Solitaire vs. FreeCell: Differences and Which Should You Play

Solitaire games come in many forms.  Apart from the classic Klondike version, FreeCell is another well-known form of solitaire. Although FreeCell and solitaire both use a single 52-card deck, many differences set the two games apart.

The differences between solitaire and FreeCell lie in their setup and solvability. In a Klondike solitaire tableau, only the top cards in the seven columns face up. In a FreeCell tableau, all cards in the eight columns face up. Compared to Klondike solitaire, FreeCell games are more solvable.

Below, I’ll take you through the similarities and differences between Klondike solitaire and FreeCell. This comparison will include an overview, setup, and gameplay. With this knowledge, I hope you can make an informed decision on which game suits you better.

Klondike Solitaire vs. FreeCell: The Differences

Before going any further, I want to clarify that when I talk about “solitaire” in this article, I’m referring to Klondike solitaire. Note that they’re not strictly the same, since the term “solitaire” also refers to a wide variety of card games that include Klondike. That said, I would like to focus on the most popular version of solitaire (i.e. Klondike) for clarity’s sake. 

With that out of the way, let’s get into the differences between (Klondike) solitaire and FreeCell.

(Klondike) SolitaireFreeCell
Time FoundedLate nineteenth century1978 (Paul Alfille version)1995 (digital version)
Type of gameBuilder type card gameBuilder type card game
Number of decksOne 52-card deckOne 52-card deck
Number of columns in the tableau78
Number of cards per tableau column1-7 from left to right in the ascending orderThe first four columns have seven cards each, while the last four columns have six cards each.
Number of foundation piles44
Number of free cells04
ObjectiveMoving all the cards to their respective foundation pilesMoving all the cards to their separate foundation piles
Variations2-Deck or Double Solitaire variation available3-deck and 4-deck variations are available
Table: Solitaire vs. FreeCell

Did you know: Around 99% of FreeCell games are winnable if you play optimally. While normal (Klondike) Solitaire is winnable only 81% of the time. You can read more about win percentages of different games in this article.

solitaire vs. freecell
FreeCell is more beginner-friendly as you will win it more often. I personally don’t enjoy FreeCell too much as it feels too easy to play, I used to play it a lot more when younger and didn’t know much about proper Solitaire strategy.

Klondike Solitaire vs. FreeCell: Overview

Klondike solitaire is arguably the most popular card game in the world. It’s the game that everyone thinks of when they hear the word “solitaire.” You can play it using old-fashioned, physical cards or a digital device like a smartphone or computer. The game dates back to the late nineteenth century when gold rush prospectors would play it to pass the time.

FreeCell is one of the most recent variations on solitaire. Founded in 1978 by Paul Alfille, the game remained relatively unknown until 1995, when it entered the digital world. It’s arguably the form of solitaire where you’re most likely to win — though that doesn’t mean you can let strategy fall by the wayside when you play FreeCell.

Klondike Solitaire vs. FreeCell: Setup

The standard version of Klondike solitaire uses a single 52-card deck. It consists of a tableau, foundation piles, a talon, and a stockpile. This game begins with setting up a tableau of seven piles and leaving a space for four foundation piles. You will deal cards from left to right with an ascending number of cards for every stack.

The first column will have a single card, the second column has two cards, the third column has three cards, and so on. You deal all the cards face-down. However, for each column, you have to turn the uppermost card to face up after dealing all the cards. Once you’re done dealing the cards, you put all of them in the top right corner above the tableau to make the stockpile.

Similar to Klondike, FreeCell uses a single 52-card deck. It also consists of a tableau, foundation piles, and free cells. FreeCell has eight foundation piles.

Notably, the first four columns from your left will have seven cards each, while the last four cards will have six cards each. You can divide the remaining cards into the four free cells above the tableau on your left-hand side. On the right side, you set a space for the foundation piles. Then, you deal all cards in FreeCell face-up.

Klondike Solitaire vs. FreeCell: Gameplay and Objective

The primary objective of the solitaire is to arrange all 13 cards of every suit in a complete sequence. You need to place the cards in the foundation piles in ascending order from the ace to the king. These cards can come from the stockpile or the last cards in the tableau columns.

Alternatively, you can organize each tableau pile in descending order with cards of alternating colors. To win a solitaire game, you need to reveal all your face-down cards in the tableau. You can move the last tableau cards to the foundation or other tableau piles. You may also prioritize the larger tableau stacks to make them shorter.

Move your cards from the stockpile to the talon (a.k.a. “waste pile”) one at a time if you find it impossible to use the last cards in your tableau columns. Play any usable cards you see from your stockpile. You can either move them to the foundation or the tableau column while keeping an eye on the last cards of your tableau.

Like solitaire, the objective of FreeCell is to end up with 13 cards, each arranged in ascending order in the foundation piles. It would help if you ended up with cards in each foundation pile placed from ace to king. Again, like solitaire, you should aim to organize tableau columns in descending order.

Cards from the tableau can move to other tableau columns or straight to the foundation stacks, as long as you’re careful about the order of arrangement. You can move any FreeCell cards to the foundations or any tableau columns. 

Video: How to play FreeCell

Klondike Solitaire vs. FreeCell: Which Should You Play?

Compared to Klondike solitaire, FreeCell is relatively easy. FreeCell has four free cells, making it more solvable than Klondike. However, not all FreeCell games are solvable, and strategy is still required to increase your chances of winning.


While Klondike solitaire and FreeCell have a few similarities, there are several differences too. Both games use single 52-card decks and aim at getting all cards in the foundations arranged in ascending order. However, differences exist in their respective setups and how to play them. In any case, they’re both enjoyable games in their own right.