Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena)

Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena) layout

Forty Thieves, also known as Napoleon at St. Helena, is a two-deck solitaire game. Because so much of the game depends on the order the cards are dealt to the tableau, winning the game is very much dependent on luck, rather than skill.

A legend, likely untrue, says that the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte played solitaire to pass the time when exiled to the island of St. Helena. This game is supposedly the version he preferred.

Object of Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena)

The object of Forty Thieves is to move all of the cards from the tableau and stock to the foundations.

Setup

To play Forty Thieves, shuffle together two decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. (It doesn’t matter whether the back designs differ, so using one of our two-deck sets works well.) Deal ten face-up columns of four cards each. These 40 face-up cards form the tableau. The spaces above the first eight tableau columns are reserved the foundations. The 64 cards in the deck stub then become the stock.

Game play

As aces are revealed, move them to the foundations. Each foundation may be built up with further cards of the same suit, in ascending rank. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces low. (For example, a foundation starting with the A♠ would have the 2♠ played next upon it, then the 3♠, and so on.)

In the tableau, only the top card of each column (i.e. the card with no other cards overlapping it) may be moved. Multiple cards cannot be moved as a unit. Cards from the tableau may either be moved to the foundations or onto another card in the tableau of the same suit but one rank higher. When empty spaces occur in the tableau, they may be filled by any card.

Cards can be drawn from the stock, one at a time, and moved either to the tableau or the foundations. If a card from the stock cannot be used, it is placed next to the stock in a discard pile. When the stock is exhausted, the discard pile may be turned over to refresh the stock.

The game ends whenever all 104 cards are moved to the foundations (a win) or no further moves are possible (a loss).

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One response to “Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena)”

  1. Stephen A Rogers says:

    This is a particularly difficult form of solitaire – it takes a while to play and your odds of winning are poor. I’m aware of a variant called ‘Josephine’, which allows complete or partially correctly ranked piles to be moved and for empty spots to be filled with any card or correctly ranked pile. Even these little changes vastly improve the odds of winning. Toss in a redeal once the stock’s exhausted and it’s one that’s not terribly difficult to win even…

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