- Pretty Good Solitaire

Jane's Mum's Solitaire

I was introduced to this solitaire a year or so back. I emailed a description to Tom once I worked out not only that nothing like it exists (as far as I can find, anyway) in PGS, but my timing was poor and coincided with his illness. And as it's fun and different and some of us probably own actual physical playing cards, I offer it here both in case anyone recognises it and can give it a name, and as a suggestion for a solitaire you actually need cards and a table for.

No name for this solitaire is known. It was taught to Jane, an optician friend and colleague, by her bridge champion mother, when Jane was a child.

Two standard decks.

Objective: eight foundations headed with K

Deal out the first 8 different cards as foundation bases; duplicates and kings should be returned to the deck; reshuffle stock once bases established.

Deal 8 stacks of 12 cards, face up. Only the top card of any stack is available for play.

The objective is to play cards to the foundations until each contains 13 cards headed by a king. Suits are entirely irrelevant.

The foundations are built oddly; the first card played to a base is double the base (subtracting 13 if necessary); subsequent cards are the result of adding the base to the current top card.

so the possible sequences are:

A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K

2 4 6 8 10 Q A 3 5 7 9 J K

3 6 9 Q 2 5 8 J A 4 7 10 K

4 8 Q 3 7 J 2 6 10 A 5 9 K

5 10 2 7 Q 4 9 A 6 J 3 8 K

6 Q 5 J 4 10 3 9 2 8 A 7 K

7 A 8 2 9 3 10 4 J 5 Q 6 K

8 3 J 6 A 9 4 Q 7 2 10 5 K

9 5 A 10 6 2 J 7 3 Q 8 4 K

10 7 4 A J 8 5 2 Q 9 6 3 K

J 9 7 5 3 A Q 10 8 6 4 2 K

Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 K

The first stage of play consists of working from left to right along the foundations, trying to play cards from the eight stock piles to the foundations. Enough of the base card should be visible as a reminder of the amount to add to the top card for the next as the foundations are built.


The top card of a foundation pile (with the exception of the base, which is fixed) may be moved to another foundation, as long as it follows the building rule for the destination pile and as long as it's not a K, which, once played to a foundation, locks the foundation pile against further changes.

Once all possible plays have been made, the leftmost of the stock piles with piled content is dealt out from left to right and continuing until the pile in hand is exhausted. The starting point for the deal is the space from which the stock was picked, and that pile and any to its left should overlap with previous cards; undealt stock piles to the right are stacked and not overlapped.

Once the stock pile in hand has been dealt out, working again from left to right across the foundations, cards should be played from the tableau, following the building rules and stealing if helpful. Once all possible moves have been made, the next stock pile should be picked up and dealt as before.

Once all the last stock pile has been dealt out, the second stage of play is entered.

The tableau will be in the form of eight overlapping columns of cards. Moves to the foundations, continuing to follow the building rules above, should be made. Spaces created in the tableau may be filled with any available card, where the only cards available for play are the topmost of any pile.

The game is a balancing act between keeping enough unlocked foundation piles to allow stealing between them and moving cards from the tableau to the foundation, and keeping spaces available for freeing needed but unavailable cards, until the foundation piles are all locked by being headed with a king.

My intuition says this could be winnable around half the time with careful play and some luck.

It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. :) However, it's a game that requires planning and thought as well as mechanics and a degree of luck.


  • Tim, Have you tried knocking it together using the PGS Wizard?

  • I tried; I couldn't. Don't remember why not, now -- I think there was an aspect of the rules or layout I couldn't replicate.

    Maybe I should take another look, in case there's been some evolution there :)

  • edited November 2023

    Nice. I didn't recall having seen an identical game to this one, but I will note that it is related to Calculation, which uses that type of building, albeit always starting with A, 2, 3, 4 as the foundation bases. More specifically, it is a variant of Senior Wrangler, which uses eight foundation bases A through 8.

    OK, a little more research answers (I think) your question...

    David Parlett (the only person on the planet who knows more Solitaire games than Thomas and me 😉), in his Penguin Book of Patience, lists this random foundation variant of Senior Wrangler as "Distribution". (It should be noted, however, that there is some flexibility in the rules as he describes them that does not, and cannot, exist in Pretty Good Solitaire; by definition, the software must have specific rules.)

  • I LOVE the name Senior Wrangler!

    I think I may ask to adopt that as a job title!

    (Distribution may be correct but it has significantly less soul!)

  • >I LOVE the name Senior Wrangler!

    >I think I may ask to adopt that as a job title!

    To be honest, I didn't know the source of the name until I read Parlett's entry for the above post. Apparently, "Senior Wrangler" is a traditional title for the top mathematics student at Cambridge.

    To clear, though, the other thing that recommends Senior Wrangler over Distribution is the fact that the former is already implemented in all versions of Pretty Good Solitaire so playable now (even if slightly different than your description).

  • You wouldn't be able to make that with the Wizard because of the weird foundation building. But it's how Calculation, Senior Wrangler and few other games build. (or at least similar). I think Numeration also has a complicated foundation building similar.

  • Senior Wrangler -- yes, similar in many ways but the lack of the ability to "steal" cards from the tops of other foundations certainly moves it into the "ouch that one's HARD" category! (I haven't been able to persuade the powers that be to change my job title to that either :( but maybe if this weekend's new system implementation goes well, I might be able to try again!)

    I like the novelty of the building process -- as you might have guessed! -- but it's probably too difficult to move into my short list of games I'm actually addicted to!

    Tom -- thanks for the pointers, going to try the other games you name too!

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