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Ultimate Guide to Bisley

Bisley solitaire is an interesting twist on the solitaire card game in that there are two possible foundation piles for every suit. You can play up or down depending on the pile, and you can also play up or down in the columns in the tableau. Bisley is related to other solitaire games, especially Baker’s Dozen, Capricieuse, Martha, and Perseverance, all of which are in the Bisley “family”.

The Rules of Bisley

Bisley is played with a standard fifty-two card deck. At the beginning of the game, the four aces are taken out and placed as the foundation cards for four foundation piles. There should be space above these piles for the four King foundation piles. When a King becomes available, it can be placed in one of these four spots, beginning that pile. The remaining cards will be dealt below the Ace foundation piles.

The other forty-eight cards are shuffled and laid out into four columns of three cards placed below the Ace foundation piles, followed by nine columns of four cards. This will make a total of thirteen columns of cards on the tableau. All of the cards on the tableau are face up and visible to the player once dealt.

During play, only one card can be moved at a time. Only the bottom free card of each column is available for play. You must move the bottom free cards in order to access other cards in the column.

A card can be moved into a foundation pile if it is either the next sequentially higher card in an Ace foundation pile or the next sequentially lower card in a King foundation pile.

A card can also be moved into another column if the bottom free card of that column is either one higher or one lower of the same suit.

Cards cannot be moved into empty columns.

The game is won when all cards are in foundation piles.

How to Play Bisley

As you play the game, the goal is to “free” cards that go sequentially next into the foundation piles. Because there are two foundation piles for each suit, there are options as to where the cards can go.

You are limited in playing to only moving cards onto the next card of their suit, either higher or lower. This rule applies to both the foundation piles and the columns. You cannot mix suits at all while placing cards. However, you can create sequences going higher or lower. For example, the Jack of Diamonds can be moved onto either the Queen of Diamonds or the Ten of Diamonds. These are the only two cards that this particular card can be moved to. If neither the Queen of Diamonds nor the Ten of Diamonds is available as a bottom free card, the Jack of Diamonds cannot be moved to another column.

As you move the cards around on the tableau, the goal is to move all the cards up to the foundation piles. Be careful while making sequences in the columns as they may inadvertently block cards that could otherwise go into the foundation piles.

Once a card is in a foundation pile, it cannot be removed. Similarly, once a column is empty, it will remain that way for the rest of the game. You cannot place a card in an empty column.

As stated before, it does not matter at the end of the game how many cards are in each foundation pile. So long as all the cards are in the foundation piles, the game is won. It does not matter if the cards are in the King foundation piles or if they are in the Ace foundation piles. Each pile may have different amounts of cards in them. For example, at the end of a game, the King Spades pile may go to Seven making the Ace Spades pile go to Six, while the King Hearts pile may only go to the Queen of Hearts and the Ace Hearts pile may include everything up through the Jack of Hearts. So long as all the cards are in the foundation piles, the game is won.

Common Strategies for Bisley

The game begins with all of the cards being laid out face up, so make sure to notice where all of your cards are. You will want to release the twos and the kings from the columns first – take note of where these are on the tableau. If there are any kings or twos available as the bottom open cards in columns, move these up to the foundation piles immediately, along with any following cards. The more cards you can move up to the foundation piles before you start moving cards between columns, the better.

When you are moving cards around on the tableau, always be aware of the cards in the column that you are placing a card on. Especially note if there are other cards of that particular suit in the column. This is where players often get trapped. Because you can only move one card at a time, if you make a sequence that requires a card trapped elsewhere in the column, the game will be lost.

For example, let’s say you have a column that is currently Five of Spades, Two of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds, and Eight of Spades. If you put the Seven of Spades and then the Six of Spades onto this column, the game is lost because there is no way to move the Six of Spades anywhere. It cannot go into the Ace foundation pile because the Five is trapped above it. It also cannot go into the King foundation pile because the Seven and Eight are trapped above it. You also can not move the Six of Spades into another column, as it can only be moved onto the Seven of Spades or Five of Spades, both of which are trapped in the column.

