Uno was a card game I had never attempted until one fateful day. I had never played either the card game or the online version of Uno until a friend convinced me to download the game. The game was fun, and it was easy for me to get hooked on it within a few days.
Is Uno and Friends Free?
The game advertises itself as free, but, no, the game isn’t free by a long shot. Ronald Huereca wrote a post about how Uno and Friends is evil, and I have to agree with his totally correct argument that Uno & Friends is not a free game (see the “Freemium” episode from Season 18 of South Park).
If you are reasonably adept at Uno and Friends and follow a few tips, the game is a lot fun; it’s a great escape and a much less costly and time-consuming alternative than trying to keep 3 or more farms going in Farmville.
If you want to become an Uno Guru, you will need tokens, coins, card sense, and luck. To get started, be willing to cough up $30-$40 dollars, and be willing to walk away from a win-streak, which will eat up a lot of tokens if you happen to lose.
Uno and Friends Tokens
You need tokens to play games (2 tokens for regular play, 2 to 50 for tournaments, and 2 to 30 to extend a win streak).
Here are some ways to get free tokens:
Tokens when you first install the app
You get some tokens when you install the app and create an account (I don’t recall how many, it’s been a while). You will run out of these very quickly.
Tokens from watching advertisements
You can watch commercials and get up to 4 free tokens per day (big whoop, that’s only 2 fucking regular games).
Scratchers are a cost-effective way to get tokens especially when there is a scratcher sale. Percentage-wise, you get more tokens with scratchers than from a sale on tokens themselves, but it is still basically gambling.
You will also get a variable number of free tokens from free scratchers available 3 times a day provided you don’t have too many tokens (at a certain point, you don’t get scratchers anymore).
You get 1 free token for “leveling up” (but the number of games you have to win to get 1 token makes this another big whoop).
Win streaks and Contests
You also get tokens at intervals for increasing your win streak. If you place in a daily or weekly contest (based on wins or points), you may get a maximum of ten tokens and some coins, but the outlay far exceeds the return.
The bottom line on tokens
Unless you are both an astute player and incredibly lucky, obtain an amulet from a witch, or sell you soul to satan, you will never, never, ever recover the tokens you spend in regular play. This means that if you watch commercials and scratch scratchers for a few weeks saving up tokens, quit after a few games each day, it will take you at least a year to reach my current level of 170 (highest level is 200).
The other and nasty alternative is: wait for sales and shell out some cash for tokens! Wait, this game is supposed to be free, right?
You need coins to buy boosts and to save your win streak, although saving your win streak also requires tokens on occasion.
Boosts (aka, “cheats“) give you an advantage when you play. You can play and win without them, but may the odds be never in your favor. If you really want to compete, you really, really need boosts (and the coins to buy them).
You get a few coins when you download the app, but only enough to whet your appetite. Coins are much easier to obtain than tokens. You don’t have to deal with commercials or scratchers. Play a game, and you get coins based on some enigmatic formula that is somehow related to points.
When you send a free gift to your friends, you will get coins. I have about 100 UNO Friends, and I receive at least 8,000 coins a day even if I don’t log in and play. If you receive a gift from another player in a game, you get coins. Increase your win streak, and you get coins. Win a weekly or daily contest, and you get coins.
So what are the boosts and what do they do?
Reshuffle allows you to get a different hand before you play your first card. The Reshuffle boost is a crap shoot: the new hand may be better, worse or pretty much the same, but if you are dealt only two suits with no special cards, you definitely want another shot.
You should definitely want the 50% points boost since it is cheap, increases both points and coins, and lets me level up quicker resulting in a few more free tokens.
Dampen and Spy
If I could only buy one boost, it would be Dampen, which is purely a defensive boost. This boost cuts the number of cards you have to draw when hit with a Draw 2 or Draw 4.
I also like Spy, which allows me to see other players’ hands and allows me to manipulate the play a bit. The Spy boost doesn’t help much when a player decides to draw rather than play, with newbies who seem to have no particular strategy of getting rid of certain cards, or when you are holding 4 yellow 3’s and no one has a yellow or a 3.
Mirror is a pretty evil boost. If your next opponent has mirror and you play a Draw 2 or Draw 4 on them, you will draw cards when they do (and your opponent will draw half the cards if he has Dampen). It is also an expensive boost to buy.
The Mirror boost serves as both an offensive and defensive weapon. Once players figure out you have Mirror, they will usually draw when it’s their turn rather than using a Draw 2 or Draw 4 on you.
The best option if the next player has Mirror is to wait for a reverse, and then pray to the gods that the other player doesn’t have Mirror also. Then you can unleash your Draw 2 and Draw 4 fury on the poor bastard.
If you are playing against Bots (players provided to fill out the foursome), they have no boosts, so you don’t have to worry slaughtering them. It’s really easy to determine if a player is a bot. Can you give them a gift in game or add them as a friend? No? Then, they’re a bot.
Evil, Evil, Overdraw
The most annoying and expensive boost is Overdraw. Overdraw forces players to draw two cards instead of one when they are unable to play with their given hand.
