Uno and Friends will be ceasing in-app purchases June 30th and will be discontinued July 30th. Feel free to vent your frustrations on my post The Decline of Uno and Friends.
This is my second post on Uno and Friends, with my first covering Uno & Friends – Tips and Tricks. This post will cover the recent update, which includes Journey.
My article on Update 17 is out as well. It covers the two recently added Journeys and more.
The Evil-ution of Uno and Friends
In June of 2014, Ronald Huereca posted his Why Uno and Friends is Evil post on this blog, back in a simpler time before Leagues, Uno Dare, Companions, Team Uno and now Uno Journey.
His main points were that the game was:
- A rip-off since it wasn’t free, or at least it wasn’t free if you wanted to play more than a few games without buying tokens
- Encourages players to cheat by the using boosts which cost coins
- Crashed a lot causing players to lose tokens, coins, and win streaks
- Was extremely addictive à la South Park’s “Freemium” episode from Season 18
He vowed to never play again, although I have seen him sneak a game or two and had him play as my partner in Team Uno (and we are AWESOME).
I, on the other hand, was/am addicted, but I had developed ways to avoid spending real money which I posted as Uno and Friends – Tips and Tricks in January of 2015. By that time, Uno had added Leagues, a new game called Uno Dare which allowed you to win a total of 12 avatars (only a couple of which are really useful, the rest are kind of meh), but that article predated Companions, Team Uno, and now Uno Journey.
Some loathe and hate the new features, while some find them quite intriguing. Within this article I will go over Uno and Friends Companions, Team Uno, and the newest incarnation, Uno Journey.
Let’s start with Companions.
There are 31 companions as of this writing. Originally, companions could only be used in the Companion Tournaments which was just fine with me. Now, if you have a companion, you cannot turn it off to play a regular game or a tournament, and you are stuck with whichever one you chose for the entire game/tournament. Companions aren’t available to use in Uno Dare or Team Uno.
You can buy Companions. You can also win them if you place first in one of the three Companion crate tournaments (Wood, Steel or Titanium Crates). You only win a crown and tokens in the Master tournament, but no companions.
You can also get companions as the final reward prize in the Daily Login if you login everyday for 15 days, or complete an objective in Uno Journey and win the game.
Anyone can play in the Wood Crate tournament, but you have to own a certain number of different Companions to be able to play in the Steel and Titanium Crate or play the Master tournament where you don’t win a companion, just a crown and some tokens.
Different Companions are available from each of the tournament crates, but if you buy the Golden Crate, you have a shot at getting any Companion other than the UNO-corns (Blue, Green, Yellow and Red) which you have to win in UNO-corn tournaments that only show up from time to time.
When you win or purchase a Companion crate, you will also get coins with each Companion for levels 1-5 , and tokens for the next 5 levels, you get the Companion plus a boost and/or tokens. If you already have the particular Companion at the Ultimate Power (level 10), you will not get another one. Instead you will receive up to 18 tokens (depends on which tournament crate the critter came from). This isn’t a terrible trade-off for not getting a Companion.
Something you need to know about the Rainbow UNO-corn is, once you have won one UNO-corn in each color, you will receive it. Whee! The Rainbow UNO-corn’s level will match whatever is the lowest level you have for the other UNO-corns. For example, I have a level 6 Blue UNO-corn and a level 3 Yellow UNO- corn, but my Red and Yellow UNO-corns are only at level 2, so my Rainbow UNO-corn is at level 2.
There are 31 different Companions if you count the UNO-corns. Each Companion has its own “special power.” Like the 12 avatars you can win playing Uno Dare, the powers vary in usefulness, the vast majority don’t do much to improve your ability to win.
In addition to having a “special power,” if you manage to win (or buy) 10 of the same Companion, it reaches “Ultimate Ability.” Keep in mind that your Companion’s special power increases at levels 5 and 10 (see paw prints). For example, if the Companion makes a random player draw a card when a specified card is played, this power will be available once per game for levels 1-4, twice for levels 5-9, and 3 times at level 10. You retain the special power, and at level 10 get Ultimate Ability. The number of times the special power is available is crucial to game strategy particularly if you are playing certain levels in Uno Journey. As you will see in the screenshots later in this post, you can guess the level pretty much by the size and shape: those at levels 1-4 are the largest, decrease in size and/or shape at level 5 and again at level 10.
