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Ultimate Guide to Alternations

Alternations is a variation on the classic card game of solitaire. There are many variations on solitaire, some of which can be played online here. Alternations gets its names from the alternating pattern that the cards make when first dealt at the beginning of play. It is unlike classic Solitaire in that it uses two decks of cards instead of just one.

Solitaire, also known as Patience, is a favorite single player card game. Alternations is of the “fan” family of solitaire games. Other versions within this family include Bristol, Flower Garden, House in the Woods, Intelligence, La Belle Lucie, The Plot, and Shamrocks.

Alternations has some similarities to other solitaire card games, such as Klondike and FreeCell. As Alternations is a lesser known version of Solitaire, try it out for a new challenge!

The Rules of Alternations

In order to deal this game, you need to shuffle two standard fifty two card decks together.

The game begins with forty nine cards laid in seven columns of seven cards each. The top, third, fifth, and bottom cards in each column are face up, while the second, fourth, and sixth cards are face down. The cards alternate: Up, Down, Up, Down, Up, Down, Up. This pattern, of alternating face up and face down cards, is what gives the game its name of Alternations.

When dealing the cards, leave room at the top and left hand side. The left hand side will be where you put the stock pile – the remaining cards after you deal the initial seven columns. The top is where you will build your eight foundation piles.

The game is similar to classic solitaire in that as the ace cards become available, you place them at the top as foundation cards to collect cards within that suit. Once a foundation ace is at the top, you can put the other cards in the suit on top of it in numerical order (Ace, Two, Three, etc.). This creates foundation piles. The object is to get all the cards in these eight foundation piles at the top, one for each suit of the two decks.

You can place cards on top of one another in a descending sequence, playing off the available bottom card in each column. It does not matter what suit the cards are. For example, you can put an 8 of diamonds on a 9 of jacks, just as you can put an 8 of hearts or an 8 of spades. There are some versions where you must alternate colors as you build sequences, similarly to classic solitaire. In this case, you could only put an 8 of diamonds or an 8 of hearts (red) on a 9 of jacks or a 9 of spades (black). When playing with a standard deck of cards, you can decide which of these versions is better for you.

When you move a card off a face down card, the face down card should be flipped over and be revealed. A face down card can only be flipped when there is nothing on top of it.

As you play, cards from the stock are dealt one at a time. If you cannot use the card, it is left in the waste pile. The stock pile is only dealt once – there is no redeal.

The game is won when all the cards have been put in sequential order of the suits at the top in the foundation piles, beginning with the aces and ending with the kings.

Once the entire stock pile has been dealt, the game is over. If there is no way to get all the cards into the foundation piles at the top at this point, the game has been lost.

How to Play Alternations

Alternations is a bit trickier than classic solitaire, partially because there are more cards involved. The fact that you can only go through the stock pile once also adds a challenge, similar to Forty Thieves.

Move the cards on top of one another to build sequences, similarly to the classic solitaire card game. You must build them down, placing the next sequential lower card on top of the existing card (eg. Five on a six).

Cards that are in a sequence can be moved as an entire unit. You can move the entire sequence or just a part of it. For example, if you have a Jack – Ten – Nine sequence, you could move the Nine, or the Ten and the Nine, or all three cards to another column. If there is an open Queen in another column, you could move the Jack onto the Queen while taking the Ten and the Nine with it.

You can only move a card in one of the columns if it is the open card on the column (bottom of the column when looking at it, but stacked on top of the other cards) or if it is in a sequence that includes the open card on the column. You can not take a card from a column until it is available.

If you can clear an entire column, you can put any card in that column to build on. You can move a sequence or a single card there.

You do not have to build up the foundation piles evenly; it is quite common for one of these top piles to still be waiting for a two while another may already be waiting for a seven. However, be careful of filling up a foundation pile too quickly! Many online versions of the game will not allow you to take cards back once you have put them in a foundation pile. Sometimes, it is best to leave them on the board so that other cards can be played with them to make sequences.

