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EndersGame
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WHICH GAMES ARE THEY?

Arguably the main reason that playing cards spread across the world is due to their primary use: for playing card games. But you don't need others to play card games, courtesy of solitaire card games. These have existed for decades, going back as far as the 19th century. But there's no doubt that the arrival of the personal computer into office spaces and homes has had an enormous impact in introducing these classic games of patience to the masses, and in popularizing them.

Arguably the single biggest reason for this is Microsoft. Microsoft first began packaging a simple version of Klondike Solitaire with their operating systems with Windows 3.0, which was the third major release of Microsoft Windows, and came out in 1990. At the time, desktop computers had only just become a staple in homes and work-places. Part of the rationale for including a solitaire card game was to assist new users in learning how to use a mouse, and to help them become familiar with features like dragging and dropping, and the overall graphical interface of a personal computer. As Microsoft continued delivering new versions of their Windows operating system in later years, a couple of other solitaire card games were added, notably Spider and FreeCell.

This development single-handedly revolutionized office-culture around the world. It's a little known fact, but sources within Microsoft have stated that Solitaire is in fact the most used software program in the entire Microsoft family, even ahead of programs like Word and Excel. At the time, it even led to debates about whether introducing computers into the workplace would actually decrease productivity, due to real concerns that Microsoft Solitaire was leading to many hours of time wasted by employees.

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What accounts for this tremendous success? First of all, digitizing what was already a popular game meant that it removed the practicalities and constraints involved in using a physical deck of cards. By eliminating the hassles of shuffling, dealing, and physically moving cards, and taking away the requirement for a reasonable amount of table space, all the book-keeping and tedious elements of the game were instantly eliminated. Now solitaire card games could be played much more quickly and easily.

Software versions also created new opportunities for the game that didn't previously exist. Digital implementations made it possible to record percentages of wins, best times, and win streaks, all of which give additional incentives to return to the game. They also made possible forms of the game that - for logistical reasons - would be difficult or impossible to play in real life with a physical deck. Digital versions of solitaire were also easier to learn, given the enforced rules, automated layouts, and instructional tutorials that typically accompanied them. And of course, solitaire has an addictive quality about it, given the inherent challenge of trying to win from a deal. Being able to easily and quickly play a game of digital solitaire makes it a highly attractive time-filler. Despite the advent of flashier and more impressive games, people keep returning to the simplicity of dragging cards around for a quick five or ten minute fix of Solitaire.

But this also explains how the three most played solitaire card games in the world accomplished this status. As Microsoft Windows was slowly conquering the world and asserting its monopoly on the global market of operating systems and personal computers, their versions of solitaire were the ones that became firmly established into homes and offices. So we have Microsoft to thank for making Klondike the solitaire game that nearly all of us are familiar with. For many people, this is the game that they identify "Solitaire" with.

With Microsoft adding Spider and FreeCell in later years, these two games were quickly adopted and became beloved by solitaire fans as well, causing them to leapfrog many other classic solitaire games in popularity, and make them the most commonly played versions of solitaire behind the evergreen Klondike. With the release of Windows 8 in 2012, this trilogy of titles was rebranded under the name "Microsoft Solitaire Collection", as part of an ad-supported freemium package that also included two new solitaire additions: Pyramid and TriPeaks.

While there are many other classic solitaire games that exist and are played around the world, in terms of the sheer number of games played, Microsoft's holy trinity of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell unquestionably reigns supreme. As proof of its success, Microsoft Solitaire was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2019, alongside other greats like Doom, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Super Mario Kart, World of Warcraft, and The Legend of Zelda. To get there, it had to meet criteria that included being widely known and remembered, having enduring popularity, and not only influencing other games but culture in general. It's estimated that it has been installed on over a billion devices, localized in 65 different languages, and is considered to be instrumental in paving the way for the growth of the casual game market.

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Of course today there are many more ways to enjoy these popular solitaire greats. Besides apps for your mobile device, all you need is a web browser, and sites like Solitaired.com enable you to play them for free online wherever you are in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Besides dragging and dropping cards with the click of a mouse on your personal home or office computer, touch screens have only helped to increase the number of ways you can play solitaire, especially on mobile devices. So let's take a closer look at the three most popular solitaire card games.

KLONDIKE

Overview: Klondike is the solitaire game most of us will be familiar with from our personal computer, or that we've seen bored staff playing in the office. It's the quintessential solitaire card game that everybody should at least try once, and is the game most people have in mind when they think of "solitaire". Its name has its origin in the late nineteenth century gold rush in the Klondike part of the Canadian Yukon, where prospectors would play the game in order to help pass the time. It sometimes goes under other names like Canfield (in the UK), although this latter name is technically incorrect, and actually refers to a different solitaire game.

Game-play: Using a single deck, the aim is to arrange all 13 cards of each suit in a complete sequence from Ace through King. These sequences begin with the Ace as the foundation and build upwards, hence games like this are typically described as builder type solitaire games. Cards are placed in an area called the tableau, and the initial deal involves laying out seven piles, ranging from 1 to 7 cards on each, and with only the top card of each pile turned face up. These cards can then be arranged within the tableau by building downwards in alternating colours, and moved between columns to in order to access other cards. Only a King or column built down on a King can be transferred to a free space in the tableau. Unlike an open game where all the cards are visible and face-up from the start of the game, Klondike is an example of a closed game, because not all the cards are known, and slowly become revealed as you make them available.

Variations: The most common way of using the stock is to deal three cards at a time, but many people also play with an alternative rule in which you deal one card at a time, which is sometimes called Las Vegas Solitaire, and even played as a gambling game in some casinos. This gives you access to many more cards and increases your chances of completing the game successfully. To make the game harder, you can also limit the amount of passes through the deck to just three times, or only once.

My thoughts: Depending on which variation you're playing with and how many redeals you allow, a skilled player should be able to win standard game of Klondike nearly half of the time. It is very satisfying to finish a game and get all the cards onto the foundation, but be warned, because it's also very addictive! Once you're familiar with how the game works, you can polish off an entire game in as little as five minutes, making it an ideal choice for a casual game to keep returning to. It's also a game you can get better at, and for some excellent suggestions on improving your strategy, check out the article 7 Strategies to Win Solitaire.

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Related games: If you want an easier Klondike style game that you should be able to win nine times out of ten, try Westcliff, which has ten columns; or Thumb and Pouch. There's also the easier two deck version of Klondike called Double Klondike, as well as Gargantua and Harp; while the two deck game Lady Jane is even easier yet, and you should be able to win 99% of the time. If you enjoy Klondike and want to try similar games, variations worth trying include Agnes Bernauer and Agnes Sorel. Easthaven adds a tricky Spider-like method of dealing the stock, while Blind Alleys and the closely related Pas Seul use a 6x3 tableau.

Many other Klondike-inspired builder games exist which change more significant things about the game-play. One of the more popular ones is Yukon, in which the entire deck is dealt at the outset, and where you can move columns of cards even if the cards being moved aren't in sequence. This gives you easier access to cards, but the columns consist of more cards to begin with.

Two players: For a version of Klondike that enables you to play competitively with another player using two decks of cards, take a look at Double Solitaire. Players have their own deck and tableau, and the aim is to be the first to play all your cards to eight foundations piles which are shared. As well as turn-based play, this can also be turned into a real-time race game of frenzied simultaneous solitaire.

SPIDER

Overview: One of the two games that lurks most closely in Klondike's shadow is Spider. Along with FreeCell, it has risen into prominence courtesy of Microsoft Windows, and chances are good that you've seen a version of it on your home computer along with other common games like Chess, Minesweeper, Hearts, and Spades. It is said to be a favourite of president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Many consider it to be the best solitaire game since it gives a lot of room to overcome the luck of the draw by skillful play, and comes with a good chance of winning the game. According to Gregory Trefry's Casual Game Design, by 2005 it had outstripped Klondike and become the most played game on computers that had Microsoft Windows, largely due the increased challenge it offers over the more luck-based Klondike.

Game-play: A game of Spider uses two decks of cards, and the game starts after dealing out 54 cards out in a tableau of ten piles. Like Klondike, the aim is to get cards of the same suit in order from Ace through King, but in this case there are no foundations. Columns of cards remain in the tableau until you line up a whole column of a suit in order, descending from King down through Ace, at which point they are removed from the game. Cards can be moved within the tableau in a somewhat similar fashion to Klondike, but whenever you need fresh cards, the 50 cards remaining in the stock are dealt out 10 at a time across the entire tableau.

Variations: In the standard form of the game, which is the hardest way to play, you play with all four suits, and while descending columns of alternating colours can be built, you can only move a stack if they are all of the same suit. This is generally considered the more Advanced form of the game, while an Intermediate form of Spider uses two suits and makes the gameplay easier by only using Spades and Hearts. The one suit game only uses cards from a single suit, and can be considered the beginner version, and serve as an excellent introduction to Spider. Officially all spaces in the tableau must be filled before dealing from the stock, but a more relaxed form of the game is possible by removing this requirement.

My thoughts: Unlike Klondike, in Spider all the building happens within the tableau, so that immediately gives it a different feel. Winning Spider, especially in its standard form, can prove quite a challenge. But it's also one of the best solitaire games in view of the analysis and skill it allows for. New players should begin with one suit Spider, and you can always progress to the more difficult and strategic versions later. Single suit Spider is easily winnable most of the time, and is a more relaxing way to play. But even an easier game of Spider will take two or three times as long as a game of Klondike. While taking longer to play, it gives more room for skill and thoughtful play, and comes with the reward of increased chances of completing the game successfully. Microsoft's versions of Spider incorporated a scoring system, so that players could use "undo" in order to discover hidden cards and use this to determine their choices, but with a small point penalty.

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Related games: Given the popularity and success of Spider, many other solitaire games exist that take over its basic concept, such as Mrs Mop, which has all the cards dealt face-up at the outset, and Beetle. Tarantula and Black Widow both make Spider easier by allowing you to move sequences in the tableau that are of the same colour (Tarantula), or of any colour (Black Widow). Spiderette is a single-deck version of Spider, and uses just seven columns Instead of ten, which are dealt out in a triangular style much like Klondike. Like the standard game, the way the cards are dealt can play a big role in whether or not a particular deal is solvable. Other common one-deck Spider games include Will o' the Wisp (which has a 7x3 tableau) and Simple Simon.

Special mention should be made of the popular game Scorpion, which allows stacks to be moved within the tableau even if they aren't arranged in order, in the style of games like Yukon. It's not easy to win, however, and the Wasp variation increases your chances significantly by allowing any card or stack to be placed in an empty space in the tableau, not just Kings. Three Blind Mice is another favourite Scorpion variant, and uses a 10x5 tableau.

FREECELL

Overview: FreeCell emerged out of relative obscurity in 1995 as a result of its inclusion in Microsoft Windows 95. Even though it was created by Paul Alfille already as early as 1978, it was only when it was brought into the public eye with the help of Windows, that it quickly became an addictive pastime for many, and gained a loyal following. Just a few years later it was included along with Minesweeper in the chapter "Computer and Online Games" of the published version of Hoyle's Rules of Games. Fan websites were even created for it with information about the different deals, and strategies.

Game-play: At the start of the game, a single deck is dealt face up into eight columns. There are four foundation piles, and as in most solitaire games, the goal is to build cards from each suit in ascending sequence from Ace through King. But in addition to these foundation piles, there are four storage cells that can be used to temporarily store a card from the bottom of any column, and that's where the real fun of FreeCell lies. Cards in the tableau are arranged down in alternating colours, and such sequences can be moved between columns - but only with the help of available cells - while a space created in the tableau can be filled with any card.

