Hanabi: card game with the goal to launch a spectacular firework display


Jason, I absolutely love how you are curating your review of games. I think you are doing a truly exceptional job helping the uninitiated discover some of the gems of the hobby. Hanabi is a spectacular game with exceptional depth and replayability. As importantly, it is cheap and dead easy to get started. Your play to dollar ratio on this game will be happy. Moreover, you will come to love hate this game after a few plays as it is a complete bear to play. I was gotten a perfect 25 in this game only twice (after innumerable plays) and I pretty proud of that. Notably, one of my 25s was with three children under the age of 12.

This is a wonderful logic puzzle of a game. But it is also a fine communication and social deduction game. Players have to be careful not to come up with tricks to beat the game (some will present themselves to you after several plays). But if that instinct is resisted you can use your knowledge of how your teammates play in order to create an efficient working engine. As I said, “beating” the game can be really hard, but getting near perfect scores is satisfying enough.

I would also note that a new version of the game is due to release this quarter. It is my understanding that the price will be slightly higher than the current version, but it will feature tile rather than tiles. While I love the card version because of its portability and accessibility. The cards can take a beating if not sleeved. Also, for some people remembering to keep the cards faced outward is oddly difficult. The tiles may appeal to some players because of this along with the tactile reward of handling something substantive.

I commend anyone looking for a wonderful travel or camp game to pick up Hanabi. You may also want to get a few copies for gifts because it is a great game to have to give when you need a small token and have little time to shop. (I actually left an old copy stashed in a ziploc bag along the AT for a lucky through hiker. If you got it, you’re welcome.)

I love this game, but my group is divided on how much inflection players should be allowed to put in their hints. "THIS one is YELLOW " for instance. How has your group struck this balance?

For us, we have self policed. We typically pronounce our clues fairly flatly. The rule that says that if you point out one of a kind, you must point out each of the kind helps, but what some have done to circumvent that is linger on the one that they want the player to play, or start with the one they want them to play, etc. We say you must go left to right when pointing out sequences and you can not linger or indicate (ie. raise eyebrows, etc.) when pointing to a specific one. That makes the game more about the deduction then formulating a system for communicating under restrictions. The later can be a fun puzzle to solve and I wouldn’t knock it during early plays, but if you want to keep the replayability high, you need to keep the inclination to solve the game through lateral thinking suppressed.

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I forgot that we’ll do that lingering thing, too. “THIS ONE is blue… Aaaaand also this one”

I’ve heard Hanabi described more as an activity than a game, I’ve heard the same criticism (not intending to downplay any inherent quality) of Timeline. What I think that understandable criticism overlooks is that both are systematized, new ways to interact with people, both games create a new set of rules for you and your friends to experience each other in the context of. That’s where I think these types of games shine. You learn by playing The Resistance that it is fun to lie to your friends in the most subtle and manipulative ways inside the safe environment that The Resistance creates. In Hanabi I’d say you’re tasked with creating a world as described in the original article, but most importantly a place where failure is okay.

I love games for these safe ways they have us interact.


This is one of my favorite games of all time, and definitely my favorite cooperative game. I can’t think of another game that is balanced so perfectly to provide challenge and replayability both.

Even after playing it every day with the same group of people, we can’t consistently achieve a perfect score - sometimes the tiles/cards don’t come out in the order you need, or someone unavoidably misses a cue. But it’s still super-satisfying when we do manage to get a perfect score, even after dozens (hundreds?) of plays, and every play session ends with at least one “that was so cool when you did XYZ” debrief session.

The “deluxe” tile version is well worth it if you play this game - freeing up your hands is great. We bought the German deluxe version but a US tile version is supposedly coming eventually.

Part of the fun of Hanabi is that players of various skill/experience levels can play together - as long as the skilled players are smart about it. Sure, there may be an awesome finesse available, but will the new guy actually notice it, or should you give a safer clue? The only thing I’d warn is that experienced players need to be careful they don’t come down too hard on new players who DO miss something - sometimes there can be a bit of a pile-on as everyone explains what you should have inferred from someone else’s action.

For any group that plays a lot and has issues with skirting the “cheating” line, it’s much more rewarding to develop and use advanced legal clue-giving techniques and conventions than to cheat, anyway. Keeping your cards in order by age and assuming that “newness” is significant is a good start. :slight_smile:


Ha! That’s awesome.

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