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How to Play Forty Thieves


If you are looking to challenge yourself, consider playing Forty Thieves Solitaire. The game only has a 10% chance of winning, even with great gameplay. As such, this calls for strategy more so than luck. While it’s not highly winnable, still you’ll find it very satisfying. Some people referred to it as Big Forty, Le Cardan, and Napoleon at Saint Helena. Learn more on how to play Forty Thieves on this guide.


Setting Up Forty Thieves Solitaire


This card game is played with two deck cards, minus the jokers. Players start by dealing 40 cards in the columns of the tableau. Each column will have four cards that overlap so that you can see all the other ten cards.


The remaining cards are then left in a waste pile and can be used later as players wish. Since the game uses two decks, there will always be duplicate cards after the setup. When setting up, one should leave spaces either above or below the tableau for the foundations. And some space for discarding cards.


Note that Forty Thieves has some variants and other related games as well. They all use the same basic rules of Forty Thieves, and most can be easily won. These games include:


Little Forty-one - can move a whole sequence or part by part. You only move a card of a different color and lesser rank than the card you’re playing on. Also, note that you deal three cards at the same time from the stock and you’re given three re-deals.


Streets - players can only add a card to a column if it’s of one less value and a different color than the one that was previously placed.


Lucas - the game begins by moving all Aces to the available eight foundations. Players then shuffle the cards. Lucas has 13 columns each having three cards.


Rank and File - it has ten columns where the last three cards are played face down. Players can add a card to a column if it’s of a different color and lower rank than the already played with card. One can move sequences as a part or as a whole.


Maria - it features nine columns, each having four cards. Like the above game, you only add a card to a column if it has one less rank and not the same color as the one you’re playing on.


Number Ten - you deal with the last two column cards as face-down. You add a card to a column that is of a lesser value and different color than the above card.



Rules of Forty Thieves Solitaire


This game aims to move all cards to the available foundation piles. An Ace of a particular suit starts the foundation, and the sequence rises to a King of that suit. For instance, if you put an Ace of hearts, next will be a two of hearts, a three of hearts like that until you end up with a King of hearts. The name forty thieves is because players initially deal with forty cards. Here are the rules of this game.



  • Players can only move one card at a time.

  • You can only move the top card of a tableau of each column.

  • Tableau cards can be moved to another column or foundation pile.

  • You only add a card in the column on the tableau if it is of one less rank and of a similar suit as the card you are playing on.

  • Foundation piles begin with an Ace.

  • Players only add cards of a higher rank and similar suit as those they are playing on. For instance, you can only add a 5 of hearts to a 4 of spades.

  • One can draw the stockpile’s top card when they wish and play with it to a foundation or a column in the tableau or add it as a face-up card to the discard pile.

  • You can play the discard pile top card to a column or foundation at any time.

  • Any card that can be moved legally can be placed on an empty column in the tableau.

  • There are no re-deals in this game.

  • Cards are placed in descending order from Ace to King.


How to Win Forty Thieves Solitaire


You win the game after building all the eight foundation piles with cards following the correct order. Forty Thieves is more of a strategy game. Although not many games are winnable, some tips can help you improve your gameplay. These include;


Try creating empty columns. An empty column lets players re-stack cards together. As such, it may help free a card up or a column.


Start by moving lower rank cards. Note that once you create a chain with cards of higher ranks, it becomes hard to move it later on. But, when you have an empty column, it’s advisable that you place cards of higher ranks in them and then start building it fully.


Immediately send Aces and twos to foundations. Don’t, however, be quick to move other cards. If you have two columns of cards in the same suit, only place one set in the foundation pile. Choose a set that creates more moves for you.


Conserve singletons. These are cards that aren’t in suit or sequence. If you play with them, it will become difficult to move. However, if you leave them alone for later, they’ll help open more future possibilities for you. But remember that you should collect cards and put them into builds, which means players should cover some singletons to kick start their builds. But, when you can choose between covering a build or a singleton, opt to cover a build.


Don’t touch your waste pile first. We advise that you play with cards that have already been dealt with first. Note that as you approach your waste pile’s end and you want to move those cards, going back to the cards that you couldn’t use earlier can be difficult.


Lastly, always plan your moves carefully. Look for options that will free more cards and give you more possibilities to increase your winning chances. It, therefore, calls for a bit of thought before playing. Think about how every move will affect your future. Will it cover cards or will it reveal them?


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