Having played UNO for over thirty years, and growing a bit bored with the usual play experience, I recently began thinking about possible variations or house rules I could apply to the game. These resulting ideas are focused on card play rather than game objectives. They have been play-tested, are easy to learn and work well to add unexpected twists to card play.
I have found it helpful to speak aloud the name of the play as you make the play. This maintains clarity for all players.
A Free-Play is possible when the current player has the exact matching card of the card just played by the previous player. He can play the matching card as a free card, then continue his turn with another card play. As each colored card in the UNO deck has just one exact match, this play is not as common as one would at first believe.
Player A plays a Red 4. If player B had a Red 4, he may play the Red 4 as a Free Play, then continue by playing another card as normal.
If a Reverse is played as a Free Play, play direction is reversed and the Free Player still makes his additional play. Play then continues in the reversed direction.
If a Skip is played as a Free Play, the Free Player plays his additional card, then play skips a player before continuing.
If a Draw Two is played as a Free Play, the player makes his additional play, then play continues with the next player drawing two cards.
If a Wild is played as a Free Play, the player calls the new color and plays a card to match his new color. Play then continues as normal.
If a Wild Draw Four is played as a Free Play, the player calls the new color and plays a card to match his new color. The following player must draw eight cards, and play continues as normal.
Alternate Rule: Any Free Played card is played over by another normal play, thus canceling the effect of the Free Played card. Reverses, Skips, Draw Twos, Wilds and Wild Draw Fours would become ineffective in this case.
The Steal play resembles the Free Play, but is open to any player. A Steal is possible if any player has the exact matching card to the card just played. The Stealing player anounces the Steal and plays the matching card. Play resumes from the Stealing player, so that at least one player misses a turn.
Player A plays a Blue 6. Player D anounces Steal and plays his Blue 6. Players B and C miss their turns, and play continues with the player after Player D.
If Player B had the Blue 6, he would not anounce Steal, as the turn is his anyway; he is not Stealing a turn. He would instead be elligible for the Free Play.
If a Reverse is played as a Steal, reverse the play direction and continue as normal.
If a Skip is played as a Steal, continue play by skipping the player after the Stealing player.
If a Draw Two is played as a Steal, the player who would have drawn two cards misses his turn. Instead, the next player after the Stealing player must draw four cards. Play continues as normal.
If a Wild is played as a Steal, the Stealing player declares the new color and play continues as normal.
If a Wild Draw Four is played as a Steal, the Stealing player declares the new color, and the next player must draw eight cards. Play continues as normal.
A Double Play is possible if the player has a matching set of a card that can be legally played. Both cards are played as one play, and play continues to the next player.
Player A plays a Red 4. Player B has both Red 6s. He may play both Red 6s together as one play. Play continues to Player C.
If Reverses are played as a Double Play, play continues in the same direction. No direction change is necessary.
If Skips are played as a Double Play, the next two players are skipped. Play continues with the third player after the Double Player. In a three-player game, this brings the play back to the Double-Player.
If Draw Twos are played as a Double Play, the next player must draw four cards instead.
If Wilds are played as a Double Play, treat the play as if one Wild had been played. The player calls the next color and play continues as normal.
If Wild Draw Fours are played as a Double Play, the next player must draw eight cards. The Double Player calls the next color and plays continues as normal.
A Rainbow is possible if the player has a card of each color of any card rank. All four cards are played together. The bottom card must match the previous card in color, while the remaining three cards can be played in any order desired. This results in a four-card play and is quite rare.
Player A plays a Green number card. Player B has four 6s, one of each color. He is eligible to play a Rainbow. He first plays the Green 6, then plays the other three 6s in any order desired. Play continues with Player C.
If Reverses are played as a Rainbow, play will continue in the same direction.
If Skips are played as a Rainbow, four players are skipped, then play continues.
If Draw Twos are played as a Rainbow, the next player must draw eight cards. Play then continues as normal.
Wilds and Wild Draw Fours are not eligible for a Rainbow play.
A Sequence is possible if the player has a numerical series of 3 cards of matching color. The series must precede or follow the rank, in order, of the card just played, as well as match the color of the card just played.
Player A plays a Red 4. Player B can play Red 1,2 and 3, or Red 5,6 and 7, in order. Play then continues as normal.
Reverses, Skips, Draw Twos, Wilds, and Wild Draw Fours are not eligible for a Sequence play.
Pass the Draw
A Pass the Draw is possible if a player is required to draw cards, but he can play an eligible draw card. The next player must draw the new card total, unless he also has an eligible draw card.
Player A plays a Draw Two of any color. Player B is now required to draw two cards, unless he can play an eligible draw card. Player B follows by playing a Draw Two of any color. Player C is now required to draw four cards, unless he too can play a Draw Two of any color. This may continue as long as subsequent players have Draw Twos to play. The sequence is broken when any player cannot Pass the Draw and must draw cards as normal.
Draw Twos can only be Passed by Draw Twos, and Draw Fours can only be Passed by Draw Fours.
Combinations of these plays are possible from one player to the next. Use common sense to determine the result of any such combinations.
When using these plays to go out, be sure to say 'UNO' at the appropriate times.
I trust that these ideas will add some variety to your UNO games.
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