Variations: FreeCell has inspired many variants and related game, which are too many to list. Several of these are true to the basic concept, but simply increase the number of cards in the game. For example, there is also a two-deck version called FreeCell Duplex. There is also a version with three decks and one with four decks.

My thoughts: FreeCell has the distinction of being a solitaire card game that lends itself particularly well to a digital implementation. In the Windows version, each unique deal was assigned a different number, nearly all of which were solvable, and people could use this number to attempt the same deal as other players. The computer could also calculate which moves were possible and which were not. While later versions came with over a million unique deals, the original Microsoft FreeCell supported 32,000 numbered deals, dubbed as the "Microsoft 32,000". In the hey-day of FreeCell in the mid 1990s, a crowdsourced project assigned all these deals to different people, successfully completing all but one of them. Given that all the cards are visible at the start of the game, FreeCell is an open game and you have perfect information to work with from the outset, so there are no surprises awaiting you. Winning requires sheer skill, and there is very little luck.

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Related games: FreeCell has among its ancestors Eight Off and Baker's Game. In both games you build down in the same suit instead of in alternating colours. Eight Off gives players the added advantage of having more storage cells to use. It was the novel use of alternating colours that helped make FreeCell a big success, but these two predecessors are also very good.

Given its tremendous popularity, FreeCell has inspired many other games of its kind, many with small twists to the setup or rules. One popular take on this style of the game include Art Cabral's excellent Seahaven Towers, which has a different starting layout. Also highly recommended is David Parlett's Penguin, which has seven reserve cells, and gives you three of your starting foundation cards but buries the fourth one at the bottom of the first column in the tableau; this is the "penguin" that you must free.

CONCLUSION

The above three solitaire games can all be described as builder-type games, and there are many other builder-type solitaire games that have been inspired by them or are related to them. The most popular ones besides the trilogy covered here include: Baker’s Dozen, Beleaguered Castle, Canfield, Forty Thieves, La Belle Lucie (Lovely Lucy), Scorpion, and Yukon. Each of these games is in turn a representative of its own family of games that provides variations of the same theme. So it's worth trying each of these other titles too, to determine which ones you especially enjoy playing, and then exploring further within each family.

But despite the tremendous diversity, these three reign supreme: Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell. Nearly everyone who has had a Microsoft Windows operating system on their computer at some point in their life will be familiar with one or all of these three solitaire games. This is particularly going to be true of those who were the early adopters of personal computers in homes and offices. Those who found themselves behind an office computer in the 1990s, lived in an era when video games weren't nearly as advanced, impressive, or varied as what they were today. This was a time when social media didn't yet exist, and when the world wide web consisted largely of text based websites that were accessed with slow dial up modems. In this environment, solitaire was the ideal companion for a lonely and boring day behind the computer, and a welcome distraction.

The positive reception of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell by this audience, has ensured that these three brands of solitaire will continue to have an enduring legacy, far beyond what even Microsoft ever imagined when first making them our friends. Almost 30 years on, these solitaire games have already stood the test of time, and will undoubtedly continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

Where to play them? Head to Solitaired.com and try a game of Klondike, Spider, or FreeCell right now!

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Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
bassinator
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This article was a fun read! Very detailed and great job by Ender's Game.
EndersGame
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Thanks for the feedback - glad you enjoyed the article!
bassinator
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You do a great job writing. I got on a tangent today from work just reading all the different posts you made on this forum. All of them were great and very informative.
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MORE FAVOURITE SOLITAIRE CARD GAMES: PYRAMID & GOLF

What are some of the other top solitaire games you really should know about? I've done some scouring around to try to figure out what solitaire games have proven most popular, to help you get started with the very best, rather than waste time with mediocre or less-than-satisfying games. As I covered previously, the three most played solitaire card games in the world are Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell, courtesy of their inclusion in Microsoft's solitaire software. But following closely on their heels are two other favourites: Pyramid and Golf. Even today versions of these two solitaire games are included in Microsoft's digital collection of five solitaire games along with the holy trinity of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell, and it's one reason why they are so well-known.

But another reason for the popularity of Pyramid and Golf is their simplicity. They are widely considered to fall into the category of matching games, or adding and pairing games. Typically, solitaire card games in this family have the objective of matching two cards, either by pairing ones of the same rank (e.g. two Aces) or adjacent ranks (e.g. an Ace and a Two), or by adding two cards together to reach a certain value. It's a common genre, and some of the most popular solitaire card games of all time are among them, including the two included in Microsoft's standard base suite of five solitaire games: Pyramid, and a variation of Golf called Tri-Peaks. Games of this sort have typically less complicated rules than builder-type solitaire games, making them an ideal starting point for children and first-timers.

PYRAMID

Overview: The name of Pyramid gets its name for the triangular shape in which the cards are dealt at the start of the game. Pyramid hit the big time when Microsoft started including it (and another solitaire game called Tri-Peaks) in their Microsoft Solitaire Collection in 2012, which is when they added it to the existing trilogy of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell already included in previous versions of Windows. An earlier variation of Pyramid under the name Tut's Tomb had already been included in Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2 that was released in 1991, so Pyramid has been on many personal computers almost as long as Klondike.

Game-play: This game is a classic example of the "adding-and-pairing" genre of solitaire card games. You deal 28 face-up cards in an overlapping fashion to create a pyramid, starting with a row of one, then a row of two, and so on until a row of seven cards. With Jacks counting as 11, Queens as 12, and Kings as 13, any two available and unblocked cards can be removed if their combined value adds up to 13. Cards are turned up from the stock one at a time, and may be used as part of these pairs. You win if you clear the entire pyramid.

Variations: There are many common variations on Pyramid, many to make the game easier, such as by allowing multiple passes through the stock, or by dealing the final row of 7 cards as a separate reserve that's available throughout the game. Less common variations that simplify game-play include adding a free storage cell, allowing a card to make a pair with the one immediately underneath it, or by keeping the top-card of the stock pile face-up at all times. In Apophis, three waste piles are used instead of just one. To make the game harder, some variations also require all the cards in the stock to be removed before counting the game as a win, and removing this requirement is described as "Relaxed Pyramid". In King Tut (which corresponds to Microsoft's "Tut's Tomb") you deal the stock in sets of three, which also makes for a harder game, even though it allows unlimited deals.

My thoughts: Pyramid is an excellent game that can help children learn basic addition, and playing this game is one way to make them quickly become comfortable with all the pairs that add up to 13. It's also a relaxing game for adults, who are looking for something that involves easy decisions and yet remains satisfying. The odds of clearing the pyramid in a single deal of the stock are only around 1 in 50, so you are often dependent on the luck of the draw. This is why some variations give you access to more cards, by adding a reserve, extra waste piles, or enabling you to redeal more times; these typically are more rewarding and less frustrating to play.

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Related games: In Giza, a creation of Michael Keller, the entire stock is dealt face-up into a tableau of three rows of seven cards that are available as a reserve from the outset. This reduces the luck and increases your chances of a win by making it an open game. Thomas Warfield created Double Pyramid, which is essentially the same game as Pyramid, but uses two decks, and starts by adding two extra rows to the initial tableau, so that the final row consists of 9 cards. Alternatively, in Pharaohs you deal three pyramids. There are also games like Triangle, which invert the Pyramid for a much harder game.

GOLF

Overview: If you're skeptical about your ability with solitaire card games, you should at the very least try Golf, which commends itself because of its simplicity and speed. The game owes its name to the sport, and each deal can be treated like a golf hole. The aim is to remove all the cards of the tableau, and every card remaining counts as a stroke, with a par of four cards per hole. You can play nine consecutive holes, if you wish, keeping a running score and with the goal of trying to get a par score of 36.

Game-play: Begin with a tableau of seven columns, each consisting of four overlapping cards, all face-up and visible, while the remaining cards form a stock. The first card is dealt face-up, and any available card that is one rank higher or lower than it can be removed, with suits being ignored. You continue to remove cards in this way, proceeding either up or downwards, ignoring suits, until you can't remove any more cards, at which point you deal the next card from the stock and repeat the process. You win the game if you successfully remove the complete tableau in a single deal of the stock.

Variations: Officially a game of Golf doesn't allow you to "wrap", by turning around the corner from Ace to King. In fact, under the strictest rules removing a King ends a running sequence, although you can continue a sequence from an Ace by playing a 2. Common variations (e.g. Putt Putt) adjust these rules to allow Aces and Kings to be removed in sequence, which increases your options and enhances your chances of a successful game significantly. Even allowing Queens to be played on Kings helps prevent you from becoming stuck too easily.

My thoughts: Due to the simple rules and game-play, you can often speed through an entire game of Golf in as little as a minute or two, and that makes it an ideal low-stress filler. The ease of game-play also makes it very accessible for first-time players. There's definitely some luck of the draw that plays a role, but the fact that the entire tableau is face up means that you can look ahead at your options and plan the optimal series of moves, so it's not entirely without strategic choices. Whenever there is a fork in the road of decision, a good sense of probability can help you make the right move.

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Related games: The basic game-play of Golf lends itself well to many variations, simply by changing the initial set-up, while preserving the concept of play. Golf Rush uses the same rules but starts with a Klondike style arrangement of cards. In Pyramid Golf, also called Escalator, a starting arrangement borrowed from Pyramid is used; also similar is Cheops. Two others which apply the same concept to different starting set-ups include Black Hole and Eliminator. For a real-time two-player game in the style of Golf, take a look at Spit.

Tri-Peaks: By far the most popular game inspired by Golf is called Tri-Peaks, which owes its success largely due to the fact that it was included in the solitaire set of games that comes with Microsoft Windows. This has a starting arrangement of three adjacent pyramids (hence the name) of six cards each, and a lower row of ten cards. It was created by Robert Hogue in 1989, and his own statistical analysis of his game suggests that the vast majority of games are solvable. While it's much easier to solve than usual Golf, some will also find it less interesting due there being less decisions.

Multiplayer Golf: Many books suggest playing Golf competitively, by each playing a "hole" simultaneously, and cumulatively keeping track of your scores, just like a round of the actual sport. There are even ways of playing head-to-head match-play, or a four player game in partnerships, where each player has their own deck and the team score uses the lowest achieved by each pair.

CONCLUSION

Many other fine matching games that require pairing or adding cards exist, some of which I've already mentioned above under variations and related games. If you enjoy games of this sort, some others you should take a look at include Nestor, The Wish, Monte Carlo, and Beehive.

While the Microsoft Solitaire Collection deserves a lot of credit for popularizing Pyramid and the Golf-inspired Tri-Peaks, the reality is that these entry-level solitaire games were already popular, and have been favourites for a long time. They don't burn much brain-power, making them ideal companions for a relaxing hour on the couch, or to while away time when there's some spare moments to kill. Even children can enjoy playing them, so they are an ideal place to start if you've not had much experience playing solitaire before.

But be warned: even these simpler solitaire games can prove quite addictive!

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Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
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MORE FAVOURITE SOLITAIRE CARD GAMES: POPULAR BUILDER GAMES

Solitaire is the much beloved choice for killing time in the office or at the home computer. The three most popular solitaire card games are Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell, and these enjoy dizzying heights of popularity as a result of being included as part of Microsoft Windows in the 1990s (for more on this, see my article: The three most played solitaire card games in the world). What these three games have in common is that they all fit the "builder" genre. That means that they follow the basic formula of many solitaire games, where the overall objective is to arrange cards in ascending order from Ace through to King, for each of the four separate suits. Typically this is done by placing and moving cards within a tableau of rows and columns of cards, where the cards are often arranged in descending order, sometimes with an additional requirement of alternating colours.

Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell are by no means unique in this regard, and the genre of "building" games is the most popular archetype within the larger world of solitaire card games. Not all solitaire card games are builder games, but builder games are the most common and arguably the most loved. So which other solitaire games of this type should you know about and should you try first? I've explored the world of solitaire card games extensively myself, and also examined numerous lists about the most popular ones, to help you begin your experience with the best of the best, rather than waste your time with mediocre or obscure games. The six builder games covered in this article are time-tested classics that are most well-known and loved, and represent the best "next step" for anyone wanting to branch out after enjoying Klondike, Spider, or FreeCell.

Each of the builder games discussed here represents a small category of its own, because there are many popular variations and related games for each, which I will cover as well. As with my previous articles on solitaire games games, the accompanying links go to Solitaired.com, which is a website where you can play these games for free. But because these games are so common and well known, you'll find that they are included in most software and websites that offer collections of solitaire card games.

== Games With One Deck ==

BAKER'S DOZEN

Overview: Baker's Dozen also represents a family of games that plays much like Forty Thieves (see below), but with a single deck. While some variations have a stock, in Baker's Dozen and its most closely related games all the cards are face up, so you have complete information to work with.

Game-play: The tableau consists of thirteen columns of four overlapping and face-up cards each, while the four foundations begin empty. To ensure that the tableau doesn't lock up too quickly, Kings are automatically placed to the bottom of each column when they are turned up. Just like in Forty Thieves, only the single top card of each column may be moved, and columns are built downwards, in any colour and suit. Empty spaces in the tableau may not be filled. As you'd expect, the aim is to get the entire deck onto the four foundations, building up each from Ace to King, with each being built upwards by value.

Variations: Portuguese Solitaire makes Baker's Dozen slightly easier by allowing empty spaces in the tableau to be filled with Kings, while Spanish Patience allows building on the foundations regardless of suit. Baker's Two Deck is effectively the same as Baker's Dozen but using two decks, with eight foundations and a tableau consisting of ten columns with 10 or 11 cards each.

My thoughts: Because this only involves a single deck, Baker's Dozen is much quicker to play than Forty Thieves, and the chances of success are also significantly higher, with as many as 2 of 3 games being easily winnable. The fact that Kings begin at the bottom of the tableau ensures that you don't get stuck too quickly, and being able to build down in the tableau independent of suit ensures a great amount of flexibility. At the same time managing the tableau carefully is still important, especially in cases where empty spaces don't get filled. This makes Baker's Dozen a quicker, simpler, and more accessible game than Forty Thieves and its many variants, while still remaining rewarding and satisfying to play.

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Related games: Castles in Spain requires building down in the tableau to be with alternate colours, and in most versions of this game all but the top card of each column in the tableau begins face-down. Quite similar is Martha and its harder sibling Stewart, where every second card in the tableau begins face-down. Good Measure is a more difficult variation of Baker's Dozen, since it uses ten columns of five cards each, and has more strict rules for building on the foundations; Canister has only eight columns with even more cards on each.

Bisley: Special mention can be made of Bisley, which is a classic but more difficult game in this family. In Bisley you use a tableau of thirteen columns of four cards each to build upwards on the four Aces, and simultaneously build downwards on the Kings whenever they become available.

CANFIELD

Overview: Canfield is one of the all time greats among solitaire games, and is a genuine classic. Also known under names like Demon, Fascination, or Thirteen, you'll find that it appears in almost every book with solitaire card games. According to legend, the game owes its origin and name to Richard A. Canfield, a 19th century gambler. For an initial outlay of $52, Canfield offered gamblers a reward of $5 for every card successfully played to the foundations, with a $500 pot for successfully playing all 52 cards to the foundations. Anything more than 10 cards played to the foundations would get you out of the red, but in most cases the game favoured the casino, indicating how hard the game can be to play.

Game-play: Game-play is much like Klondike, with the aim of building up all four suits in order. The key difference is the starting set-up, because there is a single face-down reserve of 13 cards (sometimes called the "demon"), with a 14th card turned up as the first foundation card. The foundations begin with the cards corresponding to the rank of this initially turned up card (rather than the usual Ace), and the idea is to build upwards from there, if necessary "turning the corner" from King through to Ace. Also different from Klondike is the starting tableau, which consists of just four face up cards alongside the reserve. The stock is turned up three cards at a time as in standard Klondike, with as many re-deals as necessary. Any space that appears in the tableau is immediately filled by the top card of the reserve pile, which is always kept face-up.

Variations: Given how challenging it can take to win a standard game of Canfield, a number of variants exist that simplify the game slightly, increasing your chances of playing cards to the foundations. Canfield's gambling house is said to have given players the option of going through the stock three times when dealing three cards at a time, or just a single time when dealing one card at a time, and it has been estimated that most games would only see 5 or 6 cards played. The game becomes slightly easier with Canfield Rush, where the cards are first dealt three at a time, then two at a time, and then individually in a final deal of the stock.

My thoughts: Canfield does have a strong connection to Klondike, but has a smaller tableau to work with, while also providing a much smaller number of cards (only 13) that are face-down in the tableau at the start of the game. The real key is finding a way to make these cards available and get these into the game. Given how hard the original game is, I prefer playing with the rule that allows dealing of cards individually, and cycling through the stock as often as necessary. Some of the related games discussed below, such as Rainbow and Storehouse, significantly improve your winning chances, and can be very satisfying to play. Certainly if you enjoy Klondike, this game is a great next step to try.

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Related games: In Rainbow (also called Rainbow Canfield), cards may be built downwards in the tableau regardless of suit (some versions still require alternating colour), making it much easier to manipulate cards and work your way through the stock and the reserve. Additionally, cards from the reserve aren't automatically added to the tableau, giving you more control and adding strategic options. In most versions of Storehouse (also called Thirteen-Up), you get an additional head-start by placing your initial four cards on the foundations at the outset, while cards from the stock are turned up one at a time. The big difference in this game is that you must build down by suit in the tableau, which really changes how the game feels, because playing from the tableau to the foundation usually involves a whole string of cards at once. Eagle Wing (also called Thirteen-Down) is somewhat similar to Storehouse, and has a uniquely shaped tableau. Dutchess (sometimes spelled Duchess), is a Canfield style game that adds a reserve of four fans, while American Toad is an easy-to-win version of Canfield with two decks.

Two Players: Canfield has been adapted for a multi-player game under the common name Pounce, and is also known as Nerts or Racing Demon. A commercial version exists under the name Solitaire Frenzy, and the published game Dutch Blitz is also a close relative. In Pounce, each player uses his own deck and tableau, playing simultaneously and real time onto shared foundations, with the goal is to be the first to get rid of your reserve pile. You can play with as many as half a dozen players or more, and the frenzied action typically proves to be enormous fun!

FAN GAMES (La Belle Lucie)

Overview: La Belle Lucie, also called in English "Lovely Lucy" or "Beautiful Lutecia", is a classic representative of the family of games typically described as Fan games. It's one of the more difficult games in the genre to win, and thus some of its variants and closely related games have arguably become more popular than Lovely Lucy itself. But this classic game of French origin is a good archetype of the genre, and you'll find it included in most books with patience games, and on most solitaire websites and software. Effectively this game is just a tableau of 17 columns of three cards each (plus a column with a single card), but the fan-style arrangement with horizontally overlapping cards that is traditionally associated with this game is a signature feature.

Game-play: A single deck is dealt face-up into 17 "fans", each consisting of three overlapping cards, plus an 18th column with just one card. Only one card can be transferred within the tableau at a time, so sequences can't be moved, and building happens downwards according to suit. Empty spaces in the tableau may not be filled. The aim is to build up four foundations by suit from Ace to King. Under the most commonly played rules, once you are unable to place or move any more cards, you take all the cards from the tableau and redeal them into fans with three cards each; there are two such re-deals.

Variations: Three Shuffles and a Draw (also called Lovely Lucy With a Draw) adds a merci play, where you can move a single blocked card once during the course of the game. While La Belle Lucie is sometimes called The Fan, this is also the name of a popular variation which allows exposed Kings to be played to empty spaces in the tableau, making the game less frustrating and far more achievable. Trefoil is identical to La Belle Lucie except that the Aces begin on the foundations, resulting in an initial tableau of just 16 fans.

My thoughts: This is a terrific single-deck game, because you have perfect information given that all the cards are face-up, and the large number of columns/fans means that buried cards have at most only a couple of cards blocking them. La Belle Lucie is very difficult to win under the original and strict rules, especially because empty fans may not be refilled, and cards beneath an unplayable exposed card (e.g. a King) are permanently inaccessible. The merci rule that lets you unblock one card is virtually essential, and usually a standard way of playing, but even after two redeals the game can still be hard to finish, depending on the draw. Some of the variants and related games that simplify things slightly are more satisfying. This is one of my favourite solitaire games to play with a single deck, since it is less luck-dependent than many other popular single-deck games like Klondike.

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Related games: One of the more popular games in this family is Super Flower Garden, where building downward is permitted regardless of suit; with good play under these rules the game can be completed almost every single time. Shamrocks takes the essence of La Belle Lucie, but implements several other changes to make the game much easier: Kings are moved to the bottom of the fan during the deal, and you may build up as well as down on the fans (which are limited in size to 3 cards) and can ignore suits; to prevent it being too easy there are no redeals.

Similar games: Games in the Baker's Dozen family (covered previously above) are sometimes classified as Fan games as well, because the game-play is quite similar, with 13 columns/fans of four cards each, but the absence of re-deals gives them a different feel. Bristol is often played with a tableau consisting of fans as well, but there are only eight fans of three cards each, while the rest of the deck functions as a stock that you deal onto three waste or reserve piles. Despite some hidden information, those who appreciate Fan games are likely to appreciate Bristol as well. Intelligence is a two-deck game in the style of La Belle Lucie, while the relatively easy two-deck game Buffalo Bill relies on reserve cells rather than tableau building.

CASTLE GAMES (Beleaguered Castle)

Overview: Beleaguered Castle is the most famous member of what can be called the "Castle" family of solitaire games, and is a classic game that you'll find in most books of Patience. This game sometimes also goes under the alternative names of Laying Siege and Sham Battle. It is an excellent example of an open solitaire game, because all the cards are dealt face-up at the start, so you begin with perfect information.

Game-play: With the four Aces placed in a vertical column as foundations, the rest of the cards are dealt face-up into four rows of six overlapping cards each on either side, forming a tableau consisting of two "wings". As expected, the goal is to build all four foundations in order from Ace through King. Cards may only be moved within the tableau one at a time, rather than in stacks, so only the end card of each row within the tableau may be moved, either to the foundations, to another row in descending sequence regardless of suit, or to an empty space in the tableau.

Variations: In Streets and Alleys, the Aces don't begin in the starting foundations at all, but are included in the initial tableau of dealt cards, so that the four rows on the left side of the foundations each consist of seven cards each rather than six. Thomas Warfield's Stronghold adds a storage cell to Streets and Alleys, to give more strategic options for movement. Citadel improves Beleaguered Castle's initial position slightly by allowing you to build straight to the foundations during the deal, while Selective Castle lets you choose the rank of the foundation cards after the deal. Some solitaire sites offer a Beleaguered Cities variant (sometimes simply called Castle), which makes the game much easier by allowing you to build in ascending or descending sequence (still regardless of suit), and this ensures that you can nearly always complete the game successfully.

