Is UNO Considered a Board Game? Technically No, But …

card game UNO on green table
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In my years as an Uno player, Uno has always been part of our selection of board games. We keep the Uno cards with the rest of the board games in the living room. The cupboard that we keep all the games in is much-loved, and if I am honest, I have never really thought to separate board games from card games and dice games. 

For all intents and purposes, all of the games in the particular cupboard are considered board games in my family, but are they really all board games? I wanted to find out if Uno is a board game or goes by another classification.

Is Uno considered a board game? According to the dictionary definition of a “board game”, Uno is not a board game. Instead, Uno is a card-shedding game played with its own unique deck of cards – without an actual game board or any other game pieces of objects. 

Even though Uno doesn’t fit in with the definition of a board game, some players of the game still consider (or think of) the game as a board game. It appears that the modern understanding of the term “board game” is loose. 

Where did Uno come from? It’s actually a direct descendent of another card game – or at least it comes from the same idea. Anyone who knows the old card game of Crazy Eights will know that Uno is somewhat a commercial version of the game. 

Crazy Eights is a public domain card game that is played very similarly to Uno, except a standard 52-card deck is used to play. In fact, Uno was created after the inventor had an argument with his son over the rules of Crazy Eights. With a deck of specialized cards, there was no longer any reason to argue over the rules. 

If you want to learn a bit more about Uno and why it may or may not be considered a board game, read on.

What is the Definition of a Board Game? Does UNO Fit That Definition?

family sitting on the floor and playing together a board game at home
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The definition of the term “board game” helps us to understand if card games like Uno can be considered to be a board game. I decided to do a bit of research into this and found that the definitions out there might be a bit outdated. 

The Oxford English dictionary defines the term “board game” as follows: 

“a game that involves the movement of counters or other objects round a board”.

Paperback Oxford English Dictionary (2012) – Page 72 

When you think about this particular description or definition, which is quite clear in my opinion, it becomes ever so obvious that Uno is not a board game, but actually a classic card-shedding type game in its own right. But that doesn’t mean that it’s classified as such by everyone. 

If you take the time to scroll through forums and conversions on Reddit, you will notice that there are mixed opinions about this very argument and the points made are of interest. If you have a bit of time, browse through online forums that are populated by board game and card game enthusiasts. 

But Maybe UNO Can Be a Board Game?

It is hard not to notice that most card games are still considered board games, including Uno. How so, you ask? 

When it comes to card games fitting into the actual definition of the term “board game”, some could argue (and they do!) that the table can actually be considered the board and the cards can be considered the game pieces. When you are thinking like that, Uno fits the definition of a board game quite nicely, doesn’t it? I found it quite hard to come up with a solid or definitive answer to my question of “is Uno a board game?”

uno card game on wooden table
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I thought that the definitions of terms could help us have a deeper understanding of the situation and could help me decide whether my pack of Uno cards is worthy of board game status or not. 

The Lexico dictionary (which is powered by the Oxford dictionary) defines the term “card game” as follows: 

“a game in which playing cards are used”. 

lexico.com 

I find this particular definition quite limiting on games, to be honest. Actually, both definitions are quite limiting. The definition of a board game does not include playing cards at all. What does this mean for board games that also have playing cards included? And the definition of a card game does not include a board or game pieces at all. What does this mean for card games that also include a board and game pieces of some kind? 

A “playing card” is also a card that forms part of a standard 52-card deck of cards, so it seems to exclude specialized cards created for a specific game. What does this all mean? It means that I was fairly confused while doing my research!

In my personal opinion, it means that standard accepted definitions of card games and board games are based on old traditional game types where either cards or boards with pieces were used. When these definitions were determined, modern games that include both cards and boards with pieces were probably rare or even non-existent. 

While traditional card and board games seem to be covered by the dictionary definitions thereof, there seem to be no modern definitions available for modern board games and card games where both boards and cards are used – in some instances, even specialized printed cards. And perhaps that needs to change!

people playing together a card and board game
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How Do Stores & Online Sites Classify Card Games?

To further my research, I thought it might be interesting to see how the sellers of games view traditional board games, card games, and modern versions of games that include a combination of a board game and card game. You might want to turn to the local games shop or various online sites to see how they classify your favorite card games. Do they consider Uno to be a board game or do they slot this game into a category of its own?

After taking a look at the local games shop in my area, I found that the Uno cards were stocked with the rest of the board games, including Trivial Pursuit, Snakes and Ladders, Chess, and so on. The shop did have a separate area for specialist or collectible card games, though, but for the standard/classic card games (Uno included), they were all found together with the board games.

Another interesting test that I did was to search for board games online. I found that on popular websites, such as Amazon, when you search for board games, card games, including Uno, are displayed on the list among the traditional games that include an actual board and game pieces. Some websites, however, do have a separate category specifically for cards. 

You will find that when searching card games online, only card games come up, whereas if you search for board games, both traditional board games and card games are displayed. That is food for thought, in my opinion. It implies that card games are considered a type of board game, but board games are not considered a type of card game.

How Card Games and Board Games are Similar (Why UNO Can Be Considered a Board Game)

Uno cards and board games
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While a card game such as Uno is not strictly considered a board game due to its official definition, there are various reasons why it should be – these are a handful of similarities between the two types of games. Below are a few of the similarities between card games and board games (and the reasons why Uno could be considered a board game):

  • Board games are designed with the intended purpose of providing group entertainment (the game is played with other people). Uno and other card games share the very same design purpose.
  • Both card games and board games provide hours of fun for the whole family or the entire gathering of friends. 
  • Board games are played on a tabletop. Card games are also played on a tabletop. The tabletop is often considered the “board” for card games. 
  • According to the definition of a “board game”, counters and objects are moved around a board. Much the same in Uno, cards are moved around just like board game pieces and objects are/would be.
  • Card games such as Uno and most board games have similar play styles and game mechanisms. 
  • Card games, including Uno, are sold in the same stores and in the same sections as other classic, traditional, or modern board games are.

Are Card Games Board Games?

In my opinion, modern card games that have their own specialized deck of cards should certainly be considered board games. It is hard to separate them, isn’t it? In my family home, we do not discriminate against card games even though they do not fit into the strict definition of the term “board games”. Our card games are certainly board games. What’s the right answer for you and your family? It is really up to you.