UNO is one of the most popular card games of all time. I attribute this mostly to the fact that the game is really easy to play and also plays rather quickly. While these attributes make the game appealing to families and those who don’t play a lot of board/card games, they are also the main culprit for why some people can’t stand the game. While I enjoy UNO and have actually checked out many different UNO spinoff games over the years, I acknowledge that some people don’t like the game due to its reliance on luck as well as the lack of strategy. With how many UNO spinoff games that I have played, I was curious to see a game that finally tried to actually add more strategy to the base game. I was hoping that UNO Ultimate Marvel would be that game as it looked truly interesting as it tried to make itself into the “advanced UNO”. UNO Ultimate Marvel actually succeeds at making a more strategic UNO which is both a positive and a negative.
How to Play UNO Ultimate Marvel
- Each player chooses a character that they want to play with and takes the corresponding deck. Any extra character decks not selected are returned to the box.
- Separate the Character Deck from the purple Enemy/Event Cards.
- Combine all of the players’ Enemy/Event Cards into one deck and shuffle them to form the Danger deck.
- Each player removes their main Character Card from the rest of their Character Cards. This card is set next to the player so the other players know what character each player is playing as while also showing each player their special ability.
- Each player will then shuffle the rest of their Character Cards to form their deck. They will take the top seven cards from their deck to form their hand.
- The youngest player will start the game by playing any card from their hand to form the Discard Pile. Play will proceed in a clockwise direction unless a Reverse card changes the order of play.
The cards in the game as well as the rest of these rules will use a few terms as follows:
Add: Take the corresponding number of cards from your Character Deck and add them to your hand.
Draw: Take the number of cards indicated from the top of your Character Deck and add them to your hand. You will also lose your turn.
Burn: Take the corresponding number of cards from the top of your Character Deck and put them face up in a pile known as your Burn Pile. This will be placed next to your Character Deck. Cards will be turned over one at a time.
Some cards may tell you to take cards from your hand instead of the Character Deck. In these situations you will follow the instructions on the card. Otherwise all burned cards will come from your Character Deck.
Recover: Take the corresponding number of cards from the top of your Burn Pile (unless the card specifically says differently), and place them on the bottom of your Character Deck.
Playing the Game
A player’s turn consists of five steps.
- Start of Your Turn
- Play A Card
- Battle (See Danger Cards section)
- Danger (See Danger Cards section)
- End of Turn
Start of Your Turn
You will begin each of your turns by resolving any start-of-turn effects from attacking Enemies, Event Cards, Action Cards, or opponent-controlled character powers.
If your character has a power that activates at the beginning of your turn, you can choose to activate it at this time.
Play A Card
Next you will try to play a card from your hand. Playing cards in UNO Ultimate Marvel is similar to the original UNO. You will compare the cards in your hand to the top card on the Discard Pile. You may play a card if it matches the top card on the Discard Pile in one of three ways:
If you play an Action Card, you will take the corresponding action. If your character power activates based on the card that was played, you can utilize it during this step.
When a player only has one card left in their hand, they must yell out “UNO” to alert the other players that they are close to winning. If another player catches them not saying UNO before the next player starts their turn, the player who didn’t say UNO has to draw two cards from their Character Deck.
If you don’t have a card that matches the top card on the Discard Pile, you will draw the top card from your Character Deck. If you can play the new card, you can choose to play it immediately.
If you can play a card but don’t want to, you can choose to draw a card instead of playing one.
End of Turn
Before the next player in turn order takes their turn, you will resolve any end-of-turn effects.
Action Cards can match other Action Cards of the same type or color.
The next player will draw two cards from their Character Deck and will skip their next turn.
The next player will lose their turn. If the player is being attacked by an enemy, the enemy’s effect will be skipped.
If your turn is already skipped and another card applies another effect to you, you will ignore it.
When the card is played the direction of play will flip. If play was moving clockwise, it will now move counterclockwise and vice versa.
