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  • Let’s Play Hanabi

    So, we’ve all been thrust into the role of firework makers. But sadly we’ve cracked under the pressure it seems and have screwed up the display! Wait, we can fix this, we have to put it back together using these cards to represent the fireworks. Just match them up by suit in numerical order and we are all good. What is this, a kids game? Oh, there’s a twist, we can’t look at our own cards? So everyone here will hold their cards face out, meaning that everyone knows what each other has except their own hand. We’ll try to reconstruct the fireworks (playing the cards in order) by giving out clues and remembering the clues that are given to us.

    The Breakdown:
    Plays: 2-5
    Takes: 30 Minutes
    Ages: 8+
    Language independent

    The Components:
    60 cards. 8 blue ‘info’ tokens and 4 fuse tokens. All in a nice tidy small box.


    The Basics:

    Each player is dealt 4 or 5 cards (depending on the number of players in the game) that you hold face out so you can’t see your cards, but everyone else can. Each player then has 3 options to take on their turn: tell someone else about one or more of their cards, play a card from their hand to the table in hopes that it adds to a firework, or discard a card and return.

    If you give someone information about a card (color or number) you must point to all the cards of the same type, “You have two 4’s,” “These three cards are Green.” You can give a clue about color or number, not both. It is then on the player to remember what has been identified, but if they forget the other players can remind them of things they should know about a card – as long as they play fair. When you do this you place one of the blue ‘info’ tokens on the tabletop into the game box. There are eight tokens to start the game and believe me, they get spent quickly. Read on to see how to get those tokens back into play.

    If you play a card to the table you want it to be the next number available for whatever suit it happens to be. All the suits are in play at the same time and you don’t have to know which suit you are playing from your hand, but it helps. Before any cards are played to the table, if someone points to one of your cards and says it is a one then you know it’s safe to play since it is obviously the first card in any suit. If it doesn’t follow this rule (it is a green four and the green suit only has one and two played into it) then you are one of three steps closer to losing. You have to take one of the fuse tokens and throw it into the box.

    If you are well into the game and all the fireworks have been started (there is at least a one on the table for each suit) and someone has identified a card as a one, then you should feel free to discard that card on your turn. This benefits you in two ways; it gets you another usable card from the draw pile and more importantly it returns a blue info token to the table which enables more clues to be given out later.

    The game ends when one one of three conditions. The last fuse token is exposed, in which case all players lose. All fireworks are completed 1-5, this is the best possible win condition. The last card is pulled from the draw pile, in which case all players get one more turn then the number of cards played on the table is totaled and degree of victory is determined.

    After you have the core game figured out, throw in the included expansion of multi-colored cards and have fun with the game all over again.


    Our Impressions:

    It’s great when you play a game that you think is excellent. It’s better when you don’t need to get anyone elses opinion because two days later it wins the 2013 Spiel des Jahres (Germany’s “game of the year”) award.

    The game is well thought out. There are more ones in the deck for each suit (3 of each) which makes it more likely to get the game started since they are needed to initiate a firework. There are 2 of each of the other cards, except for fives since they can’t make the game too easy. This keeps the game from grinding to a halt when you erroneously discard a card you need. You are even allowed to go through the discard pile whenever you’d like so you can easily keep track of the state of the game. If you accidentally discarded both green twos, then you know you don’t need to bother with green threes, fours or fives.

    I like cooperative games that give you degrees of victory for the team. This one gives you more points based on how far into the suits you get. A score of 18, out of a max of 25 points if you complete everything, is still a win, but there is something to shoot for next game. All this adds to replayability.

    The only nitpick I could find is an inconsistency in the the fuse mechanic. I do love that you get multiple chances to be wrong, and the fuse reinforces the theme, but this mechanic doesn’t line up with the blue info token one. There are four fuse tokens and only 3 of them need to make their way to the box before you lose the game, the fourth remains on the table. If there is a blue token available on the table you can use it. From looking around online it looks like previous versions of the game only used 3 fuse tokens so there must have been a reason for this change, I just can’t figure out what it is.

    The best games give you a multitude of options on your turn and it’s your job do figure out which is best. Hanabi does this almost all the time, but there are times that all your blue tokens will be in the box and you have absolutely no information about your cards. This allows for the luck factor that is necessary in all truly entertaining games.

    Wondering if Hanabi is good for you and your group? Feel free to ask us questions about the game below and we’ll be sure to try and help you out.

    Played Hanabi before? Let us and the other readers know what you think about the game in the comments!


    22 responses to “Let’s Play Hanabi”

    1. For the last few years we go to a friends house in the country who loads 2 16′ trailers with fireworks. There is a large (50+ people) BBQ and for the last couple of years he has started to try and coordinate the fireworks with music. It has been my job to be the flashlight guy. Being up close and personal with the fireworks is such a blast.

    2. My grandparents owned a firecracker stand when I was younger. My dad would also get the super long string of fireworks and spin them around his head. Not safe, but awesome. And my grandpa would always save me this one 100 shot one that was so pretty that had polka dots all over the wrapper. It was always “my” special thing. :-)

    3. Mine is actually very recent. It was my best friend’s bachelor party, and we were in the woods being manly men. His brother brought bottle rockets with no bottles… for those of you at home doing the math, bottle rockets – bottles = rockets. Now, they were’t aimed at me, but they seemed to have a taste for me. Twice they shot directly at me. So much dangerous stupid fun.

