Spite and Malice

Spite and Malice is a well-established card game that is often referred to as an interactive solitaire game for two people. Each player plays his hand one at a time, using cards that he and his opponent have previously played. The objective of Spite and Malice is to be the first player to get rid of the cards in your pay-off pile by placing cards in the center stacks in an increasing order. You'll be using two standard decks of fifty-two cards with aces as low, queens as high, and kings as wild.

Spite and Malice is often called a game of “Cat and Mouse,” or the “Husband and Wife” game, because of the tit-for-tat play that you'll be following as you each complete your turns.

Rules of Play

A random dealer is selected and deals each player twenty cards, face down. Stack those cards into a pile, without looking at them — this becomes your “pay-off pile” that you want to get rid of to win the game. You are then each dealt five cards to your hand, and you can look at those cards. The remaining cards are placed face down to form a stockpile. There is an area to the side of you to hold four “hold” stacks that you will be discarding to later in play. In the middle of the table, between you and your opponent, there is an area for three center stacks.

Play begins with each of you turning over the top card in your payoff pile. If the cards are of equal value, you'll each shuffle your pile and then turn over the top card again. The player with the highest value card plays first.

The player who goes first follows a couple of steps. If you have an ace, you'll want to play it to an open center stack. If you are able to lay down an ace, you can also build on that ace by placing a two, followed by a three, and so on, regardless of suit. The cards can come from your hand or from the top of your pay-off pile. Since your goal is to get rid of your pay-off pile, you will usually want to play a card from there first. Kings are wild and can be placed on any center stack, representing the next card in sequence. If you cannot play an ace, or when you can no longer add cards to the center stacks, your turn is over and you signify this by placing a card in one of your hold stacks. It is then your opponent's turn.

In future turns, you'll first check the number of cards in your hand. If you have fewer than five cards, you must draw cards from the stockpile to bring it up to five. You can then play cards on top of your opponent's cards in the center stacks, if he was able to play. You can use cards from your hand, from the top of your pay-off pile, or from the hold stacks. When your turn is over, you'll again discard a card to the hold stacks. There can only be four hold stacks at one time, so if all four have a card on them, the discard must go on top of a card, making the card underneath unavailable. You may play as many cards to the center stacks as you can, but as soon as you discard to a hold stack, your turn is over, and it's your opponent's turn to play again.

If you are able to play all five cards in your hand, you immediately draw five more cards from the stockpile without waiting until your next turn. Your turn continues until you cannot play anymore and you place a card in the hold stacks.

If a center stack is complete (ace through queen), you shuffle it back into the stockpile, making room for a new stack to be built. Play ends when a player's pay-off pile has been completely moved to the center stacks. That player wins the game.

Variations of Spite and Malice

There are many variations to the game of Spite and Malice. You can play with more than two players by dealing out a different number of cards to the pay-off pile or by using additional decks of cards. You can also choose to play with more than the standard four center stacks, as many as you wish. Players can also choose to include the jokers and use them as wild cards. One variation during play is to require that the discard be placed on an empty stack, on a card with a similar value, or on a card that has a value one greater than the discard.

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