There are four legal moves in this starting position:
- the 4 of Clubs onto the King of Clubs,
- the 4 of Clubs onto the 9 of Clubs,
- the 9 of Clubs onto the King of Clubs,
- the 7 of Diamonds onto the 10 of Diamonds.
Let us start by moving the 9 onto the King:
The 9 was the last face-up card in its pile, so Rule 2 comes into play:
In this case, we revealed the 10 of Spades. Let us move this onto the Jack:
We have now revealed the 8 of Clubs. We can move this onto the 9. Note that if we had already moved the 4 onto the 9, then we wouldn't have been able to move the 8. The order of moves can be very important. For now, let's move the 8 to the 9:
We now have an empty pile. This is very useful due to the following rule:
Empty piles are a valuable resource, so let's not use our one up until we need to. Instead, we shall move the 4 of Clubs onto the 8:
This revealed our first Heart. There is nothing much that we can do with this yet. Instead, let's just move the 7 of Diamonds onto the 10:
We have revealed the 9 of Diamonds. We can't move this to the pile with the 10 and the 7, as the 9 is higher than the 7 and we can only move a card onto another if their suits match and the card being moved is lower in rank. However, we can get around this problem by temporarily moving the 7 into the blank pile:
We can then move the 9 across to the 10…
…and place the 7 on the 9, freeing up the blank space again:
This last sequence of moves is very typical of Autumn Leaves. In order to group a suit together, you often need to shuffle cards around the tableau in a manner reminiscent of the Towers of Hanoi and the blank piles are very helpful for this.
In the process of these moves we revealed another Club. It would be great to group this with the existing Clubs, but we cannot simply move the Queen onto the 4. However; if we make another Towers of Hanoi inspired set of moves we can get the Queen across. Let us first move the 4 of Clubs on top of the Queen:
Now can now make use of the fourth rule.
We can thus move the 9 and 8 at once. While this rule simply saves us a few moves here, sometimes it can be very important. Later in the game, when the suits are mostly assembled, this rule is used a lot. For now, let's move the 9-8 to the blank pile:
We can now free the Queen by moving the 4 onto the 8:
Since we have freed both the King and the Queen, we can now move the latter onto the former:
Now we just need to move the other Clubs back. We can't do this all at once, but can do it in three moves. First, we move the 4 onto the blank pile:
Then we move the 9-8 back to the first pile…
…and finally, the 4 of Clubs back onto the first pile:
We have now gathered the Clubs together and have left two empty piles. This is turning out to be a good start. Many games get blocked by this point, forcing us to deal out more cards (a rule that we will come to later).
What next? We can't make any progress without using up an empty pile, but we have a choice as to how to use up a pile. In our current situation, the best approach is probably to start trying to create a new empty pile, and the best way to do this is by moving the 2 of Hearts. It is our best bet because it only has two cards under it. So let's move the 2 onto a blank pile:
We have revealed the 6 of Spades, which we can put with the other Spades:
This reveals the 3 of Diamonds, which we can put with the other Diamonds:
So far, so good, but what now? Again we have two empty piles and have to fill one to proceed. Let's move the Spades down rather than the Diamonds, as the Spades are in two runs (J-10, 6) while the Diamonds are in three runs (10-9, 7, 3). Thus we can gather them up completely if we bring them down to an empty pile. We start by moving the 6 of Spades into one of the empty piles:
Now we move the Jack and 10 into the other empty pile:
This revealed a high Diamond, which is not very useful at the moment. At least we can still gather the Spades back together, freeing up another empty pile:
We now have two options: either move the Queen to the empty pile in the hope of eventually emptying the pile under her, or start sorting out the Diamonds. Unfortunately, we can't completely sort out the Diamonds, so we shall instead move the Queen and hope that a good card comes up:
The 5 of Clubs. That is indeed a useful card. We can't move it onto the 4, but we can collect it by first moving the 4 to it:
Now we can 'pick it up', moving both the 5 and the 4 back to the first pile as a run:
This reveals the 9 of Spades. Unfortunately, this means that we are now stuck. The only things we can do before dealing out more cards, are to move the 6 of Spades onto the 9, or to move the 3 of Diamonds onto the Queen. Neither of these things are really worth doing, so it is finally time to deal out some more cards:
From here we can keep moving cards around as before, and deal out 6 new cards if we get stuck again. Since there are 22 cards on the table and 30 left over, this gives us 5 extra deals before the end. Things are still looking quite good, as we can move the 10 of Hearts onto the Jack, then move the 9, 8 and 4 of Spades onto the Queen. After that we could move the Ace of Diamonds onto the Queen of Diamons and then we would have enough space to sort all the Spades out onto the Queen of Spades, leaving two empty piles to play with. I think we would have quite a good chance of winning this hand.
Now you have seen all the rules, and have seen some of the basic tactics and strategy. I won't go through the remainder of this hand, as you are better off starting a game yourself. In order to play a game, you just need to know the initial layout, and then the six rules of play:
Players who are familiar with Spider, should note that in Autumn Leaves you are allowed to deal out new cards even if there is an empty pile (it just receives one new card as per usual) and that completed suits are not removed from the tableau: they remain in play until the end of the game. Both these things are implied by the above rules, but differ from Spider.
You can either play a game with real playing cards (which is what I do), or if you use Windows, you can download a program from Solitaire Innovations. I'd love to have a version that works for Mac (or Linux) too. Perhaps an online applet would be best. If you want to write a program including Autumn Leaves, then do so by all means:
If you do write a program for it, or add its rules to a collection of solitaire games, or if you just enjoy the game, then please send me an email to let me know.
If you choose to play it with real cards, then you may wish to make use of the following convenience: when you have cards in a run, stack them right on top of each other, but leave the left edge of the bottom card showing. This way you can easily see where the run begins (the bottom card) and ends (the top card). This makes it much easier to see how structurally 'deep' a pile is (i.e. how many runs it contains rather than how many cards it contains), and it also makes it less cumbersome to move long runs around the tableau.
If you would like more information on the game, or to see another play-through, you might want to look at Michael Keller's Solitaire Laboratory site, which has a page on Autumn Leaves.
Finally, you may wonder why the game is called Autumn Leaves. It is because of the way that the cards flutter back and forth between the piles during play. For me, this adds a sense of peace to the game. I find it strategically and tactically interesting, and yet at the same time I find it rather peaceful and meditative. I hope you do too.