I grew up on table games. I have fond memories of playing Life and Monopoly (gasp!) with my parents and siblings. My grandmother and aunt taught me how to play poker. Games became a foundation of vital life skills, a social connector that wherever I am among my travels, there was always a game to play or learn and interesting people to play them with.
It only follows that I would take a similar approach with my own kids. We play various board games (Potato Pirates and Dixit being in recent rotation) and cards games (Exploding Kittens alway gets silly). But if there is one game that bridges time and space, it’s Uno. If I have known you and spent time with you, chances are we’ve probably played Uno together. Everyone loves that game.
When Monica told me that they had picked up a new variation called Uno Flip, I was game to give it a round. Little did I understand what was about to happen.
“The kids and I played it and it took a little longer than expected.”
“That much fun? You played a few games?”
“No, just the one, ” Monica repeated with a heavy sigh.
If alcohol would have been nearby, she would have probably been drinking it. Maybe the bottle was already gone. The signs of trouble were all around me. The stone cold silence of the house. The card deck was pinned under a table leg with a salt circle around it to ward off ghosts.
Or is the circle to trap the ghosts? I’m not up to speed on my culinary ghost circles.
Regardless it was all a bad sign. Rose tinted memories while the soundtrack to the Wonder Years played in my head blinded me. Yeah, my memory soundtrack is from the Wonder Years.
After dinner, the family collected around the table. There was palpable excitement and one last warning that I ignored.
“Dad, I’m probably not going to want to see your face tomorrow,” Isabella said in the most terrifying the-twins-from-Shining stare way that she has perfected. No, she has not seen that movie, which makes the stare all that much worse.
Cards were dealt swiftly across the table. The rules appeared to be not much different from regular Uno, with the exception that the cards are double sided and when a player plays a certain “flip” card you turn your hand around play a new set of neon colors. The box deemed it the light and dark side. It seemed fun.
You naive fool.
The first 15 minutes or so, it appeared that it would be a rather short round. I was down to three cards in a favorable position it appeared, no one was terribly stacked with cards. It was at this point that Evelyn played a flip card and that’s when the pain began.
Turns out the flip side is not like a regular Uno deck. No, there are +5 card draws on the reverse flip side. When played, they can be stacked like regular cards. Which, with two cards in my hand, I was blindsided by the twins and Monica stacking +5 cards which resulted in a 15 card draw. Laughter ensued.
“We got you Dad!” was the cackled laughter of Evelyn.
And while you would this couldn’t get any worse, the logic of this game became quite clear: a flip to the so-called dark side was pure evil. No +5 cards? How about draw until you reach a color, a card that appears innocuous until you draw 25 cards off the stack looking for a color.
As such subsequent turns became a bloodbath of short hands near victory turning into deeply stacked 20 card hands.
And so the game trudged on in the worst possible way. 15 minutes turned to 45 turned to an hour and 15. Laughter turned to bitter resent me and vicious attacks, stacks of cards being pulled off the pile, a frustration of being so close and then not even being in the game. At one point I carried 50 cards, nearly half of the 112 card deck. Evelyn was the first to retire. Allison, seeing the hilarity and needing to fill her quota of teenage destruction, took over Evelyn’s hand.
20 minutes later, Isabella had somehow sneaked a victory and hour and 35 minutes in. I was holding 42 cards. In the classic family game spirit though, this was the last person standing version of this game. So we trudged onward. Two hours in, the exchanges became heated.
“That was a reverse, it’s not your turn Daaaaddddd.”
“What are you doing, play the double, saddle her with cards!”
Finally 2 hours 25 minutes in, Monica walked away from the table. Allison could have flipped over the table.
“You had her cornered, how could you let her win! ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh”
Allison is competitive. I imagine she’ll be the kind of blackjack player who will get dragged out of a casino messing up her run for hitting on a 19.
We continued, the clock now nearly 3 hours in.
“Alli….I can’t do this anymore. I’m holding 24 cards, I have no path to victory.”
“I do not accept.”
“I am your Dad, accept my sadness and take your victory.”
“It’ll be hollow! I don’t want it, play the 5+ card.”
“Doooooo ittt Dad.”
I played the 5+. She stacked another 5+. I dropped another. When the dust settled, I was now stuck with some 60 cards. In the successive rounds, my spirit to continue living no gone and hoping for a swift death or whatever would get me out of the hell of this game, she was victorious.
The total game time: 3 hours, 34 minutes, 22 seconds.
“I’m going to bed Dad.”
“That’s for the best. I don’t think we should talk for a while.”
It’s been several weeks now. I hear them in the house, but I don’t see my family now. I think I may have died playing the game. Maybe I’m the one trapped in the salt circle around the card deck under the dining table leg.
Damn you Uno Flip. Damn you.