Best Games - UNO
I don’t think I will get much into the rules of UNO. If you are reading this, you have probably played the game and you already have a pretty good idea how it works. You know that it is a card shedding game where you have to match the color or number of the last played card. You and the other players keep taking turns slapping down cards out of your own hand while trying to make everyone else hold onto as many cards as possible. If you win a round, the cards your opponents are holding count toward your point total. You know that you have to call out ‘UNO!’ when you have one card left. The game almost demands that you and every member of your family / friend group unearth their most ruthlessly nitpicking selves, ready to punish anyone who forgets to call out ‘UNO!’. You know that it is like a lot of other card games, but it is also strangely more accessible than most other card games. You have probably been beaten by an 8 year old.
What you may not have noticed is that UNO has a built in balancing system. A fun balancing system.
Most competitive card games have a sort of skill curve built into them. Players who understand the systems more deeply will tend to beat players who are just starting out. The random chance of the card draw keeps the game interesting for anyone playing at higher levels. The only problem with that is, with a game like Poker as an example, other than pure chance there is no way for a less skilled player to beat a more skilled player. There is a ‘good’ way to play and an endless variety of ‘less good’ ways to play.
UNO, on the other hand, has a few different paths to winning. Most players starting out will want to shed their higher value cards first and only hold on to a selection of lower value cards and action cards. This ensures that even if you don’t win a round, you won’t be providing many points for the person who does. This is sort of the beginner mode, and if you play it cleanly and consistently, you will probably win just as many rounds as other people at the table. Not quite luck based, but far from a deep strategy game. The simplicity and viability of this play style makes UNO an easy card game for kids to pick up.
On the other end, UNO is a game where you can count cards, bluff, flat out lie, devise fiendish card traps to dump unreasonable amounts of cards on other players, and did I mention lie. The rules not only allow lying, they offer ways for players to penalize anyone they catch lying. When you play this way you are not guaranteed success over players conservatively shedding cards and laying down actions. One way is not better than the other. ONE WAY IS NOT BETTER THAN THE OTHER.
This is where you say ‘Then UNO isn’t a game of skill. It’s just all luck! If more experienced players can’t always trounce less experienced players this game is garbage!’. Poor deluded player. That’s not the point. UNO is a game where, no matter your experience level, you can be competitive. If you are just learning the rules, and play a clean game, you’re gonna do okay. If you have played a lot of UNO you can bend the rules, bluff often, and draw cards when you don’t need to in the hopes of filling another players hand with a real lumber yard’s worth of cards. You can be devious. You can be nasty. You can make the game fun in the way that you want.
When you are playing a card game as a family, or playing with younger kids, there is often a ‘Let the Wookie Win’ problem. Kids hate to lose. No one likes to lose, but kids really really hate it. UNO is a game where you don’t really have to worry about that. Once they understand the rules, that kid is going to win a decent amount of the time anyway. Everyone can play however they want and it will still always come down to the last 3 or four cards. UNO is like the Mario Kart of card games. While that does mean that a certain demographic will have trouble taking UNO seriously, and I would suggest never betting money on a game of UNO, it does one thing right that a lot of other games get wrong.
No matter who is playing UNO, they can have fun.
That alone puts UNO up there among the best games.