“Uno,” forward Kent Bazemore said, “is always a thrill.”
January 12, 2016 8:10 AM   Subscribe

For Some Atlanta Hawks, a Revved-Up Game of Uno Is Diversion No. 1 by Scott Cacciola [The New York Times]
The Hawks, like many professional sports teams, have a lot of free time to kill, much of it spent on airplanes traveling to games. Some of the players keep busy by watching movies. Many sleep. Others play cards, a popular pastime for athletes who are competitive by nature. Yet the Hawks’ card game of choice might come as a surprise. Teammates who have resisted the urge to wade into the Uno fray know enough to keep a safe distance.
posted by Fizz (67 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
My favourite bit from the article:
“It’s such a strategized game,” Bazemore said. “You can’t just go up there and play reckless.”

In any case, there is often a flurry of late-game action. Bazemore recently had to draw 50 cards after opponents conspired to hit him with a series of Draw 4s.

“That was pretty memorable,” Horford said, “just because we’d never seen that happen before.”
Ha.
posted by Fizz at 8:14 AM on January 12, 2016


I would love to play this way! Uno is the most fun when most vicious. That's why my family plays it "keep drawing till you get the right card/one that works" instead of just drawing one. If you end up with half the deck, too bad for you.

Sadly, I married into a family of Nice People who play it sedately and politely and only make you draw one. I didn't even know you could play that way. Took all the fun out of it.
posted by emjaybee at 8:16 AM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Uno is the most fun when most vicious.

Truth. If one person isn't groaning while the other person is laughing manically, you're not playing the game right.
posted by Fizz at 8:17 AM on January 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Just the other night, my junior son (who isn't really into games, at least not like most of the rest of us are) was looking behind a piece of furniture and found a blank Uno card (you know, one of the replacement-slash-house-rule cards you get in a full deck). He asked what it was for, and I said it was for whatever you wanted to use it for.
"Like another Draw Four Wild?"
"Sure. Or if you wanted to make up some other kind of card, you could."

He proceeded to get a look on his face that I swear I've only ever seen on kids in Children of the Corn movies. I hid the rest of the Uno deck after he went to bed.
posted by Etrigan at 8:21 AM on January 12, 2016 [36 favorites]


The Green Bay Packers prefer Settlers Of Catan...
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:27 AM on January 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Uno. aka: "Church of God poker."
posted by Thorzdad at 8:27 AM on January 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Well, at least they spiced it up a little bit.
posted by codacorolla at 8:28 AM on January 12, 2016


Uno is one of those games I love to play but no one wants to play with me because damned if we're going to be genteel and polite about playing it.
posted by Kitteh at 8:31 AM on January 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


On a less cut-throat note, when a friend of mine was seeing a psychiatrist as a child, she said her doc had them play Uno during the sessions to help build a rapport and facilitate conversation. IANAP/therapist, but what an awesome idea.
posted by smirkette at 8:33 AM on January 12, 2016


To explain my previous comment...My wife grew up in the Church of God. Back then (and probably still, though no one obeys anymore) playing cards was forbidden, because regular playing cards were used for gambling and yaddayaddayadda. So, UNO became the default card game in most CoG homes. It was "card playing" but in a way Jesus would be cool about. The young kids came to calling it "CoG poker". And, yeah, those CoG folks were ruthless UNO masters.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:36 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


when a friend of mine was seeing a psychiatrist as a child, she said her doc had them play Uno during the sessions to help build a rapport and facilitate conversation. IANAP/therapist, but what an awesome idea.

CHILD: WILD + GREEN + DRAW TWO + DRAW FOUR...
FREUD: Why do you think you played that WILD card? Are you frightened by the previous colour? When you see the colour red, what pops into your mind, what are your feelings about the cards?
CHILD: *sighs*
posted by Fizz at 8:41 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Two player uno has a special viciousness as all the special cards return control to the player that threw them so you can string together draw 4s, draw 2s, skips and reverses to create a crushing string of turns. You can also go out from a hand of more than one card if you have a pile of skips and reverses.

