The available 10 tableau piles initially have 4 cards on each to make the forty thieves.
You need to build the tableau in descending sequence from King to Ace of a similar suit, instead of using alternating colors. Players can fill the empty space with any cards. The game is won when you transfer cards in a correct sequence to the foundations.
Other solitaire variations include Kings Corner, Accordion, and Street and Alleys.
Setting Up Solitaire
Setting up solitaire is the most crucial and tricky part of this game. However, when you learn how to, you’ll be able to set your game within seconds.
Start with shuffling your cards then proceed to spread them across the table. The four main setup areas you can deal your cards are the tableau, foundation piles, stock, and talon, which we have already explained their meanings. So here are the steps of setting up the tableau.
- Place a face-up card in the first pile and a face-down card in the following six piles
- On the second pile, place a face-up card and face down cards in the other next five piles
- Go to your third pile and place a face-up card followed by four face-down cards.
Use this pattern until you’ve completed the setup. The 7th pile should have 6 cards and one card facing down and up, respectively. Once you’re done, put the remaining cards facing down above your tableau that is usually in the top left corner.
You’re now ready to play your first solitaire game. Note that the other 2 piles; the foundation and talon, do not have cards with them when you’re starting.
How to Play
You just need a deck of cards to play solitaire and even wild cards wouldn’t be useful in a traditional solitaire game. Also, you need some space and a table; any will do but ensure that you have enough space. Also, since solitaire is a single-player game, you don’t need anyone to play. Once you break your deck and shuffle, you’re good to go. Here is how to play the standard solitaire.
Look at the face-up cards in your tableau. If you have aces, place them above the 7 piles to build your foundations. If there are no aces, rearrange your cards by moving only the face-up cards. On your top card, place a card under it that is of a value less and alternating color. Continue placing cards on the piles until you can no longer move.
Ensure that you arrange in descending order from King to Ace. Also, make sure that you can see the card on top of each stack meaning that it should face up. And if you move it, don’t forget to turn over the card beneath it. Foundation piles should start with aces going up to the highest card, a King.
And note that different piles start with different aces. Therefore, if one pile has an ace of spades on top, the other should start with the ace of hearts, then clubs, then diamonds.
If you’re out of moves, use the stock pile cards. Flip the cards as we have already explained in the rules. And once you’ve used up your stockpile, move to the waste pile, ensuring that you don’t reshuffle it.
If you have hidden cards, make sure that you make moves that will uncover them until you can hold, grab and put them eventually in the slot you desire. When filling an empty space, start a new tableau with a King.
Now, since you don’t play this game against other people, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. But, winning is always fun, which is why you need a strategy.
However, you should note that not every solitaire game can be won. Some cards can break down in a way that is impossible to win. Therefore, no matter what you do, the game will ultimately close down. Nevertheless, if you apply a bit of strategy, you’ll likely come close to winning the 80% winnable games. The following tips and hints will help you improve your gameplay.
- Move aces to the foundations as soon as you can. These cards won’t help you clear a tableau hence will only slow you down. Therefore, get rid of them as fast as you can to create more options for maneuvering.
- Don’t be quick to create an empty space. While you want to clear rows and open space, ensure that you have a King to place it on the free space. Note that only Kings can fill up the empty spaces of a square, so if you don’t have one, there’s no need to rush.
- Think before placing a king in an empty space. You want to place one that’ll help you reveal more cards in the fewest moves. Therefore, carefully examine your play.
- Try moving cards from the row that has the most hidden number of cards.
Solitaire is not just a time-passing game, but it also has numerous benefits for both the body and mind. Playing solitaire can enhance your cognitive function, improve your focus, and increase your patience. However, even though the game is relatively easy, it can still present a considerable challenge. Therefore, it is crucial to master the rules and take your time to win.
Furthermore, incorporating the tips and hints we have discussed above can help you when playing the game. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that some games are unbeatable, and you may run out of moves. In such cases, it is better to end the game and start afresh.
In conclusion, next time you find yourself feeling bored and in need of a challenge, give solitaire a try. Once you master the gameplay, it can be a thrilling and addictive pastime.