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Ultimate Guide to Scorpion

Scorpion is an unusual version of Solitaire in that there is no stock pile (like Golf), no waste pile (Classic Solitaire), no foundation cards, and no foundation piles (like Klondike). This makes it very different from other common solitaire games.

The object is to get all the cards in order, and all cards remain on the tableau. Some are flipped over until they become available, and there are three “extra” cards to be used when there are no more available moves. It is the hidden flipped over cards that will sting you, however, as once all the cards are revealed, it is easier to win the game.

The Rules of Scorpion

Scorpion begins with seven columns of seven cards being laid out on the tableau. The first four rows have three cards face down, followed by four cards face up. The seven by seven card layout only uses forty-nine cards, so the remaining three are set aside to be used later in the game.

The object of the game is to create entire columns in the same suit, descending from King down to Ace. This is achieved by moving the next sequentially lowest card in a suit onto the open bottom card of a column. If this card is in the middle of a column or at the top of the column, all the cards below it in that column move with it. For example, let’s say one of your columns ends in the Five of Spades. Another column has the cards Ace of Spades - Jack of Diamonds - Queen of Hearts - Four of Spades - Ace of Diamonds - Two of Clubs in that order so that the Two of Clubs is the open card in the column. You would then move the Four of Spades onto the Five of Spades, taking with it the Ace of Diamonds and the Two of Clubs. The second column would now end at the Queen of Hearts, while the first column would now be Five of Spades - Four of Spades - Ace of Diamonds - Two of Clubs.

As you keep moving these columns around, the sequences of cards in the same suit should get longer.

You can only move a card (and the rest of the column with it) onto the next sequentially higher card of the same suit.

No card can be placed on an Ace. If you empty a column, only a King (and the rest of the column with it) can be placed in the empty column.

If you move a card that was immediately blocking a face down card, the face down card, now available, will flip to be face up. You must then move this card in order to free the other face down cards that it is in turn blocking.

When you reach a point in the play when there are no more available moves, you can then use the three cards left over from the original deal. These will be placed as the open available card at the bottom of the first three columns. Play then continues as it did before.

The game is over when there are no more available moves. If all cards are in sequences of their suit, from King down to Ace, the game is won. If any card is not in the proper sequence, the game is lost.

How to Play Scorpion

When the game begins, there are seven columns with open available cards for other cards to be moved onto. This means that at any one time, there is a maximum of seven moves.

Because no card can be moved onto an Ace, this means that any column ending with an ace effectively takes away a possible move.

The limitations of possible moves often mean that only one or two moves are available at a time, especially at the beginning of play. As more cards become visible, the likelihood of more possible moves increases.

You must move cards off the flipped over cards in order to reveal them.

The only way to move a King is if you can clear an entire column by moving the first card of that column onto the open card of another column.

You may use the extra three cards at any time during play. However, most players usually wait until there are no more available moves with the current cards on the tableau.

As you move cards from one column to the next, columns may become quite long. There is no limit to the length of a column. If the next sequentially lower card to a bottom open card is currently on the tableau, the only time you will not be able to move it onto that open card is if it is in the same column. This is moving a card takes with it all the cards below it in the column. For example, if a column has the cards Ten of Spades – Ace of Hearts – Two of Diamonds – Jack of Spades with the Jack of Spades being the open card in the column, the only way to move that Ten of Spades onto the Jack of Spades is to “break” the column. This could be achieved by moving the Two of Diamonds onto the Three of Diamonds in another column, for example, thereby making the Jack of Spades in a different column than the Ten of Spades. In this example, after moving the Two of Diamonds onto the Three of Diamonds, the Ten of Spades could be moved onto the Jack of Spades, now creating the new order Three of Diamonds – Two of Diamonds – Jack of Spades – Ten of Spades – Ace of Hearts.

The goal is to get all the cards in sequential order, from King down to Ace, by suit. In some online versions of the game, once a full sequence has been created, the sequence will disappear from the board, leaving an empty column where another king can be placed. If playing with a real deck of cards, the player also has the option to remove full sequences from the tableau.

Common Strategies for Scorpion

Try not to trap your cards in loops. This means do not put a column including the next higher card of a particular suit on top of a column with the necessary card, thereby blocking it. As this is confusing to explain, here is an example. One column has the cards Queen of Clubs - Jack of Clubs - Four of Clubs – Seven of Spades. The column next to it has Six of Spades – Five of Hearts – King of Clubs. If you put the Queen of Clubs on top of the King of Clubs, then there is no way to move your Six of Spades on top of the Seven of Spades. In the same manner, if you move your Six of Spades onto your Seven of Spades, then there is no way to move your Queen of Clubs onto your King of Clubs.

