Spite 20 26 20Malice

Spite & Malice

Spite & Malice is a kind of competitive patience (solitaire) game for two players. It is also known as Cat and Mouse. Both players try to be the first to get rid of a pile of "pay-off cards" by playing them to foundation which are begun with an ace and continue in upward sequence to a Queen. This is not a physical race (as in Spit or Racing Demon where play is simultaneous) - in Spite & Malice the players take turns.

Players and equipment

Spite & Malice was originally a two player game, and it is easiest to describe this version first. Versions for larger numbers of players will be found in the variations section. Two of a StandardDeckOfCards are needed. The cards in each deck rank from low to high: A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q, with kings wild. Suits are irrelevant in this game.

Deal and layout

The play area is set up like so:


To begin the game 20 cards are dealt face down to each pay-off pile, and a further 5 cards are dealt to each player as their hand. The remainder of the cards are placed face down between the players to form the stock. The top card of each pay-off pile is turned face up and placed on top. Whichever player has the higher card showing will play first. If they are equal, both players shuffle their pay-off piles and turn up a new top card. At this stage the foundation and tableau are all empty.

The play

The object of the game is to be the first get rid of all the cards in your pay-off pile by playing them to the foundation. Only the top card of your pay-off pile is available for play at any time; when you have managed to get rid of the top card, you turn the next pay-off card face up and try to get rid of that.

The first card in each foundation must be an ace, then 2, 3, and so on in sequence up to queen, each card played being one higher than the card it covers. There cannot be more than three foundation at one time.

The player whose first pay-off card is higher plays first, and thereafter the players take alternate turns. If you have fewer than five cards in your hand you begin your turn by drawing cards from the stock to bring your hand up to five cards. You may then make a series of moves, the possible moves being:

  1. To play an ace to an empty centre stack, or to play to a foundation the next higher card than the card showing (for example a six on a five, or a jack on a ten, irrespective of suit). The card played may come from your hand, from the top of one of your tableau, or from the top of your pay-off pile, and is played face-up on top of the centre stack.
  2. To play a card from your hand face-up on top of one of your tableau. This ends your turn. A player cannot have more than four separate tableau at one time; if you have no empty tableau then you must discard onto a side stack that already contains cards, making the card you cover temporarily unavailable for play.

You may play as many cards to the foundation as you want, but as soon as you play a card to a tableau stack your turn ends, and your opponent may play. Note that you can never play a pay-off card to a tableau stacks, or to move a card from one tableau stack to another, or move a card from a foundation stack to anywhere.

Kings are wild and can represent any card except an Ace. You can discard a king to a tableau stack without committing yourself as to what it represents. When a king is placed on a foundation stack it represents the next higher value than the card it covers.

If during your turn you manage to play all five cards from your hand, without playing to a tableau stacks, you immediately draw five more cards from the stock and continue playing.

If you complete a centre stack by playing a queen (or a king representing a queen) your opponent shuffles the completed stack into the stock, creating a space for a new foundation stack, and you can continue playing.

Ending the game

The game ends when someone wins by playing the last card of their pay-off pile to the centre. The game can also end if the stock runs out of cards, in which case the result is a draw.

More than two players

Spite and Malice can easily be adapted for any number of players. Turn to play passes clockwise. Depending on the number of players and how many cards you deal to the payoff piles, more decks may need to be added - for example some play with one deck per player. Some play that the number of foundation stacks is limited to one more than the number of players - i.e. four for three players, five for four players, etc.

Four people can play as partners; six people form three teams of two. Partners sit opposite each other. At your turn you can play from your partner's pay-off pile or side stacks to the centre stacks, but you can only discard to your own side stack. Play continues until one pair wins by playing all the cards from both of their pay-off piles.

Our variation is that cards are dealt out to the pay off piles at a rate approximately 40-45% of the total mass of the deck. Four players or should go with three decks.

Other variations

Number of Centre Stacks

Some players allow an unlimited number of centre stacks (but never more than four side stacks for each player). In this case it is not necessary to remove completed centre stacks immediately, but you may agree to wait until the stock is depleted. (Dan_Crouch? and I play this variation)

Some play other limits on the number of centre stacks - for example a maximum of four.

Compulsory play of aces

Some play that aces cannot be retained in your hand but must be played as soon as drawn to start new centre stacks. Also an ace appearing on your pay-off pile must immediately be played to the centre. In this version there is no limit on the number of centre stacks.

Size of pay-off piles

Some people play with a different number of cards in the initial pay-off piles - for example 21 or 25.

Resolving Stalemates

Some people play that if the stock runs out the winner is the player with fewest cards remaining in their pay-off pile. Only if the pay-off piles have equal numbers of cards is the result a draw. (Dan_Crouch? and I play this variation)

Playing with jokers

Some people include jokers in the deck for Spite and Malice. The jokers are wild and can represent any card. Some play that the kings remain wild as well; others play that only the jokers are wild, and that 13 cards are needed top complete each centre stack, ending with the king.


Sadly, there are few programs available to play Spite & Malice on your (insert fave computing appliance here).