Spite and Malice

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Spite and Malice, also known as Cat and Mouse, is a traditional card game for two or more players.[1] It is a reworking of the late 19th century Continental game Crapette,[1] and is a form of competitive solitaire with a number of variations that can be played with two or three regular decks of cards.

One commercial variation, sold by Hasbro from 2002, is called Spite and Malice;[2] another variation, sold by Mattel, is called Skip-Bo.[3] An earlier implementation is the 1901 card game Flinch.



The deck consists of three regular playing card decks with the jokers removed (or jokers may be retained and used as wild), although the United States Playing Card Company's version of the game uses two 52-card decks.[4] The rank of the cards is ace low and then proceeding normally up to queen, which is the highest card in the deck. Kings are wild and may substitute for any other card rank excluding ace/1. Suits have no bearing on the game.


Two or more (if too many people play, it is possible you will need to add additional standard playing card decks to your Spite and Malice deck). Usually the game is played with 2 to 4 players.


To be the first person to move all the cards in your goal pile into the playing piles, thus winning the game.


Players cut for the deal, with the highest card winning the deal, aces being high. Once a dealer is chosen, they deal 26 cards to each player (or 13 cards if a shorter game is desired). The players do not look at these cards but simply collect them into a pile (hereafter called the goal pile). Once each goal pile is dealt, the top card should be turned over by each player and placed face up on the pile.

All undealt cards are left face down in a stack placed central to all players (called the draw pile).


There are three kinds of piles in Spite and Malice.

  • Goal piles
    • Each player tries to play through their goal pile. The one doing so first wins.
    • If a player cannot use a turn to reach the card in their goal pile, they may choose to attempt to block the ability of someone else to reach it instead.
  • Playing piles
    • Play piles are community piles, used by all players.
    • Being community piles, they are located between all players.
    • There are a maximum of four playing piles open at any one time.
    • Each playing pile is opened with an ace.
    • Playing proceeds upward in normal rank all the way to the Queen
    • Once a queen is played on a playing pile it causes that pile to be dead and it is removed from the immediate playing area until enough cards are collected to be able to shuffle them and return them to the draw pile
  • Discard piles
    • Discard piles belong only to the player who made them—players may not interfere or play from one another's discard piles.
    • Being personal piles, they are located in front of each individual player.
    • Each player has at their disposal a maximum of four discard piles.
    • Playing a card into your discard pile ends your turn and passes it on to the next player.
    • The cards played into the discard piles must be played out in reverse order of their being laid down; in other words, you may not play out of the middle of the piles but must remove cards from the top of discard piles when putting them into the playing piles.
    • Because you cannot play from the discard piles out of turn, they are often organized either by being all of the same number or by descending card ranks so that they may be played sequentially.
    • You cannot discard an ace; however, if your discard slots and the playable slots are filled and all you are left with is an ace to discard, you do not get to draw again and your turn is over.
    • If all playable slots are filled and you have a discard slot open and only an ace in your hand, then you get to draw 4 more cards.
    • You can never end a turn with an empty discard pile.


Play starts with the dealer and goes around the table in a clockwise fashion. Each turn starts with a player drawing from the common draw pile to give themself a five-card hand. They then make whatever plays they can until they have no more plays that they want to do, and then they discard a card from their hand into their personal discard area, which they must if they have 5 cards in their hand, but if they have 4 or less cards in their hand they don't have to put one out in their personal discard area. If they put all 5 cards out or put the fifth card out on their personal discard area they pick up 5 more cards and continues. They may ONLY put one card out on their personal discard area and may NOT play a buried card in their personal discard area when they are playing. When they put a card out on their personal discard area and have 1 or more cards left in their hand, their turn is over

The best move would be to play the goal card directly on a playing pile (it would have to be an ace or a king at this point, since all four playing piles are empty at this point). If this is not possible, the player may use the cards in their hand to put cards into the playing piles and "play up" to the value of the goal card. If the player cannot do either of these things, the turn might simply consist of making a discard to one of their four discard piles.

However, if all five cards in the hand can be played in the playing piles (for example, if a player drew A, 2, 3, A, 2, they could play ace, two, three on one playing pile and ace and then 2 on a second pile), resulting in running out of cards before making a discard, that player may draw five more playing cards to replenish their hand. It is possible, if not probable, for this to happen more than once, or even a few times in a row, before someone is forced to make a discard because they cannot make any further plays.

Once a discard is made, the turn moves to the next player. That person starts their turn by drawing cards from the draw pile to make their five-card hand. On someone's first turn they will always draw five cards, but on subsequent turns they will draw however many cards are required. For example, suppose they are able to play three cards and then ends their first turn with their discard. On the next turn, they would have one card left in their hand and would then draw four more to reconstitute a five-card hand. If a player's only possible move on their first play is to discard because they have no playable card on the playing piles, they would discard one card, leaving them with four, in which case on their next turn they would simply draw one card to end up with the standard five-card hand. No matter how many cards are able to be played, a turn ends with a player placing a card from their hand into one of their discard piles (unless they play the winning move of putting their last goal card into play, in which case they win and no discard is required).

If everyone has a high goal card at the start of play, there may be many turns where the players draw just one card and then decide which card to add to the discard piles until someone gets a sufficient number of cards saved up in the discard piles of cards to reach their high number. Or one person may end up with a low goal card and, in reaching that one and then ending their turn, they will have unavoidably helped someone else to reach their higher number goal card.

As play continues, many cards can accumulate in the discard piles. In order to make your goal card or prevent your opponent from reaching theirs, you can use cards from both your hand and your discard piles during your turn.


After each hand has ended, scoring takes place. Only the player who cleared their goal pile can score: They score five points for clearing the goal pile and one point per card left in their opponents' goal piles. If, in the rare instance that the draw pile is exhausted and there is no possible way to furnish a new one, a drawn hand is declared, and the person closest to a cleared goal pile scores the difference between their opponents' leftover cards and their own. Games are usually played to 25, 50, or 100 points.[5]


Some rules use unlimited center stacks; they are only removed when the draw stack is depleted. Also, sometimes a rule is employed requiring aces and deuces to be played any time a player is able to do so.

Spite and Malice is similar to a game called Misery. It is played with 2 players. Two decks are used instead of three (unless three people play—then three decks are used) and two (goal) piles of 12 per player and a hand of 6.

Another variation calls for all piles to be built up to the king, with jokers being used as wild cards.

Another variation calls for all piles to be built up to the king, with jokers used as wild cards. (Wild represents all cards besides A, 2, 7, and J.)

One variation calls for one deck for every player (e.g., 3 players play with 3 decks) with a maximum of four center stacks to be built from ace to queen, with kings as wilds. (Jokers are not used here.)

Another variation requires a natural A and 2 (no wild cards for A or 2) but does permit discarding of pairs of cards (e.g., two queens, two 7's, etc.), but no more than two cards at a time.


  1. ^ a b Parlett, David. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Card Games (New ed.). Penguin. p. 540. ISBN 0-14-028032-4.
  2. ^ "Spite & Malice - If you can't beat 'em annoy 'em" (PDF). Hasbro. 2002. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2010-09-23. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  3. ^ "How to Play Skip-Bo" (PDF). Mattel. 2003. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  4. ^ http://www.hoylegaming.com/rules/showrule.aspx?RuleID=228
  5. ^ http://www.hoylegaming.com/rules/showrule.aspx?RuleID=228