How I Play Uno: Two Simple (but Fun) House Rules

Uno is one of those quintessential card games of my childhood. Many an hour was lost to those numbers and colours and the frustration of being forced to draw twos or fours. And playing with family and friends, there were many unique ‘extra’ house rules that appeared, such as having to say “Uno Game” when you’ve played your last card, or the rule where if you don’t have the right colour, you have to draw from the stack until you found one (which I still believe is an asinine rule). I’m generally a purist; I like to stick to the original rules.

But over the years, two house rules have stuck out as mainstays whenever I play Uno. They add unpredictability, hilarity, and a nice dose of competition, and I always introduce them to friends whenever I play. Everyone who has used them has always loved them.

They are the jump-in rule and the draw-add-on rule.

1. The Jump-In Rule
This rule is simple—at any point during the game, a player can ‘jump in’ and steal the turn if they have the exact same card as what’s currently in play. The game then continues as normal, skipping any other player’s turns before the player who jumped in.

So for example, imagine a game with players A, B, C and D in a circle, and the game moves clockwise from A to D. Let’s say A plays a green 5, and the game continues and it’s B’s turn. But if C has a green 5 in hand, she can quickly put the card down on the play pile and say “Jump in”! This would effectively skip over B’s turn, and it would then be D’s turn.

A player can jump in even when the starter card is opened from the draw pile. E.g. The winner of a game usually goes first in the next game. So let’s say B won the previous game and he’s going first, and the opening card is a red 9. If say, D has a red 9, he can jump in and steal the opening move. The game continues clockwise as normal, with A going next.

2. The Draw-Add-On Rule
When someone plays a ‘Draw’ card (i.e. Draw 2 or Draw 4), you can add on to it with whatever power cards you have, i.e. Draw 2, Draw 4, Skip, or Reverse. Basically, if someone plays a Draw card and you have to draw, you can ‘pass it on’ by playing a power card.

So let’s go back to the game with A, B, C and D. Let’s say A plays a Draw 2 against B. If B has a power card, he can avoid drawing. There are different effects from each power card. So, B can:

  • Use a Draw 2. This will add +2 to the card and make C draw 4.
  • Use a Draw 4. This will add +4 to the card and make C draw 6.
  • Use a Skip. This will cause the draw to skip B, and C will have to draw 2. However, more than one skip can be played. So if B plays two skips, it will skip both himself and C, and D will have to draw 2.
  • Use a Reverse. This will turn things around and make A draw 2. However, more than one reverse can be played. So if B plays two reverses, the game continues as normal, but the draw skips B, and C will have to draw 2.

But what if A plays a Draw 4 instead? Since Draw 4 has a ‘wild card’ effect (i.e. the player who uses it can request a new colour), B can only play power cards in whatever colour that A chooses. So if A wants yellow, only yellow power cards can be added on. If B doesn’t have yellow power cards, he will have to draw 4. But if he does have yellow power cards, he can choose to play them with similar effects as described above.

Note that the effects can stack and it can be quite unpredictable who will end up drawing. Let’s look at an example game with the previous parameters, i.e. players A to D in a clockwise circle:

  • Let’s say A plays a Draw 2 card.
  • B throws down a Draw 4, so the turn goes to C to draw 6.
  • C asks B what colour he wants, and B says red. C throws down a red Skip and skips herself, so now D has to draw 6.
  • But D throws down a blue skip, so the turn skips him and goes back to A.
  • A still has power cards and plays a blue reverse, so now the game goes anti-clockwise. So the turn (and the draw 6) goes back to D.
  • D plays a blue Draw 2, and turn moves to C to draw 8.
  • C doesn’t have any more power cards and has to draw 8 cards from the stack.
  • But in a sudden twist, A jumps in with a blue Draw 2! So A has caused the draw to skip C and B, and it’s back to D to draw 10!
  • Since D has run out of power cards, he draws 10.
  • The game continues.

As you can see, if players have enough power cards, the turn can move fairly quickly around the circle and the draw number can get pretty high. At one point I had a friend draw 14 cards twice in a row! Note that drawing so many cards doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose. I drew 12 cards once, but I still managed to make a comeback and win the game.

If this all sounds confusing, not to worry. Try it in a game, and I guarantee everyone will pick it up fairly quickly. Have fun!