The problem is that you sit down with someone who says "Oh I love UNO" and they are playing like it is a kids' game. You start playing, then you drop a huge string on them and they are shocked.
posted by bdc34 at 8:42 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Uno is big in my house. My youngest (6) loves it; he loves playing the nasty cards on people and I decided sometime last year, when it was clear he had the rules down, that there was no point playing the game soft. He plays nasty so I do too, so games between the two of us or the whole family get pretty wild. The only stratagem he has left to figure out is that sometimes it is better to hold a DRAW 4 WILD to be your last card so you can get out of the game regardless of the color/number in play. He just loves dumping DRAW 4 WILDS on everyone.

His grandmother also loves Uno; she gets very excited during play and has been noted to not just shout "UNO!" when she is down to her last card but physically smack whoever is sitting next to her when doing so. And this past Christmas she was playing with the littlest nubs and had to set her cards down for a moment and go do something. When she came back, she realized he had gone through her hand and switched some cards with ones from his hand.

He's learning, that guy.
posted by nubs at 8:56 AM on January 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


From the Philadelphia by-line, I was hoping for an alternate ending to the article where the Hawks players play Uno and beat the Sixers at the same time.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:57 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I invented this in college 20 years ago. We combined two decks and removed all the even-numbered cards, thereby doubling the amount of "battle" cards like the Draws, Skips and Reverses. I called it "Battle Uno."
posted by GamblingBlues at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sounds like what we called Power UNO.

In that game it wasn't just that you play cards out of turn, it's that it steals someone else's turn. If you're about to play a green 3 on a green 1, but I slap down a yellow 1, play goes to whoever is after me, and you (likely) missed your chance at a turn. So even regular number card play goes fast because people don't want to get pre-empted.

The big fun part is that Draw Twos accumulate and hang in the air, and it's the first person who would have to play a number card who eats the whole deal. So if I play a green Draw Two and you're next, you can play a green Reverse, which means it's my turn with a Draw Two pointed at me. I can play a yellow Reverse to point it back at you, then you play a yellow Skip, but I put down a red Skip out of turn... now it's the person after you on the hot seat.

I can totally see why basketball players would like it.
posted by nom de poop at 9:04 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


But do ya'll keep score when you play uno ? It's never about going out ..

(Wish there was a bit more on the rules -- feels like the tidbits TFA covered weren't enough to get the full set of how they play.. )
posted by k5.user at 9:12 AM on January 12, 2016


Uno is the crack of card games.
posted by fairmettle at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm astounded to find so many people like a game that is essentially War with shouting and colors.
posted by codacorolla at 9:32 AM on January 12, 2016


Uno's got the excitement, but the real "fuck you" of card games is Mille Bornes. There is no nice way to play Mille Bornes. You drop hazards or you die.
posted by schroedinger at 9:33 AM on January 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


When I was a kid we sort of thought of the name as being "Uno Uh-oh", because invariably, we got so cut-throat at it and took it so seriously, that when one kid got to the point that they could say "Uno!" invariably some other kid would realize they were about to be royally screwed and would reflexively say "Uh-oh".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on January 12, 2016


In any case, there is often a flurry of late-game action. Bazemore recently had to draw 50 cards after opponents conspired to hit him with a series of Draw 4s.

“That was pretty memorable,” Horford said, “just because we’d never seen that happen before.”


Interesting the different strategies that groups evolve.
Mass dumping Draw 4s on one hapless player was a regular occurrence at our lunchbreak Uno games, especially when if one person was "sneakily" * trying to get Uno.

It was sort of a mass punishment for breaking the unwritten vibe of the game.

*In the eyes of the table, which was arbitrary and capricious. Judging the mood of the table was just as important as your cards.
Woe betide the player facing someone with a Wild Draw 4 and a performance review after lunch.

posted by madajb at 9:42 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


At a Metafilter meetup a while back we played Uno. The game was fun at first and then quickly became interminable. It would not end. I was hungry. We were all hungry. We all wanted it to be over. My wife, as usual, was the chief culprit. When she went to the bathroom, emboldened by strong drink, I conspired with a group of MeFites to lie to my wife about what has transpired in her absence such that it justified the game being over (presumably so that she won, but I don't recall the specifics). At last we were able to go get dinner. In eight and a half years of marriage, during which time I have not always covered myself in husbandly glory, I'm not sure she's ever seemed half as betrayed as she did when I told her we lied.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Uno is no longer permitted in our household. My wife can explain WHY....
posted by briank at 10:01 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


My stepsister, when we were kids, had some sort of weird cutthroat game-savant gene. Didn't matter what we played (either just the kids or parents too), she won 80% of the time.

