Game Title: Hanabi
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Manufacturer: R&R Games
I looked down at my newest group of pupils, they looked scared, terrified even, and who could blame them? Not many people lasted long here. At a glance you could tell from the burns on my face, though perhaps it was the chemically-induced rasp to my voice that was leaving my class ill at ease. "Let's go over the basics again, Lithium, red, Sodium, yellow, Magnesium, white, Barium, green, Copper, blue. The colour is vitally important, particularly as some of these compounds will react violently with each other, do you understand?" The four of them all nodded solemnly, I could almost hear the internal pledges each made that they were going to survive this "The people demand a show, I demand a show and you don't want to disappoint me" The class shook their heads "We have 1 hour class, I'll just check your blindfolds, then it's time to play a little game..."
Hanabi is a 2-5 player cooperative card game where you try to build up 5 or 6 different fireworks. The game could be described as multiplayer solitaire, but with a big twist, you can see everyone’s cards but your own, and you aren’t allowed to share that information freely. The game becomes one of risk management and trying to read into the reason that someone has fed you the occasional tidbit of information.
The game has 6 colours, each of which have cards numbered 1-5. You have to play them in numerical order, which sounds easy enough until you try. Each turn you do one of three actions, firstly you can give clues. You have 8 clues that can be used to tell someone about their hand, the information can be either about a number or a colour, however you have to tell them about all of that type in their hand. If someone has three 3’s you have to let them know about all of them, you can’t just tell them about the one they need to play. The only way to get clues back is to either finish a stack of fireworks up to 5, or to do the second action: discarding. Discarding means you throw away a card from your hand (better hope you don’t need it) to get back a clue, simple enough. The discard pile is always visible so you should know when you've ruined your chances for a particular colour. Finally you can play a card, when you do this you take it from your hand and put it on the relevant firework stack. However if you have played something out of its correct order then you lose a fuse token, should you use all 3 fuse tokens then the fireworks blow up before being launched and you lose the game!
|The game's initial setup, the fuses and clue tokens are to the right, both players always have a hand of 5 and the draw deck is on the left.|
That’s really about it when it comes to gameplay, the game is simple, but it really shines in my opinion for making you make difficult decisions “Surely if this card was good someone would have told be by now!?” or “Why would they tell me about this 4 if it weren’t the one I need to play?”. The game is about trying to read everything you can into the limited information you get. You may find yourself getting frustrated when one of your friends forgets that the 2 you told them about is red, which you told them 4 turns ago, but it’s just a matter of time before you make the same mistake.
Hanabi does have a lot going for it for a small game; it’s only a little bit bulkier than a standard pack of cards so it’s very portable. It has a handful of variant game modes included in it which adds to the lifespan of the game. It also manages to avoid the coop issue of 1 player taking over because you aren’t allowed to tell each other what to do, all you are allowed to say is colours and numbers, and that’s only at the cost of a clue and an action. The game does have its flaws though, the game can be completely unwinnable. The game ends, with one more turn each, when you can’t draw and sometimes that last card is the card you've desperately been waiting for, similarly if both the 2s of a colour end up right at the bottom you may not have time to build the firework even if you somehow knew exactly what to play. The game can also be less enjoyable when people decide to drop massive hints through their body language (“This card is a 4, as are these three, but THIS CARD IS A FOUR, okay?”), also the game can be entirely cheapened by playing with a psychic!