    4. The one memory that stands out is when I lit a smoke bomb and launched it at my brother (who was a good 120ft away) with a slingshot. He was crouched on the ground with his backed turned to me, lighting a firecracker. It cleared his head by a foot or so. Scared the heck out of him. He said it sounded like a jet was flying right past his head.

    5. Every summer growing up in Milwaukee, our family went to Festa Italiana. Milwaukee hosts wonderful ethnic festivals all summer long on the lake at this huge fair ground, along with a massive music festival called SummerFest. The 4th of July falls during SummerFest, and they’re supposed to be the biggest fireworks of the summer. But the Bartolotta family, owners of the firework company that does all the shows, always added a little extra to the Festa fireworks to share their Italian pride. They were AWESOME!

    6. I’ll never forget watching the Macy’s July 4 fireworks from the roof of my girlfriend’s dormitory that overlooked the East River in New York City. Even years later, now that that girlfriend is my wife, I still recall that experience every time I see fireworks.

    7. Thanks for the opportunity – much appreciated!

      Whenever I think of fireworks, I can’t help but think of my brother. Since he was a kid he’s been totally transfixed by them, he can just stare at them ceaselessly (regardless of the quality too, which I always found surprising). I actually prefer watching him watch fireworks to watching them myself – it’s rare to see such pure, childlike, enchantment as we get older. He reminds me that we all need a little more enchantment and wonder in our lives.

      Thanks again

    8. When I was an undergraduate in college, I had a roommate who managed a Fireworks Supermarket in the town we went to school in. Many a weekend evening was spent hanging out in a field, testing out new arrivals at the store and setting off favorites (all at the managers discount). We were young, crazy and immortal. Good times!

    9. […] Let’s Play Hanabi (Plus enter to win a copy of your own!) […]

    10. Just this past July 4th we set off professional grade fireworks at my cousins. We have done this at our family reunions for the few years, but his is the first time I lit some of the fireworks. It was a bit tense but lots of fun!

    11. Fireworks in the back garden – the Catherine-wheel spun off the fence and the bottles holding the tickets fell over to fire straight at my nan! I need Hanabi to help practise safe working with minor explosives 😉

    12. Tickets = Rockets!

      Ill blame iOS auto-correct… You can blame my fat fingers!

    13. I grew up living near a lake community that set off fireworks on the fourth. One year, our neighbors found a litter of kittens dumped on the side of the road. My parents let us keep one of the kittens, an all black one. During the fireworks, one of those loud boomer ones with no fancy colors, just loud noise, went off. The little kitten was startled and jumped on my grandfathers back and started climbing up. It was at that point that we had the name for our new kitten. We named him Boomer :)

    14. My first experience of really using fireworks up close was at my uncle’s farm. My cousin took me with him and the other grown ups to buy fireworks from the store (which was a trailer). Then setting off the fireworks was just magnificent on a wonderful evening.

    15. Agree on the fuse tokens. It’s odd. I don’t hate it, but I think it’ll take a few rounds to get used to.

      My favorite firework memory is actually very recent. Being from NJ you don’t see many fireworks in person. On a road trip out to Origins Game Fair last year, myself, my brother and brother-in-law decided to stop at roadside fireworks stand to see what it was all about. It was pretty insane and intimidating, so we walked around for a few seconds, laughing at the names of the various fireworks and headed back on the road. Even though we didn’t buy anything, it felt like being a kid again, doing something we weren’t supposed to.

    16. Last year a small town near where I live got a huge donation to have a big fireworks display. My girlfriend and I went over and walked around the “fair”. We ate some food that wasn’t good for us and then set up our blanket close to the fireworks. We laid on the blanket and watched fireworks for 45 minutes and made out. My best firework memory ever!

    17. My family always has a firework show in the fall. Last year one of the fireworks fell out of its stand and fired off in the direction of the group watching by the fire,

    18. My favorite fireworks memory was travelling more than two hours by transit and by foot just to get to a park to spend time with my friends. It was all worth it when I got to hug my best friend from behind and watch them go by.

    19. Many years ago, a friend and I were seeing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in the theater. It happened to be the Fourth of July. We exited the theater at approximately the same moment as the “grand finale” of a local fireworks display, so we were greeted with not only the sounds of numerous massive explosions, but also a mass exodus of cars as folks tried to get away before it was “the end.” It was a very surreal moment, one I still laugh about to this day

    20. […] Let’s Play Hanabi (Plus enter to win a copy of your own!) […]

    21. So, is it even possible to get the full 25 points with 5 players? A back of the envelope calculation says no. 8 free pieces of information. 1 additional piece of information for each discard (info = 8 + discard). 30 cards initially in draw stack (50 – 4×5). Cards drawn + 5 >= number of discards + number of played on fireworks (5 extra turns after last card drawn). Ergo for 25 points, number of discards <= 10. Ergo info <= 18. This means you must infer 25 cards from only 18 pieces of information. Sans table talk and facial expressions, this doesn't seem possible.

    22. […] are perfect for playing together.   These include Love Letter  (click for our game review) and Hanabi, a cooperative Fireworks game with the twist that everyone can see your cards, but […]