A Wild can match any other card in the game. When you play a Wild you will get to choose the color of the Discard Pile. The Wild cards also have special abilities which you will follow when you play the card.
Various cards in the game will feature a Danger Icon. When a player plays one of these cards, they will immediately turn over the top card from the Danger Deck.
If the Danger Deck ever runs out of cards, you will shuffle its Discard Pile to form a new deck. The Danger card you draw can either be an Enemy or an Event.
When an Event Card is revealed, you will read the text on the card and take the corresponding action. The Event Card card will then be discarded.
When an Enemy Card is drawn, it will be placed in front of the player that drew it. This Enemy is now attacking the player. If there was an Enemy already attacking the player, it will be replaced with this new Enemy. The previous Enemy will be moved to the Danger Deck Discard Pile. This will not count as defeating the Enemy.
When an Enemy Card is revealed an action is generally performed as detailed in the text underneath the “When Flipped” headline.
As long as an Enemy Card is attacking a player, the player will have to follow special rules. This is detailed under the “While Attacking” section.
An Enemy card can only be defeated if you play a card matching the “To Defeat” Section. The “To Defeat” section may show one or more symbols. You must play a card that matches one of these symbols in order to defeat it. Wild cards cannot be substituted for a specific color card that has to be played. An Enemy cannot be defeated on the turn that it is drawn. The symbols are as follows:
There is a fifth way to beat enemies, but the base game does not have any Enemy Cards that feature it. If a card has an icon that has two arrows on it, you must play an Action Card in order to defeat it.
When an Enemy is defeated it will be moved to the Danger Deck Discard Pile. If the player has an ability that triggers when they defeat an Enemy, they can take this ability now.
End of Game
The game can end in one of two ways.
If one player gets rid of all of the cards from their hand, they immediately win the game. If this last card features a Danger Icon, you do not have to draw the Danger Card.
Whenever a player’s Character Deck runs out of cards, they are eliminated from the game. If all but one player is eliminated from the game, the remaining player wins.
After playing the game you should separate out the Danger Deck cards to match them with their Character Decks.
My Thoughts on UNO Ultimate Marvel
At its core UNO Ultimate Marvel is an UNO game. The basic gameplay is the same as every other game in the series. You are trying to be the first player to get rid of all of the cards from your hand. You do this by playing a card from your hand that either matches the color, number or symbol of the top card on the discard pile. The game still features many of the same Action Cards as the Draw 2, Reverse, Skip, and Wild have returned. Basically if you have ever played UNO before, you will already be familiar with the core of the game.
Where UNO Ultimate Marvel differentiates itself is that it adds additional mechanics onto the basic framework of the original game. Much of this comes from the fact that each player has their own deck instead of sharing a draw deck with the rest of the players. All of the players will choose a character to start the game with. Each character has their own focus. For example Captain Marvel’s deck is focused a lot on flexibility making it easier to get rid of cards, while Black Panther is more focused on staying in the game and outlasting the other players.
I will admit that it was kind of weird playing an UNO game where each player has their very own deck. This was the element of UNO Ultimate Marvel that had the most potential to differentiate the game from others in the series. I was ultimately intrigued by this aspect. Each of the decks have the same number of cards and the distribution seems the same. I compared three of the decks and each had the same number of Wilds, Skips, Reverses, Draw Twos, and number cards. The decks mostly differentiate in the special ability that each character has as well as the special effects on their Wild Cards. The Wild Cards in particular are where the characters differ. Despite only a fraction of each deck actually being different, the characters do a pretty good job of feeling different. There are different approaches that work best with each character. For example Black Panther can survive in longer games while Thor tries to eliminate the other players.
