The card game UNO has had some changes to the rules since its first introduction in 1971. While the main gameplay has remained the same, some more minor rules have changed. In this guide I will try to point out where the rules have changed over time.
Objective of UNO
The objective of UNO is to be the first player to get rid of all of the cards from your hand.
- Choose a player to be the dealer for the first round. In some versions of UNO each player randomly draws a card. The player that draws the highest number becomes the dealer. Action cards count as zero.
- Shuffle all of the cards together, and deal seven cards to each player.
- Place the rest of the cards face down on the table to form the Draw Pile.
- Take the top card from the Draw Pile and turn it face up in order to form the Discard Pile. If the card that is turned over is an Action card, the player to the left of the dealer has to take the action corresponding to the card.
- The player to the left of the dealer starts the round.
On your turn you will try to play a card from your hand to the Discard Pile. In order to play a card it must match one of three criteria:
If a card from your hand matches one of these three criteria, you can play it to the Discard Pile. If you play an Action Card, you will take a special action (see The Cards of UNO section for more details).
Should you have no cards in your hand that match the Discard Pile, you must draw the top card from the Draw Pile. If playable, you can play the card immediately.
Most editions of UNO allow you to avoid playing a card even if you have one that you can play. In this case you will draw a card. The only card that you can then play is the card that you just drew.
If there are no cards left in the Draw Pile, you will shuffle the Discard Pile to form a new pile.
Whether you played or drew a card, play passes to the next player in turn order.
The Cards of UNO
Listed below are cards from UNO. While most of the cards are the same in all versions of UNO, outside of cosmetic differences, some versions include unique cards exclusive to that version of the game. I have tried to detail as many of these unique cards as I can.
Number cards have no special abilities in the game. You can play them if they match the color or number of the top card on the Discard Pile.
When a player plays a Draw Two, the next player in turn order has to draw two cards. That player also loses their turn.
Should the dealer turn over a Draw Two card to start the round, the player to the left of the dealer has to draw two cards and loses their turn.
The Reverse card changes the direction of play. If play was moving clockwise, it will now move counter-clockwise. If it was moving counter-clockwise, it will now move clockwise.
Should the dealer reveal a Reverse card to start the round, play will proceed counter-clockwise with the dealer taking the first turn.
When you play a Skip card, the next player in turn order loses their turn.
Should the dealer turn over a Skip card to start a round, the player to the left of the dealer skips their turn.
You can play a Wild card on any other card. When you play a Wild, you can choose the color of the Discard Pile.
If the dealer turns over a Wild to start the round, different versions of UNO handle it differently. Some versions have the player to the left of the dealer choose the color for the Discard Pile. Other versions have you draw a new card for the Discard Pile.
Wild Draw Four
The Wild Draw Four acts like a normal Wild as it matches every other card in the game. When you play the card you can choose the new color for the Discard Pile.
Additionally the Wild Draw Four card forces the next player in turn order to draw four cards and lose their turn.
How you handle a Wild Draw Four if it is turned over to start a round, depends on the version of UNO. Some versions have the player to the left of the dealer draw four cards and lose their turn. Other versions have you draw a new card for the Discard Pile.
While the Wild Draw Four card matches every other card, there is one exception to when you can play it. You may only play a Wild Draw Four card if you have no other cards in your hand that match the color of the Discard Pile. Most versions of UNO consider Wild cards to match the Discard Pile for this rule.
Once a Wild Draw Four card is played, the next player in turn order has a choice to make.
They can choose to draw the four cards and skip their turn.
Challenging A Wild Draw Four
Otherwise they can choose to challenge the play of the card if they think the player played it incorrectly. If a player decides to challenge, the player who played the card has to show their hand to the player who challenged. The result of the challenge depends on whether the player played Wild Draw Four correctly.
If the player has no cards in their hand that matched the Discard Pile, they played the card correctly. The challenging player now has to draw six cards instead of the four that they otherwise would have had to draw. They still lose their turn as well.
If the player played the Wild Draw Four incorrectly (there was at least one card in the player’s hand that matched the Discard Pile), the challenge was successful. The player that played the Wild Draw Four has to draw the four cards instead of the challenging player.
