What's Good About Solitaire Card Games

Posted by EndersGame Reviewer on

by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

20 Reasons Why You Should Play Solitaire

The word "solitaire" is closely connected with the word "solo", which means "for or done by one person alone; unaccompanied." According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, the word "solitaire" means "any of various card games played by one person, the object of which is to use up all one's cards by forming particular arrangements and sequences." In short, we're talking about card games that you play alone.

Solitaire card games can be enjoyed with a physical deck of traditional playing cards, or on the screen of your personal computer or favourite digital device. However you choose to play them, solitaire card games are a perfect activity to keep you amused when you're looking to kill time while on your own. Quarantined? Bored? Want to play a game but your friends or family doesn't? That's when solitaire card games come to our rescue. And they actually offer us a lot, with a real range that covers the extremes of pure skill to dumb luck, and everything in between.

Maybe you already enjoy playing solitaire card games, or I've already convinced you to try them. But whether you're an avowed fan looking to justify your addiction, or a skeptical bystander looking to be persuaded to give them a go, here are some good reasons why you should check out the fun you can have playing solitaire card games.

1. They don't require other players. Unlike most other card games, you can play a solitaire game even if nobody else is around. You might be in the mood to play a game, but your friends or family aren't always going to be available to play games 24/7. Solitaire card games help fill these gaps. Sometimes we even need some `alone time', without the stress of human interaction. When you're playing solitaire, you don't have to explain things to someone else, adjust your pace to suit them, or wait for their move. You also don't have the additional headaches of the arguing or bad behaviour that can sometimes happen when competitive games bring out the worst in us! Playing on your own means you can play at your own pace, whenever, wherever, and however you want, and that usually makes for a more relaxing experience.

2. They are easy to learn. Part of the beauty of solitaire games is their simplicity and elegance. Within a relatively straight forward set of rules that is easily and quickly grasped, you are presented with a good challenge. Some modern card games come with 20 page rule books - seriously! Others have complex rule sets that you finally only begin to understand after playing a game or two. In contrast, most solitaire card games operate with very simple rulesets. And once you've mastered the rules of one, it becomes even easier to learn others, because they often borrow from each other in terms of the style and approach of play. For example, many share the basic objective of trying to collect cards from each suit in order from Ace through King, as well as mechanics of building within a tableau.

3. They are easily accessible. All you need is a deck of cards, or a good website or computer, and you are ready to go. Often we don't have the time or energy to pull out the paraphernalia needed for some other hobby or interest. You might like fishing, water-skiing, or playing music, but hobbies like these have equipment requirements and often take time to set-up - or considerable clean-up afterwards! But with solitaire, you just pull out your cards or click on your computer, and away you go. It also helps that almost everyone around the globe is already familiar with a standard deck of traditional playing cards, and the suits and values of playing cards are a universal language, so there's a very low thresh-hold for entry. Playing a digital version that enforces and teaches the rules makes this learning and playing process even easier.

4. They are completely free. Unlike a lot of modern card games and board games, all you need is a deck of traditional playing cards - which you probably already own. You can purchase apps or software if you really want, but there's plenty of websites where you can play for free, as well as free apps. And if you're running a computer with Microsoft Windows, you likely have a couple of good solitaire games built right in, ready to go! While many other hobbies have equipment costs and require a significant investment of money or time to get into, there's no such entry barrier with playing solitaire.

5. They are time-tested and proven. Many solitaire games have been played and enjoyed by millions of people. They aren't a flash-in-the-pan fad that will go away any time soon. Many of them are classic games that go back decades and more, and have proven themselves to be games of worth, so they have held up over time.

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6. They have an incredible variety. When I was first introduced to solitaire card games many years ago, it was with the evergreen Klondike, which is the game that's been included with Microsoft Windows for the last 30 years. But don't make the mistake of thinking that your limited experience with solitaire on Windows is all that there is solitaire. I had no idea how many different solitaire games actually exist! It's true that many solitaire games share similar building techniques with a tableau and foundations, with the goal of arranging suits from Ace through King. But there are also many solitaire games that are very different from this. So there's plenty of variety to explore and keep you busy for a long time, and just because you don't like one style doesn't mean you won't find another type of solitaire card game that you might really enjoy.

7. They can be as short or long as you like. One nice thing about solitaire games is that you can play them in bite sized chunks. The most popular solitaire game of all time, Klondike, typically takes only around 5 minutes to play a quick game. Many other solitaire games can be played even more quickly. But if you want to fill more time, you can easily play a number of short solitaire games back-to-back. Alternatively, there are also more thoughtful solitaire games that will take you up to 15-30 minutes to play on their own, and which provide a longer experience that is satisfying and more challenging.

8. They can be as easy or hard as you like. Solitaire games typically contain a good balance of luck and skill, and which way this balance will lean can vary from game to game. If you want to really chill out, and really don't feel like thinking too hard, there are very simple and almost brainless solitaire games that lean heavily on the side of luck, and which you can play almost on auto-pilot. But if you're in the mood for something more challenging, there are also many solitaire games that require a high degree of skill and careful thought. The choice of difficulty level is yours - and there's plenty of it!

9. They can develop strategic thinking. Some solitaire games require real skill, and typically require both short-term tactical thinking as well as long-term strategic thinking. The first time you play a game of solitaire, you're likely to do anything that is a legal move, thinking that this will help you accomplish your goal. But as you become more experienced, you'll start to realize that some choices are better than others, and there are long-term considerations that should play an important role in your decision-making. To play well, you often need to plan ahead, and optimize your moves to increase your chances of success. Having a good sense of probability will also enhance your game-play. Solitaire is definitely something that you can get good at, and with practice you can even learn to master the harder forms of the game. For some tips on improving your Klondike play, for example, see this article.

