In Hanabi 2-4 players take on the role of workers preparing a beautiful fireworks display by playing cards of a variety of colors onto the table in the correct order. However there is a catch: players hold their hand of cards facing away from them and rely on clues from the other players to figure out what is in their hand and when they should play it.
The game encourages replayability because it’s one of those games that you get better at the more you play. Players will always be trying to beat their high-scores. To make the game harder or easier you can easily remove or add clue tokens or lightning tokens (extra lives).
The game also has an included “expansion” – the rainbow-colored cards. These add two more possible variations to the gameplay. You can play them as the sixth color and just add 5 more points to the maximum, or you can make the game a bit more difficult by having players give clues about the rainbow card as if it was one of the five default colors.
Pro No quarterbacking issues
The game successfully evades the popular issue of many cooperative games where a player ends up taking over the game and telling others what to do. In Hanabi this is pretty much impossible because there is no way to see your own cards, so everyone is forced to work together.
Pro Easy to learn
Hanabi is a truly simple and very accessible game to people of all ages. Players stack cards of one color to finish five firework displays consisting of five cards each. Players are dealt five cards that they hold outwards to other players. On your turn you can perform one of three actions – give a clue, discard a card, or play a card.
By flipping one of the eight clue tokens you can point out something about another player’s hand, for example, “these cards are yellow”, “these are twos”, etc.
Discarding a card restores a clue token, but you must be careful with what you discard because there is a limited number of cards of each type, you might discard a card that doesn’t let you complete the firework.
If you play a card that doesn’t fit any of the current piles, then that is an illegal play, the card is discarded and one of the lightning tokens is turned over. As soon as all three lightning tokens are turned, the game is over. The game can also end when the draw pile is empty or if you successfully stack all the fireworks.
Pro A wonderful exercise in teamwork as you have to rely entirely on clues from other players
Why did the other player give that specific clue? Should you play, discard, or give a clue in return? If you give them a clue, how will they interpret it? It is these meaningful and occasionally tense decisions that make Hanabi an absolutely excellent game for couples who like to work together to solve problems.
Con Requires commitment
Hanabi could be considered an exercise in memory, teamwork, and communication, so this isn’t the game to play if you’re in a distraction full environment or if you want to casually socialize with your buddies.
Furthermore, it’s important to limit your table talk because someone might accidentally say too much in a clue or pass off some important information in a remark here or there. Showing frustration or excitement about a play that someone’s about to do is also bad because it might impact the player’s action.
Con Similar looking colors on cards
The game has five possible colors, but since they aren't very bright and the background is the same, it might be difficult to tell them apart in poor lighting. There are only a few cards of each type and a limited number of clues you can receive, so misinterpreting what other players tell you can lead to huge misplays.