Wild Shuffle Hands
This card is exclusive to certain editions of UNO.
When you play the Wild Shuffle Hands card, you will gather all of the cards in the players’ hands. Shuffle all of the cards together. Starting with the player to your left, you will deal the cards out to the players. All of the players may not receive the same number of cards.
The card is also Wild so it matches every other card in the game. The player who plays it also gets to choose the color for the Discard Pile.
Wild Swap Hands
This card is exclusive to certain editions of UNO.
When a player plays the Wild Swap hands card, they can choose another player. They will swap their hand for the hand held by the player they chose.
The card is also a Wild so it matches every other card. The player who plays it gets to choose the color of the Discard Pile.
If the card is turned over to start the game, the player to the left of the dealer gets to choose the color that starts the round.
These cards are exclusive to only certain editions of UNO.
Wild Customizable cards act like every other Wild card. They match every other card and allow you to change the color of the Discard Pile.
Initially these cards are blank so the players can write their own rules on them. Once you write a rule on them, you will implement the rule whenever a player plays the card. If you use pencil to write the rule, you can change the rule between games.
If the card is turned over to start the round, the player to the left of the dealer chooses the color of the Discard Pile.
Wild UNO Remix!
This card is exclusive to the 2020 version of UNO.
The first time you play the game both of the cards will be blank. When you play them they will act like a normal Wild card.
The winner of the first hand/round writes their name on one of the cards in permanent ink. After the second round, the winner of that round writes their name on the other card in permanent ink.
When you play a Wild UNO Remix!, the player whose name is written on the card chooses the Discard Pile color. This applies even if the player whose name is written on the card didn’t play the card. If the player whose name is on the card is not playing, treat the card like a normal Wild card.
End of Round and Scoring
When a player only has one card left, they must call out UNO. You will do this to let the other players know that you are close to winning the round. Should a player catch you not saying UNO before the next player takes their turn, you will have to draw two cards.
Some versions of UNO have you draw four cards if you are caught not saying UNO (2001 edition in particular).
The round ends when one of the players play the last card from their hand. If the last played card was a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four, the next player in turn order has to draw the corresponding number of cards.
The player that got rid of all of the cards from their hand collects the cards remaining in the other players’ hands. They will then score points for each of these cards. The cards score points as follows:
- Number cards: Face Value
- Draw Two, Reverse, Skip: 20 points
- Wild Customizable, Wild Swap Hands, Wild Shuffle Hands, Wild UNO Remix!: 40 points
- Wild, Wild Draw Four: 50 points
If none of the players have earned enough points to win, play another round.
The first player to score 500 or more total points wins the game.
Variant UNO Games
These variant UNO games have come from different UNO editions. You should be able to play them with any version of UNO though.
Instead of giving the winning player points for the cards left in the other player’s hands, you can choose to give points to the players with cards left in their hands. Each player scores points for each of the cards left in their hand as detailed above.
The game ends once a player has scored 500 points. The player that scored the least points wins the game.
Some versions of UNO eliminate players once they earn 500 points. You will keep playing until only one player remains. The last remaining player wins the game.
Two Player Game
This variant is from the 2001 edition rules.
The two player game plays mostly the same as the main game. The only changes are listed below:
When you play a Reverse card, it is treated like a Skip card.
When you play a Skip card, you will immediately get to take another turn.
Draw Two and Wild Draw Four cards force your opponent to draw the corresponding number of cards. You then get to take another turn immediately.
This variant rule is from the 2001 edition rules. You can only play this variant with four players.
Choose another player to play with. Partners alternate positions so the teams alternate turns.
The game ends as soon as one player plays the last card from their hand. The winning team scores points for the cards left in both of the other players’ hands.
Alternatively you can play where you are teammates with each other player for four rounds. You will keep score for each player individually. The player that scores the most points through the twelve rounds wins the game.
Year: 1971 | Publisher: Mattel | Designer: Merle Robbins |
Genres: Card, Family, Party
Ages: 6+ | Number of Players: 2-10 | Length of Game: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: High
Components: 112 cards, instructions
For more board and card game how to plays/rules and reviews, check out our complete alphabetical list of board game posts.