Uno: The classic card game of family game nights and summer vacations. With colorful cards and a simple format, it’s the game you can play with just about anyone, anywhere. Number and action cards serve to change up the course of play, and you never know what direction the next card will be coming from. To solve this Uno conundrum, we’re going to explore the best approaches to direct play in your favor for a better chance at victory.

Uno was introduced to me by a friend back in elementary school. The neighborhood kids would gather at Shelley’s house and pull out the Uno deck for hours of fun. At the time, I don’t think I employed a great deal of strategy to try to win it all. I typically just played what I was dealt without a lot of thought as to the best order to dole out my hand. To be honest, we were too busy acting silly and laughing it up to care that much about who won the game.

As I got older, I became more interested in trying to minimize my score while piling the points on my competitors. I did begin to wonder at that point how much strategy could be employed in this fairly simple card game. What could I do to increase my chances of winning aside from sticking the player with only one card left with a Wild Draw 4?

There are several Uno strategies you can implement to increase your odds of winning, but the most useful habit you can have is to watch your opponents’ hands and actions. Then draw conclusions about what cards they are most likely to have. You need as much information about your opponents’ hands as you can get in order to make the most logic decision for a given turn.

And before you read on, be sure to study the image above which has the complete list of cards in an Uno deck.

Sticky Situations

There are a lot of sticky situations that can arise when playing Uno. Most involve holding more cards than you’d like or your opponents holding fewer cards than you’d like. There are many variations on this theme that call for different approaches to go for the win. 

  • You find yourself with a handful of cards and your opponent across the table is down to a select few. Can you make any plays that will affect anyone other than the players on either side of you?
  • The player to follow you has only one card left. What is the best way to try to thwart the play of the last card?
  • Your opponent just played a Wild Draw 4 card. Should you risk drawing 6 cards to call his bluff?
  • Your hand is stacked with high point cards and your opponents are closing in for the win. Which cards should you play first?

These situations can sometimes be reversed with the right approach to play. Read on for some specific strategies to get play going in your favor. 

Top 10 Uno Strategies

Your hand doesn’t have the optimal mix of Uno cards. Your opponents are playing every turn without drawing as your hand expands. The player before you just hit you with a Skip card. This calls for some strategic action. So what should you do? Read on for ways to turn your game around!

1. Keep your score low. 

What’s the best way to do this? Gamesver recommends playing your highest numbered cards first when you match on color. Do keep in mind that there is half the number of zero cards than those for any other number. This means they can be difficult to get rid of even though they don’t add to your score. 

When it comes to the Action cards, keep a minimum in your hand at any given time. This minimizes your points if an opponent goes out and wins the round. The Wild Draw 4 has the most restrictions for use and has a high point value. Use it when you can to avoid getting stuck with it at the end of the round when another player goes out. 

Remember, Uno is a multiple-round game. If you keep your points low when you don’t win a round, you can still have a chance to win the game by giving the round winner as few points as possible.

2. Dump cards with matching numbers quickly. 

This strategy gives you more number choices to increase your chances of having a card to play rather than needing to draw. Keep in mind that there are 8 cards of each number 1-9. This means that the more cards of a particular number you hold, the less likely you will be able to play it by number rather than color. 

3. Keep a rainbow of card colors.

The more colors you have, the more likely you are to be able to play a card on your turn. This is just another way to keep your options open. Do try and have a couple of cards of the same color for your last few turns, however, to make it easier to go out if you don’t have any Wild cards.

Image from elPadawan on Flickr

4. Cooperate with other players.

You can employ this tactic when one player is in danger of winning. Use the Action cards cooperatively to launch a prevent defense. To do this, choose your cards in tandem with another player to try and keep a player with a small hand from making any plays or by using Action cards to add cards to his hand. 

For example, you could use a Reverse on a player that only has 2 cards left, and the player across from you could Reverse it back to you or play a Skip on that player causing the player to lose another turn. 

Related: The complete Clue Strategy Guide

5. Count cards.

This strategy isn’t for everyone. If you’re capable of keeping track of which cards have been played, you can use this information to make playing decisions. Even if you simply keep track of a specific card type, such as Wild Draw 4 cards, this can give you an edge. It is much easier counting Action cards since there is a fairly limited number of each Action card type. That makes this a more useful tactic than trying to keep track of the entire deck, even if your memory isn’t the best.

