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Ultimate Guide to Simple Simon

Simple Simon is a Solitaire card game variant. Solitaire, also known as Patience outside of the US and Canada, is a common way for individuals to pass the time. With many versions being online or standard on computers, the games have become familiar to a wide range of people. To play at home, all you require is a flat surface and a standard deck of playing cards.

Simple Simon became popular for a while due to some computerized sets of Solitaire card games including it as a variation and to computers being used to try to solve the game. This version of solitaire may or may not predate its computer versions, but it is closely related to other versions of the game, such as Freecell and Spider. In fact, it is in the Spider family of Solitaire games, along with Auld Lang Syne, Blockade, Curds and Whey, Labyrinth, Mrs. Mop, and Scorpion.

The Rules of Simple Simon

At the beginning of the game, all cards are shuffled and dealt face up onto the tableau into columns. The first three columns have eight cards each. The fourth column has seven cards. From there, the number of cards in each column decreases: The fifth column has six cards, the sixth column has five cards, the seventh column has four cards, the eighth column has three cards, the ninth column has two cards, and the tenth column has only one card. All fifty-two cards are thus laid out in a total of ten columns.

During play, the open bottom card of each column is available for play. This card may be placed on an open card of the next highest sequential value. A card of any suit can be placed on a card of any other suit of the next highest sequential value. However, only sequences of cards of the same suit may be moved together as a whole unit.

Any card or same suit sequence can be moved into an empty column.

The goal of the game is to create full sequences of each suit, from King down to Ace. When a sequence is fully complete, it can be moved to the foundation at the top. When all cards of all four suits are in the foundation piles, the game is won.

How to Play Simple Simon

The cards are already laid out on the tableau at the beginning of the game, so there is no redeal or shuffling. You must play the cards as they are.

While a card of any suit can be placed on any other suit, only cards of the same suit can be moved together. For example, the Four of Spades can be placed on the Five of Spades or the Five of Diamonds, but if placed on the Five of Diamonds, the player can only move the Four of Spades from that column. If placed on the Five of Spades, the player can move the Five of Spades and the Four of Spades together as one move, here likely onto a Six in another column.

Any card or sequence of the same suit can be moved into an empty column, and thus they are often used as extra spaces in which to place unwanted cards.

You need to create four sequences of cards in descending order in the same suit from King down to Ace: King, Queen, Jack, Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, Ace.

Kings cannot be placed on any other card and thus can only be moved to an empty column. No card can be placed on an Ace as it is the last card in the descending numerical sequence.

Once a full sequence has been created, you can move it to the foundation pile. If you are playing an online version of the game, the computer will automatically do this for you.

The game is one when all cards are in the four foundation piles arranged by the four suits: Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs.

Common Strategies for Simple Simon

Because all of the cards start out on the tableau face up, take note of where all the cards are. Take a minute to look over the entire tableau and create a strategy of which cards you will try to free first. In general, unless you can tell right away that a game is not solvable (eg, if you had a column that was all four twos blocked by all four Aces), the game is generally more solvable than other versions of solitaire.

Try to start creating sequences of the same suit immediately. Because these sequences move as one unit, it only helps to create as many long sequences of the same suit as possible.

Once you do have sequences of the same suits, try not to bury them under other cards of different suits that you will have to move later.

Unlike many versions of solitaire, you are trying to get the entire sequence. Thus, it is not important to focus on getting out a specific value of cards. You cannot move a sequence into the foundation pile until it is complete, and there is no significance as to what order you put the cards into the sequence. The only important thing is that at the end the cards are all in the same suit in a descending sequence from King down to Ace.

Empty columns are extremely useful in playing Simple Simon. It would be advisable to free up some of the columns to the right with the least number of cards early in the game. Often freeing these columns may only take a few moves. These columns can then be used to place inconvenient cards or cards that are on a “layover” to another column.

Of course, if you can empty columns to the left quickly, do so immediately. As these columns have more cards to begin with, all in a random order, chances are that they will be harder to clear.

