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The Ultimate Guide To Grandfather’s Clock

Grandfather’s Clock seems like an unusual version of Solitaire. But once you are able to understand the ins and outs of the game, it’s very easy to play and win. This may not be a type of Solitaire that you typically see like Classic Solitaire or Golf Solitaire. But it is easy and fun to learn if you want to change it up a bit instead of just playing regular Solitaire. Once you are able to familiarize yourself with the setup and how to play it from start to finish, you will win this type of Solitaire game more frequently. Learn how you can play the game and what the rules are so you can master this game as early as today.

Rules Of Grandfather’s Clock

Before the cards are shuffled, you’ll need to take out the following cards from the deck: the 10 of Hearts, Jack of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, King of Clubs, 2 of Hearts, 3 of Spades, 4 of Diamonds, 5 of Clubs, 6 of Hearts, 7 of Spades, 8 of Diamonds, and 9 of Clubs. These cards represent what are known as the “foundations”. As a starting point, the 2 of hearts should be in the 5 o’clock position. So start there and go clockwise until the last foundation card is laid.

Next, shuffle the remainder of the deck and lay out the tableau in the following design: four columns of five cards fanned out and placed adjacent to the top half of the clock and the same deal, this time placed adjacent to the bottom half. However, this is completely optional. Some can set this up as eight consecutive columns with four cards each.

Each card that is placed must match it’s base suit and should be done in ascending order (I.E. Ace, 2, 3, etc.).

How To Play Grandfather’s Clock

The cards on the bottom of each column in the tableau are available. The suits and values of the layout are irrelevant. However, the available card must match the the same suit and color to build on the foundations. For example, if a 3 of hearts is available, it can easily be built on the 2 of hearts located in the 5’ o'clock position. Any empty spaces in the tableaus can be filled by a card if a player needs to expose one for use. On the tableaus, the King can be played on the Ace. On the foundations, the Ace may be played on the King.

The goal is to build up each of the foundations to its appropriate number on the clock’s face (I.E. 2 at the 2 o'clock position, 3 at 3 o'clock, etc.). The Jack and Queen represent numbers 11 and 12, respectively. At the game’s end, foundations 1 through 4 will each have five cards a piece while the rest will be able to have four cards a piece. 1 through 4 should have a Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, respectively. While transferring cards from the tableau to the foundation, you must move one card at a time.

Origin of Grandfather’s Clock Solitaire

Grandfather’s Clock is a type of Solitaire that is based on another type known as Clock Solitaire. One of the most notable distinctions of the original Clock game compared to Grandfather’s Clock is the foundation layout begins with Ace at the one o’clock position, 2 at the two o’clock position, and so on. There are 13 foundations in the original Clock game. Aside from the 12 foundations that form the “clock”, a 13th foundation represents the waste pile. Yes, unlike Grandfather’s Clock, the original Clock game has both a draw pile and waste pile. Which means it is based on the luck of the draw. Grandfather’s Clock however is much more strategic.

Grandfather’s Clock Strategies

Considering that the layout is slightly different compared to classic Solitaire, the way to play Grandfather’s clock is simple. The only strategy that you can employ is using the empty tableau spaces when available. This will require some observation skills. Before moving any cards to fill empty spots on the tableau, you’ll need to scan the clock through each foundation.

Start from the one o’clock position to see if the next card of the specified base suit is available. Repeat this until you are able to reach the 12 o’clock. If you are able to find a card that you can move, you can start the process over again from 1 o’clock and beyond. As you do this, you’ll notice that you’ll have some open space available. If the next card of a foundation can be exposed by one card, then move it to an open space so that card is free for use.

No matter how many spaces you have, you should use them wisely as you might not be able to distribute any leftover cards on the tableau and therefore might make it difficult to free up any more needed cards.

Since there is no draw or waste pile, every card is transferred from the tableau. This will of course increase your chance of winning and you won’t have to worry about exhausting a waste pile to the point where the game ends and you’ll have to reshuffle to start a new game. However, there will be instances where you may be unable to transfer any cards from the tableau to the foundations. At this point, the game will end and then you must reshuffle and start a new game.

Grandfather’s Clock Solitaire Terms

Here are the terms that are used for Grandfather’s Clock Solitaire:

  • Foundations: This is the “clock” shape that is laid out on the left side of the table. It is set up in an order where the 2 of Hearts starts in the 5 o'clock position. Upon completion of a successful game, the card’s value should be matched with the clock’s specified position (I.E.--2 card at 2 o’ clock position).

  • Fanned: Cards that are laid out and overlap the cards that are displayed vertically in a column.

