Forty Thieves Solitaire

Forty Thieves solitaire is yet another exciting addition to our patience game collection. With a ridiculously easy setup, but a challenging approach to play, this addictively fun game of Forty Thieves solitaire will surely test even the most seasoned of solitaire aficionados.

A game of many names which draws from maritime tradition, Forty Thieves solitaire is alternatively known as Napoleon in St. Helena (though mostly on the other side of the Atlantic). The fated emperor supposedly passed the time playing the game after being swept into exile by the vengeful British. 

Whether or not that is true, it certainly requires a strategic mindset. Let’s look at how to play Forty Thieves solitaire.

How to Play Forty Thieves Solitaire

40 Thieves solitaire is played with two decks of cards, so have these on hand before you get started. Make sure you’ve got a reasonable playing area, like a table, to set your cards down on. Alternatively, you can load up a game of free 40 Thieves solitaire directly on our website. We’ve already set it up for you.

Essential Solitaire Terms

The ultimate goal of all solitaire games is to return a shuffled set of cards to a certain order. Let’s quickly go over some essential solitaire terms that will make explaining this particular variation easier.

  • Tableau – This is the area where most of your playing happens. In solitaire Forty Thieves, this involves ten vertical lines consisting of four cards each. All the individual cards within these columns are uncovered, meaning that they face the player. 
  • Stock – Once your cards are dealt, the remainder of the deck becomes your stock. These cards face away from the player and can be drawn from when you run out of moves. If a card can’t be played onto the tableau, it’s moved, facing up, onto a new pile next to the stock, called the waste.
  • Foundations – Most variants of solitaire are won by building foundations. These are new piles that you will create by drawing cards from the tableau or directly from the stock. In Forty Thieves solitaire, these piles must be of the same suit and run from the ace to the king. Because we’re using two decks, there are eight foundations. 

Setup of Forty Thieves Solitaire

  • Take two decks of cards (with the jokers removed) and shuffle them together. 
  • Lay out ten piles of cards in a horizontal line, with four cards in each pile, all facing the player.
  • Separate the cards within the individual piles so that they overlap one another in vertical lines. This is your tableau.
  • Take the remainder of the deck and put it to one side, facing away from you. This is your stock.
  • Leave space above the tableau for eight new piles of cards. These will be your foundations.

Rules of Forty Thieves Solitaire

It’s really as simple as that! No complicated combinations of covered and uncovered cards. Now that we’re ready, let’s look at our objectives.

How to Win Forty Thieves Solitaire 

Forty Thieves solitaire is won by arranging your cards into eight piles, or families, on the foundations – two piles for each suit in the 104-card deck. Cards must be of the same suit and arranged in ascending order from ace to king.

This is achieved by moving cards from the tableau, or directly from the stock, onto the foundations. Cards can only be moved based on certain criteria. If you’re unable to make any more legal moves, the game of Forty Thieves solitaire is over.

Moving Cards around the Tableau in Forty Thieves Solitaire

The majority of play involves you moving cards between the different vertical lines on the tableau, building up ‘runs’ of cards that follow a specific order. 

  • Rule 1: In Forty Thieves solitaire, a card (or run of cards) can only be attached to a different card on the tableau if the destination card is of the same suit and one rank higher.
  • Rule 2: A destination card must be the final card in its vertical tableau column. You can also move a card (or run of cards) into an empty slot in the tableau should one appear.

You’ll see that these two rules limit the number of moves you can make from the outset. Much of the Forty Thieves solitaire’s strategy is to free up cards trapped in their respective piles, making moves so that they can be brought into play.

Introducing Cards from the Stock in Forty Thieves Solitaire

Once you’ve run out of moves on the tableau, you can create new opportunities by introducing cards from your stock.

  • Rule 3: Only one card can be drawn from the stock at a time. Any cards that cannot be played go directly onto the waste.
  • Rule 4: A card from the stock can only be attached to the bottom card of one of your vertical lines, it must also be of the same suit and of a directly lower rank to the destination card.
  • Rule 5: Stock cards can also be played directly onto the foundations.

Once your stock is completely empty, flip over your waste pile so that it faces away from you and draw the first card. This is your new stock.

Top Tips for Forty Thieves Solitaire

  • Before you make any moves, draw the first card from the stock and place it down in the waste pile. You can play the top card from the waste as well, so this will increase your number of potential moves.
  • Before you clear a space on the tableau, try to have a king available to fill it. But whatever you have, the higher the rank the better.
  • Immediately play any available aces (or twos) onto the foundations, as you won’t be able to create any substantial runs on them.

Are There Any Other Types of Forty Thieves Solitaire?

Like all patience games, Forty Thieves solitaire has plenty of variations, some of which make use of only one deck. There’s also a version called Sixty Thieves, which, you guessed it, uses three decks and 12 columns of five cards.

Where to Play Online Forty Thieves Solitaire

Whether you call it Forty Thieves solitaire, Napoleon at St. Helena, or any of its myriad names, we’ve got it all set up for you on our website. Just pick your choice of solitaire to get started.