Her viciousness with Uno contributed to that game being retired from the family repertoire for a while, largely because it made her own mother swear at an eight year old. Don't even get me started on Monopoly...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on January 12, 2016


I'm astounded to find so many people like a game that is essentially War with shouting and colors.

I feel like you're playing one of those games wrong...
posted by Etrigan at 10:05 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


"To explain other tweaks to the game might require a flowchart."

YOU DUMB SACK OF DOORKNOBS, you call yourself a reporter?

How did you just write an article on the crazy Uno these guys are playing and NOT explain the rules of the game that they're having so much fun with? Draw a damn flowchart if you have to!

Imagine that you clicked on a article about a family's amazing new recipe for chicken, and all it says is that they prepare chicken according to their special recipe and then put it in the oven, and then when it comes out they all eat it and it's delicious.

That's what reading this article feels to a person who groks games. This strikes me as an infuriatingly low amount of effort to put into describing your subject matter for your readers.
posted by gmonkeylouie at 10:06 AM on January 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


That's what reading this article feels to a person who groks games. This strikes me as an infuriatingly low amount of effort to put into describing your subject matter for your readers.

It combined a kids' card game and a non-NYC sportsball team. I'm surprised the NYT didn't immediately fire Cacciola for pitching the story.
posted by Etrigan at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Reminds me of a joke:

How do you make a sweet little old lady yell 'fuck'?

Euchre her.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:20 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


How do you make a sweet little old lady yell 'fuck'?

Euchre her.


How do you make fifty sweet little old ladies yell "fuck"?

Say "bingo!"
posted by Etrigan at 10:25 AM on January 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


UNO is Crazy Eights played with a fancy-looking deck. Crazy Eights and Euchre were the lunchtime card games of choice at my high school.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:27 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Uno was the first game my son learned and he's ridiculously good at it. I get beaten repeatedly with much hilarity.

Over the holiday break, 2 separate friends introduced us to the card game Exploding Kittens. The first set of friends told me it was very similar to Uno. After I played a round, I quickly realised it was only like Uno in that it is a game with cards. Thankfully, the second set taught me the rules.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:38 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, people actually think there is skill involved in Uno? Hunh. Weird.
posted by papercake at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2016


CHILD: WILD + GREEN + DRAW TWO + DRAW FOUR...
FREUD: Why do you think you played that WILD card? Are you frightened by the previous colour? When you see the colour red, what pops into your mind, what are your feelings about the cards?
CHILD: *sighs*


Alternate child response: How about your bearded ass gets to drawing those cards, Doc?
posted by ColdOfTheIsleOfMan at 10:52 AM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, people actually think there is skill involved in Uno?

Each player makes choices that increase or decrease that player's chances of winning, so yes, there is skill involved.
posted by Etrigan at 10:55 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Uno is such a versatile game.

As a child, it was a nice, fun family activity to play with my parents and siblings.

As a college student, it was a crazy ass drinking game with a ton of specialized, custom rules that led to a bunch of wild nights.

As a parent, it was a neat Facebook app that created some great father-son bonding time as my son would sit on my lap while we played with other people online.
posted by The Gooch at 11:01 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This makes me think of Mau Mau.

The basic game is the same, but you use a normal deck (or several for more players) of playing cards and (at least the way we played) the Mau master gets to make up rules for each round. Since you don't have special cards - skip, draw 2, etc - you assign those - and more - to cards in the deck. If a player makes a mistake, is taking too long, or ask questions (outside of a point of order break) they get penalty cards.

When you build up a bunch of rules (you have to announce every spade, 8 is draw 4, ace is reverse, red jack is pass your entire hand to the right, etc.) it becomes very easy to make mistakes.
posted by mountmccabe at 11:02 AM on January 12, 2016


> So, people actually think there is skill involved in Uno?

Each player makes choices that increase or decrease that player's chances of winning, so yes, there is skill involved.


A large percentage of the time you don't have a choice, and must play the only card possible in your hand. On top of which, having almost zero information as to what your opponents have, whether or not your (rarely) non-obvious choices are actually helpful to your cause is almost entirely a matter of luck.

Add to that the houseruled "draw until you can play" and it stops being worth putting any real thought into it.

