piles out

Spite and Malice

Spite and Malice is a card game for two or more players; it is a form of competitive solitaire. It is also known as Cat and Mouse and commercially sold as Skip-Bo. A different card game also known as Spite and Malice is sold by Hasbro



The deck consists of three regular playing card decks with the jokers removed. 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. Suits have no bearing to 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.


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 he/she deals 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 un-dealt 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 his goal pile, the one doing so first, wins
    • If a player cannot use a turn to reach the card in their goal pile he/she may choose to attempt to block the ability of someone else to make theirs 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 once
    • 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 his/her disposal a maximum of four discard piles
    • Playing a card into your discard pile ends your turn and passes it onto the next player
    • The cards played into the discard piles must be played out in reverse order of them being laid down - in other words you may not play out of the middle of the piles but you 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 are filled 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.


The first person to get a turn is the dealer. In play, each turn will start with a player drawing from the common draw pile to give themselves a five card hand. Then they make whatever plays they are able until they have no more plays and then a card is played from a player's hand into that person's personal discard area which ends their turn. Play starts with the dealer and goes around the table in a clockwise fashion.

The best move would be to be able 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 his hand in 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 his/her 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, he/she 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 his 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 were able to play three cards and then ended their first turn with their discard. On the next turn, they would have one card left in their hand and they would then draw four more to reconstitute themselves back to a five card hand. Or possibly, a player's only possible move on their first play was to discard because they had no playable card on the playing piles. So they discard one card leaving him or her with four, in which case on their subsequent 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 the 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 have won and no discard is required.

If everyone has a high goal card at the start of play, many turns may end up being just drawing one card, then deciding which card to add to the discard piles until someone gets a sufficient number of cards saved up in the discard piles of cards enough 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 a higher number that was their 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 both cards from your hand, and cards from your discard piles during your turn.

Strategy & Tips

When you have just played a card from your goal pile, remember to immediately turn the next card in that pile over. Many players occasionally play from their hand before looking at the next card in the goal pile and discover when they finally flip the goal card over that they have blocked themselves.

Similarly, when your turn starts and you see that with some combination of cards from your hand and your discard piles that you can get to your goal card, do not remember the rule that you must play aces and deuces if you are able to and choose to play the ace first, and then get to your goal card (assuming that you are playing with this variant, see below). If the card under the goal card is an ace you will be sorry for the order you choose. The rule is that you must play the ace and deuce if you are able before your turn is OVER. So, do not let that rule distract you into not taking care of business first.

Additionally, when the card in your goal pile turns up a king (wild card) try to play it in a place that will allow you to play out all of the cards in your hand so that you can draw five more in the same turn, or, try to play it in such a way that it will not block your next goal card. For example, if the playing piles have two of the same number showing, threes for instance. Then playing the king as a four will ensure that if the next card under the king is a four, you can still play it and will not have blocked yourself.

Do not always play yourself out of every possible playable discard. It is often better to have a bank of well organized discards than to simply get rid of cards for no reason. However, if your discards are poorly organized or close to the maximum of four piles, play some off.


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) 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, and Jokers are used as wild cards (Wild represents all cards besides A, 2, 7, J)


  • SKIP-BO is a commercial version of Spite and Malice published by Mattel.
  • Spite and Malice is a commercial card (different from the rules on this page) sold by Hasbro.
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