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How to Play UNO: Official Rules Guaranteed to Surprise You

A person with black nail polish holding Uno cards at a table with others playing the game
Have you been playing UNO wrong this entire time? phaustov / Shutterstock

Do you think you know how to play UNO? On Oct. 8, 2020, UNO made a controversial statement on X (then Twitter): "*Per management: You cannot STACK a +2 on a +2."

By this, the company meant that if Player A uses a +2 card, then Player B cannot pass on the penalty by dropping another +2 card and making Player C pick up four cards at once. UNO knew people would disagree as it ended the message with: "Go ahead, roast us."

And that's exactly what social media users did. But before you grab your pitchfork to join the protest, learn the official rules of UNO to distinguish between your house rules and UNO's technicalities.

The Basics of UNO

UNO is a card game that two to 10 people can play at once. Players will match the top card on the discard pile by color, word or number. If a player does not have a card that matches the last played card, they will pick one up from the draw pile.

If they pick one that matches, then they will play it. If not, the next person will go.

You may have a playable card and opt to pick one from the draw pile. If you go this route, you can only play the card you picked up if it matches the last played card and not the others in your hand.

How Do You Win at UNO?

To win UNO, you need to get to 500 points. Each round, players attempt to get rid of their cards quicker than their opponents. Whoever manages to get rid of all their cards at the end of the round gets points for each of the cards their opponents are holding.

For example, if you are up against one person and they are holding a Wild Draw Four card (worth 50 points), a 2 (worth two points) and a skip card (worth 20 points) by the time you drop your last card onto the discard pile, you earned 72 points for that round.

If you play your last card and it's a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four card, the next person has to pick up two or four cards from the draw pile. These cards will count toward the tally.

Different Scoring Systems

There's a version of the game in which each player tallies how many points their cards are worth at the end of each round. When one player reaches 500, the game ends. The person with the lowest points, aka the person who got rid of most cards during the course of the game, wins.

There are different versions of the game, which has slightly changed since it launched in the 1970s. You can even play UNO online if you prefer.

Speak Up!

When you get down to your last card, you must shout "UNO!" or else you risk a penalty. If you don't say "UNO" by the time your second to last card touches the playing surface but another player does, then you have to pick up four cards.

If you forget to say it but another player goes and no one points it out, you don't have to pick up the four extra cards.

The UNO Point System and Card Values

An UNO deck has 112 cards. Here is the point value for each card:

  • Number cards: Face value

  • Draw Two cards: 20 points

  • Reverse cards: 20 points

  • Skip cards: 20 points

  • Wild Swap Hands cards: 40 points

  • Wild Customizable cards: 40 points

  • Wild cards: 50 points

  • Wild Draw Four cards: 50 points

What Is a Blank Card Worth?

Some versions of the games have Blank cards instead of Wild Customizable card. They work pretty similarly. The official instruction sheet places a question mark next to the Blank card. That's because you can use the Blank card in different ways.

If you lose a card, then you can use the Blank card to replace it. Mattel suggests drawing it onto the front of the card. For example, if your Blank card is now a green 3, then you should specify that on the front of the card. In this case, this blank is worth three points.

There are four Blank cards (or three Wild Customizable cards), and you can use them to get creative and make the game more challenging. If you want to implement your own house rules, write it on the card and put it in the deck. Some examples include taking an extra turn or having a rule where a player draws cards until they get a specific color.

A Breakdown of the Action Cards

There are a few types of special cards, known as action cards in some decks. You must play all of them on a matching color or the same type of card.

For example, if there's a green 7, you can play a green Draw 2 card but not a red Draw 2 card. If the first player drops a yellow Skip card, then the second player loses their turn and the third player can play a green Skip card.

Here's a list of what the cards mean:

  • Draw 2 card (+2): When a player uses this card, the next person must pick up two cards. They cannot drop their own +2 card.

  • Reverse card: The game should start to the left. If someone plays a reverse card, the play now goes to the right. If it's going to the right when someone drops the card, then it will revert to the left.

  • Skip card: Whoever follows the player who uses the skip card loses a turn. If the game opens with a skip card, the first player (the one next to the dealer) loses a turn.

  • Wild card: This card allows the person who plays it to change the color of the card to any of the options — even if it's the same color as the one played before the Wild card.

  • Wild Draw Four card: This card gives a player the ability to choose the color and makes the next player pick up four cards. But you can't play this card any old time. According to the instruction guide, "You can only play this card when you don't have a card in your hand that matches the color of the card previously played." For example, if the player before you drops a red 3, you cannot play the Wild Draw Four if you have any red card. While you can try to get away with cheating, the player who follows can call you out if they think you do have a matching card in your hand. You'll have to show your cards to that player and if you do have that card, a red in this case, then you must pick up four cards. If you don't have a red, then the challenger will pick up the 4 cards and an additional two more.

  • Wild Shuffle Hands card: This card is not available in all versions of the game. When someone plays this card, the dealer collects all the cards and then distributes the cards, one at a time, to each player until there are no more cards left. It is possible for someone to end up with more or less cards than they originally had. The player who plays this card also decides what color to play.

  • Wild Swap Hands card: Not all versions of the game contain this card. Whoever plays this card can swap cards with another player. If this is the first card, the player next to the dealer decides with whom to swap.

How to Pick the Dealer and Start the Game

To start, every player must pick a card. The person with the card worth the most points is the dealer. They will shuffle the deck and give each player seven cards.

The remaining cards make up the draw pile. The dealer will turn over the first card of the pile and form the discard pile. The player to the left of the dealer gets to kick off the game.

According to UNO rules, the Wild Draw Four card is not a playable card at the beginning of the game. If it's the first drawn card, the dealer should return it to the draw pile and pick another one.

Original article: How to Play UNO: Official Rules Guaranteed to Surprise You

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