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Free Cell

If you would like to play the game on your PC, then you can skip past how to set up the tableau as the computer will do it for you. The strategy part of this article will still apply to you.

The object of the game is to free all of the Aces, from the tableau of overlapped cards, and build them up in suits all the way to Kings. On a computer, once you get to a certain part of the game, you may get a pop-up that asks if you want the cards to be moved for you. If you play the game by hand, it is all manual labor.

All it takes is one standard deck of 52 cards and enough room to build eight rows of cards. Deal six overlapping cards on each one of the rows, forming columns. This will leave four cards. Deal one of each onto the first four rows. This is your tableau.

The foundation will consist of four spaces. This is where you will put the Aces of each suit. The other four spaces make up the reserve, which are called free cells. The free cells are where you will put only one card at a time from the tableau.

Only one card at a time is available for play. Uncovered cards are the only ones you can play. The four reserve spaces have cards that are available for play as well as they are uncovered. Even if there are no Aces on the foundation, there is no such thing as borrowing those foundation cells to use in freeing up cards from the tableau.

Once an Ace becomes available, you can place it up at the top and start the climb to the Kings. Remember, suits count for this game. You cannot mix up the suits when you are building up from Ace to King.

Now, on the tableau, mixing suits is not only acceptable, it is the only way to play. As in regular solitaire, you will build down in rank with black on red, and vice versa. When you play the cards on the tableau, each card you move frees up another card and makes that one available for play.

Columns cannot be moved; only single cards can be moved. Let's say you have a red Jack, a black ten on top of that, and a red nine on that ten. If a black Queen becomes available, you need to have at least two free cells open to store the nine and ten. If free cells are not open, perhaps there are other cards open on which to temporarily store the nine and ten. This way you can move the red Jack onto the black Queen and reapply the black ten and red nine onto the cards making a column once again.

It would be very easy to place cards onto the four free cells in order to free an Ace. That move has been done many times. Most of the time, a fast move like that can end the game if there are no cards to place the freed cards on. Sometimes it is best to try to play cards red on black and black on red in the tableau before moving an Ace. See how many you can free that way before placing cards onto the four reserve free cells.

The bottom line of this game is to look before you leap and have a little patience. Study the board for a moment before you start playing; unless there are free Aces that you can safely place on the foundations to start. You'll have a good chance at winning this game every time you play.

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