How to Play Beleaguered Castle Solitaire

By Neal Taparia - 06/15/2023

Some players refer to Beleaguered Castle as Freecell without the cells. This is a challenging solitaire card game. 

Like Freecell, it’s an open game, meaning you can see all the cards on the table. But don’t be fooled — seeing the cards doesn’t always make the game easier!

Number of Cards: 52

Length: Long 

Difficulty: Hard

Type: Open Packer


Just like any solitaire game, the object is to build up your foundation piles from ace to king, removing all cards from the tableau.

Traditionally, the cards will be arranged in vertical columns, but not always. The game gets its name from the idea that playing through all your cards will “break the walls” around the castle (foundation piles).


To set up the game, remove the aces from a standard deck of playing cards, then shuffle. You’ll lay out the four aces to start your foundation piles. 

Foundation piles: You’ll start your foundations with all 4 aces face up.  You’ll build them up as you go, in order from ace to king in each suit.

Tableau piles: Place the remaining cards in 8 piles, each with 6 cards face up.

There are no stock or waste piles in castle solitaire.

Rules for Gameplay

You can only move 1 card at a time. The top cards of each tableau pile are the only available cards.

Place cards in descending order. If you have a 9, you can move in onto an a 10, etc.

Build Foundations piles from ace to king to win.

Place cards in the tableau regardless of suit. For instance, if that 9 is a heart, it could move onto an 10 of spades, or a 10 of diamonds. The suit doesn’t matter until you try to move cards to the foundation piles.

You can place any card on an empty empty tableau pile. Once you’ve played all the cards from a pile, you can move any card into the empty space. This means the game gets progressively easier as you play — you have a lot of room to move cards.

For an easier variant, try castle solitaire — the only difference is that you can place cards in descending OR ascending order in the tableau piles.

What are some good strategies for Beleaguered Castle Solitaire?

Find the 2s early.

Your foundations are already started for you in castle solitaire, which is helpful, so your first step is to find the 2s. They might be buried under high cards, so you may need to do some planning to get to them. After you clear the 2s, look for the 3s and work toward freeing them.

Empty a tableau space as soon as you can.

Once you have some breathing room, the game starts to move a lot more quickly. You can use empty spaces to move cards that are in your way, or even move whole rows of cards around if you strategize well. 

Ready to give it a try? Play Beleaguered Castle Solitaire now!

Beleaguered Castle Trivia

  • Instructions for Beleaguered Castle were first published in 1883 by Dick & Fitzgerald in Dick's Games of Patience, Or, Solitaire with Cards.
  • Beleaguered Castle is the military project code name for the central operation in the 2011 film Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
  • Beleaguered Castle is also known as Laying Siege and Sham Battle.

Similar Games to Try

Streets and Alleys plays just like Beleaguered Castle, but there are no cards in the foundation piles at the start of the game.

Fortress Solitaire is an ancestor of Beleaguered Castle. You can play cards in the tableau in ascending or descending order, but you don’t start with aces in the foundation piles, so it’s still quite challenging.

Chessboard is a variant of Fortress where you choose the base card for foundation piles. So, instead of building up from aces, you could build from 4s or 7s.

In Citadel Solitaire, any card can be dealt into the foundation piles. Otherwise, the rules are the same as beleaguered castle.

Baker’s Dozen plays similarly, but there are 13 tableau piles of 5 cards, making it a bit easier to win.

If you’re looking for a new game that’s not quite as challenging as Beleaguered Castle, check out these fun card games and be sure to try our daily challenges!

In Pyramid Solitaire, you remove cards from the tableau in pairs that add up to 13. 

If puzzle games are more your speed try Mahjong.

About the author

Neal Taparia is one of the founders of Solitaired. He loves playing card games and is interested in understanding how games can help with brain training and skills building. In addition to card games, he also likes fishing and mountain biking.