You can move a mixed suit sequence of cards to another column by using empty columns and cards within the same sequence as “layovers” to their final destination. For example, let’s say one column ends in the Nine of Clubs. You wish to move over the Eight of Clubs, which currently has the Seven of Diamonds on top of it. If you have an empty column, you could move the Seven of Diamonds into this column, move the Eight of Clubs onto the Nine of Clubs, and then move the Seven of Diamonds back onto the Eight of Clubs. This is an extremely similar strategy to what is often done in the game Freecell.

While keeping columns empty is extremely useful, you may want to move a king to an empty column if it is blocking lower ranked cards, especially of the same suit. Because a King is the highest card, the only place it can be moved to is an empty column.

Because the Ace is the lowest card, remember that nothing can be placed on top of an ace. This means that if an Ace is the last card in a column, it will stay the last card until it is part of an entire sequence which ends up in the foundation pile.

It is good to get a full sequence off the tableau into the foundation pile as quickly as possible. This not only is a step towards winning, but also gets all thirteen cards from that suit off the tableau. If the King for a full sequence was at the top of a column, this will also create another empty column, allowing for more moves.

By taking the cards in a full sequence out of the tableau, there are less cards in play overall and more room to move cards around.

Luckily, one player was quoted as stating, “what makes the game a joy: either it's impossible to solve and you see it in the first moves or it's solvable and you only have to find the best route”. Thus, if you play around with a game enough, chances are you can figure out how to win it.

Variations on Simple Simon

There are a couple of variations of Simple Simon, including:

  • Simon Says: This is a blend of Simple Simon and Freecell. In this version, the cards are dealt into eight columns. The first four columns have seven cards and the last four have six cards. There are also two cells at the top, similar to the four cells in Freecell, where one card may be placed at a time.

  • Simon Jester: This version of Simple Simon uses two full decks of cards. This version uses two standard card decks. The cards are then grouped into fourteen columns. The first two columns have thirteen cards each, with the third column having twelve cards. The number of cards per column then descends, so that the fourteenth column only has one card.

While not variations of Simple Simon, this game is closely related to Scorpion, Spider, and Freecell.

There have, however, been several different computer versions of Simple Simon, often adjusted to make them more or less difficult. In addition to the computer versions of the games, there have been various different programs created to try to solve the game of Simple Simon.

Simple Simon Terms

Simple Simon is simple in that it does not require numerous terms to be defined in order to play. The game is played with all cards already laid out on the tableau face up. However, you can find terms used in other Solitaire games here.

“Tableau” refers to the area in which the game is played, also sometimes called the “board”. The foundations in Simple Simon are only used when a full sequence of cards is made in a suit, from King down to Ace. Thus, there is no “foundation card”. Once this is completed, the entire sequence will move as one to a foundation pile, leaving an empty column which may be useful for play. In this game, the foundation piles are also sometimes referred to as the “waste”, referencing another Solitaire term.

Simple Simon FAQ

Here are a few of the most common questions about Simple Simon:

Q: Are any of the games totally unsolvable?

A: Yes. Freecell Solver was adapted to solve Simple Simon games in 2001. It was able to solve only about 85% of the games that it attempted to play. A human player, depending on their skill level, may solve more or less that amount of games. Other computer solvers of the game have had better or worse success, depending on how they were programmed to play the game.

Q: Do you use the Jokers at all in this game?

A: No, most versions of Solitaire card games don’t use Jokers, including Simple Simon. Simple Simon uses a standard fifty-two card deck including four suits of thirteen cards each.

Q: Wait! That was a mistake! Can I undo?

A: In many online versions, no, you cannot. If you are playing on your own with a real deck, that is entirely up to you.

Q: Wait, why can’t I move this sequence of cards? I’ve got an Ace on a Two, but I can only move the Ace!

A: Remember, only sequences of the same suit can be moved as a group. While you can put an Ace of any suit on a Two of any suit, only a Two and an Ace of the same suit can be moved together.

Q: Okay, I think I’m ready now. Where can I play it online?

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

Final Thoughts on Simple Simon

Simple Simon, while a simple concept, can quickly become difficult to play, not unlike other card games. You must play the cards you are dealt and moving them around the tableau can quickly become a challenging task of finding enough space to move the cards you need. If you believe that you can outsmart Simple Simon, prove it here.