If possible, only move cards into sequences where there are no other cards of that suit in the column other than in the sequence at the bottom of the column.

While you often want to move cards up to the foundation piles as quickly as possible, this is not always the best strategy. Remember that each card can only be moved onto the two other cards that are directly above it or below it in that suit. By putting a card in the foundation pile, you are taking it off of the playing board, and can not use it to move other cards, some of which may be blocking important cards in their column.

On that note, if certain cards are “trapped” and difficult to get to, it may be helpful to work on the foundation pile for that suit that will not require that card for a while. For example, if the Four of Clubs is buried in a column, you may choose to focus your efforts on freeing the higher Club cards to put into the King foundation pile until the Four becomes more available.

Furthermore, be careful while making sequences. Take note of which cards are closer to being required for a foundation pile. For example, if you make a sequence in Diamonds of Jack-Ten-Nine-Eight with the Eight as the bottom free card, and then you get the King and Queen into the King foundation pile, you will need to move all the cards below the Jack to be able to put it into the King foundation pile. That being said, this is not impossible. You may build up the Ace foundation pile to the Seven, and then simply put the Eight, Nine, Ten, Jack in that pile, ending the game with the King pile finished at the Queen and the Ace pile finished at the Jack. You can also open up the Seven of Diamonds as a bottom open card and move the cards one at a time over to this card. This will reverse your sequence to Seven – Eight – Nine – Ten – Jack, but then you can move these into the King foundation pile as Queen – Jack – Ten – Nine – Eight – Seven.

If a card is the last card in a column, it is often useful to leave it where it is. Once a column has been emptied, you cannot place any cards in that column. By leaving the card there, you are leaving it as an option on which to place either the card below or the card above it in its suit. Because there are no cards below it, you lose nothing by leaving it in place. It is often best not to move these cards until it is required to put them in the foundation piles to win the game.

Bisley Terms

The terms used in Bisley are the same as some of the terms used in the classic solitaire card game. These include:

  • Foundation Cards: Bisley is unusual in that it has two foundation cards for every suit. Aces are foundation cards, but so are kings.

  • Foundation Piles: Piles are made by building up suits on top of the aces or the kings. These must be made in sequential order: Ace, 2, 3, 4, etc or King, Queen, Jack, 10, etc. It does not matter which foundation pile has the most cards at the end of the game.

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

Variations of Bisley

In some versions, rather than having four columns of three and nine columns of four, there are instead twelve columns of four. The game is otherwise played exactly as described above.

There is also a rarer version of solitaire called Pied Piper which is extremely similar to Bisley. However, in this version, the cards in the columns on the tableau can be built in sequences of alternating colors rather than only in sequences of their own suit.

Bisley FAQ

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

Q: I made a mistake! Can I undo?

A: Depends on the mistake! Moving cards between columns can be done as many times as you want, so long as you only move one card at a time. Once a card is in a foundation pile, or once you have emptied a column, these stay that way. Of course, if you’re playing with your own deck at home, you can make your own rules.

Q: Where are the jokers?

A: Jokers are not used in Bisley. This game uses a standard fifty two card deck.

Q: Are there unsolvable games?

A: Yes, but the different options of where to put cards makes this more unlikely. The only way this would happen is if the cards were dealt in such a way that some can’t be moved. For example, if when you first deal the game, if it turns out that one of your columns has the Four of Hearts, the Six of Hearts, and the Five of Hearts in that order, there would be no way to win this game. There would be nowhere to move the Five of Hearts in order to get to the Six or the Four to put into either of the Hearts foundation piles.

Q: Wait, it really doesn’t matter which foundation pile my cards go into?

A: So long as the cards are in the right sequence, and in the foundation pile for their suit, that’s right! Any cards can end up in either the King or the Ace foundation piles, and you still win!

Q: I want to play! Where can I play Bisley online?

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

Final Thoughts on Bisley

Bisley gives you different options on how to win. Two players could play the exact same deal of Bisley and end up with a different winning set of foundation piles. By being able to build up or down, you can play around with the cards, making Bisley an exceptionally fun version of the Solitaire card game. If this sounds fun to you, see how you like playing at this link.