Don't get me wrong — I play almost weekly with my 4.5 and 7.5 year-old kids and we laugh a lot. But that's just because it's something to do together, and we enjoy each others' company.
posted by papercake at 11:07 AM on January 12, 2016


A large percentage of the time you don't have a choice, and must play the only card possible in your hand. On top of which, having almost zero information as to what your opponents have, whether or not your (rarely) non-obvious choices are actually helpful to your cause is almost entirely a matter of luck.

"A large percentage" and "almost entirely a matter of luck" indicate that there are points at which your choices will matter.

No one is saying that Uno has the strategic depth of chess. But it isn't War or Candy Land, which are bereft of skill when played by the standard rules.
posted by Etrigan at 11:11 AM on January 12, 2016


But that's just because it's something to do together, and we enjoy each others' company.

you are playing it wrong

no weeping from your opponents? not worth it
posted by Kitteh at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


you forgot the wailing and possible throwing of things, Kitteh
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not Hot Death Uno fans, huh? It's my own fault for making it seem like a non-sequiter.
posted by themanwho at 11:22 AM on January 12, 2016


I'll stick to describing two player uni/crazy 8s.

The main deal with Uno is that you usually go out from the announced position of "uno" or "last card" but under two player, your opponent can save a string cards in their hand and go out when their hand is say blue skip, blue reverse, wild draw 4, red 7. So they look like they are not too close to going out but then you play a blue card and you have lost.

The house rule of draw until you can play is critical.

Skills used are these:
Judging how near your opponent is to going out, that is, are they hoarding?
Judging your opponent's feelings towards colors/suits.
Keeping track of what cards are in the discard pile. It is useful to know that all the reds have been played other than the ones in your hand.

We also played at a break neck speed, throwing cards down as rapidly as possible to intimidate and confuse our opponent into making a mistake. Playing slowly without style was as bad as losing.
posted by bdc34 at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2016


Not everyone wants to play games of deep strategy. Sometimes you just want to see the panic in another person's eyes when you bring out the Draw Four you've been sitting on the entire game right as they're getting ready to play their last card and win.
posted by emjaybee at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Thinking back on how I usually play the game (I haven't played in a long while), I recognize that I'm the type of player that doesn't play to win but plays to fuck your shit up. That is what brings me joy when playing Uno.
posted by Fizz at 11:37 AM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Some men just want to watch the world draw.
posted by Etrigan at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sometimes you just want to see the panic in another person's eyes when you bring out the Draw Four you've been sitting on the entire game right as they're getting ready to play their last card and win.

That's not strategy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought my mother was a shockingly vicious Uno player, and then I saw her Skipbo game. Blood ran cold, yo.
posted by palomar at 11:41 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Uno is legit, and I really want to get my tabletop-gaming friends to play it with me even though its image is hopelessly uncool. I mean, don't get me wrong, Catan is fun and everything, but UNO!

(Also my grandparents continue to pronounce it "you-know", which is charming and terrible.)
posted by Sara C. at 1:58 PM on January 12, 2016


you forgot the wailing and possible throwing of things

Draw-4 your enemies. See them pull from the stack. Hear the lamentations of the losers.

This is what is best in Uno.
posted by nubs at 2:15 PM on January 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've played Uno as a game of perfect information where all cards are face up. It feels a lot like chess, because it is a game of projecting moves into the future.
posted by chrchr at 2:34 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sometimes you just want to see the panic in another person's eyes when you bring out the Draw Four you've been sitting on the entire game right as they're getting ready to play their last card and win.

That's not strategy?


UNO favors the opportunist more than the strategist.
posted by emjaybee at 2:34 PM on January 12, 2016


How is this thread not full of people that hate Uno? Am I the only one who hates Uno? I mean, that's fine, I hate it enough for everyone.
posted by absalom at 3:25 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also really dislike Uno, although I didn't want to crowd the thread with negativity. To make it really short and to the point it has a lot of problems that are classic old-school board game design:

> "Fuck You" gameplay that makes the game less fun for the recipient. The varying special cards typically result in the affected player. Any of the 'action' cards not only have a negative impact on the target's ability to win the game, but they also mean that they can't play that turn. Frustration is compounded by boredom, as you watch other players do shit and you sit there with a handful of useless cards. It's very possible to have direct player conflict without tedium.

