How You’ve Been Playing UNO Wrong

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Have we been playing UNO wrong this whole time? Apparently so.

“When was the last time you played UNO?” is probably a better question. It’s actually a very good game and, even by the standards of a serious tabletop player, it has a surprising amount of strategy. It’s not the deepest game ever designed but if you get a good game going where everyone plays their cards lightning fast, it can be an enjoyable afternoon. It’s a shame we’ve been playing it wrong.

How do you win the game of UNO the RIGHT way? Most people, when asked, would say the first person to get rid of all their cards is the winner. Those people are wrong. The winner is the first to collect 500 points. (“Huh?” you ask.)  Yes, in the rules for at least some versions of the game, the player who discards their last card (and remembers to say “Uno”) doesn’t so much win as get points equal to the cards in the remaining players hands. There’s a whole key to how much each card is worth:

Image Courtesy of Mattel

The first player to accumulate 500 points is the actual winner. Now, of course it’s possible your version of UNO had a truncated version of these rules that simply gave the win to the person who dropped his or her last card, but it’s also quite possible you read those rules when you were nine and that’s just how you (and everyone else) remembers them.

Most evidence would suggest a point system was probably the intent of Merle Robbins who created UNO in 1971. He based the game on the traditional 52-card deck game Crazy Eights which plays almost the same and has a point scoring system. Eights was created in the 1930s and awarded points to the first person who got rid of all their cards based on whatever their opponents still kept. In some versions of these rules, the points were more akin to bragging rights. “I won a 210 point game of Eights last night, see?.”  (Because it’s the 1930’s, right?)   In other versions,  there were established point goals depending on the number of players. As UNO is essentially a mass market variant of Eights, it makes sense there was at least some point system in early drafts.

Fun Fact: Merle Robbins was a dentist when he developed UNO and he sold it to Robert Tezak who owned a funeral parlor.

Image Courtesy of BoardGameGeek

If just reading about it has got your jazzed to dust off your old pack, check out this UNO drinking game which has a closer take on the rules than most of us as the non-winners must drink according to cards remaining in their hand. Good job, drinking game!  You have a better memory than us, ironically.

Header Image Courtesy of Flicker | User: Nate Cull 

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