#61 – Hanabi


At a Glance: Hanabi is a unique cooperative card game that involves subtle group communication.

Player’s View of Their Own Cards

Hanabi is a card game for 2-5 players where the goal is to complete as many fireworks as possible without it exploding in your face! There are 5 different colors of fireworks numbered 1-5 and players attempt to place them in numerical order in 5 different rows. The trick is that you cannot see what cards you have! You hold your hand so that only the other players can see them, and players can give hints of limited information. There are only so many tokens available that let you share information so you must be efficient with hints. Each hint can only include information for one aspect of the card—color or number. That means you can point to individual cards and say “You have two 4s”, but you cannot say “you have one green 5”. Aside from giving hints, players may play a card to the rows in the common area, or they may discard a card. Each time you discard, you regain one token that lets you share information. If you make 3 errors in the game (like playing cards out of order), everyone loses. Otherwise, once the deck runs out, the game is over and players tally up their score, based on the highest card in each row. Therefore, a perfect score would be 25 (5 in each row), though this is incredibly difficult to do. The game offers different ranges of scores to evaluate how your group performed.

This unique game also doubles as a group experiment of sorts. After people get familiar with the game, the communication gets more and more subtle. The challenge is on a couple levels here. You only get so many chances to give hints, so they MUST contain only essential information. Then, you also have the memory element, which is inherently tough because you only see the backs of your cards. This is why reordering the cards after receiving information is crucial to help you remember, in my opinion. Some will dislike the memory factor most of all, but that is just unavoidable. I love it, as it compliments the challenge so well, because you must rack your brain as you look at others’ cards and determine how to help, but keep enough awareness of your own cards so that you do not forget all the information you have received about your hand.

This is yet another example of a physically small game (portable enough to carry in your pocket), that feels big and possesses a deep, brainy challenge. It is also rare for a pure card game to be cooperative. The more your group plays, the better you communicate, and this forms a sort of bond and feeling of accomplishment as you improve your scores. The game also provides an optional 6th color to add even MORE difficulty if you eventually master the basic game. This is a special game that I think will continue to be an evergreen in the board game domain.

Well worth it, only about $10: https://amzn.to/2PBxqqo

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