Rules for Free Cell

Family: FreeCell
Categories: Popular, Thinker's, Rewarding
Variants: Baker's Game,Tough Sell
Also Known As:  

Here’s one to make your Windows-using friends jealous! Free Cell has become widely known and popular because a version is included with Windows, but we think our version is better. It is claimed that a few unwinnable games of Free Cell exist, but they are extremely rare. What we can tell you for certain is that we’ve played hundreds of games of Free Cell and never lost even one.

So a good player should be able to win nearly all games, at least if you are willing to make patient use of the Undo and Redo buttons. We recommend that this game be treated as a puzzle: feel free to back up and try a different approach whenever you get stuck.


Shuffle the deck and lay out all the cards in eight tableau piles, face up and fanned down. Four of the tableaus will have seven cards each, the remaining four only six cards each. Above the tableaus, on the left, are four free cells, and to their right are the four foundations, all of which start out empty.


Tableaus build down alternating color. Top cards of tableaus are available for play on other tableaus, on foundations, or on the free cells. Any available card may be played to an empty tableau.

An empty free cell can hold any card, but each can hold only one card at a time; and of course such cards can be removed only by correctly playing them back onto tableaus or foundations.


The goal is to move all cards to the foundations.


As in all games of this type, empty piles are tremendously important. You have four free cells to start with, which isn’t always a lot. Be a little bit careful in how you use the free cells. It’s best to fill a free cell only when you already know how to get that card out of the free cell again. Of course you won’t always be able to do that, and sometimes you’ll have to put a card in a free cell “until further notice.” When you have to do that, it’s a good time to take a snapshot of your position in case you never find a way to remove the card again.

An empty tableau acts like a free cell—only better, because you can build on the tableau. Conserve the free cells by moving multiple cards from the free cells into a single empty tableau when you can. (The cards you move will have to be in sequence, of course, so you won’t always be able to do this. But it’s great when you can!)

As a shortcut Solitaire Till Dawn will let you move full or partial builds provided you have enough empty piles available to have accomplished the same move one card at a time.

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