Everything You Need To Know About Playing UNO

Have you always wanted to learn how to play UNO?
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My cousin recently informed me that Gen Zs have found a way to make UNO extra cool these days. Apparently, they’re all carrying around a Reverse UNO card. Why? Good question: Basically, they use this card whenever someone tries to shade them as a way of throwing the insult back to their bully. Hey, it’s quick, less cruel, and apparently, effective, so kudos!

But before UNO was used a coping mechanism, millennials and older generations have been enjoying it the old fashioned way… in the form of a long, competitive card game. UNO is the perfect card game to take with you to the beach this summer, but if you’re not exactly sure of how it goes, read on.

How UNO is played

The game is usually played with two to 10 players. Each player is dealt seven cards, faced down. The remaining cards are placed in the middle, also faced down; they’re called the “Draw” pile. Next to it, allot a space for the “Discard” pile.

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To start the game, take the top card from the Draw pile and place it in the Discard pile. There is a dealer, and the first player is usually to his or her left. This isn’t a strict rule. Your group can decide who goes first and then go clockwise. Each player should monitor their cards and try to match with whatever card is in the Discard pile.

There are two ways to play UNO: The official rules state that after a card is drawn, the player can discard it if it is a match. If not, the game continues with the next player. The second type involves players continuing to draw cards until they have a match—it doesn’t matter how many times.

The game doesn’t end until one player only has a single card left. When this happens, the player must yell, “UNO!” If they don’t say “UNO” before the next player has his or her turn, this player will have to draw two more cards from the pile. The goal is to never forget to announce “UNO” every time you only have one card left. Once a player has no more cards left, the game is over, and everyone’s scores are tallied. The players who are left in the game hand their cards to the winner. The points of number cards match the numbers on the specific cards. For the Action cards, here are the equivalent points:

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  • “Skip – 20 points
  • “Reverse” – 20 points
  • “Draw Two” – 20 Points
  • “Wild” – 50 points
  • "Wild Draw Four” – 50 points
  • “Wild Swap Hands” – 40 points
  • “Wild Customizable card” – 40 points

Normally, the “perfect” score is 500, but there’s wiggle room for what the winning score should be—as long as your group agrees to it.

How to match cards in UNO

To “match” a card that’s in the Discard pile, you have to have a card of the same color, number, or symbol. For example, if the card in the Discard pile is one that’s red and has the number five, then you need to have a card that’s either red or has the number five. If you’re not feeling lucky, you can also use a Wild Card and alter the color.

What if you have no matches? Or if you have a match but you want to save it? This is allowed, but you’ll have to pick a card from the Draw pile. If it can be played, then go ahead. Then the next person takes his or her turn.

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What are Action cards in UNO?

Action cards, or symbol cards, appear in UNO to make things more interesting (and more complicated) than simply matching numbers and colors. In the new deck, there are seven Action cards.

  1. Skip: When a player uses this card, another player has to skip their turn. You can only use the Skip card if the color matches or if you’re using it against another Skip card. If it appears at the start of the game, whoever is to the left of the dealer forfeits their turn.
  2. Reverse: If you’re all playing clockwise, a Reverse card forces people to go counter-clockwise (and vice versa). This, too, can also be played on a card that matches its color or on another Reverse card. If it appears at the start of the game, instead of going left, the player to the right side of the dealer goes.
  3. Draw Two: This card is extra painful because when it comes up, the next player has to draw two cards and give up his or her turn. It can only be played on a card that matches its color or on another Draw Two card.
  4. Wild: This magic card can be played on all four colors and can be placed on any card! You just have to say which color you want for the next player.
  5. Wild Draw Four: This is exactly like the Wild card but with a twist: The next player also has to draw four extra cards and give up his or her turn. The rule to play this card is: You should not have alternative cards to play that matches the color of the card previously played. If someone suspects you of cheating/lying, the other player can challenge you to expose your hand, which will have you drawing four cards. If you’re not guilty, the other player will have to draw six cards. If it comes up at the beginning of the game, it needs to returned to the pile, and the pile needs to be shuffled before continuing.
  6. Wild Swap Hands: You basically get to swap cards with any player of your choice—which is a powerful move if you think someone’s going to win or if you’re losing and want to stay in the game. There’s only one Wild Swap Hands card in a deck, so if you suddenly find yourself with this, you’re so lucky!
  7. Wild Customizable: These cards are for fun rules you want to make up. There are three of these cards in a deck. You fill these cards out before the game starts, and everyone has to agree on the rules before they’re written down. When played, this card is the same as the Wild card.

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