Calliope Games releases Ugh!, a challenging card game for the whole family

Courtesy of Calliope Games

Ugh!, the new card game from Calliope Games, can be a rewarding experience for families. It’s attractive to younger players, sporting bright, colorful cards, while adults can enjoy the challenge of the game.

There’s a draw pile, a discard pile and players need to build “locking” sets of cards. This may sound vaguely familiar, but what makes Ugh! different than gin rummy are the variable cards, which end a person’s turn and may result in a loss of points. Wild cards are also thrown into the mix, which allow players to steal a card from another player.

The game requires two players and can entertain up to six. The recommended ages are 8 and up, and that’s a fairly appropriate recommendation. Although the game is easy to understand and doesn’t take much to master, there is some multiplying necessary to determine the winner.

The following is a synthesis of the rules, but click here for a more thorough explanation.

Shuffle all 110 cards (made up of 78 number cards, 28 Ugh! cards and four Wild cards). There is a community area in the middle of the table for three safety piles and one discard pile. Then each player has their own “pool” area, where cards must remain face up.

The first player flips a card from the draw pile. He/she can either take that card (especially if it features a high number) or place it into a safety pile. If an Ugh! card turns up, the first player’s turn is finished and he/she must follow the instructions on the card.

Play continues — drawing, discarding and pooling — and each player needs to eventually make “locking” sets, which consist of one card from each color (purple, green and red). Once locked, the set’s value is determined by multiplying the numbers on the card. So this means, a purple 2, green 3 and red 1 equals 2 x 3 x 1, or 6. At the end of the game, the player with the highest score wins.

Courtesy of Calliope Games

It does take a few trial runs before the game becomes second nature. But after getting used to the details, Ugh! moves fairly quickly. A full game doesn’t take long, but it still presents a challenge to master.

Some negatives: The game relies a little too much on chance, and not enough on skill. With all of the cards known to every player, this becomes more of a blackjack game than a poker tournament. The only strategy comes when deciding which cards to steal after receiving a Wild card, and whether you should continue to draw from the deck or settle with a card that has already emerged (you’re allowed to take up to three cards). Here’s a game where keeping track of the deck (card counting) is encouraged.

Of course, any good game should have a nice balance between skill and luck, but Ugh! relies too heavily on what color and number emerge from the deck.

Also, it was almost impossible to fit all of the cards and instructions back into the tiny original box. After some fussing and folding, we were able to manage the tight fit, but it bent the box slightly.

Calliope Games, which sent a reviewer’s copy of Ugh! to Hollywood Soapbox, has created a simple, affordable and enjoyable card game that is creative and challenging. It lacks ambition and some exposition (it’s never entirely sure how some of the graphics tie into the overall Stone Age theme), but it offers some fleeting fun.

By John Soltes / Publisher /

  • Click here for more information.

  • Ugh! is meant for 2-6 players, ages 8+, and takes roughly 20 minutes to play.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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