Solitaire Card Games
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Solitaire Card Games

Introduction

The earliest references to card games for one player are from Germany and Scandinavia in the second half of the 18th century. Despite the French name Patience used for them, they do not appear in France until some time later, and legends that Napoleon played these games are apocryphal. French was a fashionable language among the leisured classes throughout northern Europe at this time, and French terminology was used in many German games. One of the first known sets of rules is found in Das Neue Königliche L'Hombre (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1797, page 198) which is essentially equivalent to the game we now know as Grandfather Solitaire, but played alternately by two players while others laid bets on the outcome.

The name Patience or its equivalent for one-player card games is still used in Britain and several other European countries, as well as in some other English speaking countries such as Australia. In America, however, one-player card games became known as Solitaires, and from the 1990's, as a result of the extraordinary success of the free Klondike Solitaire program packaged with the Windows operating system for Personal Computers, the American term Solitaire became established worldwide.

By the late 19th century Patience or Solitaire had become a popular pastime for people finding themselves alone with time to spare, and several large collections of one-player card games were published. It also continued to be played in gambling houses, at least in North America, as can be seen from several early 20th century sources in the bibliography of Jeroen Romme's Vegas Solitaire website. In the early 20th century the preferred game for stakes was a version of Sir Tommy, while later Klondike was used. However the success of these has been limited by the fact that they take rather a long time to play compared to modern casino games and require careful supervision if played with real cards.

Further material on the history of Patience or Solitaire card games can be found on David Parlett's page on Patience games. This also suggests a useful classifcation of some of these games according to the objective.

  • Sorting. There are many solitaire games (such as Grandfather and Klondike) in which cards are moved around a tableau with the aim of sorting them into order, often creating a pile for each suit ordered by rank.
  • Elimination or shedding. Games such as Pyramid in which cards or groups of cards are discarded or eliminated from the game when certain conditions are met, such as making a pair or a particular total, and the aim is to discard all the cards.
  • Piling. Games such as Accordion, similar to the above but related cards are combined into piles and smaller piles into larger piles, the aim being to reduce the whole pack to a single pile.
  • Pattern Scoring. Games such as Poker Square where are cards played into a layout with the aim of scoring as many points as possible for particular configurations of cards in the layout, or in which the aim is to create a particular pattern in the layout.

There are also games whose objectives don't fit any of these categories. This is especially the case with newly invented games, including some of those published on pagat.com, since inventors often strive for novelty and fresh ideas.

There has been a rapid growth of interest in Solitaire Card Games since the late 20th century, since they proved to be highly suitable for implementation as applications on personal computers, tablets and phones. An electronic version does away with the labour of shuffling and laying out the cards and the need for a large flat surface to play on, allowing the games to be played in almost any environment, even while on the move. The pagat.com Solitaire Card Game Software page lists some of the many apps and packages that are available.

Although most Card Solitaires are designed as one-player games, some of them have been successfully adapted as competitive games for two or more players. With more than one player the name Solitaire no longers seems appropriate, so on pagat.com these are known as Competitive Patience games, and are described in a separate section of the site.

Websites with Rules for Traditional Solitaire Card Games

This website pagat.com is devoted mostly to traditional multi-player games. There are many other sites with excellent and comprehensive collections of solitaire game rules, so rather than duplicating this effort, we provide below links to a selection of these sites. Some of them are associated with software packages offering computer versions of the games.

Randy Rasa's Solitaire Central site contains a wide range of information, including a searchable Solitaire Rulebook with descriptions of numerous games, a searchable collection of reviews of computer solitaire games for download, plus reviews of online solitaire games.

Here is an archive copy of Gordon Bower's Solitaire pages, which have rules of several solitaires, old and new, and investigations of the probability of winning.

For information about Freecell, see Michael Keller's Freecell site, including a tutorial, a catalog of solutions and free computer program Freecell Pro. A further collection of Freecell links can be found at Freecell.org. Michael Keller also runs the Solitaire Laboratory.

The rules section of the BVS Solitaire site has rules for hundreds of solitaire games.

EndersGame's What You Should Know About Solitaire Card Games is the first of a series of articles tracing the history and terminology of Solitaire/Patience games and their recent success as popular computer games.

The Single Player Card Games page of the Card Game Heaven site has rules of several Solitaire games.

Solitaire Card Game Rules on Pagat.com

Although we do not proactively collect them, users of pagat.com sometimes contribute rules of Solitaire Card Games, often of games they have invented themselves. In the index below, invented games are listed in italics.

