Making up new rules for card- and board games

Here's how Cathy (Mayberry Mom) and her daughter hacked Uno:

My daughter (age 4) and I figured out a new way to use Uno cards. She loves Uno, but wanted to try something different, so we played War. We decided that the skip, reverse and wild cards (the ones with no numbers) always lose to any number card, and that the draw cards (+2 and +4) trump all the number cards. Fun–and provides early math practice as we look for more than/less than.

I bet other Parenthackers have tons of ideas for other "off-label" uses of card and board games.

I'll take that bet! We've played Scrabble with no points — simply, the first one to get rid of all his tiles wins.

How do you "massage" the rules of your card- and board games?


  1. kaz says

    We deal out the properties in Monopoly at the beginning of the game. Makes this marathon game shorter. It’s up to the players whether or not they can trade or sell to each other. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.

  2. Duane says

    One of the easiest is during the many variations of Memory/Concentration where you have to flip over pairs of cards, let the children leave the cards flipped over when a match is not found. They still have to identify the match when they find it, and remember that they’ve already seen it once rather than turning over a new card.

  3. Eric N. says

    We always played UNO with adding. Normally you can place any card of the same color or the same number on the current face-up card. Under adding rules, you can place any number of same-colored cards adding to the number of the face-up card. This makes the game go faster and teaches adding. This can be extended to “any math expression resulting in the face-up card” for advanced players.

  4. Suzanne says

    Hmmmm… Does accidentally “losing” the Plumpy card count as “massaging game rules” in order to prevent those marathon Candy Land game sessions? ;-)

    Actually, a semi-related game tip: We got electronic CatchPhrase Jr. for Christmas, and it’s *fabulous* for road trips. We don’t play the traditional rules, where you have to pass the machine around the circle and stuff. We just let one person complete a whole round of giving clues and then pass it to the next person. We don’t even keep track of correct answers or scores or anything, and it’s still fun. :)

  5. Jill says

    We’ve learned our color words and numbers in Spanish by using Spanish to label our Uno card as we place it down on the pile. My high school French teacher had done that for our class “way back when”.

  6. Gavin says

    We play 30 seconds, but leave out the dice rolls completely – thus taking the luck element out of the game, as well as shortening the game time to about 20-25 minutes

  7. Marykz says

    for go fish, we have a universal “no peeking” rule. Since it is hard for the kid to hold all the cards in order, we take regular breaks where she can lay all her cards on the table and get organized. We, of course, “don’t peek”.

    For “war” we set a timer, and who ever has the most cards when the timer goes off, wins. We like this b/c she is learning what is the bigger number, but the game doesn’t go on and on and on.

    And this may be awful, but when playing tic tac toe, for every 2 games I win, I let her win one. She just doesn’t grasp all the strategy yet. my hubby says I shouldn’t let her win, she should earn it, but I just can’t deal with all the sad pouty “I never win” stuff.

  8. Dave says

    Play Scrabble until your “draw” pile of tiles is gone, then do a “speed” round – everyone lays out words with no regard to who’s turn it is. Increases your score, adds a bit of excitement and eliminates the drawn out “What am I going to do with an X , Q and J?”

  9. Jonathan says

    My daughter added her own cards to Sorry! — another classic — that she made up. Made the game a little more interesting. I think the Sorry! deck actually came with a few blank cards…

  10. Kaylen says

    My son is grown past some of the cute games we used to play. We had a 101 Dalmations card game and a Rugrats Uno game. They were missing a few cards each-he is fourteen and they traveled with us to four houses, four states and one foreign country.
    When sorting through the games to “retire” a few years ago, I couldn’t bear to just throw them out-the pictures are too cute.

    We now use them to make cards for kids through the website. A group of us get together each month and use things like old calendars and cards from old games, yarn, construction paper and stickers and make about 15 cards for each featured kid, including a few for their siblings.

    We cut out the pictures on the old card games and bring new life to them, while sending a big smile to a sick child in another state.

  11. isles says

    Scrabble can be made easier for kids by letting them turn over tiles to use as blanks, or letting them draw more than seven.

  12. kittenpie says

    We play scrabble without points so my husband will play with me at all! And then at the end, when we have laid down as much as we can, we pool our letters and try to use everything – a victory for both if we get every one on the board.

    I would also let a kid play boggle without having to connect the letters.

    And when I was a kid, we were allowed to get into debt in Monopoly if we had properties that might generate rent for us to get back out of it. Meaning the kid is not automatically out while everyone else plays. We’d keep the same game going for a week sometimes!

  13. Posh says

    When we play boggle, the longest word automatically wins. It encourages everybody to actually think instead of automatically reaching for the easy 3 letter words.

  14. Darryl Papa-sensei says

    My 4YO daughter loves to play the memory game: Put 20 pairs of regular playing cards face down, then turn over two at a time. If the number matches, you take both cards, otherwise turn them both over.

    To make it “interesting”, if my daughter wins a pair, she can keep going. But if I get a match, it’s still her turn. I have to concentrate very carefully to be able to beat her! It’s tough this way, and Daddy’s brain gets a good workout too!