By Neal Taparia - 06/27/2022
FreeCell is a single-player patience card game that is a variation of the traditional solitaire format.
Like all solitaire games, the aim is to stack cards based on value and color to expose cards deeper in a stack and move them to four ‘foundation’ piles. Once all four foundation piles are complete, the game is won.
The name ‘Freecell’ refers to the four ‘free cells’ available to use as temporary storage for tableau cards – this differentiates the game from other variations of solitaire, like Klondike and Spider.
The game is played with a traditional deck of 52 playing cards.
Freecell follows a basic solitaire format, with players aiming to create four winning foundation piles – one for each card suit. As with all solitaire games, cards can be stacked in the tableau based on color and value. For example, a red four stacks on a black five, which stacks on a red six. And so on.
As and when players expose ace cards, they can move them to the foundation piles. They can then move any following cards to the foundation piles chronologically based on their value.
Players can also make use of four ‘free cells’ above the tableau – where cards can be stored to free up more useful cards stacked below.
The game is won when the player completes the four foundation piles. If the player runs out of moves before the foundation piles are completed, the game is lost.
There are a few main differences between Freecell and traditional Klondike Solitaire. Firstly, there are no face-down cards in Freecell – all cards begin exposed, so players can tell where each card is in the tableau from the start of the game.
As the game’s name suggests, the second key difference is the ‘free cells’. In Freecell, players are allowed to use four free cells above the tableau to move and temporarily store cards to expose deeper cards in the stack. Cards moved to a free cell can be moved back down to the tableau at any time – either to an empty column or stacked on a card of the opposite color with a value of one higher.
Arguably the biggest difference between Freecell and Klondike Solitaire, however, is in the number of stacked cards a player is allowed to move at once.
In Solitaire, players can move an unlimited number of cards at once, granted they are stacked chronologically and by color. In Freecell, the number of cards a player can move at once is limited and based on how many free cells are currently vacant above the tableau.
Players can move one card at a time between columns unless they have free cells available. Then, the rules are as follows:
One free cell = player can move two cards at a time
Two free cells = player can move three cards at a time
Three free cells = player can move four cards at a time
Four free cells = player can move five cards at a time
The maximum number of cards a player can move in one stack is five.
Freecell can be played using either a traditional deck of cards or online. To set up a game of Freecell with a deck of cards, follow these steps:
Shuffle a traditional deck of 52 cards
Create a tableau consisting of eight columns of six face-up cards each
Place an additional face-up card on each of the first four columns
Leave space for eight piles above – four ‘foundation’ piles and four ‘free cells’ (or ‘home cells’)
Your completed Freecell set-up should look like this:
Online FreeCell requires no set-up, and you can play unlimited games against AI on Solitaired.com.
Certain rules in Freecell differentiate the game from other variations of solitaire. Understanding the game’s unique rules gives players the greatest chance of winning.
Rules of Freecell include:
Cards can only be ‘stacked’ based on value and color. Cards can only stack onto opposing color cards with a value of one number greater. For example, a back three can only stack onto a red four and a red jack can only stack onto a black queen.
Foundation piles are built one card at a time, above the tableau. Cards can only be moved one at a time, in chronological order, into foundation piles – unlike Spider Solitaire, in which stacks are built in the tableau and then moved to the foundation pile all at once.
There are four ‘free cells’ available – for the temporary storage of cards. Any card can be moved to a free cell and then moved back down to the tableau at any time, as long as it is stacked according to the rules of the game.
The number of stacked cards that can be moved together depends on the number of ‘free cells’ available. Single cards can be moved at any time, while players can move two stacked cards if there is one free cell available. Three cards can be moved if there are two free cells available, four cards for three free cells, and a maximum of five stacked cards if all four free cells are available.
Understanding useful Freecell strategies is key to winning games. Below is a list of top tips for a successful game of Freecell:
Plan as many moves ahead as possible – before clicking for ‘quick wins’, consider how these would impact the rest of the tableau. By starting with the obvious moves, a player may end up ‘trapping’ valuable cards they need later on.
Aim for aces – aces are key to opening up the foundation piles, which give players greater options for moving cards around to free up more valuable cards or stacks deeper in the tableau.
Keep free cells clear– don’t rush to populate free cells. These are one of the most valuable tools in a winning game, so use them wisely. This also means removing cards from free cells at the earliest opportunity.
Consider high-value cards – and don’t necessarily move them straight to the home cells. While aces, twos, and threes are unlikely to be helpful in your strategy, higher value cards may be useful in moving cards around the tableau, so don’t move them immediately.
Create empty columns – empty columns are more useful than free cells, as you can move whole stacks (up to five cards) at a time, so look for opportunities to clear columns early.
Use the undo button – on Solitaired.com, we offer an undo button that is helpful when you make a mistake or spot a better move.
There are many alternative games to Freecell that follow similar solitaire or patience formats. Games like Freecell include:
The number of stacked cards a player can move at one time depends on the number of ‘free cells’ available in the game.
Players can move single cards at any time during the game. However, players can move two stacked cards if there is one free cell available, three cards if there are two free cells available, four cards for three free cells, and a maximum of five stacked cards if all four free cells are available.
While there’s no single strategy that guarantees a win in Freecell, there are some tips for increasing a player’s chances of winning. These include planning several moves ahead, moving aces to the foundation piles early in the game, and creating empty tableau columns.
Check out the tips in our guide to improve your Freecell gameplay and increase your chances of winning.
The name ‘Freecell’ refers to the four ‘free cells’ players can use to temporarily hold cards during the game. This differentiates the game from traditional Klondike Solitaire, in which there are no ‘free cells’ available.
While almost every game of Freecell is winnable, occasionally a player will draw a hand that is not winnable – however, this is extremely rare. It’s estimated that over 99.9% of Freecell games are winnable.
Using a basic and common deal numbering system – used on both Solitaired.com and Microsoft Freecell – game number 11,982 is the first unwinnable game and the only unwinnable game in 32,000 draws.
Online Freecell has a unique scoring system based on the time taken to win the game and the total number of moves made by the player during the game. Points are typically awarded for every card moved to the foundation pile, with bonus points awarded for completing a game. Points are deducted for each move made and for use of the undo function.
At Solitaired.com, you can create an account to track your personal scores and compare them with other players.
Below is a list of the key terms used in Freecell that you may come across in this guide or while playing the game. We’ve even included a definition of each term to help you better understand the game and improve your gameplay:
Blocked – when a player cannot make any more moves to progress the game.
Foundation– refers to the four piles in which the final stacks are created. Each foundation pile must begin with an ace and follow chronologically to a king. When all four foundation piles are completed, the game is won.
Free cells – refers to the four ‘free cells’ above the tableau that players can use to temporarily store cards during the game.
Home cells – another name for the foundation piles.
Stack– refers to cards placed on top of each other and linked based on value and color. ‘Stacked’ cards can be moved together.
Tableau – refers to the playing area that features eight playing columns.
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