La Belle Lucie tips

I’ve just written about how I’ve begun playing solitaire games, especially La Belle Lucie — accourding to PySol this game is also known as Clover Leaf and Midnight Oil. I’ll call it La Belle Lucie. The rules are quite easy:

  • Move all cards to the foundations to win.

  • The piles must be built in suit.

  • Only one card can be moved one at a time.

Now let me share what little I’ve found out with regards to a strategy for the game. Below is a screenshot of a typical situation in the game. Click on it to have it enlarged to full size.

La Belle Lucie — click to view full size

The piles on the tableau can be divided into two types, the first of which you will want to leave alone:

  • Locked piles. These are piles where the top cards are in sequence and of the same suit. There the top card cannot be moved. This is because La Belle Lucie is played with just a single deck and so there is just one correct position for each card. Note that the kings cannot be moved onto any other card, so any pile with a king at the top is automatically locked.

    An example of a more common locked pile is the one with the Queen of Hearts (Q) at the top: that card can only be put on the King of Hearts (K), it card cannot be moved elsewhere. So that pile is effectively locked.

    Piles with just one card also fall in this category. Even if the card in these “piles” could be moved to another pile it should never be done — since there’s just a single card moving it wont help anything since there’s no buried cards to reveal. So moving the card can never help.

    The Jack of Diamonds (♦J) is an example of such a lonely, but valuable, card.

  • Other piles, that is piles where the top cards does not form a sequence. These are the only cards that you will have a chance of moving, since all other cards are either locked or singletons.

Moving a card to another pile locks that pile since the two top-most cards now form a sequence and are of the same suit. That means that you should be careful when you move cards: always check first that the top card in the target pile cannot be moved.

In the example we could move the 5 onto the 6, but this would be a bad move since it locks the 6, which could have been moved to 7, which itself could have been moved with 8 to 9. At that point we reach a dead end in the moving, for 9 can only be moved onto 10, but that card is buried beneath 8 and 4. So to move 9 we would have to move 8 — but this card can only be placed on 9 and so we have no chance of moving 9. This effectively means that 9 is locked and so we can safely moved 8 onto it, followed by the other cards in the sequence.

This is the basic strategy: move unlocked cards onto locked cards. Continue doing this until all cards are part of locked piles or until no card can be moved. Then redeal and do it all again :-)

The cards in the foundations sometimes make things a little more subtle by giving you two ways of moving a given card. If, for example, you want to get rid of the ♣7 card so that the 3 is revealed, then you have two ways of doing this: moving ♣7 unto ♣8 on the tableau, or getting ♣6 on the foundation and then moving ♣6 there too. The problem of getting hold of 3 is equivalent to solving either of these two sub-problems. Always think in terms of such back-tracking: “if I want this card, then I have to move that card, which means that this other card most be moved…” Stop your back-tracking when you hit a cycle like above.

That’s it — if you know of anything extra worth noticing when playing La Belle Lucia please let me know!

It would also be very interesting to hear something about the statistics of the game: how often do you actually have a change, on average? The problem is that you might be unlucky in your last redeal and end up with a king at the top of a pile with another card from the same suit beneath the king. In that case you cannot win since the king cannot be moved, and thus the buried card is lost. I hate when that happens… :-)


  1. sharon davis:

    You are an answer to prayers. I had this game back in the 90’s but my computer crashed. since i have gotten a new one recently i have searched and searched for this game, i was unable to remember the name of the game until recently. it is tough getting old. is there anyway you can tell me where i can get this game? It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  2. Martin Geisler:

    Sure, I played it in PySol — follow the link at the top of the post to download it.

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