Spite and Malice

The Game of Spite and Malice: Rules, Strategy and How to Win Instructions


Spite and Malice, also known as Cat and Mouse, is a card game for two players. It’s a game of strategy, skill, and a little bit of luck. The game uses three regular decks of 52 cards, including the Jokers. I remember the first time I played Spite and Malice, I was intrigued by its unique blend of strategy and chance. It’s a game that keeps you on your toes, always planning your next move.

The game is a form of competitive solitaire, with a goal of playing all one’s cards to a foundation before the opponent. The origin of Spite and Malice is unclear, but it’s thought to have been invented in the late 19th or early 20th century. It has since evolved over the years, with numerous versions and variations being played around the world. Some of these variations include the commercial game Skip-Bo, which was first produced in 1967 and is a game I’ve written a guide on previously. Despite its competitive nature, Spite and Malice is largely a game of chance, with the luck of the draw playing a large role in the outcome.

Quick Tip for Spite and Malice

Always keep an eye on your opponent’s discard piles. It can give you a clue about their strategy and help you plan your moves accordingly.

Rules for playing Spite and Malice

  1. The game is played with two players, each having a goal pile of 20 cards.
  2. The aim is to be the first to get rid of all the cards in your goal pile.
  3. Each player has four discard piles, where they can place their cards in any order.
  4. Players can also play cards onto the center piles, but these must be in ascending order and start with an Ace.

There are also some ‘house rules’ that you can incorporate to add a twist to the game. For instance, some players like to include a rule where Jokers can be used as wild cards.

Dealing in Spite and Malice

The dealer shuffles the deck and deals 20 cards face down to each player. These form the goal piles. The rest of the cards form the stock pile, from which players draw cards during the game.

How to Play Spite and Malice

  1. Setup: Each player draws five cards from the stock pile to form their hand.
  2. Gameplay: Players take turns playing cards from their hand, goal pile, or discard piles onto the center piles.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when one player has played all the cards from their goal pile.
  4. Scoring: The player who finishes their goal pile first scores a point. The game can be played in rounds, with the first player to reach a certain number of points declared the winner.

How to Win at Spite and Malice

Winning at Spite and Malice requires a good balance of strategy and luck. You need to plan your moves carefully, but also be ready to adapt to the cards you draw. A good strategy is to try to keep your hand as flexible as possible, so you can respond to whatever your opponent does.

Spite and Malice, also known as Cat and Mouse, is a card game which involves a blend of skill and luck. To win at this game, players need to strike a balance between a well-thought-out strategy and the element of chance.

Planning your moves is critical in this game. It’s not enough to just randomly play your cards, instead, you must anticipate your opponent’s moves and strategize accordingly. Assessing the game situation, understanding the cards in your possession, and making the most out of them is key. You need to have a game plan in place and execute it effectively.

However, it’s equally important to be flexible and adapt to the changing game dynamics. Since the game involves drawing cards, you can’t predict with certainty the cards that you will receive. Therefore, the ability to quickly adjust your strategy based on the new cards you draw is essential. You might have to alter your strategy mid-game, which requires quick thinking and adaptability.

A recommended strategy to win at Spite and Malice is to keep your hand as flexible as possible. This means that you should aim to have a variety of cards in your hand. By doing this, you can respond effectively to any move your opponent makes. If you have a diverse set of cards, you can play offensively or defensively as needed. For instance, if your opponent is close to winning, you could use your cards to block them. On the other hand, if you’re in a strong position, you could use your cards to speed up your own progress.

It’s important to remember that while strategy plays a big role, luck is a factor that can’t be overlooked. Sometimes, despite having a great strategy, the cards drawn might not be in your favor. In such cases, it’s crucial to stay patient and not lose hope. Keep adjusting your strategy according to the cards you draw and keep an eye on your opponent’s moves.

At the end of the day, winning at Spite and Malice not only requires a good balance of strategy and luck, but also the ability to stay calm under pressure, the skill to adapt quickly, and the patience to wait for the right opportunity to strike.

Best Strategies for playing Spite and Malice

One of the best strategies in Spite and Malice is to keep your discard piles organized. This allows you to plan your moves ahead and gives you more options during your turn. Also, try to keep a close eye on your opponent’s discard piles. This can give you valuable information about their strategy and help you plan your own moves accordingly.

1. Understand the Game: The first step towards mastering any game is understanding its rules and objectives. In Spite and Malice, the goal is to be the first to play all the cards in your Pay-off pile. Make sure you understand the role of each pile – Pay-off, Play, Discard, and Hand – and how cards can be moved between them.

2. Plan Your Moves: Always think a few steps ahead. This will allow you to make the most strategic moves and prevent your opponent from making progress.

3. Keep an Eye on Your Opponent: Pay attention to the cards your opponent is playing. This can give you an insight into their strategies, help predict their next moves, and allow you to plan your moves accordingly.

4. Utilize Wild Cards Wisely: The wild cards in the game, which are the Jokers, can be used as any number. Use them strategically to complete a sequence or block your opponent.

5. Balance Your Discard Pile: Don’t just discard cards randomly. Try to maintain a balance of high and low cards in your discard pile. This will provide you with more options in future turns.

6. Block Your Opponent: If possible, try to block your opponent from making progress. For example, if your opponent is likely to play a certain card on their next turn, you could play that card on your turn to prevent them from doing so.

7. Don’t Ignore Your Hand: While the main goal is to get rid of your Pay-off pile, don’t neglect the cards in your hand. Use them strategically to make progress and disrupt your opponent’s plans.

8. Keep Your Options Open: Don’t focus too much on one strategy. Keep your options open and be ready to adapt your strategy based on the cards you draw and your opponent’s moves.

9. Play Quickly: The faster you play your cards, the less time your opponent has to anticipate your moves and counteract your strategy.

10. Practice: Like any other game, practice makes perfect. The more you play Spite and Malice, the better you’ll become at anticipating moves, developing strategies, and winning the game.


There are several variations of Spite and Malice that you can try. For instance, you can play with more than two players, or you can introduce special rules for the Jokers. Each variation adds a unique twist to the game and can make it even more exciting and challenging.


There are many different scenarios that can arise in a game of Spite and Malice. For instance, you might find yourself with a hand full of high cards, making it difficult to play onto the center piles. In such a case, you might need to change your strategy and focus on getting rid of these cards in your discard piles.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Spite and Malice

  1. Can I play a card from my hand onto my goal pile? No, you can only play cards from your hand onto the center piles or your discard piles.
  2. What happens if the stock pile runs out? If the stock pile runs out, the center piles are shuffled and form a new stock pile.
  3. Can I look at the cards in my goal pile? No, you can only look at the top card of your goal pile.
  4. Can I play a Joker onto a center pile? Yes, if you are playing with the rule that Jokers are wild, you can play a Joker onto a center pile.
  5. What happens if I can’t play any cards? If you can’t play any cards, you must discard one card from your hand onto one of your discard piles.

For more information about the history and variations of Spite and Malice, check out this Wikipedia article.