Who hasn’t played UNO at some point in their lives? The fast moving colour/number matching card game that is almost as widely known as regular playing cards. This has to be near the top of the list of great games to play together with other people!
According to Wikipedia, UNO was invented in 1971 in Ohio as a slight variation of a similar normal playing card game called Crazy Eights (or Switch, Black Jack, Mau Mau, or whatever you called it..). What makes it so great and fun to play compared to those though is the brightly coloured deck with easily recognisable symbols and numbers. It is very easy to learn and understand the rules, making it an ideal first ‘proper’ game to teach children. By adding complexities such as scoring and rule variations, it has enough tactical depth to keep adults entertained too.
I have many fond memories of playing this with my siblings and friends when I was younger. I still remember that great feeling of excitement when I got dealt the prized black ‘pick up four’ card (let’s be honest, I still get that feeling). Even better to get a chain of pick up fours, so some poor soul would have to have so many cards he or she couldn’t hold them!
Over the years, the makers of UNO have tried to sell more by releasing their own variations on the classic. A lot of them can be found on this site, including robot UNO, a version that involves a set of weighing scales, and even one that can be played underwater! Most of these are fairly rubbish gimmicks though, involving annoying big plastic mechanisms that do not add anything of value to the core game. In saying that, we did get one of them for Christmas: UNO Power Grab (or Totem Power! in the rest of Europe). This adds ‘power totems’ to the game, which if you hold make you immune to certain attacks such as +2, +4, etc. This is not too bad to play and does give an interesting little twist to the tactics, worth a try if you see a set around. It still doesn’t beat the original though, that has been going strong for over 40 years.
I have, of course, taught the original game to my own children, and it has come with us on almost every family holiday. It is a perfect game for holidays, compact enough to fit in any bag. I have also seen the educational benefits, it helps the kids learn colours, numbers, taking turns, etc., and (more importantly to me) it is a fantastic ‘gateway’ game that opens the door to so many more games and so much gaming enjoyment in the future! In fact, all this writing about it has put me in the mood for a game right now! How about you?