Killer Uno: The best non-drinking game ever

November 5 2014 | Guest post by Tamara Kraft

uno vector

Waiting one's turn is annoying. We stand in line at the store, sit in our car at traffic lights and chew the inside of our cheek while our coworkers prattle out their complaints in the most endless possible way while we repeat the mental mantra, "Just-let-me-go-already."

This constant vigil of personal restraint can prolapse into bursts of barista abuse, fits of right-hand-lane passing, and colleague strangulation if kept under pressure too long. We need a safe outlet in which to pounce, cuss, fist-pump, gloat, turn the tables and score before we do some actionable damage to ourselves and those around us.

I give you: Killer Uno.

Yes, there are rules. Yes, there are turns. Yes, there is some basic addition involved in the score-keeping. But if you are sober enough to match a color and a number at the same time, you can play when it's not your turn and nobody can stop you. And that is beautiful satisfaction. So much so, you may not even need to kill people this week.

The game is simple. You start with the basic Uno rules that come with the cards. The object is to run out of cards first. Match the color or number of the card showing on the discard pile, play a wild card, or draw. This encompasses the Action Cards (Reverse, Draw 2, Skip) as well. But we don't want to wait our turn, do we? So here's the Killer part:

If you are holding the identical card (same color and symbol) that is showing on the discard pile, play it. Play it fast. Smack it down on the pile before the person whose turn it really is has even decided what he wants to play. There. It's not his turn anymore. Play continues to your left. Unless there is a Reverse card in play, in which case play continues to your right. Felt good, didn't it? A gloating "Whoop!" is appropriate here.

It gets better. You know those pesky Draw Four wild cards? If one gets played on you, and you have one in your hand — you play it! Bam! Now the guy next to you has to draw eight. But wait! The girl across the table just realized she has one, too. Pow! She smacks it down immediately after you do, and now her next-door neighbor has a hand that has grown by twelve cards. Snickers ensue. Cries of relief whoosh out from those saved from drawing.

There is one more house rule we have added to foil the really smart strategic players. The Green Zero.

If a green zero is discarded (there is one per deck), play is halted while everyone passes their entire hand to the person next to her (in the reverse direction of current play). Play continues as before. That guy who was just about to go out now has a really ugly hand. You probably do, too.

Other details:

  • This game is best played with 6-10 players. We use two sets of cards for best impact and least re-shuffling.
  • Identical cards may be played together: Have two Yellow Draw Two cards in your hand? Play them at the same time to make the next person draw four. Two Red Reverses? Play them together and they cancel each other out. Three Green Skips? Play them together and skip the next three players' turns.
  • Don't have a card to play when it's your turn? Draw until you do, or until someone else realizes they can and puts you out of your misery.
  • Don't forget to call "Uno!" when you have one card left. If someone else beats you to it, you must draw two cards.

Scoring:

  • Black cards are 50 points.
  • Action cards are 20.
  • Number cards are face value.
  • When someone discards his last card, play stops and everyone counts up what is left in their hand. The player to reach 500 points first is the loser. This is a good time to break for food and drink.

Advanced strategies:

  • Round tables even the odds. Players with long arms have the advantage of reaching the discard pile faster when racing to play out of turn.
  • Keep nail-clippers available for your guests. Blood droplets from scrabbling players make the cards sticky.
  • Quiet, polite people tend to have atomic elbows. Body-blocks can be strategic.
  • Couples should not always sit next to each other. You'll see.

Now go play!

  1. I'd heard of 'stacking' draw cards before, but your other adaptions truely are killer!
    Shame we rarely get to play games with more than two players-next group game night we're playing Killer Uno for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

    2 agree
  2. My family plays a truly BRUTAL game of Uno (tears have been shed, doors have been slammed) with the regular rules. While I would love to introduce this to them, I don't know if our relationships would survive.

    4 agree
  3. My family is this ruthless with Hearts. It's gotten to the point now where they have literally mixed together 4-5 decks of cards that are missing a few, and they just play with that. They deal everyone 12 cards or whatever right off the top, so there could be up to four Queen of Spades in play, or none.

    2 agree
    • Jamie, please teach your family Killer Uno and report back. I expect great stories from you. And probably some new, really messed-up rules!

      2 agree
  4. First off, you are a fanf'ntastic writer quickly followed by gobs of FUN. Screw my family, I wanna come play at your house!

    3 agree
  5. haha is anyone else thinking:

    "Triple stamped it, no erasies, touch blue make it true."

    "No, you can't do that… you can't triple stamp a double stamp, you can't triple stamp a double stamp Lloyd!"

  6. This sounds AMAZING and I can't wait to try to convince my friends to play it.

    My favorite non-drinking game is Ultimate Spoons. It's played just like regular Spoons, except the spoons aren't in the circle. They're in another room. Rug burn and broken furniture are hazards of play.

