Cursed Uno: An Essay on Heartbreak

Every regular gaming group probably has a game like this. This isn’t the game you pull out for new players, established players’ visiting significant others, or children. This is the nitty-gritty, friendship-demolishing, table-flipping, night-ending monstrosity.

Here’s ours.

Cursed Uno

tl;dr: The full rules to Cursed Uno are available at the bottom of this post, if that’s all you’re interested in.

To preface, my game night group is already a mess. It’s a ragtag group of broke late-teens/early-20s barely-cognizant piles of stress and medical issues. For some reason, we all get together about once a week to play a couple terrible, awful games. Betrayal at House on the Hill, The Resistance, Jenga, Coup, just all the most soul-numbing possible games for people who already suffer enough. The top dog “Bad Game” for a long time was The Resistance.

The Resistance box with contents

For those unfamiliar, The Resistance is a game about lying to your friends and getting very mad when you find out they’ve been lying too. It’s a standard Werewolf-esque “some people are good, some people are bad, and you only have people’s word on which is which” premise, with the added goal of Completing Missions. Said missions can be passed or failed by the individual members on them. The members are chosen by the leader who changes each round. There are many, many ways this can and does go wrong. It was bad.

Then we played Coup.

Coup box with example roles

Coup, by the creators of The Resistance, is pretty much Resistance minus any possible chance of working together. You’re given two roles, which can range from very helpful to Ambassador, the unanimously agreed-upon worst role. You can take different actions on your turn depending on your roles, and other players may decide to block based upon their roles. Once again, you’re expected to figure out if they’re lying or not. The goal is to eliminate all other players and, well, stage a coup. It’s hellish. My group played it at one of GeekDayton’s board game nights at Proto Buildbar once. It got… Rowdy. It’s not a game to play in public, to say the least. It was the worst.

Then my neighbor died.

I don’t mean to make light of this in any sense, it’s very unfortunate that he passed. However, I didn’t know that news when I came home at 3am after a late night excursion to Taco Bell to see a large pile of free trash nearby. These piles have often given up excellent treasures for my favorite price of “carrying it into my house”. so I meandered over and checked it out. I turned down the fishing pole, car headlight, and half-full bag of dog food, but I did walk away with a copy of Uno. Wrapped in a thin white rubber band, it looked harmless enough. Sure, a couple card edges might have gotten hit with a red marker at some point, but it was fine. So I brought it inside, set it on a counter, and put away my coat/hat/wallet/etc.

I did not find it again for 3 weeks.

Curses aren’t real, things can’t be haunted, and even if they could, a card game for children is not something important enough to haunt. That being said, finding out the copy of Uno I picked up the previous night belonged to a now-dead man and then being unable to find said copy of Uno for almost a month is enough to rattle me. I finally found it in a drawer I did not put it in, and brought it to game night to regale everyone with the story of this dumb cursed copy of Uno. Here’s where the chaos begun.

Very long explanation short, in the 3 weeks my copy of Uno was missing, I ended up watching a nearly 3-hour long YouTube video of 5 idiots playing the Uno video game with certain extra rules in play that extended the game to such a ridiculous length. It ended up making it to #1 on iMDB’s list of user-rated comedy films as a joke. Here it is, if you’re bored enough:

These extra rules included the ability to change hands with other players when certain cards are played. When a 0 is played, everyone’s hands rotate in the direction of play. When a 7 is played, that player must switch hands with any other player. These rules utterly destroy the important part of Uno where you don’t know what your neighbor has so you end up playing a card that leads him to victory. These rules practically get rid of the only win condition in Uno. These rules are hell.

So we tried them.

I don’t recall specific details besides a decent amount of screaming in that first game. It was a short game, though. They always start out like normal games, until the last one. At some point during the night, the game changed from “playing Uno with cards that are cursed” to the far more serious “Cursed Uno”. New house rules were decided upon. Upon playing a Draw 2, the player had to say “Pot of Greed” because of some dumb Yu-Gi-Oh reference I don’t understand. Playing a reverse meant you had to say “Here’s looking at you, kid”, which comes from a particular player in Uno: The Movie saying it about a dozen times after reversing to whichever player had just gone before him. Not saying them would net you a 2 card penalty.

Because what Uno needed was more excuses to draw cards.

