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I had this scenario today where I played not to win but to just accumulate all the cards. The other player (just the two of us) was playing to win. You can argue this is unsportsmanlike however I was curious to see the outcome! I countered all their moves to the point there was no more cards left to pick up. The rules say to reshuffle the discard pile and use it as a new pickup pile. So we reshuffled and I continued to pick up cards without playing (except sporadically to force my opponent to pick up new cards or change the colour).

We repeated this until I held all the cards except two, which were held by my opponent. I deduced the colour they held (yellow and red), and the card on discard was blue (and I decided to pick up, so that final discard card became my pick up card). At that point there are no more cards to pick up.

There's nothing that I can see in the rules to specify what happens in this situation. So, how should it be handled? Is this a stalemate/tie? Is it decided by who has the fewest cards left? etc. Has anyone been so foolish to try this approach before?

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    That sounds like it is against the rules as there should be no possible way for every card to be in someone’s hand. When drawing cards you should only be able to draw when you can’t play a card that matches either the current cards color or number. – Joe W Apr 21 '18 at 19:07
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According to the UNO rules, drawing without playing is a legal move:

RENEGING
You may choose not to play a playable card from your hand. If so, you must draw a card from the DRAW pile. If playable, that card can be played, but you may not play a card from your hand after the draw.

However, the intent of this rule is more likely to allow a player to strategically hang on to a card (for instance saving a wild card for later) than for someone to hold onto all the cards.

Given that the goal of the game is to get rid of your cards, in the normal manner of play this is a scenario that should never happen, so the rules do not cover this case.

A few possible options for a house rule for when this happens:

  • If a player can't play and can't draw, their turn is skipped and the next player goes
  • The game is a draw
  • If you're including the scoring rule, the game ends, and you each score points for the cards in your opponents hands
  • Thanks, I think you are right, there needs to be a house rule for it. – Mike Apr 23 '18 at 8:26
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I think you are missing something important or playing by a house rule variant. When you draw a card, either because you can't or don't want to play, you can only draw 1 card per turn. When you consider how many cards there are in a deck, 112, I would find it highly unlikely that you can prevent the other player from going out in the time it takes you to draw the entire deck.

Not sure how you can be countering all the moves when your action each turn will generally consist of drawing a card and not playing now.

Rules

Cards in deck

108 cards as follows:
19 Blue Cards - 0 to 9
19 Green Cards - 0 to 9
19 Red Cards - 0 to 9
19 Yellow Cards - 0 to 9
8 Draw Two cards - 2 each in Blue, Green, Red and Yellow
8 Reverse Cards - 2 each in Blue, Green, Red and Yellow
8 Skip Cards - 2 each in Blue, Green, Red and Yellow
4 Wild Cards
4 Wild Draw 4 cards

When you can't play a card

If the player doesn't have anything to match, he must pick a card from the DRAW pile. If he can play what is drawn, great. Otherwise play moves to the next person.

When you don't want to play a card

A player may choose not to play a playable card from his hand. If so, the player must draw a card from the DRAW pile. If playable, that card can be played, but the player may not play a card from his hand after the draw.

  • I was drawing cards every turn unless the opponent had only 2-3 cards left, in which case I'd play a draw 2 or change colour (via matching the card on the discard pile) – Mike Apr 23 '18 at 8:25
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Suppose you did deplete the deck before an opponent could play out. Now if no one can play, what happens? I'd argue that one of three situations occurs:

A) The game is drawn. Note that if you're losing, this is unlikely to be an effective strategy because your opponent will have a lot of time to play every card he/she has before you can acheive this goal, and there are only so many cards that can prevent this.

B) If one cannot play or must draw, they forfeit their turn instead of drawing. This is not an official rule, however most domino games use this idea to prolong games, and if implemented, could solve the issue completely, since someone will be able to play at any given time, and then there's another card in the deck to draw. If every player decided to not play cards and instead forfeit the turn, obviously the game would draw by agreement.

C) Maybe another deck could be brought into play, and continue with another set of cards added in. Again, not an official ruling, but it does indefinitely solve the problem. (If it somehow, against all odds, occurs with the two decks, bring in more)

So most likely, the game will be drawn. This would have to be a draw by agreement, or a forfeiture, since the rules don't address this situation.

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