One (Card Game)

Date: 2023-06-19 | observe | community | games |

One is essentially Uno with regular playing cards and extra rules.

It can be described as modern Uno and streamlined Mao. As such, it will have many similarities to these games but some key differences in philosophy and implementation.

  • Uno - Uses the same core play style but many rules are added to make the game faster and more competitive. Think of it like your favorite house rules formalized.
  • Mao - While many rules are brought over from Mao, One removes many others that are clunky / not fun / don't scale. For example rules are the same across all plays (no added rules) and all players are told the rules. Games are more fun when everyone plays on an even footing - so let's maximize for fun and play fair.

How to play One

Note: This is a working document and will be updated for clarity / as edge cases arise.

Basic Play

The basic play cycle is very similar to Uno using basic playing cards and with scoring across rounds.

  • Use 2+ decks of regular playing cards (2 is usually fine, you may want more if more people are playing)
  • Each player starts with 5 cards
  • Play goes to the left, starting with the player to the left of the dealer
  • Each turn you can either (assuming no power cards like a skip or draw two limit your options):
    • Draw a card
    • Play a card (face value and / or suit must match)
  • A round ends when a player ends their turn, has no cards left in their hand, and calls "One"
  • "Time outs" may be used to stop the game to discuss / clarify / etc (more in "Time Out" section)

Power cards

Like Uno, there are some cards that have "powers". Here are the special cards.

  • 2 - Go again. Basically gives you another turn.
    • Multiples - Multiple 2s is a little weird and gives you that many turns back-to-back. So playing 2 2s allows you to essentially play a turn then get another turn after that.
  • 7 - Draw Two. The next player must either draw two or play another card that forces draws (like a 7 (draw two) or Joker (wild draw four)).
    • When a player plays a 7 or Joker instead of drawing, the next player must now draw the total amount of draw cards. For example, if a player plays a 7 (+2) and the next player plays a 7 (+2) then the next player would need to either draw 4 or play a 7 / Joker.
    • Multiples - Multiple 7s will simply increase the number of draws additively. So playing 2 7s would mean +4 draws to the next player instead of +2.
  • 8 - Skip.
    • Multiples - Multiple 8s will simply skip the next players additively. So playing 2 8s at the same time would simply skip the next two players.
  • Jack - Wild. Allows the player to call a suit, effectively changing the suits that can be played.
    • The suit changes to whatever suit is called first (tie goes to the player who played it).
    • You can play a Jack on a Jack.
    • Multiples - Playing multiple Jacks does not change the effect as only one suit can be called.
  • Ace - Reverse.
    • Multiples - Reverses can cancel each other out - so if you play two aces at the same time, play continues on as normal (180 + 180 = 360 which is just the original direction).
  • Joker - Wild draw four.
    • Wild follows same rules as Jack (wild).
    • Draw four follows same rules as 7 (Draw two).
    • Multiples - Playing multiple jokers still only allows one suit call but does increase the draws additively (2 Jokers would mean a draw 8 (4 + 4) to the next person)
  • Spades - Spades are a special suit which require you to call them - "Calling the Spade". This just means declaring the card you put down - so if you played an eight of spades, you must say "eight of spades" or else get a penalty card.
    • Multiples - If you play multiple spades at the same time you must call them as such. So if you play two eights of spades you must say "two eight of spades" or "eight of spades" twice.

In general, playing multiple power cards at the same time increases the effect additively. Each card has a section on multiples to explain how it works.

Playing multiple cards at the same time: You may play multiple cards at the same time if they are the exact same face value / suit. So if you had two 3s of diamonds, you could play them at the same time but you could not play a 3 of diamonds and a 3 of hearts at the same time.

Rules / Penalty Cards

Where One starts to really differ from Uno is with its additional rules which aim to penalize mistakes and make the game go faster.

Where One starts to differ from Mao is that it uses a static rule system that remains the same across plays and that everyone is informed about.

There are basically 4 core rules that all other rules / penalties stem from:

  • Don't be wrong
  • Don't take too long
  • Don't ask questions
  • Don't say bad words

All rules take place while game is in progress. When in doubt - call a Time Out to ask questions / discuss rules / understand what is going on.

All penalties are enforced through the use of penalty cards. Penalty cards are a useful punishment because they make it harder for the player to go out / increase their possible score for the round.

Each rule break may be punished with one penalty card. However it is possible (and often common) for multiple rule breaks to happen at once in which case 1 penalty card should be given for each rule break.

Note that penalty enforcement is up to the players in the game. If a player breaks a rule but no other player catches it - it essentially didn't happen. A rule break must be called out and a penalty card distributed for enforcement to take place.

