Before you start playing, you need to deal the cards. In Elemental, forty-eight cards make up the tableau, and the four cards left over are called spares.
Here's how to deal the tableau. Deal twelve piles of four cards each, three cards face-down and one face-up to a pile. Arrange the twelve piles into the shape illustrated below (like a 4x4 grid with the corners missing). This is the tableau.
Put the four leftover cards (called spares) somewhere away from the tableau so that you can see all of their faces.
If you play online, the cards are dealt for you automatically, but you should still understand how it is done.
Below is a picture of what the tableau looks like when you play Elemental online.
Each white square represents a pile of cards, and in it you can see the suit of the card on top of the pile, the total number of cards in the pile, and a checkbox for selecting the pile.
Below is a picture of the spares. For each spare you can see its suit and a radio button for selecting it.
The number of cards in the discard pile is displayed underneath the tableau.
Before you can learn the rules of the game, you need to understand the terms BLOCK, CROSS and EXTREMITY. These describe groups of piles in the tableau that form particular patterns.
The importance of these patterns will become clear on the following pages, in which the rules of the game are explained.
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