Critical Play: Comparative Analysis – Uno

A terror that lurks behind all parties and family gatherings, Uno haunts the minds of many a millenial and Zoomer. This cutthroat game is known to many and feared by all, but for my critical play this week I chose to hunker down and weather the 4-colored storm to try and see what makes Uno a mainstay game.

My main goal when I sought out on this journey was to investigate how Uno implemented its actions, since both Uno and the game my team is creating are turn-based action card games. Uno is an exemplar of the action card genre largely due to its simplicity and focus on action/reaction in-game. By allowing players access to several card effects that can critically alter the game flow, Uno gives the players a sense of agency in its chaotic onslaught. Cards like Draw 2, Reverse, and Skip allow players to engage with both the game (removing cards from their hands) and other players (screwing over the person after you). This sets a satisfying and competitive vibe with the game that seems to follow it no matter who’s playing.

In addition to actions, Uno has a few reactions (actions that can be performed outside of the normal turn order in response to another player’s actions) which also serve to engage players, keeping them constantly on their toes so they don’t miss the chance to play even more Uno. Some examples of these reactions are the players’ ability to stack Draw 2 cards to pass the buck onto their neighbor or to call out another player when they didn’t declare they only had one card left (“Uno!”). In my time playing, this took the form of three grown men mashing a “Call Out” button so nobody could ever have less than 2 cards without having to draw more. This led to some problems reaching an end-state, but no human can hold out forever and Uno eventually had its way with us.

Uno primarily differentiates itself from other games in its genre by both being a timeless classic and by maintaining a simple theme and style even over the many years of its existence. It’s simple premise of primary colors and single digit numbers is quick to grasp, while the social competition does the heavy lifting of keeping players engaged.

Overall, good game. 7/10

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