Common Strategies for Alternations

Many players attempt to move the cards so that as many cards are visible as possible. This allows the player to get a better sense of what is still in the face down cards and in the stock pile. If there are two options when it comes to moving cards, it is generally smart to move one that will allow you access to a new card. After all, you are trying to get all the cards off of the board, and this is easier when you know where all the cards are.

The alternating face up – face down layout means that you could have an ace trapped near the top of a column. Keep the cards moving until everything is flipped over.

One important factor to remember is that stock pile is dealt only once. If you can use a card from the stock pile, you should. You can put this card on another to make a sequence. You can also add it to the top if there are suits being built already. If a card is not used, it will go into the waste pile. You will have to get through all of the other waste cards on top of it to get back to that card.

Try to find the aces as soon as possible to start your foundation piles at the top of your tableau. This will give you more options for moving cards.

Because many versions allow you to create sequences regardless of suit, some players may find it easier to try to keep cards of the same suit in a sequence. That way, when the foundations pile at the top is ready for those cards, they are all in one place and multiple sequences do not have to be moved and shuffled in order to gain access to the required cards.

If you can clear a column, move a card over that is particularly tricky to move. A common strategy is to put a king at the top of the column, as this is the last card that you will be able to put on a foundation pile at the top. A king also can not be placed on any other card, so the only way you can move it is to place it in an empty column or to put it in a foundation pile as the last card for that pile.

Many online versions of the game will also “help” you by automatically moving cards up to the foundation piles for you.

If the version you are playing does not allow you to take back cards from a foundation pile, be patient in putting cards up there! You may need a card on the board to create a sequence. For example, you may need to leave a four on the board so that when a three is dealt from the stock pile, you can move it onto the tableau. Otherwise, that three would be lost in the waste pile, perhaps never to be seen again.

Alternations Terms

The terms used in alternations are the same as the terms used in classic solitaire. These include:

  • Foundation Cards: These are the aces. Because Alternations is played with two decks, there are eight in the game.

  • Foundation Piles: Piles are made by building up suits on top of the aces. These must be made in sequential order: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King

  • Stock: The stock is the pile from which cards are dealt. At the beginning of the game, this includes all cards not in the seven columns laid out on the tableau.

  • Tableau: This is the area where the game is played, otherwise referred to as the playing “board”.

  • Waste: Once a card has been pulled from the stock pile, if it can not be used, they go to the waste pile. Once in the waste pile, a card can only be retrieved if all other cards put in the waste pile afterwards have been used.

Variations on Alternations

As mentioned before, there are variations depending on whether cards in a sequence have to alternate colors or if any suit can be placed on any other. This is entirely dependent on which version you want to play, although many online versions have the rules firmly set one way or the other. The versions where you do not have to alternate color are much easier to win.

While most versions of Alternations do not allow redeal of the stock pile, you can make the game easier by allowing this.

Some online versions do not allow you to take a card back once you have placed it in a foundation pile. This makes the game slightly more difficult, but also may change your strategy in playing the game.

Alternations FAQ

Here are some of the most asked questions about this game:

Q: I made a mistake! Can I undo?

A: If you are playing with a real deck at home, then that is entirely up to you. Many online versions do not allow you to undo a move, so choose your moves wisely!

Q: Are jokers used at all in Alternations?

A: No, the jokers are not used. Alternations uses two standard fifty two card decks.

Q: Are there unsolvable games?

A: Yes! There are some games you just can’t win. However, the use of two decks and the ability to put any suit within a sequence does allow for more possible ways to win. For example, if there is an ace stuck under a two of the same suit, you can likely move the two onto a sequence, or may have the other ace for that suit in a foundation pile.

Q: Why are there only seven columns when there are eight foundation piles?

A: Part of the fun of course! This means that you will never be able to have all of your kings at the top of a column in a sequence.

Q: This sounds fun! Where can I play Alternations online?

A: You can find Alternations and many other versions of Solitaire at www.playsolitaire-online.com

Final Thoughts on Alternations

Once you have mastered the classic version of solitaire, alternations is a great twist on the game. Try out this and many other interesting online versions of solitaire.