Uno was developed in 1971 in Reading, Ohio by Merle Robbins to settle an argument with his son about the rules of Crazy Eights. They made the original decks on their dinning room table before selling the game to International Games in 1981. Since 1992 it has been produced by Mattel.
The game consists of a deck of 108 cards. 0 through 9 and six special cards appear in each of 4 colors. The special cards in each color are two Draw Twos, two Reverses and two Skips. There are also 4 Wild cards and 4 Wild Draw Four cards. Play is pretty simple. You shuffle, deal out hands of 7 cards to each player and then turn over the top card. On your turn you have to play a card if you have a card to play, and to play a card it must be either the same color or the same value as the top card of the discard pile, or a Wild. When you play a Wild, you get to pick one of the four colors – blue, green, red, yellow – to switch to for the next player. If a special card is played, the action happens to the next player – i.e. that player has to draw two cards from the draw pile, that player is skipped, or play changes directions and a different player goes next. If you don’t have a playable card, you draw one from the draw pile – if it’s playable, you play it; if not, your turn is over. And while you can play a Wild at any time, in order to play a Wild Draw Four – where you get to pick the color AND the next player has to draw four cards – it must be the only playable card in your hand.
(Wife: So, how do I win?) Don’t you mean, “How does a player win?” (Wife: Sure, if it helps you sleep at night.) A player wins by getting rid of all the cards in their hand. When you only have one card left, you have to say “Uno”. (Wife: Why?) Because it’s Spanish for One. (Wife: I know that. Duh. Why do you have to say it?) Because it’s a rule. (Wife: Why?) Because if you don’t and another player catches you, you have to draw two cards. (Wife: Got it.) Anyway, once you go out, you get points based on the cards the other players are still holding. 50 points for wilds, 20 points for special cards, and face value for number cards. The first player to 500 points (Wife: Me.) wins.
Being that there were only two of us, we played the Two Player variant. The only important difference is that a Reverse card acts like a Skip, so if you play one it’s your turn again. (Wife: So, if I play a Skip, you get skipped. And if I play a Reverse you get skipped?) Yes. And with two players, playing a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four essentially skips the other player, since they have to draw cards instead of playing a card.
We shuffle and deal and play. (Wife: This is a big deck.) Yeah, shuffling is a bit of a pain. Just over twice the size of a normal deck, I remember having to shuffle it in pieces as a kid. Now I can do it all together, but still occasionally lose control of it. Game play can actually get kind of mean-spirited, especially in two person play. (Wife: Making me draw cards repeatedly sucks.) What about making me draw cards repeatedly? Does that suck too? (Wife: No, that’s a lot of fun!) Hrmph. One thing you can do in two player that you can’t do with three or more people is stack up your cards. If you had a hand that was a green Skip, a red Skip, a red Reverse, a red Draw Two, a blue Draw Two, a blue Skip and a Wild, and the play to you is something green, you’ve won the game because if you lay down the cards in the right order you are always skipping the other player or making them draw and you can always play.
During our play, she won a hand where she only got 4 points (Wife: Lame!) because I only had three cards, two 2’s and a 0. But there was also a hand where she got 180 points (Wife: Woohoo!) when she ended with a Wild Draw Four (Wife: Suck it!) and in the four cards I picked up I got two wild cards to add to the one I already had. I took the lead pretty early (Wife: Boo!) and was up 431 to 216, but after that I only won one more hand for 9 points and she racked up five wins for 302 total points. (Wife: I win!) She wins, 518 to 440.
We were going to do two out of three again (Wife: Because you wanted to cheat me out of my win.) but it took well over an hour to play the first round. With all the drawing that happens, both because of cards played and because of not having a card to play, some hands can drag out. You can get down to “Uno” and then find yourself unable to play a card on your next five or six turns. (Wife: And you can come back from having a bunch of cards in your hand when someone else says “Uno” to winning.) Indeed. (Wife: Especially when someone keeps forgetting to say “Uno” and I make them draw two cards.) I thought we weren’t going to bring that up? (Wife: I agreed to nothing!) Well, yeah, sometimes I forgot to say it and I got caught. (Wife: Ha ha!) Shut it!
The basic strategy in the game is to get rid of all the cards that are worth big points, unless you seriously feel like you can chain cards together later to dump them. (Wife: You and your strategy.) The biggest point gains were usually done by making the other player draw cards with your last few plays. More than one hand ended with a Wild Draw Four. (Wife: Mostly mine.) Of course, with a game as simple as Uno, you can spice things up with all sorts of house rules. A typical one being that if you can’t play a card you have to draw cards until you get a playable one. And there are lots more.
Man, 0. Wife, 4.
(Wife: Uno! Times four, because I’ve won four times.)