My thoughts: Despite the unusual signature "wing" setup, strictly speaking the mechanics of Beleagured Castle are like most other solitaire games (especially Forty Thieves, see below), but with a single deck, eight columns of six cards each, and no stock. The strict rules for movement and building within the tableau make this a very difficult game to complete successfully. Ideally you want to be able to get one of the rows entirely clear, to give you more options for manipulation within the tableau. Even so, being only able to move the outside card on each row is quite limiting, and as a result you will often be thwarted by the luck of the draw early on, especially if high cards bury some lower cards, and so this classic game can be somewhat frustrating. You'll often find yourself quickly redealing and starting over, hoping for better luck the next time around; one advantage of a digital version is that you can keep redealing until you get a deal that seems like a reasonable starting draw. The simpler variant Castle is a good place to start with this game, since it increases your chances of success drastically.

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Related games: Fortress operates on a similar concept, but there are five rows on each side of the foundations instead of four. In addition, you are restricted to building on the same suit, but you may build in ascending or descending sequence. Aces start within the tableau (thus two rows have six instead of five cards). The variant Chessboard applies the same principle as Selective Castle, by letting you choose the rank of the foundation cards after the deal (building around the corner on the foundations as required), in order to take better advantage of the cards you have been dealt. Zerline is a German game where Queens are high, and helps by adding a four-card storage area.
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== Games With One Deck (continued) ==

SIR TOMMY GAMES

Overview: Sir Tommy (Old Patience, Try Again, Numerica) is also known as Old Patience, which reflects its origin as the oldest known patience game, and possible ancestor of all others. The average person may not have heard of it, but it deserves a place on this list because this is a game from which so many other solitaire games are derived, including many more familiar ones. It is at the head of a family of games where cards in the tableau can't be moved after being placed, and that's a unique quality that also makes it quite challenging to win.

Game-play: Suits are irrelevant in this game, and the aim is to build four foundations from Ace to King. You deal the deck face-up one at a time, and the tableau has four columns (or waste piles); dealt cards can be played on any column but cannot be moved from one to another. So while it's still technically a building game because you are building up the foundations, there is no packing in the tableau to assist you with this.

Variations: Some variants (e.g. Auld Lang Syne, Tam O'Shanter) turn Sir Tommy into even an simpler luck-based game nearly impossible to win, while others are extremely strategic like the well-known Calculation. Amazons is an interesting version played with a smaller deck that has the goal of building to the Queens (= Amazons), and is best played digitally given the amount of redealing. Other variants make the game easier (and for me, more enjoyable) by increasing the number of tableaus (Strategy, Lady Betty, and Last Chance) or redeals (Acquaintance), or make it more interesting by requiring building by colours (Puss in the Corner, and Colours, Alternate).

My thoughts: Good players can win as many as 20% of their games, and storing cards in the right order on the four columns is critical, because you want to avoid having low valued cards blocked by higher ones, or having too many cards of the same number in one column. Reserving a pile for Kings and another for high cards is often a good strategy. Even so, it's a hard game to win and can be frustrating. I recommend trying some of the easier variants as a way to enjoy this game; there's a good reason so many variants have evolved from the original over time. It's a large family that includes many solitaire variants, and these are well worth trying and exploring.

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Related games: Several two-deck games are in the Sir Tommy family, including Fanny, Frog (also called Toad), Fly, and Grand Duchess, most of which involve using a reserve. Several two-deck games use similar mechanics but operate with a larger 20 card tableau in the style of the simple game Carpet, but involve building both up and down on the foundations; for me personally these are the most fun of all Sir Tommy variants, and include Twenty (also called Sly Fox), Colorado, Grandmother's Patience (also called Grandmamma's Game), and Grandfather's Patience - all excellent games.

Calculation: Calculation deserves special mention, and has become a classic in its own right. What makes it unique is that the foundations are built up by one, two, three, and four respectively, and it requires a lot of skill. The variant Betsy Ross is more luck-dependent but is also easier to complete successfully.

YUKON

Overview: Yukon first appeared in a 1949 book on solitaire games, and has since exploded in popularity. This single deck solitaire game was partly inspired by Klondike, which is of course the most popular solitaire card game of all time. But because Yukon has no stock and more flexible rules for movement of stacks within the tableau, it allows a lot more scope for thinking.

Game-play: While inspired and indebted to Klondike, Yukon creates a game with a very different feel by removing the requirement that stacks of cards must be in alternating sequence in order to be moved. In other words, you can move any stack to a legal card within the tableau, regardless of the sequence of the cards in that stack. While this makes the game easier, another significant change makes it harder: there is no stock that you deal. So all the cards are in the tableau at the outset, and you'll have to manipulate the tableau cleverly to uncover face-down cards and build all four suits onto the four foundations from Ace through King.

Variations: To make Yukon slightly easier, a couple of variants alter things slightly to simplify the gameplay, such as removing the requirement that only Kings can be placed in an empty space in the tableau (this variation is sometimes called Great River). Some digital implementations give the option of reducing the number of suits used, such as in Yukon One Suit, which you can nearly always win, while still having to think carefully.

My thoughts: The rules for manipulating the tableau give you more options than Klondike, and thus more to consider and think about. Both Yukon and Russian Solitaire (mentioned under "related games" below) are extremely popular solitaire games, because they are simultaneously more challenging and more rewarding than Klondike style games. Skill plays more of a role, and there are players so dedicated to Yukon that they have played it thousands of times. In regular Yukon you can expect to win as much as 1 in 4 games, but the added level of difficulty in Russian Solitaire reduces that to as little as once in 20 games. The key is to bring the face-down cards into play as soon as possible.

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Related games: Russian Solitaire makes Yukon harder by only allowing you to build down in the tableau with cards of the same suit, instead of in alternating colours, and it is an extremely popular game in its own right. This requirement is also in place with Alaska, but may build in ascending or descending order in the tableau, which makes it easier to win than Russian Solitaire. Australian Patience is another popular spin-off from Yukon, and adds a stock which is dealt one at a time, while the entire 7x4 tableau starts face up; however this can feel like it's more about careful observation than decision making. Many other Yukon inspired games exist, including games which add things like a reserve, storage cells, or extra decks.

Scorpion: Special mention should be made of popular game Scorpion, which some categorize as part of the Yukon family, and the rules for moving unarranged stacks in Yukon may even originate in Scorpion. However, Scorpion uses Spider's requirement that stacks from Ace to King of the same suit must be assembled within the tableau before being discarded. Scorpion variants include Wasp, Three Blind Mice, Chinese Solitaire, and others.

== Games With Two Decks ==

FORTY THIEVES (NAPOLEON AT ST HELENA)

Overview: Forty Thieves is a popular and classic game played with two decks, and is also included in most books with patience games. It also goes under the alternate name Napoleon at St Helena (not to be confused with a different solitaire game called "Saint Helena" or "Napoleon's Favorite"), and tradition says that this is the solitaire game Napoleon played while in exile on the island of St Helena. The game also goes under other names, including Roosevelt at San Juan. Its simple rules means that many variations exist, many of which are among the more strategic and satisfying versions of solitaire games that you'll find anywhere. Carefully working through the stock pile and manipulating the discard pile are a big element of successful play.

Game-play: A tableau is dealt with ten columns, each with four overlapping and face-up cards. Strict tableau building rules apply, because only the single top card of each column may be moved, and only onto a card that is the next highest rank of the same suit; any card can be placed into a space that becomes available in the tableau. The remaining stock of 64 cards is turned up one card at a time, with no redeals. The goal is to get all the cards onto the eight foundations from Ace through King in each suit.

Variations: In its strict and classic form, even with good play Forty Thieves is difficult to win, so many variants exist that seek to make the game easier. In some of these, the Aces begin as starting foundations ( San Juan Hill). In others, the tableau is not built down by cards of the same suit but by alternating colours (e.g. Streets), or by any suit other than its matching one (Indian). Some variations allow entire sequences of cards to be moved (Josephine, Forty Bandits, Ali Baba), or combine this with having tableau building in alternating colours (Number Ten, Rank and File, Emperor) or tableau building in any suit (Little Forty). In other variations, multiple redeals of the stock are permitted.

My thoughts: Game-play is very tight in the strict form of the game. It's not always a good idea to play a card just because you can, because you may block cards within the tableau that you need. You also need to pay close attention to duplicates, since two decks are in play. As a result, careful planning and consideration is needed. Unused stock typically ends up into an increasingly large face-up discard pile, but in the latter parts of the game skilful play often makes it possible to dig back through this and complete the game. This usually proves most satisfying when playing with one of the variants that makes the game slightly easier, to increase your chances of pulling out a win. Even with these variants, you'll have to play skillfully, making the Forty Thieves family of solitaire games one of the more popular choices for those who like a longer experience that is thoughtful, challenging, and yet solvable, and where skill plays even more of a role than luck.

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More variations: Instead of 10 tableau piles, some variations increase this to 12 piles (Blockade, Napoleon's Square, Corona) or 13 piles (Lucas, Waning Moon); or decrease it to 9 piles (Maria) or 8 piles (Forty and Eight, Congress, Parliament, Diplomat, Red and Black), each with different combinations of rules for tableau building. Games with just 6 piles (Blind Alleys, Pas Seul) or 5 piles (Double Rail) begin to feel much like Klondike.

Related games: Many other games take the Forty Thieves style concept and adjust it in more significant ways. In Interchange (more difficult), Breakwater, and Alternations, the initial tableau includes face-down and face-up cards. The very popular Thieves of Egypt begins with a pyramid shaped tableau. Busy Aces is a straight forward game in the style of Forty Thieves that is at the head of its own family, which includes the much simpler Fortune's Favor, a simple game ideal for beginners. For a terrific overview of all the Forty Thieves related games and their different nuances, consult Thomas Warfield's excellent complete guide to Forty Thieves types games.

CONCLUSION

This is by no means a comprehensive list that includes all builder-style solitaire games. But along with Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell, these seven additional games - Baker's Dozen, Beleaguered Castle,Canfield, Forty Thieves, La Belle Lucie, Sir Tommy, Yukon, and Forty Thieves - and the many related games that belong to their families, are the most common and popular forms of solitaire games that involve building. They have inspired many solitaire games like them, and have stood the test of time well.

If you enjoy Klondike, which is the most popular version of solitaire in the world, then Canfield and Yukon are natural games to explore next. Beleaguered Castle can be a little frustrating due to the strict rules and dependency on the luck of the draw, and even the other games in its family can be quite challenging. I'd recommend it only for more experienced and dedicated players, and would instead suggest next exploring Baker's Dozen and the games in the "Fan" family inspired by La Belle Lucie.

Their style of play is somewhat similar to Forty Thieves and its many siblings, which double the number of cards in the game by adding a second deck, and also adds a stock pile and discard pile you must manage. Forty Thieves type games are among the best you'll find for those who like a more challenging, thoughtful, and longer solitaire experience.

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
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MORE FAVOURITE SOLITAIRE CARD GAMES: 10 MORE POPULAR BUILDER GAMES

Most solitaire card games with a standard deck of playing cards classify as "builder" games. It's a popular archetype, and means that in these games players are trying to arrange all the cards in ascending order from Ace through to King, for each of the four separate suits. The three most popular solitaire games in the world - Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell - and the many games closely related to them, all belong in this category. Besides these three, there are a number of other popular builder games, each of which represents its own family of games: Baker's Dozen, Canfield, La Belle Lucie (Fan games), Beleaguered Castle (Castle games), Sir Tommy, Yukon, and the popular two-deck game Forty Thieves, which has inspired many variants.

While these ten games represent the most popular families of builder games, there are some other very popular builder games in the world of solitaire that you really should know about as well. Some of these do fit loosely in one of the above categories, but deserve special mention. Others don't really fit in any of the above-mentioned families. Either way, these are unquestionably all popular classics in their own right, and can be highly recommended.