GameDesignQuantityGame Type
Australian Patience   52, 2x52 Sorting
A solitaire card game that is somewhat more challenging than ordinary Klondike, and can also be played as a competitive game between two players.
Autumn Leaves   52 Sorting
A straightforward but challenging solitaire game with similarities to Spider, by Toby Ord.
Blackwidowstar   52 Discovery or Solution
A game for one player by Joseph Smith, in which the player tries to guess the order of cards in a shuffled deck.
Boardwalk   52 Piling
A new family of Solitaire games by Mark G. Meyers in which cards are accumulated by rank rather than by suit. With the free Java program provided you can play these games and customise the deck size and layout.
Bowling Solitaire 1   20 Bowling (Simulation)
A simulation of 10-pin bowling using 20 cards from a standard 52-card pack, invented by Sid Sackson and published in his Gamut of Games.
Bowling Solitaire 2   52+2J Bowling (Simulation)
A card simulation of 10-pin bowling by Kimberly Mullen, much simpler than Sid Sackson's version.
Byzantium   26 Shedding Games
A game by Toby Ord for 1, 2, 3 or 4 players in which cards must be fitted into a tree layout in ascending or descending order.
Cat's Cradle   52 Shedding Games
An original solitaire game by Michael Bourne.
Chris-Cross Pairs   52 Shedding Games
A solitaire game of casting out pairs from a 25-card tableau, by Victor Wakefield.
Cribbage Solitaire   52 Cribbage
Play cribbage against the deck. Contributed by Natty Bumppo.
Cricket solitaire   52+2J Cricket (Simulation)
A solo cricket card game by Adam Lambert
Defeat Dummy Dealer   52 Cribbage
A solitaire Cribbage game by Andrzej Lewicki.
Diamond Heist   10 Pattern Scoring
A solitaire game by Greg Jewell in which the A-9 of diamonds are to be arranged into a magic square by swapping pairs of cards under control of a Jack.
Doors   52 Other objectives
A simple solitaire game, contributed by Joe Wolf
Draft   52 Sorting
A solitaire game by Aaron Barnhart.
Elemental   52 Shedding Games
A solitaire game by Adrian Morgan in which the aim is to remove cards from a layout in blocks of four all of different suits. The game can be played on line at the web site.
Euchre Solitaire   24 Euchre
Euchre for one player, by Natty Bumppo.
Flip Ace   52 Shedding Games
A variant of the Solitaire game "Aces Up", contributed by Kewlio.
Foundations   52+J Sorting
A solitaire game with a wild card, contributed by Franklin Newman.
Freak Solitaire   52 Piling
An original solitaire game by Michael Gurfinkel
Giza   52 Shedding Games
A Solitaire card game by Michael Keller, based on Pyramid but with all cards exposed at the start making it into a puzzle along the lines of Freecell.
Hebrac's Dungeon   2x52+4J Combat Games
A role-playing game for one player using two or more standard decks, by Luc Miron.
Junk   52 Shedding Games
A simple yet difficult solitaire game by Diego Crawford.
Lockout   52 Sorting
A solitaire game created by Daniel R.
Lucky-o   52+2J Discovery or Solution
A simple solitaire game of luck by Justin Huneke, in which the player tries to guess the suits of cards.
No Man's Land   52 Other objectives
A Solitaire Game of Sniping in World War I, by Walter O’Hara
One Player Ninety-Nine   52+2J Ninety-Nine (adding game)
A solitaire version of the adding game ninety-nine, contributed by Corey Dixon.
One-Minute Solitaire   52 Piling
A simple solitaire against the clock, by Robert Gauss.
Pairs   2x52 Shedding Games
A simple solitaire game by Alan Gilfoy.
Penguin Patience   52 Sorting
A solitaire game by David Parlett.
Portraits   52 Other objectives
A solitaire card game by James Kyle in which number cards are used to purchase picture cards from the market.
Repeat Poker   52 Pattern Scoring
A solitaire game based on poker hands, contributed by Pramod Mulay.
Rook Pyramid   56 Shedding Games
A version of Pyramid Solitaire played with Rook cards, by Jeffrey Jacobs.
Royal Assassin   52+J Combat Games
A solitaire game by Mark Brown, whose object is to kill off court cards and retain your throne.
Shop Solitaire   52 Other objectives
A solitaire game by Gabriel Arthur Petrie.
Solitaire Bridge   52+2J Bridge
A card game for one player based on Contract Bridge, developed by Stephen Rogers.
Solitaire Uno   108 UNO
An UNO variation for one player, by Moonbeam.
Solitary Gin   52 Gin Rummy
A Gin Rummy variant for one player by Susan Plank.
Solo Nus   52 Eights group
A one-player version of the Crazy Eights variant Nusicle, from Andrew Brewood and Francis Irving's New Card Games site.
Spiralling Shape   52 Pattern Scoring
A solitaire card game by Jesse Fuchs in which you try turn a grid of 16 cards to your colour (red or black) by means of a series of "conversions" of cards by adjacent cards, carried out in spiral sequence.
Table Top Cribbage Solitaire   52 Pattern Scoring
A solitaire game for those who like to practise counting cribbage hands, by George Moore.
Triple Deck Solitaire   3x48 Sorting
Designed and contributed by Alan Gilfoy.
Twist Solitaire   52 Sorting
A solitaire game by Bill Perkins.
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This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2022. Last updated: 18th July 2022

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