There is an upside and a downside to using each Companion. It is a lot like teasing a kitten: great fun until its claws come out, or it bites you. I have all 31 companions with 21 of them at Ultimate Ability, and I pretty much use only a few of them exclusively: My favorite by far is the Frog, followed by the Dolphin, the White Tiger Cub,and the Sea Horse.
Memorizing the power and Ultimate Ability of each and every Companion would be an awesome feat, but I do have a day job that allows me to have air conditioning and indoor plumbing which I like. An additional issue is that not all Companions look alike. Per the Gameloft FAQs, Shiny Companions are only available from the Golden Crate (meaning they have to be purchased rather than won) and Royal Companions that are found in any kind of Crate but are only available during special events. Shiny Companions sparkle and provide an extra charge to the Companion’s power (the power can be used twice for levels 1-4, 3 times for levels 5-9 and 4 times at level 10). Royal Companions are just fancier versions of regular Companions. I have some that sparkle which means they are Shiny, and I have a large number that are purple which means they are Royal. Oh, and some of my purple Companions also sparkle as you will see in the screenshots.
To help both beginners and Uno gurus alike, I will share the “special power” of all 31 and the “Ultimate Ability” for the those I have at level 10. PLEASE SHARE with me and fellow readers if you know the “Ultimate Ability” for the other 10 Companions. First, let’s cover the 10 Companions I only know the “special power” they have.
I have all the UNO-corns, but I have not unlocked Ultimate Ability for any of them. The “special power” for each of the Uno-corns, with the exception of the Rainbow UNO-corn, is really easy to remember: When an opponent plays an even numbered card the same color as your UNO-corn, a random opponent draws a card. The Rainbow UNO-corn’s power is that when a Draw 4 is played on you, ALL other players draw a card. [I have leveled up to 10 for the Blue UNO-corn on February 15, 2016, and the Red UNO-corn on May 20, 2016. The Ultimate Ability is if you hold an even blue numbered card of the color of the UNO-corn in your hand, you draw one less card if a Draw 2 is played against you. I would conjecture that this is ultimate ability for green and yellow UNO-corn by color as well.]
The other five Companions that I don’t know the “Ultimate Ability” are:
- Blue Jay – when you play a blue numbered card, an opponent’s existing hand is revealed.
- Llama – when a Draw 2 is played on you, discard the lowest-valued card from your hand
- Penguin – when you call Uno, the opponent with the fewest cards draws a card.
- Platypus – when you play a draw two, the player on the opposite side of the table also draws a card.
- Red Panda – when an opponent plays a Draw Two, their existing hand is revealed.
Here are screenshots of the 21 Companions I have at level 10 showing each Companion’s “special power” and “Ultimate Ability.”
General comments on how I rank usefulness of “special powers” and “ultimate abilties”:
- Companions with the power to reveal a player’s existing hand. I consider this a defensive power. The companions that have this power are Blue Jay, Cardinal, Parrot, Rabbit, and Red Panda. These companions are useful IF you don’t use the Spy Boost for regular games and Uno Dare. There is some value when playing a tournament and but even then, if used early in the game, you still don’t know what cards have been drawn since the power was used unless the opponent’s Companion is the Dolphin or Siamese Cat at Ultimate Ability or a Sea Otter. I find these 4 Companions to be relatively useless.
- Companions that make you discard the lowest-value card in your hand when an opponent plays a particular card or you draw a certain card. I also deem this a defensive power. Companions that do this are Chimpanzee, Golden Retriever, Lama, Pomeranian, Sea Otter, and at Ultimate Ability, Dolphin and Frog. This is a a mixed blessing since it may mean that you discard a playable card and will have to draw a card of higher point value that may or may not be playable.
- Companions that make opponents draw cards (or extra cards). This is purely an offensive power (pun intended). Companions with this ability include all the UNO-corns, Dolphin, Gecko, Llama, Llama, Meerkat, Orangutan, Penguin, Platypus, Russian Blue, Sea Horse, Shibu Inu, Siamese Cat, Sloth, Tamarin, Tiger, Turtle, and White Tiger Cub, as well as the Ultimate Ability for the Chimpanzee, Golden Retriever, Pomeranian, and Sea Otter. It is most useful if triggered towards the end of the game.
- Companions that protect you from special cards or cause you to draw fewer cards. This is another defensive ability and more useful than the ones listed above. This is the Ultimate Ability for these companions: Cardinal, Gecko, Meerkat, Orangutan, Parrot, Sloth, Tamarin, Sea Horse, White Tiger Cub, and Turtle . The Ultimate Ability allows you to either take your turn (ignoring skips and reverses) or draw fewer or no cards (Draw 2, Draw 4), making it possible to get rid of cards faster and Uno.
