Game Report: Limits
There are 20 cards of five different colors. Each player gets five cards dealt out. A limit card is turned up, showing how many cards of each color may be played before that color is at the allowed limit. Each player then puts a card face down that will increase the limit of that color by one. So if the limit card shows the limit of green cards is 3, but two players have green cards face down, the actual limit is 5. On your turn, you may play a card down on the discard pile and draw a card. Or you may challenge anyone else’s most recent play, in which case the round ends, all face down cards are revealed, and the actual limit is checked. If you challenge someone’s play, and the play was at or under the limit, you lose the challenge and the other player wins, otherwise you win and the other player loses. The winner of a challenge gets 1 point, the loser loses 2 points. If you have four cards all of the same color on your turn, you may instead show them all, put two of them on the discard pile, take four new cards, and put the other two cards on top of the draw pile. You score 1 point for doing so. After the round ends, the discard pile is put face-down under the draw pile, unshuffled, players put their face down card back in their hands, and a new limit card is drawn. Play continues until all the limit cards are used.
This game works because good play requires figuring out what other players have put face down and taking risks. There is an interesting balance between making the safest plays possible, making early risky plays before much is suspected about players’ face down cards, and going for the always-exciting four cards of the same color. There is good tension and interesting decisions. The game rules are elegant and simple.
- We avoid memory conditions. Cards played to the discard pile are spread out so they are all visible.
- Perhaps because of the previous change, players challenge far more often than they play four of the same color, and thus with the original rules the scores for most players quickly are negative. Negative scores are less fun, and losing two points seems too punitive. We adjusted the loss to be just one point for failing a challenge.
- Limit cards often have an X, meaning no limit, for a color. This keeps each limit card with just five digits or Xs on each card, although a reasonable argument can be made for replacing each X with a 20. The game effect would be the same, and no extra rule would need to be explained.
- The limit cards are almost balanced, but not quite. One limit card should have purple decreased by one and a red card increased by one.
- Since we play with an open discard pile, every player can count the number of cards played for any given color. To prevent endless tallying up of these numbers (and partly because we like saying silly words), we have devised shorthand names for each action. When you play a card, you announce how close that color is to the printed limit. If the card played brings that color to one below its limit, we say “Uno” (if it’s very far below the limit, we often say “Boring” or “Card”). When we say “Limit”, we’re stating that the color is exactly at the limit printed on the limit card. When one plays over the limit printed on the card, such a play might not be a safe one. To make such a play safe, we call such one-over plays “Safe”. Calling it safe doesn’t make it safe as often as we’d like. “Double Safe” means it is two over the limit. Some of us call the game “Double Safe.” Four of the same color is a “Whoopsie Doodle”, and people who take chance-after-chance trying to get one have “Whoopsie Doodle Fever.” Getting a whoopsie doodle is the best part of the game. These terms are just icing for us, however, and really don’t affect the mechanics of the game (although the bluffing aspect is quite fun, at times).
Limits is a good game, one that we believe is great once these changes are made. We’d love to see it published in the United States with English rules that make the changes discussed above.