In the case of some solitaire types like Beleaguered Castle or Sir Tommy, the main game is somewhat mediocre, and it's really some of the variations that shine. But in the case of the games covered below, they are all worth trying as excellent games of their own. Especially with the games that use two decks, these are games that are thoughtful and satisfying, and can require real skill, rather than being mere exercises in luck and frustration, as can be the case with some of the more simpler solitaire games.

== Games With One Deck ==

BISLEY

Overview: Bisley is a classic but more difficult game in the Baker's Dozen family. Like the other games in that family, all the cards are face-up at the outset, so there's no hidden information. You use a tableau of thirteen columns of four cards each to build upwards on the four Aces (which are removed from the tableau as four starting foundations), and simultaneously build downwards on the Kings as four more foundations whenever they become available. You can only move the top card of each column in the tableau, with building in the tableau happening by suit, both up or down.

Thoughts: This game feels somewhat like a simpler Forty Thieves style of game that uses a single deck, so there is real room for decision making. Winning can still depend to some extent on the luck of the initial draw, and you can get key cards trapped. Building the foundations from both sides - down from Kings and up from Aces - can increase your chances of completing the game. Unlike Baker's Dozen, you must build by suit in the tableau, but the fact that you can build both up and down gives extra flexibility.

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CALCULATION (Broken Intervals)

Overview: Calculation is a classic derived from Sir Tommy that puts a real spin on the usual solitaire mechanics, because some of the usual rules for building are thrown out of the window. Unlike Sir Tommy, the four foundations begin with any Ace, Two, Three, and Four respectively. The first foundation is built up by 1s (i.e. A,2,3,4 etc), the second by 2s (i.e. 2,4,6,8 etc), the third by 3s (i.e. 3,6,9, etc), the fourth by 4s (i.e. 4,8,Q,3 etc). You win if you manage to get 12 cards onto each foundation in a single deal.

Thoughts: This game requires a lot of skill, and new players will find it very difficult to make much progress at all. Experienced players will point out that much of the skill is about how you place cards onto the tableau, and that you can win more often than not. The real trick lies in trying to set these up for future placement on the foundations, by effectively building these in reverse (i.e. from King backwards), initially playing onto the foundations only when necessary. Having the four sequences necessary written down as a guide to consult while playing can really help. Reserving a single waste-pile for Kings is also recommended, since they are the final card placed on each foundation, and can otherwise block other cards. Betsy Ross is a variant that makes the game much easier, albeit more dependent on luck; you have the same goal, but deal three times onto a single discard pile. Other closely related games include One234, Appreciate, and Devil's Grip.

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CRUEL

Overview: Cruel immediately stands out as an unusual game due to the way re-deals work. With the four Aces beginning as starting foundations, the game begins with a tableau consisting of 12 face-up piles of cards, with only the top cards visible. You can move single cards down by suit within the tableau, but the truly interesting part happens in that whenever you wish you can gather all the cards and re-deal them (a process carefully prescribed by the rules) to create a new tableau; if you've played any cards previously this will alter which cards are now available in the tableau. You can redeal as often as you like, and you lose only when there's no more moves possible from the tableau immediately after a re-deal.

Thoughts: This game's popularity began with its inclusion in one of the Microsoft Windows Entertainment Packs in the 1990s, and so it continues to be in demand today. It's a fine example of a game that would be cumbersome to play with real cards, but being able to instantly gather and restack the tableau piles with the click of a button makes it well-suited to a digital version. Despite its idiosyncrasies, Cruel also feels familiar in light of is close connection to other popular solitaires: the tableau is like Baker's Dozen, the game-play feels somewhat like Fortune's Favor (without the stock), and the re-dealing is reminiscent of some fan games; some sites even use a starting layout that displays the tableau in a fan-style with completely open information. Managing the redealing and restacking is key to successful play, and while the game can feel somewhat random initially, experienced players can do very well. Choosing the right cards to play and the right moments to redeal is essential. Cruel is easy to learn, and yet you can get good at it, making it relaxing and fun to play. Other variations of Cruel worth trying include Lucky Thirteen, Perseverance A, Perseverance B, and Ripple Fan.

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FLOWER GARDEN (Bouquet)

Overview: In this single-deck game you start with a tableau consisting of six columns of six cards each (your "flower-beds" or "garden"), hence the appropriate name Flower Garden. The remaining 16 cards are a face-up reserve (your "seeds"), with all the cards available for use. The idea is to build cards up in suit onto four foundations (your "bouquets") - although some describe the reserve as the "bouquet". Only single cards can be moved in the tableau (flower-beds), building down irrespective of suit.

Thoughts: This classic is based on an old Japanese game, and is found in several books and in numerous solitaire programs. It's not an easy game, but with a good draw and careful play a skilled player can win up to a third of their games. You'll have to use the reserve judiciously, and try to get an empty column in the tableau to make manipulation of the cards easier. The game is slightly easier with playing with a variant that has an initial tableau of seven columns with just five cards each. Other variations include Brigade and Stonewall.

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RAGLAN

Overview: Raglan is a Klondike style game with open information, so all the cards are dealt from the outset. The four Aces start as the foundations, which must be built up to Kings, while the remaining cards form a tableau with nine columns varying in size from one card to seven cards, plus there's a seven card reserve. Building within the tableau happens like Klondike, in alternating colour downwards, but only the top card may be moved.

Thoughts: The fact that sequences can't be moved is a significant restriction that makes this so much harder than Klondike, but having all the cards face-up means you can plan your game carefully. Raglan is derived from King Albert, a game named after Albert I of Belgium. King Albert is identical to Raglan except that the Aces start in the tableau, making it incredibly difficult, hence its apt alternative name: Idiot's Delight. In contrast to the almost impossible King Albert, you can win as many as half of your games of Raglan with skillful play. Also in the same family of games are Somerset, Morehead, Muse, and Queen Victoria.

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SCORPION

Overview: Scorpion is categorized by some as part of the Yukon family, and by others as part of the Spider family. But it is a very popular game that has long been a staple in published books about Patience, and deserves separate mention. The rules for moving unarranged stacks in Yukon may even originate in Scorpion, which has the same game-play in that regard. However Scorpion uses Spider's requirement that stacks from Ace to King of the same suit must be assembled within the tableau before they are discarded.

Thoughts: Numerous Scorpion variants exist, including favourites like Wasp and Three Blind Mice. Chinese Solitaire is a Scorpion variant with a Klondike style set-up that also feels very much like Yukon in how it plays, because cards are played to foundations rather than retained in the tableau. All of these are very satisfying games that will reward the player who enjoys a good blend of luck and strategy, and where decisions do matter.

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== Games With Two Decks ==

BUSY ACES

Overview: As you might expect, games with two decks give room for additional strategy and decision-making, because there's a larger pool of cards to work with, and greater options are available for arranging tableaus and other aspects of a solitaire's layout. Busy Aces is a common and relatively straight-forward game with two decks that is arguably a descendent of the popular game Forty Thieves. Along with its close sibling Courtyard, first reference to it appeared already in 1939. The goal is to build eight foundations from Ace through King, with the help of 12 tableau piles. Only the top card can be moved within or played from the tableau, which builds down by suit. The stock is dealt one card at a time, and there are no redeals.

Thoughts: Busy Aces is an excellent place to begin exploring one of the simpler two-deck solitaire games. Courtyard plays the same as Busy Aces but is slightly harder because spaces in the tableau are filled automatically from the stock's wastepile. There are several other variants which make the game harder by changing the number of piles in the tableau to ten or eight, such as with Deuces. Some variations allow a redeal. Thomas Warfield has created several other variants, including Three's Company, Fours Up, Penta Solitaire, Eights Down, Cast Out Nines, Dimes, and Jacks in the Box. Stages makes Busy Aces easier by allowing sequences to be moved. There is also the well-known Fortune's Favor, which is a commonly recommended game for beginners, as a simple single-deck variant derived from Busy Aces.

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COLORADO

Overview: I've opted to go with Colorado, but there are a few closely related games that are equally worthy contenders for this list. There are eight foundations, four which build upwards from Ace through King, and four which build down from King through Ace. The tableau consists of twenty face-up cards in two rows of ten. The stock is dealt one card at a time, with cards being placed onto any of the twenty face-up tableau cards, regardless of suit or value.

Thoughts: This game owes its origins to the simple single-deck game Sir Tommy, which is arguably the oldest solitaire game from which many developed, and in its original form is quite boring. I personally find Colorado and its closest siblings to be the most fun of all Sir Tommy variants, and they're also very achievable to win more often than not. Being able to place cards anywhere makes it feel different from many other builder solitaire games, and one of the main things to keep in mind as you play is to avoid blocking key cards. Colorado's closest relative is Twenty (often called Sly Fox), which is very similar, but requires cards to be dealt from the stock 20 at a time before continuing play rather than just one at a time. Other excellent games that are closely related include Grandmother's Patience (Grandmamma's Game), and Grandfather's Patience.

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MISS MILLIGAN

Overview: Miss Milligan is a classic English solitaire game found in most patience books. It has elements of Klondike and Spider, but stands somewhat on its own. Like Forty Thieves it uses two decks and requires building eight foundations, but it has a tableau of eight columns. Building happens down by alternating colour and sequences can be moved. Only a single row of eight cards is dealt initially, and each time you want to draw more cards an entire row of eight cards is dealt Spider-style from the stock.

Thoughts: One of the most interesting aspects of Miss Milligan happens when the stock is depleted: you get a single reserve cell which can be used for a card or sequence to manipulate the tableau. Games typically take around 20 minutes to play, and you can win as many as a third of your games with sharp play and a good draw, and there's nearly always some juicy decision-making along the way. Closely related variants include Imperial Guards and Giant. I can also recommend two original games created by Rick Holzgrafe that are closely related to Miss Milligan, namely Tabby Cat and its more challenging variant Manx.

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QUEEN OF ITALY (Terrace)

Overview: Also known as Terrace, or Signora, the classic patience game Queen of Italy is is a thoughtful and meaty two-deck game, and will appeal to people who enjoy Forty Thieves and its variations. The chief feature that makes the game is a face-up line of 11 overlapping cards, called the "terrace". It's a reserve, with a special twist that cards from here can only be played directly to the foundations, and not to the tableau. You deal four cards and choose one to be the foundation; building happens around-the-corner, so you'll especially have to check carefully to see what is in the `terrace' to decide what value card makes a good choice for the foundations. After your choice, you'll deal more cards to make an initial tableau of nine columns with one card each. Building on the foundations happens upwards by alternate colour regardless of suit, and on the tableau downwards by alternate colour regardless of suit, but only one card at a time can be moved on the tableau, and not sequences.

Thoughts: This is a marvellous game that requires real thought and planning, and can be completed successfully as often as half of the time. The art of playing well requires you to carefully figure out where your terrace cards will go, and focus all your tableau building efforts to accomplish that aim. A single deal means that the waste pile will grow as you play, but typically you can work your way through that in the latter stages. The fact that both foundations and tableau involve building in alternate colours means that you can quickly place lots of cards from the tableau when the opportunity arises. Several variants exist that alter the initial deal or how empty spaces in the tableau are filled, such as Blondes and Brunettes, Redheads, and Falling Star, while General's Patience makes the game harder by building up the foundations by suit.

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CONCLUSION

The above games show how rich the world of solitaire really is. The main families of builder solitaire card games are quite well known: at their head being Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell, and following closely behind are Baker's Dozen, Beleaguered Castle, Canfield, La Belle Lucie (Fan games), Sir Tommy, Yukon, and Forty Thieves. But each of these families offers a lot of variations that have developed over time. It's worth finding a type of solitaire game that you enjoy, and exploring from there.