I ultimately had some mixed feelings about this aspect of the game. On the positive side I actually think the game has quite a bit more strategy than normal UNO. It still isn’t highly strategic, but it may be enough for players that don’t like UNO due to it having very little strategy. The Wild Cards have some truly interesting abilities that allow you to alter the game towards your own strategy. The character’s special abilities are quite interesting as well as they can make it easier to play cards, or can help you mess with other players. The characters do play differently where you need to focus on different things with each character. This creates an interesting dynamic to the game as all of the players can’t pursue the same strategy.
The main problem with the various decks is just the fact that after playing a few games I think some of the characters are stronger than others. Based on the games that we have played so far with the main set, Captain Marvel seems like the strongest of the four characters included with the base game. I think a lot of this comes down to the fact that her character is built around making it easier to play cards out of your hand. The other characters are more focused on messing with other players. In particular Captain Marvel’s ability allows the player to play any card from their hand if they add another card to their hand. The player ultimately doesn’t decrease the size of their hand, but this allows the player to basically change the color at will allowing them to prevent other players from playing cards. Additionally when the player doesn’t have many cards left in their hand, they can maintain their number of cards as they will only end up increasing the number of cards in their hand if another player forces them to draw cards.
While Captain Marvel’s powers are quite useful to the player, the other characters are not quite as useful. The other characters are more focused on an element of the game that I haven’t talked about yet. With each player having their own deck, UNO Ultimate Marvel adds a mechanic where players can be eliminated from the game. Basically if you run out of cards in your deck, you are eliminated from the game. In theory this was a really interesting idea that I was intrigued by. Card management becomes an important element of the game as you don’t want to burn through cards too quickly where you get eliminated. I thought this had a lot of potential as some players could have tried to get rid of cards from their hand as quickly as possible, while others might be willing to drag the game out or deplete the other players’ hands to eliminate them.
Unfortunately in action I don’t think this mechanic works as well as I was hoping. Maybe players just got lucky and were able to go out quickly in all of the games that I played, but no one was ever in danger of being eliminated when a player ultimately won the game. I think the closest anyone got was about fifteen cards and this player purposefully played where they didn’t care about losing cards. It could have just been a fluke, but I don’t think elimination is going to be a factor in most games of UNO Ultimate Marvel. This is kind of a shame as I think the possibility of elimination could have been a really interesting twist on the typical formula. This ultimately makes the characters that rely on eliminating the other players worse as you won’t get the same benefits as a character like Captain Marvel.
Other than each player getting their own personal deck that have their own emphasis, the other main addition to UNO Ultimate Marvel is the idea of the Danger Deck. A large percentage of the number cards in the game will feature an exclamation mark in the corners. Whenever one of these cards is played, the player who plays it will have to draw the top card from the Danger Deck. Some of these cards will be Event Cards which mostly just force players to draw cards, skip their turn, or other similar effects. The Event Cards can both help or hurt you. Ultimately there really isn’t much to say about them.
The other type of cards in the Danger Deck are Enemies. Enemies are a unique addition to the game as they stay in play until they are defeated or replaced with another Enemy Card. When first revealed and while they remain in play they will apply an effect to player they are attacking which generally hinders what cards they can play or hurts them in some other way. To get rid of them you need to play a specific card that matches the requirements at the bottom of the card.
I had some mixed feelings about the Enemy Cards as well as I found them to be quite intriguing even though they could have added more to the game as well. The Enemy Cards do twist the game in some interesting new ways. While the strength of the Enemies can differ quite a bit, you usually want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Some in particular can limit what cards you can play and others either force you to burn or add cards making it harder to win the game. Sometimes you won’t be able to get rid of an Enemy right away because you either don’t have or can’t play a card that matches the defeat requirements. Thus you could get stuck with the Enemy for a few turns.
On the negative side I think the Enemy Cards failed to reach their full potential. A lot of the cards are actually pretty easy to defeat. Others aren’t much of a hindrance where you aren’t in much of a hurry to get rid of them. Quite a few Enemy Cards also end up getting discarded because you end up drawing another Enemy Card. The game couldn’t make the Enemies too strong or they would have ruined the game, but it just feels like they weren’t utilized as much as they probably should have been.