We played it a few more times over the following couple weeks, each to worse and worse endings. It always followed a pattern. The first game was rocky due to new players not knowing all the intricacies of the new rules. The middle games were pretty quick, but grudges were started in this stage. The last game lasts at least 15 minutes, involves screaming,  more grudges, many reshuffles of the discard pile, and likely ends with two or more players conspiring to make someone win so it can finally end. It’s actually sweet, the standard game leaves very little room for teamwork, so this version always ending in it was a small plus. Until it didn’t end that way.

The last time Cursed Uno was played at game night was a little over a week before Christmas. It was actually right after I visited D20, and it was with 2 friends who escorted me there to check out the place. We all agreed it’d be an excellent place to check out once it opened, and resolved to head back to a house and play games or something. At this point, I was carrying Cursed Uno in my coat pocket just in case I needed to teach its horror to someone on the go. So we returned to the house and started to play.

One final rule to Cursed Uno, which you may or may not be familiar with due to it’s debated placement as a real rule, is the Challenge. If a player plays a Wild card, another player may decide to challenge it’s legitimacy. The challenged player then shows their hand. If they had an alternate card they could have played, they take penalty cards. If not, the challenger takes the cards. This is particularly rough with a Wild Draw Four, because the card’s player would draw the four cards instead of the person it was played on.

This is rarely remembered as a rule, but it was discussed prior to this final game being played.

Uno Draw Four card

This ends friendships.

It started off the usual way, with a quick game to reacquaint everyone with just how awful this game is. The middle game went just as fast. I don’t have an exact time for the final game, but it was at least 20 minutes and all 3 of our mental states were destroyed. We had gone through the deck so many times, we resolved to never play again without someone sitting out just to shuffle the deck so play wouldn’t have to be postponed so often. Usually, at this point, someone would have proposed a truce and the game would have been quickly “won”. There were two reasons that didn’t happen this time:

  1. Our standard “peacekeeper” player was not in attendance.
  2. The three people who were in attendance, myself included, are the most spiteful and petty of the group and there was no one around to keep us from going full-M.A.D.

So we kept going. And going. It got to the point where truces were made just to screw with the third player, not even to win. One of these ended up ending the game. My at-the-time partner-in-crime kept telling me to reverse so he could play a card on the third player. Turn after turn, begging for a reverse on my part. I finally drew one, and upon playing it, my partner then threw down a Wild Draw 4.  I knew he had plenty of every color, there was no reason he had to play that.

This was his final mistake.

Without moving a muscle but my eyes, I looked him square in his and said, “I challenge that.”

You know that saying about watching the light in someone’s eyes slowly go out? It was like that, if the light bulb exploded instead of fading. His hand was thrown to the floor, and he stood up, yelling out “WELL, GOODBYE GUYS, SEEYA, GOODBYE, LATER GUYS”. Me and the third player couldn’t stop laughing, as he GOODBYE’d himself into his shoes and coat. He went out the door, and about 10 seconds later, we each get sent a picture of the house taken from his car with the caption “GOODBYE”. We did not stop laughing.

Then he didn’t come back. The laughing continued as I looked out the window to ascertain that yes, the car was gone. He must be doing a lap around the block for effect. There’s no way he actually left because of Uno, right? At a certain point, I began to entertain the thought that he might have actually left. I then received a second picture of his own house with the caption, “Y’all are dicks”. I couldn’t argue. That was the last time I played Cursed Uno, and unsurprisingly, the last time board game night was held. We’ll probably start up again in the new year, we can just all use a break from this game and each other right now. I don’t think I’ll be bringing it back.

I’m sure there are a few sick bastards among you who want to play this game, and to you I say, why?
But I am here to please, so below,  you will see all the additional rules you’ll need to ruin your very own game night in a single sheet. Enjoy, beware, and please let me know how it goes.

Cursed Uno Rules

Print-worthy PDF: Cursed Uno Rules

Good luck.

About Griffin

Griffin’s geek credentials could easily be proven as such: he’s named after a mech from the 80s tabletop wargame Battletech. As if that wasn't enough, he's also a hireable mercenary in the new video game from this franchise, proving that going full-circle *is* possible. He goes to far too many conventions, at least a dozen a year. He's very easily provoked into a long argument about why all of Bruce Willis' characters would beat all of Schwarzenegger's characters in a fight. Just to START, Unbreakable's Bruce Willis would totally take...
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