  • Tableau: The layout located on the right of the table. The cards used for transfer to the foundations consist of eight columns that contain four cards each. Empty tableaus can be used to place cards to allow blocked cards to be exposed.

The following terminology pertains to playing the game:

  • Foundation Cards: The specified set of cards that are built on by the cards transferred from the tableau. They consist of the following cards: the 10 of Hearts, Jack of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, King of Clubs, 2 of Hearts, 3 of Spades, 4 of Diamonds, 5 of Clubs, 6 of Hearts, 7 of Spades, 8 of Diamonds, and 9 of Clubs.

  • Available Cards: Cards that are located in the bottom of each column. These are transferred to a specific part of the clock’s foundation based on suit. They are to be placed in order from Ace to King.

  • Blocked Cards: Cards located in the tableau that are blocked by available or other blocked cards. A player can place the blocking cards to empty spaces of the tableau (if available) to expose the block cards that a player wishes to use.

  • Base Suit: The suit that starts out on the foundation card. For example, for the 2 of Hearts, the Hearts suit is considered the base. Cards that you place in a specified position must match the same base suit.

Variations of Grandfather’s Clock:

While Grandfather’s Clock is a variation of the original clock game, this one in particular is among the easiest. The following are variations of this game:

  • Clock: The aforementioned game where Grandfather’s Clock is based on. In this setting, the foundations are the value cards are set in their appropriate position (I.E.--Aces in the 1 o ‘clock, Jacks at 11, Queen at 12, etc.). The number and face values must be placed in their correct positions. Depending on the base color of the suit, the card should be placed with the opposite color. For example, if there is an Ace of Spades in the 1 o’clock position and the player draws an Ace of Hearts, it would be appropriate to place the card on top of the spades. The next Ace Card must be the Clubs. The game ends when the fourth King appears.

  • Watch: Played like Clock, but the only difference is if the fourth King appears, the game continues. In a situation where a King is revealed, they stay in the center of the clock setting.

Grandfather’s Clock FAQs

  • How is Grandfather’s Clock different from regular Clock?

Grandfather’s Clock is the Golf Solitaire of the “Clock Game” family. Except there is no waste or draw pile that you can use. It’s actually more of a strategic version of the game. All the cards are laid out on the tableau in full view. However, like Classic Solitaire, they are arranged in a way where not all cards are available to be played unless they are unblocked. Of course, you can move cards into empty spaces on the tableau just as you would in a regular game of Classic Solitaire.

  • How are the Kings used in Grandfather’s clock?

Unlike Jacks that count as 11 and Queens as 12, the King has no numerical value on the clock. So they are used like any other card that can be transferred from the tableau to the foundations. Of course, all four Kings will be placed in their respected base suits.

  • Why place the 2 of Hearts in the 5 o’clock position?

As mentioned earlier on, some clock values (1-4) will have five cards each. That’s because they’ll contain the Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces respectively. The rest will have four cards in each pile. So in theory, you start with 2 in the 5 o’clock position, followed by 3, 4, and the last card being 5. Remember, the objective is to finish the game where the value of each card matches the numerical position on the clock.

  • If the game is easy to win, how can I possibly lose this game?

It is possible to lose this game despite the high odds of winning it. The only time when the game can be considered a loss is when there are available cards that cannot be transferred to any spot on the Clock’s foundation. This could be because a certain card that is a value up with an opposing colored suit is blocked and you are unable to free it up.

  • Does the column of cards have to be laid out the same way described in the article?

Not really. If you’re using a physical deck of cards, you can set up the tableau however you like it. You can set it up where there are eight columns of four cards straight. You don’t need to separate them into two sets as we mention in the article (or on our site).

  • What should the finished product (the Clock) look like?

From the one o’clock to high noon position, it should look like this: Ace of Hearts, 2 of Spades, 3 of Diamonds, 4 of Clubs, 5 of Hearts, 6 of Spades, 7 of Diamonds, 8 of Clubs, 9 of Hearts, 10 of Spades, Jack of Diamonds, and Queen of Clubs. Be sure to double check this if you think you’re finished. Once you are successfully able to set it up like this, congratulations! You’ve won a round of Grandfather’s Clock!

Final Thoughts On Grandfather’s Clock

Compared to its original game, Grandfather Clock is a less difficult and more strategical version of this very game. But it’s set up from the foundation to the tableau makes it a more fun way to play Solitaire. Card playing enthusiasts who play Classic Solitaire that want a little more variety in their game repertoire should consider giving Grandfather’s Clock a try. There are a ton of games available online where you can learn and sharpen your Grandfather’s Clock skills. Ours is available on our site along with many other types of Solitaire games.