Jungle Uno

or Why I Love Rule #8: Write it Down Before it Disappears.

Now that summer is here I find myself frequently preparing for guests – beds are made, menus are prepared, and activities are planned. For the last few weeks I’ve also been scratching my head trying to remember the rules of a game I played with friends; a game which always left my stomach sore from laughter. Then like magic, I’m leafing through old memories and voila; Jungle Uno is back!

Before I share the rules (because you’ll certainly want to play) I have to honor my story-teller and begin by sharing how I discovered this infectious game.

GuNews Flash! (July 9, 2003)

I packed up my truck and finally (after three years of planning, preparing, and procrastinating) rolled out-of-town on my road trip adventure. Just me and my red truck on the open road. We hit the road Tuesday around 11am and had crossed two state lines by 5. We, being me and my truck. But isn’t that a silly thought? I now find myself in Abingdon, Virginia catching up with a friend from the last tour I managed, Ellis Island.

That’s her in the middle. We’ll call her Raisa, for that was the name of her immigrant character.

Raisa is working and living at Barter Theatre. The living is dorm-esk. The work is varied and long. The people are talented and witty. The experience of visiting … like sitting down to a banquet of friends.

Last night, Raisa and her bevy of Barter cohorts introduced me to a quiet (not so much) little (not so much) game called Jungle Uno. I was road-tired and napping in the early evening when I heard laughter and shouting through the basement vents. There was also a song from time to time,”to the right, always to the right, never to the left, always to the right,” sung by a chorus of talented voices.

Having been forewarned that Jungle Uno was in my future, I dragged my still groggy self down the stairs and began my lesson. It’s an exhilarating game to play with friends (and strangers) as long no one minds being called a few choice names as they swap their thirteen cards for your Uno.


What you need: Uno Cards, Up to 8 Witty people, Notepad, Pen, a Sense of Humor

What you do: Deal out 7 cards each but don’t turn over the first card just yet

Beginning: After everyone has organized their hand and is poised for rapid play, the dealer may turn over the top card until a number is revealed. Only a number card can start the game. The next player in turn begins quickly by following standard Uno rules of play … but anyone who has a matching card to the one on top (ie: Green 5 on top, Green 5 in hand) may steal the turn by playing faster than you. First card down wins. Play continues in the same direction it was going before the steal (ie: Player one goes, Player 4 steals, Player 5 is next … and so on).

Special Cards: Anytime a Zero ‘Pass’ card is played all players pass their hand to the person sitting to their right. Now everyone repeat the following in a singsong fashion. “To the right, always to the right, never to the left, always to the right.” If you can steal the turn with a matching color Zero then pass and sing again. Did you pass a single card? Keep in mind what it was and tell everyone at the table so someone, if not yourself, can squash them before they go out with your hand. Anytime a One ‘Switch’ card is played you may choose to trade your hand with anyone at the table or keep your own. Keep in mind that if you take the person’s cards to your left, you may get them back the next time a Zero “passing” card is played.

Double Up: If you have duplicate cards in your hand (IE: two blue sevens) and it is your turn to play – or you are stealing the turn –  you may double up and play them both. You can do this with your last two cards and win, but you must say “Uno – Out”. You can do this with reverses thereby double reversing and play continues in the same direction it was heading before you played the reverse. You can double skip and skip the next two players instead of only one. You can double draw forcing the next unlucky player to draw four instead of two.  A double wild draw puts eight cards into the next player’s hand.

Stacking: When a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four is played the next player may avoid drawing by stacking another draw on top and adding the total for the next player. So if player 1 lays down a draw two, then player 2 adds a draw two, then player 4 steals the turn by laying down a doubled up draw two of the same color … player 5 must now draw 8 cards. Whew! You may lay a wild draw four on top of a draw two (stacking up) but you may not lay a draw two on a draw four (stacking down). Easy, right?

Forced Draw Frenzy: If you are player 5, not only are you now sweating and calling player 4 pretty names … you’re also looking at your cards as you draw them. Because if you draw a duplicate card to the one on top (same color and kind) you may stop drawing, play the card, and pass the left over cards you never drew, plus the new cards, to the next player. Player six is now calling you pretty names and hoping to do the same … or stacking another draw two card on top of yours … or breathing a sigh of relief if player 3 steals the turn by playing a duplicate draw card and passing the ever-growing count onto player 4.

Calling Uno: Just like in regular Uno you must say the word when you are down to one card.   You must say it as you play the next to last card or someone can call it on you and you must then draw four cards. If you’re receiving cards from the player to your left on a Zero Pass or from another player on a One Switch you must say it as your hand first touches the card that is now your hand or another player can call it and you must then draw four cards.

Shuffling Sponsorships: So the deck is low and it’s time to shuffle. One player covers the top exposed card with their hand indicating that the game is on pause. One player takes the remaining discards and begins to shuffle. One player (who may be one of the players shuffling or covering) then begins the sponsorship of the shuffle which should be a running advertisement until play resumes. For example: “This shuffle brought to you by my body odor, delivered to you from North Carolina. I’ve been brewing this lovely scent all day and now you can enjoy it too. My B.O. – the scent of the road.” The cards should now be shuffled and play resumes where it left off.   Which is usually in the middle of a Forced Draw Frenzy and the pretty little names resume with the drawing of the twelfth card which is still not a match.


Wild Draw Four 100 points each
Wild 50 points each
Skip, Reverse, Draw Two 20 points each
Number cards are face value 

Winning: If no one gets mad and everyone has fun then you are all winners. But the biggest winner is the player with the lowest score.

Remember: Half the fun is had by getting mad, yelling, screaming, shouting, singing, laughing, revealing someone’s last card color, getting a good hand and loosing it again and watching the player to your left draw fourteen cards then forgetting about it the next round and playing a Zero Pass card. You can now see all fourteen cards plus whatever they had before the draw as you sing, “to the right, always to the right, never to the left, always to the right.” Then get ready to steal the turn and hope you don’t have to sponsor the next shuffle because your mind has just gone blank from sorting 27 cards into two almost manageable rows.

Enjoy Jungle Uno – then come back and tell me the story.