Don't be wrong.

While play is happening (i.e. not in a time out), if you do something that is provably wrong then a penalty card may be distributed.

Common examples of this include:

  • playing when it's not your turn
  • playing something that's not allowed

But this rule scales out quite a lot and thus could include:

  • Telling someone it's their turn when it's actually someone else's turn
  • Distributing a penalty card to someone when they don't deserve one (in this case you're wrong because you said something was a rule break but it's not)
  • Saying something in unrelated discussion while the game is going on that is provably false ("a pig can fly under its own power")

Don't take too long

Usually a 5-10 second allowance is given to each player on their turn (this can be tuned / agreed upon based on the group playing).

If a player takes longer than this, they are considered "taking too long" and can be given a penalty card.

This rule is usually enforced to ensure people are paying attention and the game moves forward smoothly. For example some players love to think real hard about their play and should thus be penalized for holding up the game. Other players will not know it's their turn so it's fun to punish them for it.

Don't ask questions

During play of the game (i.e. outside of a Time Out) if a player asks a question then they are given a penalty card.

This is mostly to ensure that in-depth discussion is done during a Time Out but is also very fun because people often forget this / it's easy to bait people into it.

Don't say bad words

You shouldn't say bad words and thus saying bad words awards you with a penalty card. Bad words can be decided on as a group but always includes cuss words and may include other words depending on the group's vocabulary.

This is a great way to practice keeping cool under pressure because you will likely want to say bad words quite a lot during the game. Don't!

Time Outs

Time Outs are used to pause the game and facilitate discussions that would be hard / impossible to do while the game is ongoing. For the most part, Time Outs pause play of game and void most game rules for their duration:

  • You may be wrong without getting penalty cards
  • You may ask questions without getting penalty cards
  • You may take as long as you want for the Time Out

Time Outs are created by saying "time out". There can only be one "time out" at a time - no nested time outs! A Time Out is ended when the person who called the Time Out says "time in"

Time Out Rules

While Time Outs void most rules for the purposes of discussion, there are some special rules that go into place:

  • If a Time Out rule is broken during a Time Out, a penalty card is awarded
  • Players cannot look at their cards during a Time Out (holding cards is okay) - if they do, penalty cards are awarded
  • Players cannot put extra cards into their hands during a Time Out - if they do, penalty cards are awarded.
    • Note: This applies to penalty cards! If you get a penalty card during a Time Out and put it into your hand during the Time Out, you can be awarded an additional penalty card for breaking this rule
  • Play CANNOT move forward during a Time Out - this means if you pre-draw cards and put them into your hand, you both get a penalty card for breaking rules but also those draws do not count because they didn't happen during play.

Dealing with extra cards during a Time Out: The best way to deal with these is to have a pile for these cards that is separate from your hand. Once Time Out ends ("time in" is called) you can join the new cards to your hand.

Games, Rounds, and Scoring

There are a few more rules involved with the game cycle outside of normal play. These are listed here.

Dealing and Round Start

  • Each round, cards are shuffled (anyone can do this) and one player deals hands for everyone else
    • Each player gets 5 cards
  • If the deal is incorrect (wrong amount of cards, wrong amount of hands, etc) then those cards are set aside as penalty cards for the dealer and the dealer must redeal all hands (including one for themselves)
  • Players may not look at their cards until the dealer does - if they do, they get a penalty card. Once the dealer looks at their cards - the round officially starts and all game rules are activated
  • The dealer is responsible for starting play by flipping the top card of the deck. They are responsible for this card as if they played it (like calling the spade) but cannot get any benefits from it (like a 2 does not get them an extra turn)
  • Play then starts to the left as usual

Every round, the role of Dealer moves to the next person to the left.


At the end of every Round, each player will add up the score of the cards in their hand and that's added to their game score. A game is "won" by having the smallest score when game ends (often played to a number of rounds, a time limit, or a high score being reached like 500)

  • Number cards - Face value (a 5 = 5, 9 = 9)
  • Face cards - 10
  • Joker - 25


How is playing multiple cards at the same time possible?

One is best played with at least 2 decks. This means that there should be 2 of each card (aside from Jokers) which would allow for exact matches to be played at the same time.

What happens if multiple penalty cards are given for a single infraction?

If only one rule break has occurred then only 1 penalty card may be awarded to the rule breaker so only 1 penalty card needs to be taken.

That said, no "revenge" penalty cards may be given to those giving the extra penalty cards because they are not wrong in believing the rule breaker deserves a penalty card. Instead these extra penalty cards are simply put back in the deck.

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