Of course there are also builder games that don't really fit in any of the above categories, and can be recommended for the rewarding play that they offer in their own right. The ten games in this list are all fine examples of some of the most enjoyable solitaire games, and are all quite accessible. A separate list can easily be made of more meaty two-player games for true strategists - but I'll save that for a separate article, and first give you a chance to get your feet wet with some of these popular gems.

Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.
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10 LESS COMMON BUT POPULAR TWO-DECK SOLITAIRE CARD GAMES

When most people think of "solitaire", the game that they have in mind is Klondike. But Klondike Solitaire is quite luck dependent, and there are many rewarding solitaire games that involve more strategy and depth, especially builder games that use two decks of playing cards. I've previously covered some of the more well-known builder ones, so this time round I've come up with a list of ten great games with two decks that aren't quite as well known. But they are still relatively common games, and you'll find them available at most sites that offer solitaire card games, and included in most apps and software. So even though they are technically "less common", they are arguably still quite well known, and are tried and proven games that solitaire enthusiasts have enjoyed and kept coming back to.

I recommend learning and playing these with the help of digital software, because that will organize the layout, enforce the rules, and manage all the practical elements of the game for you. This will enable you to learn the game quickly, and focus on enjoying the gameplay right away. I've tried many programs, and found one of the very best to be BVS Solitaire, which offers a Windows and Mac version, and also a top-notch iPad app.

== Popular Games ==

ALGERIAN PATIENCE

Overview: Algerian Patience is a game of skill that can be completed most of the time. Like Alhambra and Saint Helena below, it's a two-deck game where four foundations build up from Ace to King and four build down from King to Ace. There are eight piles in the tableau (one card on each), and six piles in the reserve (four cards each). The tableau can be built up or down by suit, moving just one card at a time, and wrapping from King to Ace where necessary. Drawing from the stock deals two cards to each reserve pile, where no building is possible.

Thoughts: This is a very rewarding game that requires careful placement, and yet offers real chances of winning. The variant Carthage changes things slightly. Also related is Tournament, which allows no building on the tableau. It was created by Morehead and Mott-Smith as an improvement on the older game (La) Nivernaise. Cicely makes Tournament slightly easier by allowing tableau building up and down by suit, while another variant Kingsdown Eights is more challenging to win, and only builds down by alternate colours. When you first play these games they seem very difficult, but there are tricks that increase your chances significantly, such as keeping spaces open to be used strategically.

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ALHAMBRA

Overview: In Alhambra there are also eight foundations, four building up from Ace to King and four building down from King to Ace. However there is no building whatsoever in the tableau, which effectively becomes a reserve of eight piles or columns consisting of four cards each. Instead a stock is dealt one card at a time onto a waste pile, and cards from the tableau/reserve can be built onto the waste if they match in suit and are either one rank higher or lower. Two redeals are allowed.

Thoughts: Alhambra is a difficult game to win, but offers a good mix of skill and luck. Being able to play cards to the reserve up and down in the style of Golf makes it very unique. Variants of Alhambra worth exploring include The Reserves (also called The Reinforcements) and Granada (which increases your chances of success significantly by offering reserve cells).

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CRESCENT

Overview: Crescent gets its name from the distinctive crescent arc shape typically used for placing the stacked piles with available cards. It's a two-deck game which begins with eight foundations: four Aces that build up, and four Kings that build down. The remaining cards are dealt into 16 stacks of six cards each, with only the top card playable, on which you can build up or down by suit. A distinctive feature of the many games in the Crescent family is that instead of redealing, at three times during the game you can move the bottom card in each pile to the top, thus cycling each pile by one card.

Thoughts: In its usual form Crescent is not easy to win, and variations like Crescent Four seek to make this easier by allowing an extra rotation of the sixteen piles, or by turning it into an open information game by playing with all the cards face-up (effectively making it a Fan game), such as Open Crescent. The cycling mechanism is quite unique, and the ability to build both up and down on the piles gives some flexibility that helps you out. Along with some of its many variations, Crescent is a popular game loved by many, and especially when played with the cards face-up it allows quite some skill.

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MOUNT OLYMPUS

Overview: Mount Olympus is a two-deck game that has an unusual aspect in that it requires you to build in piles with odd and even cards. The foundations begin with the Aces and Deuces, while a line of nine cards begins the tableau, which is also built down in intervals of two. It has a Spider-like deal, with nine new cards being dealt each time you use the stock.

Thoughts: This game gives frequent wins, plus the reward of producing the Greek gods and goddesses (kings and queens) at the end of a successful game. This visual display likely accounts for the game's name, since in Greek mythology these were said to live on Mount Olympus. The original rules were much more restrictive, disallowing the moving of partial or complete sequences in the tableau, but the increased options for moving cards makes the game far more interesting and it can usually be won. Related games include Great Wheel, Greater Wheel, and Carousel.

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ROYAL COTILLION

Overview: In Royal Cotillion there are eight foundations, four beginning with Aces and four beginning with Deuces. Each builds upwards by twos (i.e. Ace, 3,5,7,9 etc; and 2,4,6,8, etc), turning the corner as needed. The stock is dealt one card at a time. A 16 card tableau in the shape of a 4x4 grid gives room for some decision making and skill, and there's also a reserve of twelve cards in four piles. The decision making here comes by not playing cards from the reserve automatically, but waiting for an ideal card to show up at the top of the waste pile before clearing a place in the reserve for it to go.

Thoughts: In essence the game-play is much the same as Sixes and Sevens, which has foundations going down from six and upwards from seven, rather than building by twos. This in turn is closely related to Contradance (Cotillion) and its single deck version Captive Queens (Quadrille), which are mindless and pure luck games due to the absence of a tableau. Odd and Even also has foundations going up by twos like Royal Cotillion, but uses a nine-card tableau in the shape of a 3x3 grid. Patriarchs (and the nearly identical game Picture Patience) has the same set-up as Odd and Even with a reserve in a 3x3 grid, but the foundations consist of Aces and Kings, which are built upwards and downwards respectively by cards that increase/decrease in value by one rather than two; it is effectively the same game. All these games boil down to something similar, and require much the same kind of decision making despite apparent external differences. A little further afield but still related to all these games is Royal Rendezvous, which is a very satisfying and rewarding two-deck game in the same vein.

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ROYAL PARADE (VIRGINIA REEL)

Overview: Royal Parade is an old but unusually fascinating two-deck solitaire game, with the alternative names Royal Procession, Financier, Hussars, and Three Up. It was reworked by Morehead and Mott-Smith as Virginia Reel. There are three rows of eight face up cards, and the goal is to turn the top row into foundations beginning with 2s and going up by threes (2,5,8,J), the middle row into foundations beginning with 3s and going up by threes (3,6,9,Q), and the bottom row into foundations beginnings with 4s and going up by threes (4,7,10,K). A fourth row of eight cards functions as a reserve, and an entire row of eight new cards is placed on it each time you deal from the stock, while Aces are immediately discarded. There are some special rules about exchanging cards and how to deal with spaces in the layout, but the goal is to get the entire deck onto the foundations, showing only Jacks, Queens, and Kings.

Thoughts: While it has a few quirky rules, and is very difficult to complete successfully, this is a terrific game that requires careful attention and strategy. Once you get the hang of the unusual rule-set, you'll find it to be very rewarding and challenging. Managing the reserve is especially important, and you have to avoid having essential cards in the reserve become blocked by other cards, especially the 2s, 3s, and 4s. The building up of cards by threes gives it a very different feel from a typical building game. While Aces are discarded, you don't necessarily want to remove them from the layout automatically, especially if you're playing with the rule that doesn't allow dealing from the stock when there are empty spaces in the foundations. Several variants exist (e.g. Blue Jackets) which make the game slightly easier, mostly by adjusting how the reserve works.

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SAINT HELENA (NAPOLEON'S FAVOURITE)

Overview: Despite the name, Saint Helena isn't to be confused with the more well-known game Napoleon at St Helena, more commonly known under the title Forty Thieves. The foundations start with four Aces (which will build upwards by suit to Kings), and four Kings (which will build downwards by suit to Ace). The tableau consists of 12 piles arranged around these foundations. Building within the tableau only involves the top card, but you can build up or down regardless of suit. A special rule restricts whether certain cards from the top four and bottom four piles of the tableau can be moved to certain foundations, but this restriction is removed after the entire tableau is redealt, which can be done twice after the initial deal.

Thoughts: This is a relatively straight-forward game with considerable flexibility for building, and can often be completed successfully. Some variations exist (e.g. Box Kite, Louis), which adjust the restrictions prior to the first redeal, and eliminate redealing altogether. Swiss is an original and related variant created by Boris Sandberg. All of these are solid two deck games that will appeal to players who enjoy winning the majority of their games, and aren't looking for too much complexity.

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SALIC LAW

Overview: I first came across Salic Law in one of David Parlett's books about card games. In this two-deck game, cards are dealt one at a time upon a starting King to form a tableau, with a new column beginning each time another King appears. Aces are placed above the Kings and will form the foundations, while Queens are removed as they show up. This explains the game's name, since under Salic Law women were prohibited from gaining the throne and from receiving an inheritance. There's no building within the tableau, and the aim is to build eight foundations from Ace to Jack, ignoring suit.

Thoughts: In most cases the game-play is mechanical and it makes sense to play a card whenever you can. But as more cards are laid out, you often have choices about which card to play, and that's where you can begin planning some strategic decision making. Under the strictest rules the game is hard to complete, but when you play as described by Parlett where cards can be transferred to exposed Kings as a temporary reserve, your decision making and chances for success increase significantly. Among the variations is Fairie Queen, but several related games also exist which apply the Quadrille/Cotillion concept where fives build down to Aces and sixes build up to Jacks; these include Intrigue, Laggard Lady, and Glencoe.

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== Original Games ==

ACES AND KINGS

Overview: Most of the above games have been around for a while, but there's also some newer and original games that are worth knowing about, and have become quite popular on solitaire sites. Aces and Kings (playable online here) is an original two-deck game created by Thomas Warfield that is based on several common solitaire games and combines elements to produce a pleasing game. Once again there are eight foundations, four building from Ace to King and four from King to Ace, with building happening regardless of suit. There are two Canfield-style reserve piles where only the top card can be played to the foundations. The tableau consists of just four face-up cards, and there is no building on the tableau, only to the foundations, with empty spaces immediately replenished from the stock.

Thoughts: Playing by these rules, good players can expect to win only as many as 1 in 10 games. Moving cards between foundations is allowed, and this is what is key to good play. There are some variants that increase your chances of winning significantly, such as by adding a single re-deal. Deuces and Queens makes the game easier by allowing building in the tableau, while Acey and Kingsley starts with cards on the foundations. Double Aces and Kings is like the original game, but with four decks and four reserves, while Racing Aces is a three deck version.

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DEMONS AND THIEVES

Overview: Demons and Thieves (playable online here) is also the creation of Thomas Warfield, and can best be described as a game with a split tableau, where you play with Canfield rules on one side and Forty Thieves rules on the other side. This means that on the left side you have a reserve pile of 13 cards (only the top one is available) and a tableau of four cards that will build downwards in alternate colours; meanwhile on the right side you have a tableau of five columns with eight cards each where you build downwards by suit. Cards can be built on both sides while trying to complete eight foundations from Ace through King.

Thoughts: I first came across this game over on Pretty Good Solitaire, where it is one of their all-time most-played games. It's not hard to see why, because it is a very satisfying game that rewards strategic play and good decisions. The fact that you have two redeals gives you time to get the cards arranged within the tableau in order to successfully complete it, and I've found that I typically don't need the final redeal. In the variation Demonthief there are no redeals allowed, and a win can still be accomplished if you play well. Those who enjoy Demons and Thieves should also check out Antares, which is Thomas Warfield's combination of FreeCell and Scorpion, also with a tableau consisting of two halves.

