Designer: UNO and UNO Flip! (uncredited); DOS (Nick Hayes)
Practically every gamer I know has played UNO or is at least familiar with the game. Whether you love or hate (and I know most of you are the latter) UNO, it must be one of Mattel’s biggest and most enduring hit. There is a reason for the commercial success: UNO can be played out of the box with very few rules. It has vibrant colors and large numbers and everyone can play with little to no background in gaming. Yes, the game is clearly not targeted for gamers like you or me but for everyone else, UNO is appealing. That it sells year after year, 50 years after publication is nothing to snuff at. Because of its success, UNO has multiple versions and spin-off products all capitalizing on the brand. The different versions of UNO are merely thematic changes with a few special cards sprinkled into the deck. For example, I have Frozen II Uno as well as regular UNO and they both play the same except for one special card in Frozen UNO that forces every one to play the same color when played. There must be hundreds of thematic versions of UNO ranging from Marvel, Hannah Montana, BTS, Star Trek, Hello Kitty, etc. Apart from different versions, UNO spin-offs also exists and they include the 2 games we own above Flip! and DOS.
Regular UNO really needs no introduction. While there are a variety of home spun rules, basic UNO is a shedding game where the goal is to get rid all your cards. Everyone starts with 7 cards and through playing cards that match either number or color in the central pile, players slowly reduce their hand size. Of course special cards such as reverse, skip a turn, wild card, draw 2 and draw 4 complicates and adds tension to the game. When one card is left, players must yell UNO! or be penalized by drawing 2 extra cards. The first person with an empty hand wins the match.
UNO Flip! Takes UNO a step further by making each card double-sided. The light side of the deck is basic UNO but with a draw 1 card in lieu of a draw 4. The other side of each card is the dark side which is also basic UNO but with special cards that are more aggresive. For example, the dark side has a draw 5 card, a reverse that skips everyone (basically you play twice) and the most heinous: draw cards from the main deck until you flip a card of the color of my choosing. Some will remember this card as a house ruled card. During play, players also have a “flip card” in the deck in both light and dark side. Anytime the card is played, players must flip their hand of cards and the central draw pile over to the corresponding side (light or dark). Otherwise, game play is pretty similar to UNO.
Finally, we have DOS which is an entirely different game from UNO. There are 2 cards in the middle of the table and players have to match the number from their hand of cards. Numbers can be matched either with a single card or a sum total of the card. For example, a red 7 can be matched either with another red 7 or with a blue 2 and green 5. Colors do not matter. However, if you managed to also match the color, other players must draw a card and you get to dispose of an additional in your hand at the end of your turn. Again, one must say DOS! when down to 2 cards. Winner is first person to shed all their cards.
To be clear, UNO is not meant for adults, gamer or no gamer because it inherently lacks strategy of any sort. The game is not hard precisely because there are few decisions to make that aren’t obvious. You play cards if you can to reduce hand size. If you have same number or color, you just play it. That’s it. For kids, UNO takes on additional dimensions reviewed in the Kid’s Corner below. Among the 3 UNOs here on review, plain UNO remains the best. The simplest reason is that regular UNO does not complicate the game with mindless rules which only clutter game play. It is perfect for kids who want to have a 15 min game prior to bed time. Believe me, sometimes playing a short game is all a tired parent can handle at the end of the day. UNO Flip! makes the game slightly more interesting but lengthens overall game play, though not by much. It doesn’t really change any rules, just new action cards and flipping of the deck. So, it is almost like a harmless variant of UNO.
However, I just cannot recommend DOS. First, the rules are so horribly written that I had to read 3-4 times to understand the contents and I can play most games after a single reading of the rules. It also shares very little DNA with UNO and remove all things that make UNO palatable by greatly reducing player interaction. For one, players match numbers in the central pile but once the turn is over, all cards are discarded. If you color and number match, you can add another card to the new tableau for the next player but will also inadvertently help your opponent since they will now have more cards to form matches with. There is absolutely no continuity between players each turn. The reverse, skips, draw 2 or 4 cards are all gone, so you cannot disrupt the flow of the game and the round can end quickly with 7 cards at hand if you have the right pairings. There is also no rhyme or reason for this game to call DOS. Yes, there is a “2” card which is wild, but it could easily be any card. Yelling out “Dos” when you are down to two cards in your hand is also really out of place and useless. With UNO, when you have one card left, it makes sense, but with two, you might as well yell “cinco” with 5 cards. It basically means nothing. Calling this game broken is probably too harsh, but boy does it come close. The worse part is that in DOS somewhere is a decent game for kids. The math is cool as kids can learn addition, or even subtraction. Perhaps there is room for creative house rules but I am not inclined to do so. As it stands, plain UNO is the best and I would avoid this spin-off.
Initial Impressions: Uno and UNO-Flip!-Average; DOS-Not for Me! (both family and kids)
5 years and 5 months: My kid enjoys UNO because it is relatively mindless and I like UNO because it is short and perfect before bed time. I cannot tell you how many times she wants to play Ticket to Ride before bed only to have me suggest UNO. That seems to be sacrilegious as a gamer to suggest UNO, but believe me this is what you do at the end of a long work day . That said, my kid doesn’t always pick UNO, which is a good sign, but I think the idea of backstabbing parents is always delightful fun. The interactions is what makes UNO, UNO and it is always a treat when you get to add a +2 with another +2 to hurt your opponents. Plain UNO is best for that. The colors are vibrant and well differentiated with large numbers. When you play other UNO versions, like Frozen, the color choices are poor. Brown and purple, really? My kid is as competitive as her parents in UNO and can win on a regular basis. She delights at beating her parents and losing doesn’t seem to dampen her spirits too much as each game is quite short. As for UNO-Flip! the game is just another UNO really, not harm in playing it. We had a few plays of DOS and as I quote my kid saying “this game is no fun and boring”. So, that’s that. It’s not even the math because she enjoys Sleeping Queen. All in all, I consider UNO probably a passing phase for her. We will probably move on to other games and I think I will start off with LLAMA. The thing is unlike UNO, LLAMA requires an additional layer of thought processing: when to fold each round. This is higher order thought process which is required to play the game well and I am not sure she is there yet.