10. They can develop logical thinking. Solitaire games especially appeal to people who enjoy the challenge of logical sequences and puzzling. Contrary to the perceived notion of some that they are mindless exercises and brainless activities, wise play in a good solitaire game requires both concentration and logical thought. That makes it an intellectual exercise that will have a real appeal particularly for anyone who enjoys puzzles, while remaining accessible to almost everyone else as well. What's more, the patterns of logical thinking that they require have a lot of crossover to other areas in life where we need to plan things. The logical planning required by solitaire can also bring real rewards when we apply this same principle to other aspects of life.

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11. They can stimulate your mind. Our brain is like a muscle, and it does need regular exercise. A lot of "time waster" apps are essentially games where your brain is on autopilot, and very little thinking is involved. While there are times where that might be appropriate, we also need moments where we are amusing ourselves with an activity that actually engages our brain in a positive way. Most solitaire card games do that, because they require you to switch on your thinking cap, and activate your mind.

12. They can relax your mind. This may appear to contradict the previous point, but it all depends on what solitaire games you choose. Certainly there are solitaire games that require you to burn some serious brainpower in order to play them. But there are also solitaire games that cater for those moments where you just want your brain to idle. You can choose something as stressful or as chill as you like - it's totally up to you. Especially if you are busy with a stressful series of tasks in the work place, then it's not healthy to go on indefinitely, and it's important to give your mind a break from time to time. A solitaire card game can provide exactly that quick break you need, getting your mind totally off what you were doing. After 5-10 minutes, you're refreshed and ready to resume whatever work you were busy with.

13. They help you learn to cope with bad luck. While many solitaire games require real skill, they aren't only about strategy. Typically they also have a real element of the luck of the draw, which can make games easier or harder to win. Much the same can be said about real life. Things don't always go our way, and it is important to learn how to deal with this. Even the failures in solitaire can help us learn to cope with disappointments in the real world.

14. They are a great time-filler. One of the challenges we all face in life is finding something to do in an empty moment. Boredom can be mentally destructive, and it is important to fight boredom by filling empty moments with something constructive and positive. Especially if you don't have a large block of time, a solitaire game does a great job of filling that space by giving you something to do for 5-10 minutes or more.

15. They are incredibly satisfying. The moment when you complete a solitaire game can give you a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. This helps bring you to a state of happiness, and helps you feel positive. Especially in a world where there is so much negativity, we need positive moments like this, and solitaire gives us regular moments of reward. And even if you don't "win" a game, there's still a sense of achievement and accomplishment of having built up something. And since most solitaire games are played quickly, when this happens you simply start over and try again, and eventually you will get those winning moments that make you feel good.

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16. They are very addictive. There's something about solitaire games that keeps you coming back to them. I don't mean this in a negative sense, but they have a unique and intangible quality about them that puts them in the same category as other good things in life, like chocolate or fast food. Of course, it's not wise to consume everything that tastes good in excess. But the point is that there are some things in life that have that magical and indefinable quality about them that makes you gravitate to them again and again, and solitaire is one of those. Usually if something is addictive, it doesn't mean that there's something inherently bad about it, but that it has something good about it that makes you want to return to it regularly.

17. They give you personal incentives. Many computer implementations of solitaire games allow you to keep track of personal statistics. It can especially be rewarding to see what percentage of games you "win", or to try to beat your best time. These kinds of statistics give you extra incentives and goals to play for. Some digital versions have implemented scoring systems for specific solitaire games, which you can use to try to beat your personal best, or to score higher than your friends.

18. They can be played competitively. While solitaire card games are ... well, solitaire ... there are also ways to play them with other people if you really want. You can even play solitaire cooperatively with another person if it is a shared experience that you're looking for. But there are also excellent ways of playing competitively, with games like Double Solitaire and Russian Bank being fine examples. These take the basics of classic solitaire games like Klondike, and turn them into a two player game. For real time frenzied play in the style of solitaire, try the very popular game Nertz, which is also known under other names like Pounce or Racing Demon.

19. They are a great way to enjoy a custom deck of cards. Nowadays there are some wonderful decks of high quality playing cards on the market, which have magnificent artwork and very creative graphic designs, and they look fantastic on the table. Personally I own a large collection of custom playing cards, and pulling out a custom deck or two to play some games of solitaire on the dining table or coffee table is a great way to enjoy the visual feast of the artwork on these cards. The tactile feel and act of moving around physical cards can also help you relax and tune out from the stress of the real world, and there can even be a therapeutic component to this.

20. They are plain fun! What other reason do you need, really? If you enjoy solitaire games, as I do, that's reason enough to play them! Certainly it's the reason that so many people just keep coming back to them. Playing solitaire card games is a form of entertainment, recreation, and leisure. And if it's an enjoyable activity that you simply like, then by all means go ahead and enjoy it!

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I'm not advocating that you play solitaire as a permanent escape from real-life responsibilities, or that you immerse yourself to the point where it interferes with your ability to function, or causes you to ignore friends, family, or work. But when given its proper place, solitaire can help you function better at life, and there is a rich and rewarding variety of treasures to be found and enjoy in the family of solitaire card games.

So next time you're stuck on a plane, waiting in a doctor's office, fighting boredom while quarantined at home, or desperate to kill time in a boring conference, fire up that solitaire software or website, or whip out a deck of cards, and fill a few minutes with a satisfying challenge. Happy solitaire to you!

Want to learn how to play? Head to our solitaire game page to learn the rules of several solitaire card games.

Want to play a game of solitaire? Head to Solitaired.com's game page to play the world's most popular solitaire game Klondike.

About the writerEndersGame is a well-known and respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.

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Last update date: 05/12/21

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