Spite and Malice Card Game

Spite and Malice Card GameSpite and Malice is a type of competitive solitaire where players try to be the first to get rid of their cards by playing them to common piles. It is also known as "Cat and Mouse".

Note: Skip-Bo and Flinch are two popular commercial variants of Spite and Malice that have been family favorites for generations.

Spite and Malice Games

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Spite and Malice Rules

Spite and Malice is played by two players, using two 52-card decks of standard playing cards. Cards are ranked A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q (low-to-high). Kings are wild. Jokers are not used.

Each player is dealt 20 cards face-down to form their "pay-off pile" (sometimes referred to as a "goal pile"). The top card is then turned face-up and is available for play. Each player is also dealt a 5-card hand (cards visible only to that player). The remaining cards form the "stock" from which both players may draw as needed.

Each player also has four "discard piles", which are initially empty, but are used as temporary storage available to that player.

Between the two players is space for three center stacks, used as common foundations by both players. Center stacks are built up from ace to queen, regardless of suit, then removed from play.

The object of the game is to use all the cards in your pay-off pile before your opponent does so. The first player to clear their pay-off pile wins the game.

During each player's turn, the top of their pay-off pile is available for play to the center stacks, as is each of the five card in their hand, and the top card of each of their discard piles. Move as many cards as you can to the center stacks, giving priority to your pay-off pile, and being careful not to leave the center stacks in a state that may help your opponent clear their own piles. If you use all 5 of the cards in your hand in one turn, you get 5 new cards immediately.

When you're done moving cards to the center piles, move one card from your hand to the discard piles to complete your turn. Your hand is re-filled to 5 cards on your next turn.

Spite and Malice is a simple game, yet offers surprising opportunities for strategic play, particularly by blocking or not facilitating your opponent's play.

Check out some of the links below for additional variations to accommodate more players, and other interesting features.

Spite and Malice Links

  • Allgood Spite and Malice
    A Macintosh implementation of the popular card game. Try to get rid of all your cards, while preventing your opponent from getting rid of theirs. Unlike other competitive patience games, Spite and Malice offers lots of options for strategy and you can get ahead by playing smart. Plus, you can try to stop the other player, by blocking their plays. It's very easy to learn how to play, and extremely addicting. [Mac]
  • Gamesville Spite and Malice
    Play Spite and Malice online against other players at Gamesville. [Java]
  • iPhone Spite & Malice
    Play against your phone with this version of Spite & Malice. With 3 levels of difficulty, it will keep players of all levels entertained for hours. [iOS]
  • Net Spite and Malice
    Net Spite and Malice gives you a chance to play the game with computer bots or live opponents by the Internet or LAN. It is also possible to play simultaneously on two tables easily switching from game to game. For each table you can use your own rules for the score system; select cards and cloth views; change information window settings; and much more... Spite and Malice is good for adults and children and could be a great family game! [Windows]
  • Pagat Spite and Malice
    Complete rules for Spite and Malice (and variations), as well as links to related sites.
  • Spite and Malice Online
    This is an online version of Spite and Malice, a type of competitive solitaire where players try to be the first to get rid of their cards by playing them to common piles. [Flash]
  • SpiteNET: Spite and Malice
    This card game with an attitude, is a fast moving and addictive card game. A form of competitive solitaire where you are challenged by the wit and skill of Spite, the computer opponent. Similar to SkipBo. Also playable with an Internet/LAN connection. From Mari JP Soderberg. [Windows]

Spite and Malice Tips

  • Keep your eyes on the prize! Always make playing the payoff card your top priority, and resist playing cards just because you can. Even if you have an opportunity to play a long sequence of cards from your hand or a side stack, always play the payoff card when you can and make all your moves with an eye to getting the payoff card played. No other moves really matter!
  • Play a payoff card even if it means your opponent will be able to play his payoff card next turn (unless your opponent is about to play his last card).
  • Watch your opponent's payoff card, and never help your opponent get closer to playing this card (by playing cards to the center that are close to the desired payoff card), unless you are trying for a nearby payoff card. For example, if your payoff card is a 10, and your opponent's payoff card is a 7, and a center pile contains a 3 on which you could play a 4 and 5, hold on to those cards and avoid playing them until you can "play past" your opponent (by playing at least 4-5-6-7).
  • If the center stacks are not close to your opponent's payoff card, it's generally safe to play cards freely to the center piles, even if it doesn't help you. Getting cards out of your hand is often benefit enough. Which leads us to the next strategy tip...
  • Try to clear your hand of cards when possible, as long as it doesn't help your opponent. Clearing your hand gives you five new cards, which may get you closer to your goal.
  • Don't hesitate to be vicious – the name of the game says it all. If you get a chance to play the same card that's currently on top of your opponent's payoff pile, play it to the center stack to prevent him or her from playing it. Your opponent would do the same to you!
  • It may be difficult to decide how to play a king from your payoff pile (assuming you have more than one center stack to play to). Be sure to use the king in a way that gives your opponent the least help getting to his or her payoff card. Otherwise, consider using it as a card that you don't have, since it may then help you play the payoff card you're about to reveal. Another particularly ruthless way to play the king is to use it with other cards to get to your opponent's payoff card, if you can.
  • When playing towards your payoff card, if you have a choice of playing the same card from your hand or from your side stacks, play from your hand to get more cards dealt to you next turn, unless you really need to expose the cards underneath the card on your side stack.
  • When holding on to cards for future use, try to keep cards as a run in your hand, ditching any card that's not part of a straight or near straight in your hand. This gives you the most versatility as these cards are always free to play. This is especially true for cards leading up to your payoff card and cards that immediately follow your payoff card. For example, if your payoff card is a 9, and your hand contains a 3, 6, 7, 8, J, hold the 6-7-8 in your hand as long as you can, and discard the other cards to the side stacks.
  • If you can't hold the straight because you have to discard cards to the side stacks, try transferring the straight to a single side stack, one card at a time, so that it can later be played in order.
  • When you have only one payoff card left, and your opponent has several cards left in his or her payoff stack, play to the center stacks more aggressively than you normally would in order to get more cards dealt to you. In other words, play as many cards as you can to the center stacks, unless it helps your opponent play his or her payoff card.

Tips courtesy of Hoyle Card Games.

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Last Update: August 4th, 2011