Hanabi Review

HanabiSPECS

A game about fireworks, colourful fireworks that are going like ‘Boom!’ and ‘Iiiiih!’ and ‘Woosh!’ and then people go like ‘Aahhh…’ In Hanabi, a cooperative card game from Antoine Bauza, you and your friends work together to create an amazing firework show. You have to place coloured cards on the table in the right order. However you cannot see the front of your own cards. Oh no! The other players have to guide you through it.

Overview:

What do you get for your money?

You get 60 Cards, 12 tokens and the rules.

How do you play the game?

There are five types of fireworks, five different colours, and they are numbered from one to five. The goal is to place a row of every colour in the correct order, from one to five, in your firework show (on the table). Of every colour, there are 3 ones, 1 five and 2 twos, 2 threes and 2 fours.

Mmh, there must be a catch. Yes, dear sir, there is. You can’t see your own cards, because you have to hold them backwards.

You start with a couple of cards in your hand, 8 note or clue tokens and 3 storm tokens. You can’t see your cards, but you can see the ones of your team-mate(s). Yes, you’ll have to work together. In  your turn you can perform one of three actions. You can give one of your team-mates a hint about their cards. For instance, your team-mate has a blue 1, a green 1, a green 5, a red 3 and a white 5 in his hand. You can give him a clue about a number or about a colour. When you do, you have to tell him about all the cards of the same number or the same colour. You can point at his green 1 and green 5 and say: ‘these are green’, or you can point at his blue 1 and green 1 and say: ‘these are ones’.  You can’t say anything else.

If you choose to give a clue, you have to turn over a clue token. When there are no clue tokens left, you cannot give clues any more.

You can earn them back by discarding a card from your hand. This is the second action you can perform. You can’t use that card any more, but you do flip over a clue token. So, now the next player can give a clue again, if he wants to.

The third action is adding a card to your firework show in the middle of the table. You have to make a row from 1 to 5 in every colour, no number may be missing in a row and there can be only one row of every colour.

When you think you can safely play a card, you may. For instance, if there is a red 1 on the table and you are sure that you have a red 2 in your hand, you can play it. You don’t even have to know for sure what colour it is, or what number, if you think you can play it safely, you may.

If you are wrong, e.g. the red 2 turned out to be a red 5, lighting strikes and you have to turn over one of the three storm tokens. If all three storm tokens are turned over, you all lose the game.

Hanabi2
Every time you discard or play a card, you draw a new one from the deck. When the deck is empty, everyone can take one last action and then you add up your points.
Every correct card is worth one point. So when you’ve got five rows from 1 to 5, you would have earned 25 points.

The game comes with a small  expansion (Farbraush), to make things more difficult, if you think the base game was too easy.

It contains 10 rainbow cards. You can add them just as a sixth colour or you can add them as a sixth suit and add the rule that they count as every colour when you give a clue.
For instance, your team-mate has a blue 1, a green 1, a green 5, a rainbow 3 and a white 5 in his hand. You have to tell him about all the cards of the same number or the same colour. This means when you want to tell him about the green cards, you must point at his green 1 and green 5 and his rainbow 3 and say: ‘these are green’.

Review:

Gameplay:

I read and hear a lot that this game is not really a game but an activity. I agree with that. Hanabi is more an exercise in communication, memory and cooperation than it is a real game. But it is a very well thought out and interesting exercise. The concept is extremely simple: place cards in the right order on the table. But because you can only see other player’s cards you must give as much information as possible or just the right information with one clue. And then you realize that not everyone thinks the same. People will assume things, do things, that you haven’t intended.

Most people think they are good at communicating, but if you play Hanabi, it turns out that little things can make all the difference.
Yes, luck is a factor in this game. If you starting hand contains only high numbers, the game is more difficult than when your start with a couple of ones, but it is not impossible.
You can lose this game (when the storm tokens are all turned over), but you cannot really win this game, you can only do good or bad. Well, if you score 25 points, I think you can call it a win.
It plays just as good with many people as it does with a few.

Theme:

I will be brief about this. There is absolutely no theme here.

Looks:

The illustrations are colourful, but very simple. Quite nice, but not very special.

Quality of the  components:

Good quality linen cards.

Fun:

At first, when I read about this game and saw some reviews, I thought: ‘What is fun about that?’ But it is a cheap game and at one time I wanted free shipping, so I added this one, just to see what the fuss was all about.

So I played it and, yes, it is really a very nice game (or activity, whatever you want to call it). Hanabi is a family game or a filler. When you read the rules, you think: ‘This must be easy’. Then you play the game and you realize that it’s not.
After the first play, people will probably say: ‘I can score better than that!’ That’s because many consider memory and communication as basic human skills and I think we (the people) do not like to admit that a low score in this game is one of the possibilities. If that occurs, we probably immediately want to play again. To do better.
It’s a cheap little game and it is really fun to be engaged with each other for about twenty minutes and discuss mistakes afterwards.
And then play again and again. Until your dog is yelping under the sofa, mortally afraid. Because, you know, fireworks…
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