- Companion that will let you take several consecutive turns. I consider this an offensive power, particularly if you can play a Draw 4, Draw 2 or change the color. The Frog is the only companion that allows this. Despite the drawback of discarding the lowest-valued card in my hand at Ultimate Ability which happens whenever I draw a skip, I have won a hell of a lot of games (and surprised or pissed off a lot of opponents) by being able to play 2, 3 or even 4 cards (multiple skips) in a single turn.
Most of the companions have either an offensive power and a defensive Ultimate Ability or vice versa as you can see from the screenshots of the 21 above, but some are purely defensive or purely offensive. In my view, an offensive power with a defensive Ultimate Ability results in more wins, but I am sure other players may disagree.
What is Team Uno?
Team Uno was launched with the last major update. You have a partner and two opponents. Like the create-a-game (now accessed through a tab after you choose Team Uno on the main page), you can invite friends to be your partner or an opponent. Despite having 100 friends, none of them ever seem to be online, so I mostly play with a random partner.
There are 4 levels: green, orange, (it could be red, but it looks orange to me), blue and gold (or maybe yellow). Each level has five games. You start at green level, and once you win 5 games without a loss (this resets the win streak to zero), you win the green crown and unlock the orange level. Once you win 5 games, at the orange level, you get the orange crown and unlock the red level, etc. You also receive 1 scratcher for three wins at the green level, 2 scratchers for three wins at the orange level, and so on. If you have already won the crown for that level, you get the same number of scratchers when you win the 5th game and the win streak for that level returns to zero.
Games are 2 minutes long and green level cost 2 tokens, orange 4 tokens, blue 6 tokens and gold 8 tokens.There are boosts you can use (same as for tournaments). The goal is for either you OR your partner to Uno or have the lowest value hand of the 4 players when the timer runs out in order to come in first. This means you could be holding three Draw 4s, but if your partner is holding a 0 when the timer runs, your team places 1st. In order to help each other, partners can see each other’s hand.
My main gripe is that both noobs and even experienced players at level 100 and above fail to understand that this is TEAM Uno. Instead of seeing this as a cooperative game, they play it as a competition and sabotage their partner, ultimately causing both of them to take a loss. I also hate when I have a Bot as a partner; it isn’t like the Bot is trying to compete against you, but rather that it has no strategy at all either to help you or win the game itself.
Despite the fact that you get scratchers after 3 and 5 wins, the scratchers will never allow you to recover all the tokens spent in playing Team Uno at any level. Games won or lost neither extend nor end your win streak for regular games, but you receive very few points even for a win so it is not a good method to help you level up. Plus, if you buy boosts, you will never get enough coins back with a win to cover those you used as you can in a regular game, particular if you have a 24 hour double coin bonus earned from a tournament win.
Team Uno Tips & Tricks
Before the update that gave us Uno Journey, there was a good reason to play Team Uno as you will learn below. At this point the best tip I can give is: “Don’t!” If you do choose to play it, either voluntarily or as part of Uno Journey, if you discover after the partner’s second play that s/he just doesn’t “get” that this is a cooperative game, just play it like you would any other game and try to Uno first. In fact, when my partner is less than a level 30 or is a Real Bot (automated players supplied by the game that play with no delay), I don’t bother to wait to see if they understand that we need to work together and just treat them as opponents from the get-go.
Let me rant about how much I HATE Uno Journey, or the Journey to Hell as I call it.
As of the current version of Uno & Friends, there are 3 Adventure environments: Jungle, Desert and Arctic with the promise of more to come (sarcastic “Yay” or Ronalfyc “Meh”).
Each adventure has 20 progressively more difficult main objectives. To achieve the particular objective, you will play regular games, Team Uno, Uno Dare, or a tournament. You do get to choose which level of Team Uno (if you have qualified for more than one) or tournament, and I recommend you choose a cheap one.
Each time you meet the main objective (which can border on the ridiculous), you get league points (based on what level of the secondary objective you reach and you also get STARS – extremely sarcastic “w00t”) and you can replay an objective even if you have accomplished it to receive additional league points (or companions).
Most of the games you play on Uno Journey are regular games (2 tokens), but Uno Dare will cost you 5, and while you can play the Green Tournament for 2 tokens, not everyone is good at playing tournaments, and the competition is more fierce in the tournaments that cost the least.
Also winning a tournament or coming in second does not extend your win streak, and the points and coins you get in a tournament are minimal. As I said before, you earn league points if you achieve the objective.
You also have the opportunity to win relatively useless avatars, companions, and maybe even a crown for finishing each Adventure journey (double sarcastic “Yay” or Ronalfyc “Yawn”).
I have finished the Jungle and Desert Journeys (and managed to win the crowns), and managed to successfully achieve the final objective to finish the Arctic Journey but did not win the crown with this as the final objective:
I think you can see the problem here: I have 31 frigging companions, a couple of which are no more than a level two, but with those 2, their special powers are activated if I call Uno and if I don’t, another player will challenge and I draw 2 cards. In order to NOT activate the other companions, I cannot play a certain card, draw a certain card, or hold a certain card; nor can an opponent play certain cards either on me or other players or call Uno.
The rest of the companions either require I not play a numbered card of a certain color or I not play a special card or that my opponents not play a particular numbered or special card which I cannot control.
In other words, in order to reach the objectives in Uno Journey, I am basically required to sabotage my ability to win. This is not only counter-intuitive for competitive play, but the abso-fucking-lutely most frustrating experience I have ever encountered! As indicated above, I finally achieved the Objective but not the crown by using my level 5 Penguin which would be activated if I called Uno. This required watching my timing, drawing cards when I didn’t need to and quite a bit of luck. Not fun at all!
Uno Journey Artic Completed
The Final Evil-ution
With every Uno & Friends update there are major changes. The update that gave us Team UNO was awesome because despite my overall disdain for Team Uno itself, playing it did provide a truly awesome way to save tokens and coins so you could extend your win streak and level up.
Here’s how Team Uno used to be a real boon before the arrival of what I will refer to as Update 16 which gave us Uno Journey:
If you had lost your win streak in regular play or the timer had run out on your win streak, you could immediately exit the game and then log back in, play a round of Team Uno before you played a regular game. If you did this, you could avoid having to pay up to 35 tokens or 5,000 coins to keep your win streak going. If you came in second in the Team Uno game (i.e., lost), you kept your win streak for the regular game and had to pay nothing to play the next regular game. If you won the Team Uno game, the cost to play the regular game was dependent on the Team UNO win streak for the level you had just played: 25 coins for a win streak of 1, 200 coins for 2 wins, 2 tokens for a win streak of 3 or 4. This was considerably cheaper than paying 35 tokens or 5,000 coins when you have a 27 (10x bonus) or more game win streak. At least for now, if you do lose a game or the win streak timer runs out, you can play Team Uno and tournaments without having to pay to keep your win streak.
This recent update still crashes, but these are less frequent than when Ronald and I previously wrote. This is a big plus because, even though Uno started refunding your tokens if there was a crash during a game, there is nothing more frustrating than being in the final round of a tournament ready to Uno and have the game crash unless it is to have it freeze after a hard fought win.
For those new to Uno, the whole point of Uno Dare was to win avatars, some of which really are useful such as the Princess that gives you 10 points for your first Uno call or the Diva that gives you 5 points each time the Mirror boost is used in a game. The game uses the same boosts as regular games. Instead of Wild and Draw 4 cards, there are black Draw 2 Dare cards that let you change the color (no challenge provision) and all blue, green, red and yellow Draw 2 cards also contain the word Dare. When one of these cards is played during the 2 minute game, the target player can either accept the Dare and avatar and just lose your turn or decline the Dare and draw 2 cards. Only if you win the game do you get to add the avatar to your collection, and you may win but already own that particular avatar.
Originally, Uno Dare cost 3 tokens and was a time-limited game that showed up at intervals just like the Uno-corn tournaments do. After the game ended, there were two different Uno Dare Wheels. As I recall, the first one which cost nothing to spin, and you could skip it and proceed to the second which is the same as the current Uno Dare Wheel other than the cost which was based on the number of coins you had won. If you spun the first Uno Dare Wheel, you won either no additional coins, an amount of coins equal to those won in the game, 2x the coins won in the game or you lost all coins won in the game. I didn’t like the odds, so I normally skipped this and went to the second one where you at least had a chance to get your 3 tokens back.
Uno Dare reappeared with the last major update before Update 16 for a lengthy stay . The cost to play increased to 10 tokens, and only the second Dare Wheel remained with a fixed cost of 500 coins. In spite of the fact that the only avatar I am lacking is the Pirate which I really want, I wasn’t going to spend 10 tokens to play because a loss affects your win streak, I rarely receive a Dare with the Pirate avatar, and, for me at least, I am not very good at winning the game.
With Update 16, the price has dropped to 5 tokens, but I still do not play it voluntarily (Journey forces me to).
There a few things to celebrate
Several versions ago, the win streak timer disappeared making it impossible to know when your win streak would end unless you used a stopwatch and knew how long you had at each win streak level. This was a particularly nasty thing if you were a new player. Well, this update puts the timer back on the main page! Nice move Gameloft (one of the few compliments you’ll get here)!
The last major update before Update 16, if you wanted to send free gifts to your friends you could no longer do this from the either the All Time or USA Leaderboards other than for the first twenty friends because it would no longer advance to the second page. You could still do it if you clicked the Social on the main page, clicked “Friends & Mailbox” went into the “Add Friends” tab, but it was cumbersome, and it took me about a week to even figure out how to do this. With Update 16, the functionality has returned to gifting your friends from the Leaderboards (you can still do it through “Add Friends which is more cumbersome), but, alas you are still limited to having only 100 “All Time” friends. And, no, you still cannot delete friends.
Another boon with Update 16 is that it seems that Gameloft finally realized it was really unfair to pit beginners against those who were Uno gurus. I’ve noticed that I am now playing against other players who have attained high levels in regular games, tournaments, and Team Uno. The downside is that if there are not enough players at that level, the foursome is filled with Bots. I HATE BOTS!
So Why Do I Hate the Recent Update?
You will blow through your tokens and coins at an accelerated rate! If you are new to the game, you are well and truly FUCKED. Here is why:
Regular games now last only 4 minutes
When I first started playing Uno and Friends, a game could last an eternity (I played one game for over 40 minutes, and several lasted 20-30 minutes. Nice bang for the buck, uh, token, provided you win since your win streak could have expired during the game. These marathon games generally happened whenever the majority of players had mirror and overdraw turned on. I’ll take a “sacrifice second” just to end a game when if it seems the best option.
A few updates ago, Uno and Friends began entering a two minute overtime (similar to tournaments but without a shortening the time to a card before a time out). Whomever had the hand with the lowest point value won first, second lowest won second, etc. I never timed when “overtime” kicked in, but it seemed to be somewhere at 10-12 minutes. Very few games went into overtime, and while others hated this innovation, I personally loved it particularly when players left the game, and become Bots who don’t play or draw a card until their timer runs out, and it seemed the longer the game, the more likely it was to freeze or lose server connection.
Since I am good at tournaments, and I would win over 95% of games that went into overtime. I understood those who deplored the introduction of overtime since I realize it meant starting a new game more often and that meant using more tokens and (coins for boosts) but the majority of games ended with an Uno either before or during overtime, so I really didn’t mind. I generally have 2000-4000 tokens from playing tournaments, etc. and 2-3 million coins from games as a result of winning tournaments that give you 24 hour double coin and double win streak bonuses.
With Update 16, regular games last only 4 minutes (2 minutes and then the 2 minute overtime kicks in). Very rarely does anyone Uno within the first 2 minutes so the vast majority of games are decided in overtime with a fair percentage being decided by value in your hand. Even with my resources, this sucks, and where is the fun when many of your games do not end with a player Uno?
Not only is Ronald’s main reason that Uno is evil reinforced, but the game itself is a lot less fun even for those of us who are addicted! Gameloft, this is your worst innovation to date!
You No Longer Get League Points for Achieving Goals
This is unless you play Uno Journey or give expensive house gifts.
Why is this a big deal?
I achieved my second place in the Master League by playing nearly every day until I accomplished the daily goal and won the daily prize. Even on those days when I didn’t achieve all three daily goals, I would still get a lot of league points.
Now the only ways to earn league points and move up (or maintain your rank as compared to other participants) so you can get weekly tokens and coins are to play Uno Journey or shell out a bunch of coins (100, 500 or 1000) to buy league gifts for others in your house.
Conclusion – The Evil-Dom
I’m a level 200, and #2 in the Master league. While I would like to ultimately be #1 in both the Master league and on the All Time Leaderboard, a lot of the updates Gameloft has introduced have dampened my drive to reach these goal. I do enjoy playing Uno, but my enthusiasm has been dampened by the changes. If Gameloft keeps providing updates dates that make the game more expensive and at the same time less fun, I will find a new addiction.
As with my last post on Uno & Friends – Tips and Tricks, please feel free comment to comment or ask questions and I will get to them as soon as I can. You may also wish to read the comments for additional insights and may find answers to your questions there as well. Happy gaming!