Game Length: 30 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 3-5 players who want a light co-operative game where you’ll be relying on your friends for information!
Hanabi is a unique co-operative game that was the winner of the 2013 Spiel des Jahres, the German board game prize. In Hanabi, the players are all firework technicians responsible for putting on a big show – unfortunately, they don’t know what’s in their own hands, and need to rely on the advice of the other players. Each player will be holding their hands backwards – so all other players can see the cards in their hands, but they can’t see their own!
The deck consists of cards numbered 1 to 5, in 5 different colours. Players must play cards in sequence from 1 to 5 of each of the colours to win. If they play a card that isn’t allowed, they get a strike – and once you get three strikes, the game is over. However, as already mentioned, players don’t know the cards in their own hand, and will be relying on limited information provided by the other players.
On their turn, a player must either play a card from their hand, give a clue to another player, or discard a card. The clue must be to tell the player which cards have a certain number, or which cards are of a certain colour, not leaving out any cards. Giving a clue costs a token – these may be replenished by discarding cards. You have to be careful though; if you discard higher-numbered cards that you still need for the firework sequence, you could find yourself unable to win the game!
Players familiar with the classic card game Bridge will be at home with the limited communication in Hanabi. Much like the bidding system in Bridge, you’ll need to be able to read between the lines of what people are telling you, as the game doesn’t give you enough opportunities to talk freely about your cards to win. You’ll need to be careful about how many clue tokens you spend to give information to the other players – if there are no tokens left, the current player’s only options are to play or discard a card, and if they don’t have enough information they will be doing so blind!
Hanabi is an excellent deduction game that neatly sidesteps the problem some co-operative games face, where an experienced player can dominate the game. You’re only allowed to provide limited information about the cards in each others’ hands, and each player will need to be paying full attention if the team is going to pull off a perfect score. Hanabi does depend on memory – if you can’t remember what advice the other players have given you, you’re going to be in trouble. Players will also need to practice their poker faces if they want to play according to the spirit of the game – if you start cringing when the current player selects the wrong card, you’re giving away information!
Hanabi is an excellent co-operative game that plays well with 3-5 players and comes highly recommended to newcomers to boardgaming, or more experienced players wanting a lighter, shorter co-operative game.