Types of solitaire games

By Neal - 09/09/2020

Knowing what solitaire games exist and how they differ from one another enables you to choose the type that most appeals to your tastes and temperament. There are several different criteria to base your judgment on.

Type of skill and thinking involved

Solitaire players can be thought of as belonging to one or more of three main types: thinkers, risk-takers, and middle-of-the roaders.

Thinkers prefer completely open games like Beleaguered Castle, Eight off and Penguin. In these games all the cards are on display before you start playing, so the skill involved is that of looking ahead and calculating your best move at each turn. In most of these games all cards are dealt before you do any building, so you don’t have to risk repetitive strain injury by turning them over one by one from a stock.

Risk-takers are quite happy with completely closed games like Pyramid and Golf. In these you have no cards on display to start with: you just turn them up one by one (or three by three) and build them if you can or discard them to a waste pile if not. You may or may not then be allowed to turn the wastepile over and start redealing a second time, or even a third. Most of these games will eventually come out if you keep redealing indefinitely. The skill involved here simply consists in keeping an eye open and your brain ticking over.

Probably most people are in-betweeners, and stick to that are partly open but not completely, such as Freecell, Klondike and Spider. These games start off with many cards enough cards initially face up to give you a helpful steer. The number visible to start with obviously varies from game to game, and the type of skill required is of course a mixture of calculation, care, and hope- for-the-best.

One deck or two deck

Most solitaires were originally invented to be played with either or two decks, but, again, most can equally well be played with, or adapted for, either. Not surprisingly, two-deck games usually last longer, so consider first how much time you have available, or how many deals you want to play.

Types and styles of games

Not all solitaires involve building up four or eight cards in ascending suit-sequence (‘builders’). In some, such as Black Hole and Golf, you simply aim to form a single pile of all 52 cards on one foundation, in numerical sequence up and down ad lib, but not in the same suit. In a sense these are ‘eliminators’, because you are in effect simply eliminating all the cards into a discard pile. Other eliminators include the classic Accordion, and games such as Eleven off, in which you deal a tableau and eliminate cards in pairs, the two cards of each pair adding up to 11 or 13.

There are also different styles of games: