Critical Play: Uno – Amy Lo

Uno is a card game created by Merle Robbins in 1971. The target audience of Uno is ages 7+ for groups of 2-10 people. 


Uno is a shedding-card game, where everyone aims to get rid of all their cards. If you only have one card left in your hand, you need to quickly yell “Uno!” before others do; otherwise you’ll draw 2 cards. Its theme is also matching. In order to play a card, you match either the color of the card or the value/action of the card. 


Uno is designed for fellowship as it is a game best played with groups. Through action cards, Uno creates interaction as players use them to beat each other in the game. Uno is also a sensation-pleasure game. The changes of color, direction, and cards created a thrilling chaos that stimulated my friends and I greatly as we played. 


Cards are designed to make it easy for players to see the color and the value/action. The color of the card is throughout the card and in the number to show the connection between the color and card value.

Number cards have large numbers that are easy to see. One design decision in Uno to make it easier to play is the line used to distinguish between a 6 and a 9. The action cards’ colors show they can only be played when that color is available. The Wild cards are distinguished from the rest of the cards with a black color and multicolor graphics to show that they can be used on any of the four colors. These design decisions make it easier for players to make the connection between the rules and the gameplay.

Formal Elements & Abuse

SpyFall is a player vs. player game, where the boundaries are the cards. Each player has the objective to race to run out of cards. For resources, the action cards such as Skip, Reverse, and Draw cards are used to administer abuse on other players. 

Although not in the rules, many players often play with stacking; if one player places a draw card, you can place a draw card and stack their value for the next person – increasing the abuse.

Conflict is created through the constraint to place a matching card. If you observe that the person next in turn does not have a certain card type, you might place down cards of a color that would be unfavorable to them to create challenges for other players. 


The strategies for winning Uno are less focused than in a game like Big 2, which uses a standard 52-card deck and relies on making combinations of cards to get rid of your hand. Unlike other social card games like “We’re Not Really Strangers”, Uno does not need thought-provoking social interactions between players to play. What makes Uno fun and differentiates it is how you can use Action cards to abuse other players.


  • It would be interesting to have a truth or dare version of Uno to build more social interaction in the game beyond playing cards. For example, if you don’t have a matching card, you can answer Truth or Dare to avoid drawing a card. 
  • I would add a card that would let you swap decks with another person, peek at their deck, or swap a card with someone else to add more sensation to the game. 
  • I would add some form of social deception, where you could lie about the color or type of card you’re putting down. 

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.