Last week you saw our first game we played on the 4th of July that kept with the holiday theme – Lanterns. That game was about placing Chinese lanterns in a lake and then making a dedication in the form of pairs, sets or runs of lantern colors. But one gets tired of losing all the time, and thats why one of our favorite game types of late has been those that are classified as “cooperative“. We’ve fought zombies and fairy tale monsters, but in Hanabi from R&R Games we embark on a much more peaceful quest. We’re slowly building our fireworks show to entertain the world.
All players in Hanabi are on the same team and you are working together to craft your annual fireworks show for the crowd. Simply, your team’s job is to put the numbered cards in order from 1 – 5, sorted by color. I realize it sounds very easy, but there is a unique twist you haven’t seen in any other game.
This is what your hand looks like to you. That’s correct, you cannot see your cards, but everyone else can!
During each player’s turn they have a couple actions to choose from, but they can only do one.
They can give a clue to another player about the card they are holding either by telling them how many of a particular number they are holding (“this card is a two”) or by stating the color of the card (“these two cards are red”). From these clues, the player holding the cards will hopefully gather enough information to be able to play a card on the center piles. When you give a clue, you take a time marker from the box and place it in a separate pile on the lid.
The card piles begin with a “1” and work their way up to “5”, with ones being more plentiful in the deck and only a single instance of each color of “5” occurring. There are also only eight time tokens, meaning if they are all out of the box and on the lid, you can no longer give any clues – the current player must choose one of the other possible actions.
They can either play a card on the pile (hopefully successfully) or discard a card from their hand and draw another one. You may wish to discard, as it earns your team a time token back, but you also risk discarding an important card since you cannot see what you are throwing away! Remember, there is only one “5” of each color, and if it is discarded, you’ll never complete that pile.
If you choose to play on a pile and do so successfully (the next number required in the pile you call out), then you move on to the next player. If you are incorrect, the card is discarded and the team’s fuse is shortened by one. Thematically this is what lights your fireworks – this will go off at some point, ending the game. You technically don’t lose, but your fireworks ‘show’ will not be very impressive.
Hanabi also includes a set of rainbow-colored cards that can be used in different ways. They can act as wild cards or as a sixth color to work on independently depending on how you wish to structure the game. This is a great addition to the rules to keep game-to-game difficulty high.
At some point the game will end either by your team completing all five piles of cards (not likely) or by the fuse going off after three misses. Scoring is rather simple – count the number of fireworks cards successfully played to the piles and compare your results with the included scoring table.
To us, the only way to truly win is to try and get a perfect score. It is MUCH harder to do that it appears. The only clues you can give other players is the color or number of the card, and since you are limited to so few, your team really has to plan out each move to maintain a balance of hints-to-plays.
Hanabi is a fantastic social game that gets everyone talking strategy, laughing at the failures and sometimes yelling at the one inevitable player who isn’t paying attention! It has been a go-to staple for us in introducing new games to people that have never played a cooperative title – and since you always win on some level (even if your fireworks show was “mediocre”), there are usually no hard feelings.
This is one that you’ll find not only online at Amazon and at your local hobby store, but is also widely carried by major bookstores and specialty retailers. And for around $10, you cannot beat the value.
R & R Games has proven time and time again to have great titles for all ages, so be sure to check out the rest of their game line on their website and monitor their Facebook and Twitter timelines for new product introductions and maybe a special or two!