It was an innocent game of ¡UNO! when it began. The five of us were assembled around the kitchen table, armed with a tray of Jell-O shots and a pack of cards. And when the first game ended, amid a flurry of color changes and ill-played Draw Twos, we all marveled that the match had lasted nearly fifteen cutthroat minutes.
But then came Game 2. From the start, the round had a different sort of character. Players focused purely on thwarting the people next to them, with a total disregard for how many cards they might have to draw. No cards were too many, if it meant the possibility of laying down a Draw Four Wild on the girl next to you with only three cards. If anyone announced they had uno card remaining, faces hardened with steely resolve not to let that person go out, no matter what the cost.
After the first hour had passed, many pretenses of fairness went out the window. Cards were concealed in their stacks, or held underneath the table. Players openly speculated on how many cards others had, and what colors they were. At first, it took the form of veiled references to Joseph McCarthy (for red) or Eiffel 65 (for blue), but eventually players were openly advocating the use of specific colors against a player approaching UNO!
Now, ¡UNO! is a fun card game, but not really a game that one willingly commits multiple hours to. After a while, the only keeping the drunk and fatigued players in the game at all was pure stubbornness, the unwillingness to simply give up after two hours, with nothing to show for it. A victory would at least provide a hollow justification for wasting 1/8 of a day on a single hand of a children's card game. A defeat is unimaginably disappointing.
Aaron Vinson put it best, comparing the length of our ¡UNO! struggle to that of another popular game: "At least in RISK, we'd play for a few hours, and then we'd finally get some resolution. 'It looks like my approach to challenge his supremacy in Asia by way of Kamchatka was successful.' Instead, we're going to get to the end of the game and the revelation will simply be, 'Heh. I had red.'"
The game was an emotional roller coaster. I had just one card for nearly five minutes at one point, thanks to fortuitous draws from the pile and a steady stream of Skip cards from my right. I declared "Uno!" at least three separate times, and had as many as twenty cards on two other occasions. Heroic deeds and last-minute Reverses went hand-in-hand. Players boasted of "taking responsibility for the problem" when their neighbors got low on cards, and unleashed unholy assaults of Draw Twos. I began to doubt whether victory would ever come for me, but remained steadfast that no one next to me would go out.
My personal highlight when Khurram devoted nearly ten minutes to choosing between a green or blue card to play to Kristina, who waited, poised, with her final card at the ready. After much buildup, he put down... a Draw Four Wild card.
Finally, at 3:12 am, Aaron finally went out. The rest of us collapsed at the table, sobbing and cursing quietly to ourselves. Khurram was immediately hooked up to an IV. Kati was carried out of the apartment on a stretcher. ¡UNO! had ended, but at what cost? We'd recover superficially, but much like Joe Frazier after his 1971 victory over Muhammad Ali, we would never truly be the same again. And, much like Joe Frazier, I consider Aaron Vinson to be merely the White Man's Champ.
And, for the record, he had green. Heh.