6. Know when to change card color. 

There are times when strategically changing the color in play can thwart your opponents’ attempts to dump cards. If you notice a player is repeatedly drawing on a certain color, try your best to keep that color in play. On the flip side, if you notice a player dumping a lot of cards of the same color, change it if you can. This is especially important if a player has only one or two cards left. 

Another angle to the color change is the number of points you have in your hand for any given color. Change the color in your favor so you can dump high point cards if this also works against your opponents. This works well when you have a large hand and one or more of your opponents is in danger of winning the round.

7. Use your Action cards at the appropriate moments.

Skip, Reverse, and Draw 2 cards can change the tide of the game if used at the right time. If the player following you is down to one card, using a Skip or Reverse can buy you some time. It can also give other players a chance to change colors or load up the player in the lead’s hand with some Draw 2 cards. 

This tactic can work particularly well with tip #4, cooperating with other players. You can bounce back and forth skipping a player who is about to go out. You can also potentially add several cards to their hand if another player uses their Action cards in tandem with yours. 

Even though they are higher point cards, it’s a good idea to hold onto Draw 2 cards. You can use Draw 2 cards in place of Wild Draw 4 cards with the benefits of lower point value and flexibility in play when you see an opponent is in danger of going out.

If you are playing two-player Uno, use those Reverse and Skip cards right away. In this scenario, they have the same effect. You will unload a lot of points and cards to give yourself the advantage early in the game.

8. Wield your Wild cards wisely.

Wild and Wild Draw 4 cards have high point values but are very powerful in play. You must use them strategically. These cards give you the power to change the color, so be aware of what your opponents hold before deciding what color to choose. 

You can use a Wild card at any time, even if you have another card you can play. Use it to change colors to potentially cause the next player to draw when they are in danger of going out. It’s also the best option to hold until the end to use as your final play to win the round. In the event it looks like you’re going to lose, you can easily dump this card to shed some points. 

The Wild Draw 4 card is even more powerful in that it can significantly increase the cards in the next player’s hand. You must be cautious with these cards, since they can’t be played unless you have no other options. For this reason, you’re more likely to get stuck with this high point card. Bluff and you can be challenged and forced to draw 4 cards. Choose a color that you don’t hold in your hand when you bluff, and you may fool potential challengers.

9. Dump high point cards when the odds are against you.

If you’re holding a handful of cards and one or more of your opponents are in danger of going out, get rid of as many points as possible. Play those high-point Action and Wild cards on your next turn few turns. Hopefully one of them will also prevent your opponent from winning the round.

Once again, Uno is a multiple-round game, so even if you don’t go out in a particular round, you can try to limit the number of points you contribute to buy time to catch up. Every point makes a difference in the end! 

10. Watch your opponents.

According to WikiHow, this is the most important method for winning Uno. You must watch what cards your opponents play as well as keep tabs on the number of cards in each player’s hand. Doing this informs which strategy is best to use at any given point in the game.

Watch players carefully who put down a Wild Draw 4 and assess whether you believe they have no other cards in hand that they can play. Call an opponent’s bluff correctly, and she will have to draw four cards for her own hand! 

And remember, your opponents will have to draw 2 if they forget to call Uno when they are down to their last cards. Pay close attention to use this rule to forestall victory.

Tip Roundup

Now that you have some strategies to achieve the big win, let’s summarize so you can add these tactics to your Uno arsenal.

  1. Keep your score low.
  2. Dump cards with matching numbers quickly.
  3. Keep a rainbow of card colors.
  4. Cooperate with other players.
  5. Count cards.
  6. Know when to change card color. 
  7. Use your Action cards at the appropriate moments.
  8. Wield your Wild cards wisely.
  9. Dump high point cards when the odds are against you.
  10. Watch your opponents.

Now you’re prepared for any Uno scenario. Pay attention to your opponents’ moves and play your cards wisely. You’ll soon be the reigning Uno champion at game night!

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