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If you find yourself really enjoying solitaire, and want a more thoughtful challenge than the relatively simple and luck-dependent Klondike, the above ten games make great choices for you to jump into the world of more satisfying games with two decks. Once you begin exploring here, you'll find plenty of other similar games by browsing the other games implemented in BVS Solitaire.

It's somewhat of a pity that many people identify solitaire exclusively with the classic Klondike, and that they aren't aware of the rich diversity of more thoughtful solitaire games that exist. Over time a wide range of unique and creative solitaire games has developed, just waiting to be enjoyed by those diligent enough to give them a chance.

You can certainly play these games with a regular deck of playing cards, but for learning these games from scratch, I'd strongly advise using a good software program that implements them digitally. At the top of my list of recommendations is BVS Solitaire, whose programs were consistently ranked in the best of the bunch in my comparative review of iPad apps and my comparative review of Windows programs.

With software like this you'll be able to play several hundred different solitaire games, including most of the above ones, and customize your experience with your own preferred looks. So get yourself hooked up with a good digital version, and discover the enjoyment that these great two-deck solitaire games can offer!

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Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
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SIMPLE NON-BUILDER SOLITAIRE CARD GAMES

Solitaire card games are ideal for playing casually on your own, because they are typically quite easy to learn and play. This is especially the case if you're using digital software to help you learn and play the game. Using an app or computer program like BVS Solitaire to play solitaire enforces the rules, and will manage a lot of the bookkeeping and organizing of the cards for you, avoiding the need for any shuffling and dealing. As a result, solitaire games are very accessible, and can be played and enjoyed by almost anyone.

But what about solitaire games that are so simple to play that they can even be enjoyed by children? And which solitaire games exactly would be good choices to introduce to younger kids? Fortunately the range of solitaire card games is so diverse that there are many excellent and simple solitaire games that are perfectly suited to people of all ages that want something very easy or casual to play.

Builder card games like the most well-known solitaire game of them all, Klondike, aren't normally best suited for this purpose. These typically require players to manipulate a tableau and arrange each of the four suits in order from Ace through King. While they have luck elements, they sometimes also give room for real skill and strategy. In contrast, non-builder card games tend to have more straight-forward aims and simpler game-play, making them especially well-suited for beginning players, or for those looking for a lighter game-play experience.

What you'll find here are perhaps the simplest solitaire games of them all, which makes many of them perfect to introduce to younger children. And because of their simpler mechanics, most of these are also well-suited to being played with an actual deck of playing cards.

== Your Very First Solitaire Game ==

We'll begin with what is arguably the simplest solitaire game of them all, and a true classic: Clock Solitaire. Precisely because it is a purely mechanical process, Clock Patience is an ideal game for introducing children to a deck of playing cards, get them familiar with the different values and suits, and have fun at the same time.

CLOCK PATIENCE

Overview: Clock Patience is found in nearly all books with solitaire games, and exactly the same game can be played with a non-clock layout under the name Travellers. The cards are dealt in the shape of a clock, with a pile of four face-down cards at each hour's position plus four cards in the center. Starting with a center card, you turn up a card and move it face-up to the hour matching its value, with Kings played to the center. Then you turn up that card and do the same, continuing this process. The game ends when you turn up the fourth King, and you win if you've managed to turn up all the cards at this point.

Thoughts: This simple game is an exercise in pure luck, and is an entirely mechanical process with no decisions. Yet younger children will often delight in the simple matching exercise this involves, and play this over and over in an effort to get the satisfaction of achieving a win. The odds of winning Clock Patience are exactly 1 in 13, but several variants and related games increase the odds, or add decisions to the game-play (e.g. Watch Solitaire, Order Time, Dial, Big Ben). German Clock (commonly called The Clock) is an entirely different game with a Clock setup that is also worth trying for beginners. Grandfather's Clock is a builder game that requires far more skill and decisions.

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== Simple Adding & Pairing Games ==

Adding and pairing games are naturally well-suited as simple games, because they rely on the very simple mechanic of requiring you to either match cards of the same value, or match cards that add up to a certain value. I have already covered some of the best of this genre in another article entitled Popular adding and pairing solitaire games.

However that article only covers games of this type that are more rewarding and satisfying, and require a slightly higher level of decision making. I deliberately omitted simpler and more luck-based adding and pairing games suitable for children, saving them for the section below. Note that aside from the game Thirteens, the games immediately below are all pairing rather than adding games, so even the ability to perform basic addition isn't required in order to play any of them.

ACES UP

Overview: Aces Up (less commonly called Aces High, and other names like Firing Squad) is a classic and very easy solitaire game found in most books and collections. The tableau consists of four face-up piles, with an initial deal of just one card on each. If two cards have a matching suit, you can discard the lower valued card, and this is the main mechanism of the game you'll be repeating over and over. When you're stuck, you deal four more cards from the deck and continue this process. Empty spaces in the tableau are filled by a top card from any pile. You score points for every discarded card, with the goal of discarding everything except leaving just the four aces up, hence the name.

Thoughts: This game is one of three different games that sometimes also go under the name Idiot's Delight (the other two being the somewhat similar Perpetual Motion and King Albert), due to the low chances of winning. It is extremely easy and relaxing to play, since the main mechanism is simply to discard a card whenever you have two cards with a matching suit. While there's not a lot of decisions, there's enough to keep it interesting, and it's suspenseful to see whether the luck of the draw will help you discard everything except the Aces. It doesn't happen that often, but sometimes you can discard a large number of cards in succession.

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MEMORY (Concentration)

Overview: Memory will be familiar to most people as a multi-player game, but it can also be played solitaire with a regular deck of cards. All the cards are laid out face-down in a number of rows. Two cards are turned face-up at a time, and can be removed if they are a matching pair, otherwise they are replaced face-down. The goal is to remove all the cards in pairs of the same rank. The game can be simplified even further for younger children by using just 12 pairs of cards, for a total of 24 cards instead of a full deck of 52.

Thoughts: This game is most familiar as a competitive game under the name Memory. But it can be turned into a solitaire game by adding a scoring system, e.g. you lose a point for each unsuccessful match, and gain five points for every successful match. Alternatively you can simply try to clear the tableau in as few turns as possible. According to probability gurus, perfect memorization and optimal strategy requires an expected value of 41.4 moves.

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PERPETUAL MOTION

Overview: Perpetual Motion has somewhat of a similar feel to Aces Up, with four cards being dealt at a time. Unlike Aces Up, you're looking for cards with matching ranks rather than matching suits. When two exposed cards have the same rank/value, they are placed on top of each other. When you manage to get all four cards of the same rank on top of each other, they are discarded. The goal is to discard the entire deck in this way, redealing as often as necessary.

Thoughts: Perpetual Motion has obtained its alternative name Idiot's Delight due to the fact that it's only achievable slightly over half of the time, and in the case of successful games it takes an average of 128 rounds to complete. Some variant ways of playing do make the game more fun, such as the variant where cards of matching rank aren't moved to the left column, but can be moved to whichever column contains one of the cards. This allows for more decision making and greatly improves the game and your winning chances.

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SIMPLE PAIRS

Overview: As the name suggests, Simple Pairs is indeed a simple game. You deal nine cards in a 3x3 grid, and remove any matching pairs, immediately filling spaces thus created from the stock.

Thoughts: This is a much simpler pairing game that is entirely luck-based, to which games like Nestor and Vertical add further complexity and decision making. The variation Criss Cross has just five tableau piles, making it even harder to complete successfully, and is also a game of luck.

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THE WISH

Overview: One of the simplest games there is, with The Wish you remove all the 2s through 6s from a deck, and shuffle the remainder of the deck into eight piles of four cards each, with the top card of each pile always face-up. Matching pairs are removed, and the idea is to successfully get rid of all the cards.

Thoughts: There are very few decisions along the way, but despite this almost coming down to luck, it's still satisfying to complete successfully, and suspenseful to see if the cards will turn out. The speedy game time really helps too. In some variations (e.g. Genie) all the cards are face-up and visible, which adds some element of skill and planning. The Wish is effectively a simplified version of the Nestor variant Doublets, a pairing game.

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THIRTEENS (Simple Addition)

Overview: The game Thirteens (also called Good Thirteen, or Simple Addition) has a layout of ten cards. Cards need to add up to 13 to be removed, with the Jacks counting as 11, Queens as 12, and Kings as 13.

Thoughts: This is a simple adding game in the style of Fifteens, which employs a 4x4 grid, and allows you to remove pairs of cards that add up exactly to 15. Fifteens presents a larger challenge, however, because court cards and 10s need four-of-a-kind to be removed. A lot of luck can be required to win Thirteens. A closely related adding game that increases your winning chances is Tens, which has 13 tableau piles and allows you to replenish cards immediately after they are removed.

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TRI-PEAKS

Overview: Strictly speaking Tri-Peaks isn't a matching game, since in this game you are removing cards one higher or less in value than the current card. The layout has an arrangement of three adjacent pyramids (hence the name) of six cards each, and a lower row of ten cards. After dealing a card face-up from the remaining stock to the waste pile, you remove to the waste pile any cards in the tableau that aren't covered by other cards, each time going up or down in value by one. The aim is to remove all the cards in the layout while going once through the deck.

Thoughts: Tri-Peaks is a descendant of Golf, which applies similar game-play to a tableau of seven columns with five cards each. In Golf you can plan your moves since so many cards are face-up, but not being able to `wrap' from Aces to Kings or vice-versa makes it quite difficult. Like Tri-Peaks, Putt Putt removes this restriction, which makes the game much easier than standard Golf (although this is also how many software programs implement Golf). Tri-Peaks simplifies things along similar lines, and shot to popularity after being included in Microsoft Windows' standard solitaire suite. Robert Hogue created it in 1989, and his analysis suggests that most Tri-Peaks games are solvable.

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== Other Simple Solitaire Games ==

As far as simpler solitaire games go, adding and pairing games represent the most common and well-known type, given the simplicity of the mechanism involved. But there are a few lesser known solitaire games that don't rely on adding or pairing, and yet are extremely simple to play, such as the examples below.

HIT OR MISS

Overview: Hit or Miss is an entirely mechanical game where you simply deal out a deck one card at a time, counting cards as you go using the values of a suit: "Ace, Two, Three, etc." You carry on all the way to "Jack, Queen, King," at which point you start over with "Ace..., etc." Each time the card you deal matches the value of your count, that card is considered "hit" and is removed from the deck. After going through the entire deck, you repeat the entire procedure. The game stops if you deal through all the cards twice without getting a single hit, and the aim is to eliminate all the cards from the deck.

Thoughts: I first came across this game in The Little Book of Solitaire (Running Press, 2002), and was pleasantly surprised at the level of fun it produced, despite its simplicity. It's a pure exercise in luck, yet it incorporates an element of suspense that makes it surprisingly enjoyable. If you can count from Ace through King, and can recognize the numbers/values, then you can play this game, so it's very easy to do. Very closely related is the solitaire game Frustration, which uses the same dealing and counting process, but has the opposite aim: you win only if you deal through the entire deck without getting a single hit.

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HIGHER/LOWER

Overview: In the simple game of Higher/Lower, which is less well-known than the other games above, you only use a single suit of playing cards, i.e. 13 cards in total. After the first card is dealt face-up, your aim is to correctly guess whether the next card is higher or lower in rank than the previous card. You win if you successfully manage to guess all the 12 cards after the initial one.

Thoughts: I first stumbled on this game on the Solitaire Suite app from RikkiGames. It is more fun than it seems, because you do have probability on your side. Even so, it took me over 100 games to score three wins. But with a digital version it's quick and easy to play, with each game typically lasting less than half a minute. The further you get through the 13 cards, the more information you have to work with, because you know what cards have been played, and this means you aren't just guessing randomly, but have informed knowledge, and can quickly calculate the probability of whether the next card is higher or lower. Much more fun that it first appears!

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OTHERS

I have come across some other simple games that are far less known that are also fun. For example, I quite enjoyed the game 52 Pickup which I came across in the All-In-One Solitaire app from Pozirk Games. All the cards are dropped into a face-up mess, and then you have to grab them all as quickly as you can - but there is a catch: the next card you can pick up must be equal to or one value higher/lower than the last card you picked up. This gives it the feel of a game of Golf with added real-time tension.

The same app introduced me to 60/90 Seconds, which is also a Golf-style of solitaire, where you race against the clock to collect cards one value higher or lower than the dealt center card, earning as many points as you can in either 60 seconds or in 90 seconds.

CONCLUSION

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does represent some of the best and well-known simple adding and pairing games, and a few other simple non-builder solitaire card games. Undoubtedly there are others that could be added. But this should give you a great entry point for keeping your children amused with a simple solitaire game with a standard deck of playing cards, or even for yourself.

I especially recommend playing with a lovely custom deck of cards, because even a simple solitaire card game serves as a great way to appreciate and enjoy the artwork and design of a quality custom deck. Or alternatively, play digitally with the help of some excellent software like BVS Solitaire, which allows you to choose from different solitaires by type, including many simpler adding and pairing games.

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Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
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SIMPLE BUILDER SOLITAIRE CARD GAMES

Solitaire games can be a great way to pass the time, either with a deck of actual playing cards in hand, or using a quality app or computer program like BVS Solitaire. But where should you start, especially if you are new to solitaire card games, or want something so easy that you can even teach it to children? In the previous post I already covered simple adding and pairing games, since those are the easiest kind of solitaire games. These types of games simply require players to match cards of the same value, or cards that add up to a certain total.

Many solitaire card games, however, involve more in the way of strategy and decisions, and by far the most fall into a different category, namely: builder games. The usual formula of a builder game is that you must manipulate a tableau and arrange each of the four suits in order from Ace through King. The most common solitaire game of all time, Klondike, is a perfect example of a builder game.

There are varying amounts of luck and strategy in a builder game, depending on which one you are playing. But there are a number of builder gamers that are very easy to play, and are ideal for introducing this genre to children, and are perfect for newbies. The ease of play does often mean they are quite luck dependent, but they are still rewarding and fun. The games below are all well-known and popular builder games that are simple to play, making them an excellent launching point for new players or for children, and they do a good of introducing you to what builder games are about.

== Simple Builder Games ==

AULD LANG SYNE

Overview: Auld Lang Syne begins with four foundation Aces, and from the deck you deal four cards face-up into what will become four columns. You may play exposed cards to the foundations, building up by suit, with the goal of playing all the cards in each suit from Ace through King. Whenever you get stuck, you deal four more cards to these columns.

Thoughts: This is a simple game in the Sir Tommy family of solitaire games. Sir Tommy is also known as Old Patience, Try Again, Numerica, and is often considered to be the oldest patience game, and may well have been the source that inspired all the solitaire builder games that followed it. While very luck-based and mechanical, Auld Lang Syne is still a fun game for children, and is a good introduction to what building games are about. You really need to be lucky in order to have any chance of winning, because no building is allowed on the tableau. Because Auld Lang Syne is almost impossible to finish completely, make the goal to play as many cards as possible, or try one of the variants that increase winning chances.

Related: Other Sir Tommy variants like Acquaintance and Old Fashioned are slightly easier versions of Auld Lang Syne, and increase the odds of a win. There are many other related games in the Sir Tommy family that involve more decisions, and make an excellent next step, given how luck-dependent it is and how difficult it can be to win. For example, Strategy has similar game-play, but lets you turn over one card at a time and play it to one of eight waste piles

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CAPTIVE QUEENS (Quadrille) and CONTRADANCE (Cotillion)

Overview: Captive Queens is the most common name for this game, but it also goes under French names like Quadrille, La Francaise, or Partners. The four Queens go in the center, and the stock is dealt one at a time. There are eight foundations, four that are built by suit upwards from six through Jack, and four that are built by suit downwards from five through King (Kings going on the Aces). Three redeals are allowed. The two deck game Contradance (Cotillion) works in exactly the same way, but uses two decks, and has a single redeal.

Thoughts: Both Captive Queens and Contradance are somewhat mindless and luck-based games that simply require close observation. But they make a pleasant and rewarding pattern at game end, which is probably why the French names for both games (Quadrille and Cotillion) refer to country dances from the 18th-19th centuries. In the case of Contradance, a win rewards you by showing the Queens and the Kings face up.

Related: The closely related game Sixes and Sevens builds up from sevens and down from sixes, and adds a little more interest with the help of a nine-card reserve in the shape of a 3x3 grid. Other two-deck games much like this are Royal Cotillion, Odd and Even, and Patriarchs. All of these bring in some skill by waiting for an ideal card to show up on the top of the waste pile before playing a playable card in the reserve to make space for it.

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CARPET

Overview: Carpet is a relaxing single deck game, with a tableau arranged in a 5x4 grid. This is considered the "carpet", and effectively functions as a reserve of 20 face-up cards. The four Aces normally make up the initial foundations, and the aim is to build up on these by suit up to the Kings. You deal the stock just once a single card at a time, and whenever a card is taken from the reserve area and placed on the foundations, that row is moved to fill the space, with the top card from the waste used to replenish the moving carpet.

Thoughts: This game offers enough strategy to make it rewarding, while still remaining easy to play. To play well you should aim to fill empty spaces with cards that can soon be played to the foundation, leaving higher ranking cards in the discard pile until later in the game. If possible, you should use the carpet to build up chains of cards that can be played in immediate succession. The 5x4 tableau is really just a changing reserve of 20 cards, but the moving carpet concept gives added visual appeal and interest to the game.

Related: If you enjoy Carpet, you should also take a look at Four Winds, which has a very similar feel in play. It starts with 16 tableau piles shaped like a compass, along with foundations for all four of the directions North, East, South, and West. You deal through the stock twice, and can only place cards matching the suit of the foundation in the four spaces of the tableau allocated to that foundation. There are also some two-deck games that have a 20 card tableau like Carpet, and a similar feel, but incorporate some Sir Tommy type elements for placing more cards on the tableau and thus more strategy. These include the closely related Twenty (Sly Fox), Colorado, Grandmother's Patience, and Grandfather's Patience. All of these are excellent games that are quite easy and satisfying to play.

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FORTUNE'S FAVOR

Overview: Fortune's Favor requires a single deck, and the goal is to build up the foundations by suit from Ace through King. A tableau of twelve face-up cards is used, with only single cards allowed to be moved, building down in the tableau by suit, and empty spaces filled from the waste and stock. Cards from the stock can be played onto the foundations or tableau.

Thoughts: No redeal is allowed in Fortune's Favor, and manipulation within the tableau is somewhat limited, but because you have a large tableau and only a single deck, the chances of success are very good, so wins are common. It's wise to play cards to the foundations whenever you can, while it's best to leave high valued cards (e.g. 9s, 10s, and court cards) in the waste pile, while using empty spaces and building in the tableau to get lower valued cards into play.

Related: Fortune's Favor is a simple single-deck descendant of the two-deck Busy Aces, which represents a small family of solitaire games that are somewhat related to the classic Forty Thieves, but play considerably easier. Many of the Forty Thieves style games that use two decks are quite difficult to win, and require real skill. But the games in the Busy Aces family are more accessible, especially those that only use a single deck.

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OSMOSIS (Treasure Trove)

Overview: While not in many older books on solitaire, Osmosis is certainly a very popular game on a lot of websites. It's unusual in that cards are built up by suit regardless of value. There are four reserve piles with four cards each, but the main part of the game comes by dealing through the deck and playing to the foundations. The interesting part of this game is that you can only play a particular card on the next foundation if a card of the same value is on the previous foundation. As a result, cards of the same value slowly filter through to successive foundations by `osmosis', hence the name. You can redeal the stock as many times as you like.

Thoughts: Osmosis breaks away from the usual mould of building games in a few interesting ways, which help make it stand out as unique. It's also enjoyable and relaxing to play, even though much of the game relies simply on careful observation rather than strategy. The most common way of playing Osmosis involves dealing three cards at a time. Just like one of the main ways of playing Klondike, this can add a strategic element by sometimes leaving a playable card, in the hope that you'll get to see different cards on your next deal. Dealing one card at a time does make the game easier. Either way, your ability to succeed often depends on being able to successfully get out the cards from the reserves.

Related: In a common variant called Peek, the cards in the reserves are played face-up. Bridesmaids is another related variant.

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SULTAN (Emperor of Germany)

Overview: Sultan is also known as Sultan of Turkey, or Emperor of Germany. The Middle East theme is evident in that the goal is to have the Sultan (King of Hearts) surrounded by his eight Queens, while the reserve is sometimes described as a "divan" (couch). This two deck game begins with the Sultan surrounded by the other seven Kings and an Ace. These eight surrounding cards are the foundations you'll build up on (turning the corner from Ace) to the Queens. The divan consists of two reserve columns of cards on each side, and the rest of the deck is dealt one card at a time, with two re-deals allowed.

Thoughts: This game is a builder game that is quite easy and very fun to play, is often recommended as a simple game suitable for children and beginners. Careful management of the divan is critical to success. Ideally you want spaces in the divan filled with lower cards. This becomes extra tricky in variants of the game where the divan is automatically filled from the top card of the waste pile, so you shouldn't always play a card to the foundations immediately if it means the divan gets filled with a card that won't be played until much later. Careful play will nearly always lead to a win in Sultan, without the game ever becoming brain-burning.

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WESTCLIFF

Overview: Klondike is the classic solitaire game most people will be familiar with, but if you're looking for a slightly simpler Klondike-style game for children or beginners that you can win most of the time, Westcliff is one of the easiest in this family. The goal is to build the four foundations by suit from Ace through King, and the initial layout involves ten piles, each with three cards (two face-down and one face-up). This tableau can be built downwards by alternating colour, just like in Klondike, and the stock is dealt one card at a time.

Thoughts: There is no re-deal of the stock, but the game is so easy you can win virtually all of your games anyway, making it an excellent introduction to other building games like Klondike.

Related: Many other more challenging games in the Klondike family exist, but there is a range of levels of difficulty. Another good simple one to try besides Westcliff is Thumb and Pouch.

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CONCLUSION

Playing cards naturally lend themselves to builder-style solitaire games, due to the arrangement of cards in a deck into four suits with 13 rankings. Builder games like Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell are arguably the three most played solitaire games of all time, and there are many other popular ones in this genre, like Baker's Dozen, Beleaguered Castle, Canfield, Fan Games, Yukon, and Forty Thieves. Some of these can give significant opportunity for skill and decision making, while others are simply difficult to win.

It's good to know that there are some simpler builder games, which serve as a better starting point if you're looking for something slightly easier to play. While the luck-of-the-draw element will always remain a factor, many of the above games have the advantage that they enable you to successfully complete the game more often than not, and that they are simple to learn and play. More meaty builder games do exist for those wanting deeper games offering more of a challenge, but meanwhile simpler games like the ones covered above will give you a great introduction to the fun that solitaire card games offer.

So get yourself a good program or app like BVS Solitaire, or pull out your favourite deck of cards, and get playing!

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Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.
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