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We’ve been playing Uno wrong for almost 50 years now

Or so its Twitter account would have you believe

Image: Mattel via Twitter
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The social media team behind classic card game Uno has taken a bold step outside of its comfort zone. Its Twitter account, previously known for hitting seasonal topics or innocuous cultural touchstones, is now in the business of enforcing the game’s rules. Fans are simply not having it.

On Saturday, while pop culture fans celebrated Star Wars Day and girded its loins for the next episode of Game of Thrones, the team behind Uno started a firestorm.

“If someone puts down a +4 card,” stated the Uno Twitter account, “you must draw 4 and your turn is skipped. You can’t put down a +2 to make the next person Draw 6. We know you’ve tried it.”

The backlash was swift and, like the game itself, mostly harmless. Fans playfully shot back that they disagree. Many also added that their house rules are a lot more fun to play by.

I paid for these damn cards, we playing how I say we playing!!” said one, in mock outrage.

At issue is the practice of “stacking,” or applying negative consequences to an already negative card and passing it on to the next player. That’s how you can end up with the doomsday scenario of having to pick two dozen cards and miss a turn. Stacking is clearly prohibited in the game’s official rules, and the tweet was meant to playfully point that out.

But, for some inexplicable reason, Uno then decided to double down. Since May 4 its social media team has dedicated a lot of time and energy to responding to its fans. Stacking is against the rules, it says, prompting just a little more anger with each reply.

It’s not like the social media account is getting ratioed here, but it’s still not a great look.

Since it was invented in 1971, Uno has somehow managed to retain its near universal appeal. I don’t think anyone’s going out of their way to play it, but no one really minds when it shows up at the table. Mattel’s classic IP is one of the few gaming experiences that can bring the whole family together regardless of their age, gender, or political affiliation. Even the most awkward gatherings can be enhanced by giving everyone in the room a short stack of cards and the opportunity to screw their neighbor.

But after nearly 50 years on the market, Uno is also much more than the sum of its parts. It’s as much a folk game as anything else these days. Rather than nitpicking the details, Mattel should be finding a way to celebrate the diversity of playstyles that are out there, even if they’re technically against the rules.

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