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How to Play Freecell Solitaire and Freecell Variants

One of the most popular puzzle card games available across the world, Freecell Solitaire is an accessible and complex game of strategy and sorting. For those who are interested in breaking into the Solitaire genre, there's no better place to start.

With the help of this article you'll learn how to set up your own game of Freecell and get to grips with some of the best practices to grow your winning streak!

What is Freecell Solitaire?

Freecell Solitaire is a variation of Klondike Solitaire in which players have full control over their tableau. All cards are revealed at the onset of the game, and arranging cards is made much easier with the inclusion of four "free cells" which can be used to hold cards. This largely eliminates the issue of finding yourself stuck and unable to move cards around during the gameplay of a regular Solitaire session.

The goal of Freecell Solitaire should be familiar to anyone who's played the classic Klondike game. Build four foundational piles in numerical order using the cards in your tableau to win. Each foundation is a unique suit: hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. Your tableau is the pile of all of the cards drawn from the deck, arranged in 8 separate stacks.

The history of Freecell Solitaire

There were plenty of games before the advent of Freecell Solitaire which included free spaces to store cards. One such example was an early predecessor of Freecell known as "Baker's Game".

The version of Freecell we know today was created by Paul Alfille, who wrote the original computer code back in 1978. Since then, Freecell Solitaire has become one of the most popular games worldwide!

How many cards are there in Freecell Solitaire?

Freecell Solitaire uses an entire single 52-card playing deck, minus any extra non-playing cards. The game begins with all 52 cards placed face-up in the tableau. As there is no stockpile to draw from like in other variations of Solitaire, you will be aware from the beginning exactly where all of the cards from the deck are. It's up to you to sort them into your foundations!

How hard is Freecell Solitaire to play?

Of the impressive number of Solitaire variations on the market, Freecell Solitaire is perhaps the easiest for any player to pick up, play, and beat even with no experience. Some easy Freecell games can be beaten in under five minutes simply with a lucky card distribution and quick thinking.

Is Freecell always winnable?

Technically, no, though the number of unwinnable Freecell Solitaire distributions is something of a statistical anomaly. It's estimated that 99.999% percent of Freecell Solitaire games are winnable. So if you happen to be dealt a distribution that is completely unwinnable, that could be considered something of a unique win in itself.

How to play Freecell Solitaire

Freecell Solitaire can be set up at home or easily played online for free. Here's how to get started with this compelling and replayable puzzle game!

How to get started

All you'll need is a single deck of 52 playing cards. Set aside any rules or additional cards that aren't used in play -- you won't need these for the game. If you're playing Freecell Solitaire with a physical deck of cards, keep in mind that setting up the game may require a bit of time and more than a bit of table space. Some people may not be able to accommodate that in their home, which is why Freecell is so popularly played digitally!

The first step of playing is to shuffle your deck so it's completely randomized. No tricks are required here, just make sure it's well shuffled!

Your next step in setting up the game is to construct your tableau. Your tableau is the multiple piles of cards that you'll arrange in stacks, to be arranged and sorted throughout the game. Freecell's tableau consists of 8 stacks and will hold all 52 of your cards to begin. From left to right: the first 4 stacks will contain 7 cards each, and the remaining 4 stacks will have 6 each. Make sure you have adequate space set up for your four foundation spaces and four free cells. Once you've placed all of your cards you can begin the game.

Now that you have all of your tableau set up, it's time to learn the foundations of how to win Freecell!

How to build foundations

The foundations are the four stacks you aim to build to beat Freecell. Each will be an ascending stack of hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. Foundations are always started with an ace of the respective suit. If there are any aces that are at the front of your tableau stacks when the game begins, you can move those instantly to the foundations.

How to win!

When playing Freecell Solitaire, you can only move the current topmost card of your tableau stacks. You move cards to other tableau spaces by stacking them in both numerical and alternating color order. For instance, you can only stack a black Queen above a red King and a red Joker above that black Queen.

Larger stacks of cards can be moved assuming they're sorted according to criteria outlined above. You could, for example, move that King-Queen-Joker combination to somewhere different in the tableau, but no other cards unless they're fitted into that formation. You also can't store more than one card in each free cell square.

Winning Freecell Solitaire is a little easier said than done. Just remember that no matter your experience level, pretty much any game can be won with enough dedication and an eye for detail. Focus on sorting your tableau in the easiest way to transfer cards equally to each of your 4 foundations, making sure not to neglect a suit.

What other variations of Freecell can I play?

Variations upon variations! Freecell almost has enough variants to become its own game genre.

If you want to experience the mayhem and fun of double the cards, Double Freecell uses 2 decks of cards and comes packed with six freecell squares!

In Baker's Game, the original inspiration for the standard Freecell we play today, the tableau is built down by suit instead of alternating color. Just this small change makes this variation quite a bit more difficult to play, perfect for players looking for a challenge.

Play simple Freecell Solitaire online!

Hopefully, now you're well on your way to becoming a master of Freecell Solitaire!

Freecell Solitaire is one of the best games to play online. Skip the time setting up and restarting your game and instantly jump into the action at 247 Solitaire, completely for free.

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