> King of the hill dynamics that turn into a game of fuck-the-leader. Ironically this also leads to the single strategic move, mentioned above, of card hoarding. Therefore a lot of a well played game is setting up a streak that will let you trick other players into letting you win. That's boring and shallow. You can add card counting to this, but once again, this is an extremely boring and shallow way to introduce difficulty and strategy.

> Extreme randomness in design. Everyone can be playing optimally, and you can still have a standstill where nobody does anything for a number or turns while they wait for their win card. This has the potential to make a relatively shallow game draaaaaaaaaag the fuck out, way past the point where even the leader is having fun.

Obviously (as per the FPP article) there are house rules that seek to get around these problems and make the game less random and more interactive, but... why? We aren't living in the 1970s, and we don't have to settle for the games on the shelf at the local toy store. They make games that replicate a lot of the fun parts of Uno without the dinosaur era design (try Circus Flohcati or Love Letter for starters).

Obviously I understand that people have fun with Uno for a variety of reasons, but I have a feeling that a lot of those are based in nostalgia. In terms of design it's a very flawed game.
posted by codacorolla at 3:49 PM on January 12, 2016


Power UNO is fun as hell. Regular UNO is beneath notice.
posted by nom de poop at 3:50 PM on January 12, 2016


Oh man, my siblings and I played some vicious Drinking Uno games back in the day... oddly enough, the details are now pretty fuzzy to me.
posted by TwoStride at 4:24 PM on January 12, 2016


Obviously I understand that people have fun with Uno for a variety of reasons, but I have a feeling that a lot of those are based in nostalgia.

Nah, I let some guy use Drinking-game-based Uno as a pickup tactic at a bar once (mainly becuase I already dug him anyway), but even so I was still really getting into the gameplay element halfway through ("you hit me with a draw four? You BASTARD....")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:33 PM on January 12, 2016


In a fast-moving game, it's okay to lose a turn. In a quick casual game with a lot of luck, it's okay to have attacks (and they're not that directed) and a little leader hosin'. Rules of thumb shouldn't become pet peeves.
posted by nom de poop at 4:48 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bazemore recently had to draw 50 cards after opponents conspired to hit him with a series of Draw 4s.

50 is not divisible by 4.
posted by yeolcoatl at 4:51 PM on January 12, 2016


When I went to LSU and the some members football team at the time loved UNO.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:55 PM on January 12, 2016


Oh man... I teach at an inner city high school and you guys have no idea.
posted by subdee at 5:53 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like I've brought in a bunch of other card and board games... forget it. It's UNO or nothing for the afterschool crowd. Easy to learn, a lifetime to master, etc. The kids play with a lot of custom rules as well which keeps it interesting. I had to institute a "no celebrations that would get you penalized in football" rule...
posted by subdee at 5:56 PM on January 12, 2016


Any game can suck if played with the wrong people. But yeah, if you like unvarying rules, decorous play and no randomness, UNO ain't your game. And that's ok!

Just today I had the weird conversation I have occasionally where people assume I LOVE crosswords, Words with Friends and Scrabble because I'm an editor. Actually I kind of hate them. I'm not sure why. Maybe I don't like words taken outside their context, being used as game elements. All those games make me twitchy and irritable.

But hey, lots of people love them some word games, and they should party on.
posted by emjaybee at 8:20 PM on January 12, 2016


Throwing rocks at a trashcan can be fun with the right group too, that doesn't mean it's a well designed game.
posted by codacorolla at 8:30 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


My mother and I trash talk each other pretty routinely as we play cards, but Uno is the only game where she's ever made me cry.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:04 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you are a parent, an Uno deck in your bag is a great resource. The game can be played by even very young kids, especially if you take out the wild cards, which can be confusing. Almost everyone knows how to play, and if they don't, it's easy to explain. All kids like it. If there are kids getting restless and out of control while waiting in a restaurant, Uno is an almost-foolproof tool. It can also be played by any number of people, so you can invite the restless kids of the people next to you to play as well and then you are everyone's hero.
posted by not that girl at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a feeling that a lot of those are based in nostalgia. In terms of design it's a very flawed game.

Nah, I never played the game growing up so for me I have zero nostalgia. Uno, thankfully, is no Candyland and it can be very easily tweaked for different audiences (as the many commenters here and the OP have shown). You may not like the mechanics of the game but there is more to people’s love then nostalgia.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2016


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