Napoleon at St Helena

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Napoleon at St Helena
Forty Thieves
Forty Thieves (solitaire) Layout.jpg
Screenshot of a Forty Thieves game
Alternative namesBig Forty, Le Cadran, Napoleon at Saint Helena, Roosevelt at San Juan
Named variantsIndian, Limited, Lucas, Maria, Number Ten, Rank and File, Streets
FamilyForty Thieves
DeckDouble 52-card
See also Glossary of solitaire

Napoleon at St Helena is a 2-deck patience or solitaire card game. It is quite difficult to win, and luck-of-the-draw is a significant factor. It is also popularly known as Forty Thieves.

Other titles include Roosevelt at San Juan, Big Forty, and Le Cadran, although these can at times refer to variant forms of the game.

Napoleon often played solitaire after his final exile to the island of St Helena, and this is said to be the version he probably played.[1] Along with its variants, it is one of the most popular two-deck solitaire games. The winning chances have been estimated as 1 in 10 games,[2] with success typically dependent on your ability to clear one or more columns.[3]


The rules of Napoleon at St Helena are follows:[4][5]

  • Two decks are used (104 cards).
  • Deal ten tableaus piles of four cards each, all face up and all visible.
  • Leave space for eight foundation piles above the tableau piles.
  • You may only move the top card from any tableau. You may place any one card in an empty tableau space.
  • The tableaus are built down by suit.
  • The foundations are built up by suit, from ace to king.
  • You may take one card at a time from the stock and play to the tableau, the foundations, or to the waste.
  • You may use the top card from the waste.
  • You may only go through the stock once.
  • The object of the game is to move all the cards to the foundations.


Napoleon at St Helena forms the basis for several variant games, most of which have been made easier to win. Common variations are dealing the aces to the foundations at the start of the game, having the tableaus build down by alternating colour rather than by suit, and allowing cards built down on top of a tableau to be moved together. Other variations include allowing use of any card from the waste, dealing some of the tableau cards face down, and changing the number of tableau piles and/or the number of cards in each tableau. The number of possible permutations is vast, and solitaire suites often include several variants, such as these:

  • In Lucas, the aces are removed and act as the foundations while the 13 columns of three cards each are formed during the deal.
  • In Maria, nine columns of four cards are formed on the deal and during play; during play, the cards are built down by alternating colour.
  • In Limited, twelve columns of three cards each are dealt.
  • In Streets, building on the tableau is down by alternating colour.
  • In Indian, ten columns of three cards are dealt; the bottom card of each column is faced down. Furthermore, cards are built down by any suit other than its own. For example, any 5 can be placed over the 6 except the 5.
  • In Rank and File (also known as Dress Parade[4]), in the deal, the bottom three cards of each of the ten columns are faced down and the top card of each is the only one exposed. Building is down alternating colour and sequences can be moved in part and in whole. Emperor is a more difficult form of Rank and File, but is easier to win than Forty Thieves.[6]
  • In Red and Black, there are eight columns built down by alternating colour.
  • In Number Ten, ten columns of four cards are formed with the top two cards of each pile faced up and the bottom two faced down. Furthermore, building is down by alternating colour and a sequence can be moved as a unit in part or in whole.
  • In Josephine, cards of the same suit built down can be moved as a unit.
  • In Sixty Thieves, twelve columns of five cards are dealt using three decks of cards.

Other closely related games include Congress, Diplomat, Napoleon's Square, Corona, and Blockade. Busy Aces is a simpler game that is also part of the Forty Thieves family.


  1. ^ "Napoleon at St. Helena" (p.310) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  2. ^ "Forty Thieves" (p.203) in Hoyle's Rules of Games (3rd edition) by Philip D. Morehead (ed.), 2001. ISBN 0-451-20484-0
  3. ^ "Forty Thieves" (p.83) in 101 Great Card Games by David Galt, Publications International, 1999. ISBN 0-7853-4044-0
  4. ^ a b Morehead, Albert H.; Mott-Smith, Geoffrey (June 1977) [1st pub. 1949]. The Complete Book of Solitaire and Patience Games. United States and Canada: Bantam Books. p. 118. ISBN 0-553-11186-8.
  5. ^ Crépeau, Pierre (2001) [1st pub. 1999]. The Complete Book Of Solitaire. Translated by My-Trang Nguyen. Firefly Books (U.S.) Inc. pp. 258–260. ISBN 1-55209-597-5.
  6. ^ "Emperor" (p.311) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1

See also[edit]