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UNO Strategy, Part 1: Wild Draw Four

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Yes, I’m a nerd. Shut up.

I’ll come right out with it: I’ve become obsessed with UNO on Xbox Live Arcade. I hadn’t played UNO in a long time. It’s an interesting game. Some poker skills actually transfer over nicely.

However, UNO is insanely random. Even more so than poker, someone who is “good” can often be beaten by someone who has almost no clue what they’re doing. That said, one should be able to increase their chances of winning any given four-player game to over 25%.

I should also point out that the games are a lot more fun once you’ve played a while and boosted your “TrueSkill” up into the 20s. Up until that point you run into a lot of, erm, morons. You’ll still run into morons, but at least these morons will typically stick through an entire match.

I titled this post “Part 1” because I’m sure I’ll have more to say; not because I have some grand plan here. In this one, I’m going to concentrate on Wild Draw Four. This is some pretty common-sense stuff, but I wanted to write it all down. These are really just scattered notes.

Wild Draw Four is a pretty mean card. It forces the next player to draw four cards and they miss their turn. You’re only supposed to play it when you don’t have any card of the color that needs to be played. Note that I said color. If a green 4 is on the table and all you’ve got is a WD4 and a red 4, you can play the WD4 and win a challenge.

Anyway, if the victim challenges your WD4 and it turns out you were bluffing, you have to draw four cards and the victim doesn’t lose their turn. If you weren’t bluffing, they have to draw 6 cards instead of 4.

How can you tell if someone may be bluffing? It really depends, but generally, if they have a ton of cards in their hand and they play a WD4, they are likely bluffing. If they only have 4 or 5, they’re probably not. It’s also somewhat more likely that they’re bluffing it they’re playing it at a particularly convenient time, when you have UNO, for example. Careful with that one, though.

And if a player has 2 cards and plays a WD4, changing the color and leaving them with 1 card — don’t challenge it. I have no idea why people challenge in situations like that. They’re almost never bluffing, and have very little incentive to. The only time I can think of that this would make sense is if you played a wild card and called UNO, then it went around to the player who proceeds you without changing color, and that player has only a numbered card of that color and a WD4. In that or similar situations, it really would make sense for them to bluff — in fact, it’s the only reasonable thing to do.

But if you have a handful of cards and someone with 2 cards plays WD4 on you, they’re probably not bluffing. The only motivation they’d have to bluff is if they think they’re going out very soon and they want to fatten up other players’ hands. But if they’re close to winning, they’ll likely have few cards, which makes it less reasonable for them to bluff.

You won’t see this often in the 20+ TrueSkill range, but it does happen — The current color is (for example) red, and someone with a lot of cards plays a WD4 and chooses… red. I’ve seen this. Someone tried it on me. Of course I challenged it and won. If the current color is red and they play a WD4 and change it to red, that implies that they have red, and can thus be challenged. A few games later I saw someone do this to someone else and the other player didn’t challenge. I’m not sure why. Perhaps they assumed that the guy who played the WD4 was insane. At that point, even if the player is insane, you’re really better off challenging it.

As far as I can tell, most players don’t bluff with WD4 most of the time. The vast majority of challenges I see are lost. I think that most players like to hold onto WD4 for an appropriate time or something.

When should you bluff? WD4 is worth 50 points if it’s in your hand for another player when they go out. Sometimes you have to bluff, especially if you’re sure you’re about to lose. It doesn’t matter if they challenge you and win, since there’s a decent chance that the four cards you’d have to draw won’t be more than 50. You could draw three Reverses and you’re screwed, but hey. And if the player had UNO and didn’t challenge, then you might be ok for a while longer.

Finally, sometimes you can catch someone bluffing when they appear to being playing WD4 out of anger. If they recently were forced to draw a lot of cards and now have the chance to pay someone back, they’ll sometimes bluff a WD4.

Wavebird

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Kelly and I stumbled across a Wavebird the other day.

A Wavebird is a wireless gamecube controller. You can play gamecube games on a wii, but it’s kind of a drag to use wired controllers. Buying a new one can be expensive.

But we found one at an FYE in the Burnsville mall. It was kind of in a weird corner. $30.

Score.

Sopranos, a week later

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Ok, so my dad hated the finale.

I still like it, though I still haven’t entirely settled on what happened. But I’m pretty sure.

In a few weeks I’m gonna re-watch the last season (both parts).

I’m not going to post an interpretation or anything — thousands of other fans are doing that already, and I don’t have any insight that others don’t have. But here’s something kind of funny. Early on in the finale, for some reason, I started looking for imagery resembling “The Last Supper”. I don’t remember exactly why, but I think it was right after Bobby’s funeral, when everyone was grubbing that I started looking for it. Which is funny, because this image completely sailed past me until someone pointed it out elsewhere:

Tony Soprano’s Last Supper

It was right there at the end, but in all the excitement, I completely missed it.

That was a weird moment anyway. Tony walks into the diner and looks for a place to sit. Then it cuts directly to this shot. It’s not exactly a jump cut, but it is weird. They were trying to call attention to this shot.

Another funny moment, which was likely identical to what happened in many people’s living rooms: When Phil said, “Say bye-bye to grandpa!” we all cracked up — several of us said, “Bye-bye Phil!” enthusiastically. Least surprising death ever. But very entertaining.

Like I said, I liked the entire finale, including the ending.

Sopranos

Monday, June 11th, 2007

No spoilers here.

I liked it.

Yup, that’s all.

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