Pillars of 13

A solitaire game using SET® cards, invented by Dave Eggleston. This is a good timekiller for those who like to make Sets. There is an additional element of card-matching which makes it a good brain-stretcher.


One deck of SET® cards, and a fair amount of table space.

The Layout

Place six cards face up in a row. These represent the bases of your pillars. Next, on each of the six cards, overlap 3 cards face down on top of them. These 18 cards constitute the foundations of your pillars. Next, overlap 9 cards face up on each of the 6 columns. The result will be 6 columns of 13 cards each. You should have three remaining cards -- these are the oracles. Place them to the side for now, face down.

The Action

  1. For each column, the only card you may access is the top card. Removing that card will make the card underneath it accessible.
  2. You may remove any 3 accessible cards that form a Set.
  3. You may turn over a card in the foundation only after the card above it has been moved.
  4. You may move any accessible card (other than the bases) to another column if it shares exactly two features (number, color, shape, shading) with the card on the top of that column.
  5. As mentioned in the above rule, you may not move a base to another column. You may remove it as part of a Set, but only after all 18 foundation cards have been turned over.
  6. You may consult one or more of the oracles at any time. You may use each oracle in one of two ways. Once a base has been removed, you may place an oracle face up in the vacant position. No cards other than the oracles may replace a removed base. You must commit the oracle to the base position before turning it face up. You may also turn the oracle face up to the side of the tableau, in which case you may use it (even at a later time) to make a Set, or to place on top of a column (under the same restrictions listed in rule 4). However, you may not later move it to an empty column.

How You Win

All of your foundations must be turned face up. Additionally, there must be no possible Set among all cards, excluding any remaining face down oracles, in which case the pillars are weakened enough to crumble away. If you can accomplish this without consulting any of the oracles, call yourself Samson.

A Word on Strategy

The key is forming long chains of cards (under rule 4) while working to expose the foundation cards, removing the easily attainable Sets along the way. Once this is done, you must manipulate the chains to reach cards that can make Sets. The problem is, when you take a card from a middle of the chain, you will most likely not be able to reconnect that chain. However, if you maintain several chains, there will almost always be a clever way to attach small chains together.

Save the oracles for use as replacement bases, no matter how tempted you are to get yourself out of an apparent jam -- there's probably a way out without wasting the oracles.

Endgame is a bitch. At the beginning, you want to maximize the possibilities for making remaining Sets (e.g. don't take all Green or all Diamonds for your first five sets). However, at the end you want to minimize the remaining possibilities. It will be very hard to make all three cards of a Set accessible if you have fewer than 12 cards remaining on the tableau.

mag and judd