One game to rule them all
I can’t imagine a time without Uno. It is the quintessential family game and I mean that in the most positive sense. It's ready to deploy to any audience at any occasion, safe in the knowledge that fun, laughter and good conversation will follow. If you don’t have a copy, then you need to take a good look at yourself, ask some uncompromising questions... and then make the small but worthwhile investment to add it to your shelf.
Each player is dealt 7 cards with the objective of being the first to get rid of them all on the common, face up discard pile. The cards are in four colours, each colour has the numbers 0 to 9 and some symbol cards, with functions like, change direction, skip a player and next player pick up 2. There are also a number of straight wild cards and a number of wilds that force the next player to pick up 4. In your turn you try to play a card from your hand to the discard.
This could be the same colour as the face card. It could be the same number or symbol, or it could be a wild card of some type. If you can’t play you pick up; if that card can be played it is immediately, and if not it is added to your hand. When you have one card in your hand you must remember to say ‘Uno' or pay a forfeit of picking up 4 cards. If you are first to lay your last card you win the round. The other players total the face value of the cards in their hand, scoring 20 for coloured symbols and 50 for wild cards.
Two options exist for overall game scoring: either the player who goes out gets the sum of these totals and the first to 500 wins. Or each player keeps their own score, the game ends when one player hits 500 and then the player with the lowest score wins.
Take that and party
It’s simple, quick to teach, quick to play, and enormous fun. The game is permeated with constant ‘take that' plays which normally have everyone guffawing (possibly even the victim). And the sting is drawn because change direction cards mean you will likely be repaying the favour soon. Likewise, the whole thing is so quick and low stakes that it’s hard to take being done-over too seriously. There is some light tactical hand management around the use of symbol and wild cards which bears some thought. For example, holding onto wilds can make for an easy finish, but if you get it wrong and someone beats you to the finish that’s 50 points in your hand.
So much to love
I love the fact that I had to read the rules before I wrote this and my rules are different, as are my parents' rules: every time we sit down there is some light bartering over how we are playing. I love that everyone in the family loves it – its a go to for three generations to sit and play together with levels of cheeky banter that wouldn’t be countenanced otherwise. I think its fabulous to find that there is a ‘traditional family game' that’s actually fun to play. It always amuses me that our copy is held together as a deck with an hair elastic and that individual cards keep appearing around the house; it doesn’t matter, there’s absolutely nothing precious about Uno other than the moments of joy you will have playing it with those closest to you.