I admit that I do buy Overdraw, but I will only turn it on if some other douchebag player has it on (I do this to level the field in a sort of passive-aggressive payback). Occasionally, I will forget to turn Overdraw off before I start a game, and I feel horrible for the other players. Since I can’t turn the boost off, I send nice gifts during the game.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks I have learned throughout the many Uno & Friends games I have played. These tips and tricks will allow you to make the most of your tokens and coins. I haven’t spent any real money on the game in about 9 months.
Multiple consecutive wins results in a points multiplier: 2x for 3 wins, 3x for 6 wins, 4x for 9 wins, etc. The highest multiplier you can reach is 10x points. More points means more coins for winning, which allows you to buy more boosts, thus increasing your chance of winning even more. The 50% boost in points is also subject to the multiplier, hence the reason I buy it.
Ah, the rub on win streaks. Once you start a win streak, you have a finite amount of time before you have to play and win again (or place 2nd twice in a row) in order to maintain your streak. After your first win, you have 12 hours. The more you win, the less time you have until you have to play and win. It gets down to having to play and win every 30 minutes. If you fail to play or you come in 3rd or 4th, you are prompted to pay tokens or coins to keep the streak alive, and the price goes up the higher the win streak: up to 30 tokens (the cost of 15 regular games!) or 1500 coins. The point here? Know when to walk away.
Send and accept friend requests
Okay, I hate game requests from Facebook friends for games on Facebook that I don’t play, but if you are playing Uno using the Apple or Android App, you can avoid becoming the Jehovah’s Witness of games by friending those you are playing and accepting requests from everyone who sends you one.
Friends equate to coins, which equate to boosts, which equate to better opportunities to win.
Join a League to Win a Weekly Contest
Once you have won a game, you will be asked to compete in League play. There are four leagues with four levels each. The highest league is the Masters League.
When you win a game or place 2nd, you get bonus coins based on your league and level in the league. The bonus gets larger with each league and level. These are in addition to coins earned for the game. The higher the league, the higher the number of points you need to level up in the league.
You must, absolutely must, play tournaments.
I am really good at tournaments, but just because you excel in regular play does not assure that you are a good tournament player.
Tournament wins do not increase your win streak. Strategy for tournaments is not the same as for regular games. Tournaments are three rounds of 2 minutes each, and since rarely is anyone able to Uno during a round, the key is to get rid of all your special cards before the timer hits 15-20 seconds. The time you have to play a card speeds up the closer the timer gets to zero, so you have to think and play fast.
You have to place either 1st or 2nd in the first and second rounds to get to the final round. If you make it to the final round (and your game hasn’t crashed at this point), you can place 3rd or 4th to get your entry tokens back. If you are 2nd, you get double your tokens back (usually). If you win (hooray!), you get three times what you used for entry.
I advise buying all boosts for tournaments. The boosts are not the same as for regular play. You do have Reshuffle, 50% points, and Dampener boosts. There is no Spy, Mirror, or (thankfully) Overdraw.
Instead, you have Shield (allows you to play a card after someone plays a draw 2 or wild draw 4 on you), Snare (allows you to play the first time someone plays a skip or reverse on you), and Safety Net (if you have 6 or more cards when the timer hits 30 seconds, the number of cards you have is reduced to 5).
Shield is more useful than Snare, but with both, you will have to draw a card if you can’t play.
Safety Net costs the most coins, and you rarely have to use it, but it has let me come in second a number of times. I’ve noticed that other players don’t buy this boost and are shocked when I go from 8 cards to 5 when the timer hits 30 seconds. It’s a way to psyche out your opponents.
There are “regular” tournaments: Green (2 tokens), Bronze (4 tokens), Silver (5 tokens), Gold (9 tokens), Platinum (11 tokens), Ruby (19 tokens), Pearl (23 tokens), and Diamond (37 tokens).
As I said earlier, if you get to the final round, you will at least get your tokens back. You have to qualify to play each level, and competition at the lower levels is fierce since the amount at stake isn’t horrendous. I tend to play the Diamond tournament a lot since the return on investment is pretty high.
Nearly every weekend, there is a special tournament that lasts from 2 to 5 days that will either double your win streak bonus or double your coin bonus. Everyone can play these, and competition is fierce. The best special tournament is when the prize is to play for half price for a day or two. Entry costs anywhere from 4 to 15 tokens. For most of these, you have to win the final round to get any additional tokens. If the entry is only 4 tokens, you may want to play just so you get more coins to buy boosts for your regular games.
There are also House Tournaments. There are 4 Houses (green, yellow, red and blue), and like in Harry Potter, you are assigned to one. If your House wins the prior week, you’re allowed to compete. The cost to enter is 25 tokens and if you win, you get 45 tokens and a special crown. This is more an ego thing than a way to amass tokens, since if you lose in the final round you get nothing.
Loss of Server is still a major issue, particularly in tournament mode. Loss of connection with the server tends to happen most when you are playing in the final round. This is more than annoying even though the game does automatically credit your tokens back. You do not get credit for any boosts you have used throughout the tournament. That, and you have to start the tournament all the way over.
I have played Uno & Friends rather religiously since I installed the app on my phone, and have shared the lessons I have learned along the way. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get back with you. If you have your own tips and tricks, please leave those in the comments as well.