    3 agree
    • I love that idea! I would play that. That might be the only way I could beat my dad (who is 70) at a card game. He's the reason we've adopted the "Green Zero" rule.

    • I play Extreme Spoons too! Put the spoons outside, down the hall, whatever. I highly recommend putting the spoons in a big pile of pillows and blankets. It lowers the injury risk and adds a snuggle factor.

      Seriously, though, injury risk is a real thing. One time a guy I know aggravated a knee injury and had to get surgery.

      1 agrees
      • It's surely not for the faint of heart. We once piled the spoons under a massive mountain of every pillow / cushion / blanket we could find, and I still walked away with sprained fingers.

        I'm thinking we need to come up with a new version where the spoons are in MULTIPLE rooms, so there's strategy — do I run for the living room which is the closest, or for the further away bathroom in hopes no one else goes for that spoon?

        2 agree
        • We broke my friend's back playing Cards Against Humanity. No joke. He was laughing so hard that he wrenched his back and we had to take him to the emergency room. True story.

          2 agree
  7. This reminds me of speed: multiple player solitaire, fast as you can, no turns, no mercy. People usually scream out of frustration and surprise when you whack a card down.

    1 agrees
  8. This isn't exactly the same, but I have to recommend Dutch Blitz to all of you who like your family holiday card games fast, brutal, and loud. Bonus points for shouting obscenities in Pennsylvania Dutch… but okay, that is probably just my family.

    2 agree
  9. Hahaha! Great article Tami! Well written with wit and humor. I have had the pleasure of playing said game, and the pace and rules make it perfect for sadistically taking your mild aggressions out on friends and family in a fun and playful way. ๐Ÿ˜€ I highly recommend it to any game lover.

    I can't imagine where you got the idea that people have fits of right hand lane passing?!? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰ hehehe Seriously!

    2 agree
  10. I've played this, but slightly different. No points, BUT when someone wins (runs out of cards), they get to come up with an additional rule. It can be anything! Examples include:
    Everyone takes a card when a 4 is played.
    If you say someone's name, you must draw 3 cards.
    Etc.
    This means you can start play with a normal deck of cards (or 3) and add in uno card rules as game play progresses

    3 agree
    • Kat,

      Someone at work today told me that in their version, playing a 7 lets you trade hands with anyone at the table. So many options!

  11. This sounds a LOT like the German version of Uno which is called Solo. It's basically Uno with these added killer rules and a few more in addition (like a rotate your hands card, which really messes things up).

    I can't seem to find an English site (and I should be getting back to work!) so here's a German site: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solo_%28Kartenspiel%29

    Check out the weird pick up four card… can anyone actually hold their pinky down like that?

    1 agrees
    • Excellent reference, Emillie!

      Your point about the spockish Draw 4 card brings up a huge debate I left out of this post: word cards vs. symbol cards. The symbols on the modern Uno deck were (I think) originally intended as an American "international" version of the deck, requiring no English to read the cards. But based on conversations at my house, and reviews on Amazon, everyone hates them! Mattel published a retro deck not long ago to mimic the cards we used in the 80's and 90's, but there is some debate about the quality of paper and finish – and it's $29.95!!!

      My solution was to find a couple of unused decks online that were printed in 1993. It was worth the hunt.

      Also, my father emailed me insisting that I mention that the newer yellow cards are impossible to read, and someone needs to take a black Sharpie and outline all the yellow numbers.

  12. My family plays what we call Ultimate Sorry, where, instead of drawing cards every turn, you get dealt 7 cards. (You must always have 7 cards in your hand) So if you can't make any moves in one turn, you have no hopes of winning that game… my brother plays really rough, and he made up the rule that if you land in a specific spot, you get to re-deal an opponent's cards, so YOU get to choose what cards they have. Now nobody wants to play any games with me or him because we tend to take it too far… but I am definitely showing Killer Uno to them!

  13. We love this game! Especially when played in teams men against the ladies. We call it Fast Eddie Uno! I have no idea where the name came from! We play any time a 7 is played all hands get passed the direction of play and any time someone plays a 1 that person can stop the play and trade hands with someone else. Points from all members of the losing team get added together

  14. Question one: what do you do with draw twos? Our family just played killer uno and had quite the debate on whether the person to your left can play a red draw two if you play a green draw two.

    Question two: when the person to your left begins to draw, does that "kill" the card that is face up? Or can the person across the table play on it? For example, draw four is played, person starts drawing, can another person stack the draw four? Or another example would be if there a green seven played, and you don't have a green or a seven, and you begin to draw, can another player play a green seven after you start drawing?

    Let know how you've settled these!!

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