Ultimately I think UNO Ultimate Marvel succeeds at creating a more advanced UNO. I think this can be seen as a positive and a negative. On the positive side the game makes you feel like you have more impact on your fate. The game gives you more ways to impact it and thus smart play of your cards will make a difference. Based on the deck you choose you will likely have to tweak your strategy so players will play the game a little different. If you have always liked the concept behind UNO but wish there was more to the actual gameplay, UNO Ultimate Marvel may be the game that you have been looking for.
With more strategy you would think the game would rely on less luck. In some ways it does, but some of the new mechanics introduce their own luck into the game. As your decisions play a bigger role in the game, you can somewhat offset bad card draw luck with smart play of your cards. This is mostly offset by the fact that some cards feel more powerful than others. This applies to both Character and Danger Cards. Your decisions aren’t as obvious and have a bigger impact, but the cards you draw will ultimately impact who ends up winning.
With UNO Ultimate Marvel being a more advanced UNO game, the game does become a little more complicated to play. I wouldn’t say that the game is overly complicated, but it isn’t quite the easy pick up and play game as the original either. The game will likely take longer to teach and will take a few turns or maybe even a full game for players to know exactly what they are doing. A lot of this comes form the fact that there is quite a bit more reading in the game and thus players need to figure out how to best use the abilities on the cards. The game has a recommended age of 7+ which seems about right, but you can’t expect all players to be able to jump right into the game and know what they are doing right away.
As for length I would say that the game takes around the same amount of time as a normal game of UNO. You might not have the really short games that you can sometimes get with UNO, but you also avoid the really long games that can also happen if no one can get rid of their last cards. In a lot of ways it feels easier to get rid of cards in UNO Ultimate Marvel as there seems to be a greater distribution of Wilds and other abilities that help you get rid of cards. For the most part I would say that UNO Ultimate Marvel works well as a filler game just like the original game.
As for the game’s components I had some mixed feelings. Lets start with the positives. For the most part I really liked the game’s artwork. Fans of Marvel in particular should really enjoy the card design as each type of card features different artwork which seems to have come from the comics. The cards are much more lively than your typical UNO game. The starter set includes four separate decks with each featuring 49 cards as well as 8 Danger Cards. The variety in the cards is pretty good for an UNO game. The card quality is pretty good as well.
I had a couple of complaints with the components though. The first is that the base game only supports four players. If you want to play with more than four players you will have to purchase booster packs which add additional characters to the game. At this time I don’t know what booster packs are available/will be available, but based on cards I have seen there should be decks for Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Scarlet Witch in the near future. The other issue I had with the cards comes from the fact that due to stylistic choices the colors on all of the cards aren’t quite the same which might make it hard for some players to match the colors. The text of some of the cards can also be somewhat hard to read.
Should You Buy UNO Ultimate Marvel?
Ultimately I had mixed feelings about UNO Ultimate Marvel. In theory I like the game more than I do in execution. The game succeeds at adding more strategy to the original UNO. The idea of each player having their own deck with different emphases was an interesting idea that has a lot of potential. The Danger Deck is interesting as well. Players have more impact over their fate in the game, and in many ways UNO Ultimate Marvel is a more interesting game. Unfortunately a lot of the mechanics don’t work as well as they probably should have though. It feels like the game has a good foundation in place, but it doesn’t live up to its potential. While still pretty easy to play, the game is harder than the original. The level of luck is around the same as well. I enjoyed the game and am curious to see where it goes in the future. I just think the game could have been better than it ended up being.
Ultimately my recommendation for UNO Ultimate Marvel comes down to your thoughts on a more advanced UNO along with the Marvel theme. If you have never really cared for UNO or Marvel, I don’t see the game being for you. If you have always enjoyed UNO and want a more advanced game or didn’t care for the original game because it was so basic, I think you should consider picking up UNO Ultimate Marvel as I think you will enjoy it.