Sometimes these loop situations are completely unavoidable. However, it is better to avoid them if possible.

There is no limit to the number of cards that you can have in one column, but the more spread out your cards are, the better your chances of winning. Putting a large number of cards in one column increases the chances of loops such as that described above. Try to break up larger columns.

If a move involves moving the entire column, consider whether this is in fact the best move before acting. A column can only be filled by a king. If all your kings are at the top of columns, it may be better to leave a card at the top of a column, thereby spreading out the other cards among a greater number of columns and increasing your chances of winning.

Try to open up your face down cards as quickly as possible. The more cards available on the tableau, the more likely you will be able to make a move. Remember, the only way you lose this game is if there are no more moves. If all the cards are face up, there is a far greater chance of winning.

Be absolutely sure that there are no more possible moves before using your three extra cards. In particular, check the cards for the first three columns. Make sure the cards sequentially lower than the open cards in these three columns are not available. Otherwise, when the extra cards are used, these moves will be blocked.

One strategy is to “work backwards” in order to see if it is possible to move the card you want to move, usually the card right before a flipped over card or the first card of a column. In order to do this, you find the card that it needs to be placed on. If that card is on the tableau, look at the card underneath it. Find the card that that card needs to be placed on, etc. If you keep working backwards, you will eventually either find that a card is not yet on the tableau (either not flipped or currently in the extra cards) or you will find a move that you can do now, creating a chain reaction.

For example, say the first column still has three cards flipped over, but on top of those is the Three of Diamonds. You find the Four of Diamonds in another column, currently followed by the Six of Spades. The Seven of Spades is the open bottom card of another column. Move the Six of Spades onto the Seven of Spades and then the Three of Diamonds onto the Four of Diamonds. Now you can flip a card, adding another card to your tableau play.

Beware of leaving Aces as the open card in a column. As stated above, no card can be placed on an Ace, making the bottom of this column unusable as a destination. Before moving the card currently blocking an Ace, make sure that it is not more strategically valuable staying put. For example, see if by keeping it in that column, it can avoid or even break a loop.

Variations on Scorpion

There are several other versions of the game, ironically usually named for other creatures. These include:

  • “Scorpion II”: Wikipedia has labelled this other very popular version of the game as “Scorpion II”. This version is played exactly the same, but only the first three columns have three face down cards. The other four columns have all the cards face up.

  • Creepy Crawly: In this version, eight columns of six cards are dealt at the beginning of the game. Each column has the first card dealt in the column face down. Because this deal gives forty-eight cards in the tableau, four cards are set aside for later. The game is played exactly like Scorpion. This version was created by Solebon LLC.

  • Three Blind Mice: This game begins with ten columns of five cards each being dealt, with the first three columns having the first three cards face down. The three columns of three give this version it’s name, referring to the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme. Two cards are then set aside for later and the game is played the same as Scorpion.

  • Wasp: The only difference between this and Scorpion is that if a column is empty, any card or sequence can be moved into it.

Scorpion Terms

Scorpion does not need very many terms as the majority of the play is done with the cards already laid out on the tableau. However, you can find terms used in other Solitaire games here.

“Tableau” refers to the area in which the game is played. This can also be described as the “board”.

Scorpion FAQ

Below are some of the most asked questions about playing Scorpion:

Q: Are jokers used in this game?

A: No, Scorpion only uses the standard fifty-two card deck.

Q: Are any games unsolvable?

A: Yes, there are unsolvable games. Sometimes, there is just no way to win, depending on which cards are face down.

Q: I didn’t mean to do that! Can I take it back?

A: If you are playing at home with a regular deck of cards, that’s up to you. Many online games will not let you undo a move.

Q: I’m confused. If I move a card, all of the other cards in that column which are lower in the column move with it? But what if they aren’t in the same suit? Or if they are higher/lower than the card I’m moving?

A: Yes, they all move. That’s part of the game!

Q: Okay, I think I understand the game. Where can I try it?

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

Final Thoughts on Scorpion

Scorpion is a particularly challenging version of Solitaire as the limited number of moves makes the player extremely dependent on the luck of the original deal. Try your luck at a hand, or try a different challenging card game.