A man named Merle Robbins had an argument with his son about the rules for Crazy Eights. In a flash of inspiration, he wrote his own set of rules for a new game and dubbed it “UNO.” In UNO, players attempt to empty their hand of cards by playing them to a shared discard pile. This new game contained cards of four different colors numbered 1-9, Wild cards, Skips, Reverses, Draw 2 cards, and the infamous and iconic Draw 4 card. When a player has a single remaining card in their hand they must announce “UNO” to the table to make sure everyone knows they might be able to go out…effectively painting a target on their back.
After raising the $8,000 needed to print 5,000 UNO decks and selling them out of his barbershop, Robbins sold the rights to UNO to International Games for $50,000 plus ongoing royalties. After nearly 50 years, and over 150 million copies sold, UNO is still the undisputed king of custom card games. Love it or hate it, UNO’s success isn’t an accident; it features simple gameplay, colorful artwork and graphic design, and a level of strategy that leaves room for players to chat with friends and family while playing the game.
Even though UNO dominates the card game market, there are still loads of other options. Below are six light card games that I think could replace UNO on your family’s game table.
2018 | 2–6 Players | 20–25 minutes
At the top of the list is a game that I think could easily unseat UNO as the king of light card games. In PUSH, players “push” their luck in trying to collect more points from a shared deck of cards than their opponents.
On your turn, you’ll flip over the top card from the deck, placing it into one of three piles of cards. Each pile can only contain one card of each number (1 through 6) and one card of each color (red, blue, purple, yellow, and green). As long as you have a valid spot to place the card, you’re safe. But if you can’t put the card into one of the three stacks, you bust, and your turn is over. At any point before you bust, you can choose to stop and take all of the cards in a single stack and place them into your Bench. Then in clockwise order, the next player gets to choose one of the remaining stacks until all stacks have been taken. All of this still happens if you bust; you just lose the chance to select a stack, potentially giving lots of points to your rivals.
One thing to remember is that cards currently in your Bench are still vulnerable until they’ve been Banked. Mixed in with the point cards are several Roll cards. When selecting your stack and it contains a Roll card, you must roll the included six-sided die and take your chances. If it comes up black, you’re safe. But if it displays one of the five colored faces then you must discard all cards of that color from your Bench. On their turn players can always pass to Bank all cards of a single color, making them permanently safe.
PUSH is easily one of my favorite games of 2019, and I’ve happily taught it to dozens of people at game nights I’ve attended. It’s one of the few games that I don’t bother teaching the rules first…I simply start dealing the cards and explain as I go. It’s easy to play, and even though the rules seem simple, the choices you have to make aren’t easy. In many cases you’re forced to choose between two good options, or even worse between two bad options. Try it and you might just PUSH UNO back into the closet for good.
2 FIVE CROWNS
1996 | 1–7 Players | 30 Minutes
Five Crowns is one of the few mass-market games you’ll ever hear me recommend, but it deserves it. Five Crowns is a rummy-style game with five distinct suits (hearts, spades, clubs, diamonds, and stars), played over 13 hands. For each hand, the card that matches the number of cards dealt in the hand is wild. In the first round, players are dealt three cards (with the 3 card being wild), all the way up until the 11 th round where players receive 13 cards (with the king card being wild). This leads to the game’s tagline: “It’s not over until the kings go wild”.
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