Friday, 11 October 2013


With last year's long winded controversy over the winner of the Game of the Year award, I was surprised there was not more of a backlash this year. Hanabi is a fantastic game don't get me wrong, I just figured there would be more butthurt about it being cooperative or anything else people could find to complain about. Below I will explain how to play the game and give my thoughts on it as well as recommend who I think would like it the best.

Objective: You and your friends must work together to put on the most spectacular fireworks show anyone has ever seen. Players must place cards of five different colours in sequential order 1-5. The catch: you cannot see what is in your own hand. Depending on the total value of the different coloured fireworks when the cards run out and players have finished their last turn your fireworks show will either have been a success or a failure. Consult the chart.

  • 0-5 Points - Horrible!
  • 6-10 Points - Poor
  • 11-15 Points - Ok
  • 16-20 Points - Good
  • 21-24 Points - Great
  • 25 Points - Legendary! 

How can you play if you cant see your hand?

On a player's turn they will have a choice of 3 actions:

Give Information: Players will toss a blue time chip into the box lid, after paying this cost they are aloud to give 1 person at the table information about their cards, you can tell them about either a colour or a number and then touch the cards you are talking about. For example: You have two fours, You have a yellow card, you have two green cards, etc. The player on the receiving end may rearrange their cards after information is given so that they do not forget which card they were told about. 

Note: Make sure to tell players about their multicolored cards so they don't accidentally discard them! And be sure to use them to fill the colour that corresponds with discarded cards as their is no way to get them back once discarded! 

When giving information it would be nice to be able to tell everyone what every card is, but you only have 8 blue time chips so it is important to give the most important information when you take this action. For example, if a yellow 4 is needed, it would make sense to tell that person that they have a yellow card or a 4, not about their green 2. 

Play a Card: You are allowed to play 1 card from your hand onto the table, this card must either start or add to an existing fireworks display, if it is a card played out of sequence it is discarded and you must add a black fuse counter into the box lid, if all 4 of these fuse counters are added, the fireworks show ends in disaster and the players lose the game. After playing a card, regardless of its effect you must draw a new card without looking at it and add it to your hand.

Ooops, looks like you played the wrong colour 4!

Discard a Card: It would be pretty hard to play all your cards without using more than the 8 blue time chips given, so you can discard a card in your hand to remove a time chip from the box lid so that it can be used again, after doing this you replace the discarded card without looking at it.

My Thoughts: Well after playing a handful of times I was less than impressed but I couldn't quite put my finger on it, I enjoyed the game, thought it was neat and thought it would do great with my family over the holidays, however there was something about it that I could not quite put my finger on. /u/Epsilon_balls hit the nail right on the head "While I personally enjoy Hanabi, It always plays just slightly slower than I would like too." There were a lot of factors that lead to me not being captivated by Hanabi, playing a slew of cooperative games over the last couple weeks, along with them being deeper games (Pathfinder looking at you) may have left me expecting/wanting more but I think the speed that Hanabi played was just a little to slow to hold my interest. 

For those of you who don't know what /u/Epsilon_balls need to get out from under your rock and visit  thanks to active users like this guy, there is a ton of discussion every day about literally every aspect of board gaming, I basically only go on BGG to research specific games games now.

Anyways back to Hanabi, the components are colourful, the tokens were meh, functional but nothing special. The elegance of Hanabi is hidden in two mechanics that are deeply intertwined in each other and in the game itself, not seeing what is in your own hand and giving information. Trying to give the right clue, remember which clues were given to you, interpreting the clues, at this point it doesnt really matter what is going on in the game because you are having fun. I like Hanabi because its a good team building exercise, realistically there isn't / might as well not be a score because everyone playing is having too much fun. I think this is why it was chosen as game of the year, when you ask people what is your goal while playing a board game, you often hear/read that 'having fun' not 'winning' should be the main goal, Hanabi is the game in my collection that I feel reflects and captures the essence of "having fun" better than any other game I own and this was really clear once I had a chance to play Hanabi with a group of non gamers. 

Who Would Enjoy Hanabi?

Non Gamers: Yeah I had to add a new category for this game. Basically you can learn the rules in a minute, playing takes less than 10, and its really really fun. I like to say that it is a social game without being social,  you cannot see your own cards or talk openly about your teammates' cards yet laughter and good times are had by all and players will leave talking about the game.

Family Gamers: No violence, cooperative gameplay, simple mechanics, a great game to play with your kids or relatives, just think, who doesn't like fireworks? Like real life fireworks Hanabi is great fun for the family.

Casual Gamers: Fantastic mechanics that are pretty unique, fun and simple to learn. Hanabi takes no time at all to set up and clean up which means it will be easy to get on the table and games don't take long which makes it super accessible. 

Gamer Gamers: I think most serious gamers have a taste for 'new' and unique, Hanabi definitely brings that to the table and at a low price point there really is no reason to not pick up Hanabi for one's collection. More than just a novelty though, Hanabi makes a great game to play with people who are new to board games or don't have much experience also great with relatives and even smelly gamers have those. 

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