We all grew up with UNO and in my house it is still the chief game with the 3 y/o's cutthroat style garnering him the win quite often. But one day I actually picked up the directions and was quite surprised at what I read. Here's five ways that we've all been doing it wrong:


In order to shorten the game, many families will just make the person who goes out first the winner and then start over, but UNO is actually a multiple round 'first-to-500' scoring game with a twist. Similar to rummy, the cards in everyone else's hand count against them when someone goes out, but they ALL tally up to the person who went out and when someone reaches 500, game over. Wilds are worth 50 points, action cards are worth 20 and the number cards are face value. The official variation on this is that a running tally is kept of each person's left-overs and when someone reaches 500, the one with the lowest number wins, like golf.


We always played that if an action card or wild was the starting card, a new card was drawn until it was a number card, but that's not how it's supposed to work. If the top card that you turn over to start the game is an action card, that action MUST be adhered to with the exception of Draw fours which ARE discarded. If you're first to go and you are staring at a wild, you can play whatever you want from your hand. If it's a draw two, you've got to draw two, if it's a skip, you're skipped and if it's a reverse, the DEALER actually goes first and play continues in the opposite direction.


If you were taught that you HAD to play a playable card if you had it, you don't. If you want to be strategic, you can deliberately place a wild (except a Draw Four) even if you've got the goods or draw a card instead of laying anything down in order to throw your opponent(s) off.

Speaking of drawing, the rule about drawing until you find a playable card is just a house rule, not the official one. To prevent the game from dragging on forever, you're only supposed to draw a single card and either throw it if you want or keep it and play passes on.


You can only throw a Draw Four if you don't have anything else playable in your hand. If you play it while holding other legit cards, your opponent that you're throwing it on may challenge you. If you are caught, YOU have to draw four cards. If they were wrong, they have to draw TWO more cards on top of the initial four.


This rule states that if you get a Draw Two thrown on you that you can put down one of your own to cancel out the penalty and the person playing after has to do the same or they end up drawing four and so on... This rule is actually just a house rule and although creative, is nowhere in the official rules.

...There you have it...

Oh, here's a bonus rule when playing heads-up (just two players) as playing action cards can get confusing. You might think that reverses and skips are useless in two-handed play and essentially you're right but officially the person playing the action card plays another card on top as well and play continues. So if you throw a skip, draw two, reverse or draw four you are obligated to throw another card on top or draw. In order to remove some confusion, I simply discard all of the reverses and skips before the start of the game when playing heads up but the rule still applies when throwing cards that make your opponent draw.

I've never been one to read directions, but just because something is tradition doesn't mean that it's right. Of course you're free to play how you want, but now you know the 'proper' way to play.


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