FreeCell Strategy

FreeCell is a popular game of solitaire included with Windows from Microsoft.  With FreeCell you see all the cards at the start so there is no luck involved.  The ability to win at this game is based solely on the skill of the person playing the game.  Many people consider FreeCell a hard game, but in most cases the games are solvable.

The judicious use of the free cells is the key to winning at this game of solitaire.  The free cells should be used only for a short time as temporary storage to help you move the longer sequences around.

As an example, you may have a column with the following cards:

5 Hearts

Ace Spades

Ace Hearts

4 Clubs

You can move the 4 of clubs to a free cell since you know that will allow you to move the two Aces to the foundation.  Then move the 4 of Clubs back from the free cell onto the 5 of Hearts.  You can see how the free cell was used only temporarily.

There are some safe moves that you can make in FreeCell at any time.  These moves will not hurt you later in the game.  You can move the Aces and the twos (when they can be played) anytime since no other cards depend on them.  Other cards can be moved safely to the foundation if cards one less in rank and of the opposite color are already in the foundation.  For example, if the black 4s have already been moved to the foundation then it is safe to move the red 5 there.

With the better FreeCell games, these safe moves are done automatically for you.  This way you can concentrate on the moves that matter and not have to worry about making these inconsequential moves.

In FreeCell your goal is to empty columns since this will permit you to move longer sequences around.  The number of free cells and empty columns determines the size of the sequence you can move.  The more empty columns and free cells you have, the longer the sequence you can move.

Here is a table showing how many cards you can move in some different situations:

Empty Columns           Empty Free Cells         Card Sequence Length

0                                  0                                  1

0                                  1                                  2

0                                  2                                  3

0                                  3                                  4

0                                  4                                  5

1                                  0                                  2

1                                  1                                  4

1                                  2                                  6

1                                  3                                  8

1                                  4                                  10

2                                  0                                  4

2                                  1                                  8

2                                  2                                  12

2                                  3                                  16

2                                  4                                  20

Empty columns are especially valuable since they allow you to move longer sequences.  When you have two columns free you can move very long sequences and then the game is usually easy complete from there.

The easiest way to empty a column is to start emptying columns that do not have any Kings in them.  Since there is nowhere for the King to go, a column with a king cannot be emptied initially.

Before making any moves have a plan in mind.  Move only the cards that will help empty the column you want emptied.

A strategy that will work on the easy games, but not the hard games, is to start by releasing the Aces and the 2s.

Keep in mind that keeping the free cells empty is the most important strategy of all.  If you can empty a few columns as well, then you have an excellent chance of easily finishing the game.