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How to Play the Classic Solitaire Game Made Popular by Windows

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About FreeCell Solitaire



Screen shot of the game FreeCell from Pretty Good Solitaire.

FreeCell is the most popular solitaire game. An extremely strategic game, virtually every FreeCell position can be won.

FreeCell is a very young solitaire game. It was invented only around 20 years ago by Paul Allfile for the PLATO educational computer system. It was the first major solitaire game invented specifically for play on computers. It is a simple variation of Baker's Game and is related to an older, classic game called Eight Off.

How to Play

FreeCell begins by dealing out all 52 cards into 8 tableau piles. The first 4 piles will have 7 cards, the last 4 only 6 cards. All the cards are face up, which makes FreeCell an open game. Open solitaire games are usually the most interesting and give the most opportunity for skillful play and FreeCell is no exception.

The object of FreeCell is to build 4 foundation piles up in suit from Aces to Kings. In addition to the foundations and tableau, there are 4 cells. Each cell is a storage place for one card. Any available card can be moved to an empty cell, and cards in the cells can be moved either back to the tableau or to the foundations.

In the similar game called Baker's Game, the tableau piles are built down by suit. This makes for a challenging game. FreeCell allows building in the tableau down by alternate color, which makes for a better, more balanced game.

Group Moving Rules

Moving groups of cards is not strictly allowed in FreeCell. However, most computer implementations of the game allow for moving groups of cards as a shortcut. If you have all 4 cells empty, for example, it would be possible to move a group of 5 cards in sequence down by alternate color by moving the top 4 cards to the cells, then moving the 5th card, then moving the 4 cards back from the cells to reform the group. Since this is a rather laborious process, most FreeCell games allow you to simply move all 5 cards together at once. The effect of this is that the number of empty cells determines how many cards you can move as a group. It is very important to try to keep the cells as empty as possible so that you can move more cards around in the tableau. Another effect is that clearing a tableau pile also greatly increases the number of cards you can move as a group, since the empty pile can be used not only to store one card, but an entire group of cards.

Almost Always Winnable

FreeCell can be won very nearly every time. Only a very few FreeCell positions are impossible to win. The best known impossible position is #11982 in the Microsoft version of FreeCell that comes with Windows. This position is the only one of the regular 32000 positions in that game that is impossible to solve. Pretty Good Solitaire uses the same game numbering system, except it goes up to over 2 billion. Only a very few of its over 2 billion starting positions are unsolvable.

There is a great deal of information about FreeCell available on the internet. The FreeCell information site has a collection of the best FreeCell links, including links to Michael Keller's FreeCell FAQ and catalog of solutions, which is the most comprehensive site about FreeCell.

Warning! - Pretty Good Solitaire may be addictive. We are not responsible for lost productivity, neglected spouses, children, or pets. We are not responsible for lost sleep because you stay up to play "just one more game".

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Variations of FreeCell

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Windows Version 18.1 - October 10, 2018 - 1001 Games
Mac Version 3.42 - May 22, 2018 - 720 Games
iPad Version 1.50 - February 3, 2017 - 700 Games

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