How to play: Duchess solitaire

Duchess solitaire combines many of the features of a typical solitaire game all into one variant: it features stock and waste piles, foundations, a tableau and reserve piles. The gameplay and layout are largely based on Canfield solitaire but subtle variations mean that in Duchess, a successful outcome is based more on the player's decision making than on luck of the draw.


Duchess is played with a standard deck of cards. The deck is shuffled at the start of the game, then twelve of these cards are dealt into 4 reserve piles of 3 cards each.

Four further cards are dealt to start the tableau columns.

Finally, the remaining cards are dealt on to a stock pile. Above this, a waste pile will hold discarded stock cards during the game.

As play progresses, cards will be built on to four foundation piles. These piles are initially empty and located above the tableau columns.

The overall layout therefore appears as in the screenshot below:

Example Duchess Solitaire layout

Aim of the game

The aim of the game is to build all cards on to the foundations, starting cards of a denomination that is initially chosen by the player from the available reserve cards. (In other words, in Duchess, the foundations do not necessarily start with aces as in many other games.)

Game play

The game of Duchess starts with a "special" move to determine the foundation cards. Play then proceeds in a regular manner, as detailed below.

Initial move: choice of foundation card

To start the game, the player must choose one of the top cards from the four reserve piles and place it on to the first foundation pile. The value of this card will then determine the sequence for all foundation piles. For example, if the first foundation card is a 3 of Hearts, then the other foundations will start with the 3 of Diamonds, Clubs and Spades when these cards become available.

No other move is possible until one of the four top reserve cards is placed on to the first foundation.

Subsequent moves

Once the first foundation card has been placed, then "normal" play proceeds. The rules of play for Duchess are generally as follows:

Special rule for moving cards to an empty column

As in Canfield solitaire, Duchess has a special rule for moving cards to an empty tableau column. Normally, only cards from the reserve may be moved to an empty column. However, if the reserve is empty, then the top cards of the stock or discard piles may also be moved to empty columns.


A single re-deal is permitted in Duchess.

In the re-deal, the discard pile is shuffled and the cards dealt back on to the stock pile ready for you to go through them again. Note that the reserve pile is not affected by a re-deal.