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GOALS | RULES | CONTROLS | SCORING | STRATEGY | DID YOU KNOW?

Game Goals

Move all 52 cards to the foundation, which is the area in the upper right corner with the engraved suit symbols.

Game Rules

The playing area is composed of the tableau, the free cells, and the foundation:

All 52 cards are dealt face-up in the 8 columns of the tableau. The bottom card in each column is free to be moved. A free card can be placed at the bottom of another column, provided that the last card in that column is one higher and of the opposite color. In other words, the 4 of hearts could be placed on either the 5 of clubs or the 5 of spades.

Cards are moved to the foundation by first moving the ace of a suit, then the 2 of that suit, and continuing on through the king. Note that once a card has been moved to the foundation, it can never be moved again.

The four free cells act as placeholder spaces, where any free card can be temporarily placed in order to access cards buried in the tableau. A free cell can never contain more than one card. You can also move any free card into an empty column in the tableau.

To save time, you can move several cards at once, as long as they are ordered (ascending rank and alternating color), and as long as there are enough open free cells to perform the move. You can move a stack that is one greater than the number of free cells. For example, if there were 3 open free cells, you could move a stack of four cards. For this purpose, an empty column in the tableau counts as an open free cell.

Game Controls

To move a stack of cards, click and drag the highest-ranked card in the stack you want to move.

Double-clicking on a free card will move it to a free cell.

Right-clicking on a free card will move it to the foundation, provided there is a valid spot for it there.

There are hotspots in a column down the left side of the playing area, starting with "K" and going down to "A". Moving your mouse over a spot will highlight the cards of that rank. This is useful for quickly finding a given card in the tableau.

You can use the Undo button in the lower left corner to take back your last turn.

If you get stuck, use the End Game button. You'll still get a time bonus even if you don't complete the game, so click this button as soon as you realize that you're stuck.

Note: At the end of each move, the game will automatically move any unneeded free cards to the foundation. A card is considered unneeded when no lower-ranked cards of the opposite color remain in the tableau or free cells.

Game Scoring

Your score is displayed in the lower left corner of the playing area, and is simply 25 points for each card you move to the foundation. In addition, there is a time bonus, based on the following formula:

( TT - TU )
TT

x

CP
52

x

1000

Where:

  • TT is the total time limit
  • TU is the amount of time used to play the game
  • CP is the number of cards placed in the foundation

Example 1: In a Hard game, you get stuck after getting only 11 cards to the foundation, and quit the game after 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Score =

11 x 25 +

( 720 - 140 )
720

x

11
52

x 1000 = 275 + (0.8056)(212) = 446

Example 2: In a Medium game, you get all 52 cards to the foundation in 8 minutes and 30 seconds.

Score =

52 x 25 +

( 600 - 510 )
600

x

52
52

x 1000 = 1300 + (0.15)(1000) = 1450

Game Strategy

Free cells are precious - don't use them unless you really really need to.

Don't put cards into the foundation that you might need in the tableau - once a card is in the foundation, it can't be taken back.

Look for low cards - Aces, twos, etc. - that are buried far down in the columns, and figure out a plan to free them.

Try to empty out one of your tableau columns. It's like giving yourself an extra free cell!

Use the hot buttons down the left side of the playing area to quickly find a card you're looking for.

Did You Know?

  • Free Cell was invented by Paul Alfille, who programmed the first version of the game in 1978 for an educational computer system called PLATO. However, Free Cell is a variation of several earlier solitaire games: Eight Off, Baker's Game, and Napoleon in St. Helena.
  • Virtually every possible deal of Free Cell is winnable. In one study of 20 million deals, all but 263 were winnable (99.9987%). In the version of Free Cell included with Microsoft Windows, only one of the 32,000 deals is unwinnable (number 11982).
  • On freecell.com, where people can play an online Java version of the game, eight players have had streaks of 1000 or more consecutive wins. And one player has a streak of over 5,000 consecutive wins!

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