Sean McCarthy
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb



It's called Hanabi, but given its availability it might as well be called Poisson d'Avril. I've only seen the one copy, though I am told you can buy it in France. How it has avoided American publishers so far is beyond me, though perhaps its uniqueness is at fault.

Hanabi is a real cooperative game - in no way could it be considered glorified solitaire. This is because players can't freely communicate. Passing around information in spite of the game's terrible restrictions is, in fact, the entire challenge of the game.

The Rules

The goal of the game is simple: play out each colored suit in order, 1-2-3-4-5. No problem, right? Well, the problem is, you can't look at your own hand. Instead, you hold the cards backwards, so they are visible only to all the other players. On your turn, you do one of three things:

1) Play a card. Yeah, no problem at all!! You'd just better hope it's a legal play, or it's discarded and you get a strike. Legal plays at the beginning of the game are the five 1s. Once a color's 1 is played, the 2 becomes the legal play in that color, and so on. Playing cards blind tends to be a terrible idea.

2) Discard a card. It's gone forever and the group gains back a clue token. You'd better hope that card wasn't necessary, because the game ends after a single run through the deck. Most cards have exactly two available copies, so chucking one of them is fine. The 1s even come in triple. 5s, however, only exist once.

3) Give a clue. This costs a clue token (you started the game with eight), and you finally get to say something! But only one thing. And only a very specific type of thing: You pick one other person's hand, and you choose a color or value, and you point to all the cards in that player's hand with that property, and you say: "These cards are blue" (or whatever). And that's it.

If you played or discarded, you draw a replacement card (up to four in a 4-5 player game, or five in a 2-3 player game), bringing the game one step closer to its impending conclusion. If you successfully played a 5, you recover a clue token. If you take the third strike, that's a loss: zero points. If you draw the last card, everyone gets just one more turn, and then you add up the best card played of every color: that's your score out of 25. Obviously, only a perfect score is a real victory. (Not that I've ever seen one.) Also obviously, you play with the variant 6th color, the rainbow suit, which only has one copy of every value. This way, instead of failing to achieve 25 points, you can fail to achieve 30 points.

And those are the rules. But the rules are only the beginning.

The Atmosphere

Did I mention this game is cooperative? You can tell it's cooperative because when it's someone else's turn, you're often thinking "noooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo dontdothatdontdothatdontdothat" and your heart is pounding, but you can't say anything, you have to be stoic and trust that your teammate won't screw up. And when it's your turn, and the actions of the players before you didn't make sense, and seem like they would lead to disaster, but on the other hand, you don't know what your own cards are... the right move is usually to trust them, to realize that they probably have solved the problems before you even knew about them, that they have you covered, and you can just do what they (through the limited language of ambiguous clues) told you to do.

It's also very much a game of reasoning. I've had this card for three turns with no one telling me anything about it, so it wasn't playable. And now they tell me it's green. Why? Could it be important I not discard it? The guy on my right has the green 5... BUT, one of the green 3s has been discarded already. So maybe this is the other one. Still, seems like a waste to tell me about it. And risky too, since I might think I'm supposed to play it. Oh! That guy just drew a green 2 (and the 1 is already out). So I guess it was useful to tell me after all. I'll tell that guy that he has a 2, he can play his card, and then I'll play mine.

I've seen some unbelievably deep chains of logic. And sometimes, they work! Joking aside, it's immensely rewarding when they do, particularly when multiple people are able to come to the same conclusion from different starting points and gain way more information than you'd expect from the limited clue rules. We've played Hanabi mostly as a super-late-night card game, but it's kind of like the most intensely serious such game ever. It gives you that delightful feeling of being on a team that you only sometimes get from other coop games like Pandemic (which I do really love) where decisions can be discussed to death by the group.

The Other Game

Yes, the game is called Hanabi & Ikebana, because it supposedly comes with rules for another game played with the same cards. I'm not talking about that. (Why would you play that if you could play Hanabi?!) I'm talking about talking about how to beat Hanabi. As I can't figure out how to properly and grammatically emphasize this sentence using swear word technology, let me just say that Hanabi allows for conventions very well. And... that's all I'm going to say about that, because coming up with them was super fun and I don't want to take that process of discovery away from anyone.

Conclusion

Do you like accomplishing things with the help of teammates?
Do you like making clever deductions?
Do you like imagining game-changing new strategies?

Even if your answers are no, you may find this game to be uniquely enjoyable. For the people I've played it with, the answers would be more like "Eh, I guess" and the most common reaction has been love. This game is amazing.
42 
 Thumb up
1.02
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
William Crispin
United States
Wilmington
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I just got a copy yesterday so I am looking forward to playing it. Thanks for the review.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Itai Perez
France
Paris
Ile-de-France
flag msg tools
designer
Soon in retail !
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review ! I confirm everything that has been said. Hanabi is a very simple, very original, very cooperative game...
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
EGG Head
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ok, now I have to try my copy, thanks for the review to spur me on!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls

Eugene
Oregon
msg tools
Avatar
mb
This sounds like a blast. Belknap!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Antoine Bauza
France
Valence
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Thanks for this very enthusiastic review !
Recently, I wrote a "genesis" of the game on my blog. It's only in french but you may be interested, so here is the url :
http://toinito.free.fr/blog/?p=734

Have fun,
Antoine
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean McCarthy
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
toinito wrote:

Thanks for this very enthusiastic review !
Recently, I wrote a "genesis" of the game on my blog. It's only in french but you may be interested, so here is the url :
http://toinito.free.fr/blog/?p=734

Have fun,
Antoine


Thanks, that's an interesting article. (Or at least google translate makes it seem so. Who can really know? )

I wish you the best of luck getting lots of copies published!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean McCarthy
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I realized I forgot to mention a few details.

1) Player count. This is basically a 3-5 player game. The rules support 2, but it's much less deep. I've liked it with each number from 3-5 though.

2) The rainbow suit (pictured at the top) has a slight usability problem in that if you can only see the corner they look like blue or green cards. The number of times I've heard "OK, I'm going to spend a clue token, and I'll tell you that these two cards are - Oh. Um, this card right here, is green" is three. That's basically the only problem with the componentry.

3) Playing time. An hour, I'd say? I'm not sure, but if you really get into it and think hard, it's going to take longer than the listed 25m.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric O. LEBIGOT
France
Versailles
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Sean, you write that "it's also very much a game of reasoning", and that "you've seen some unbelievably deep chains of logic." However, in another review, Itai Perez writes that "the game is very simple and fast-flowing, but needs some thinking." I'm not sure about how much "thinky" this game is. What fraction of the playing time to you spend thinking?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean McCarthy
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
lebigot wrote:
Sean, you write that "it's also very much a game of reasoning", and that "you've seen some unbelievably deep chains of logic." However, in another review, Itai Perez writes that "the game is very simple and fast-flowing, but needs some thinking." I'm not sure about how much "thinky" this game is. What fraction of the playing time to you spend thinking?


I guess the gameplay itself is quite quick (it's just cards) so most of the time is spent thinking. And apparently you can think either a lot, or a bit less, and in both cases it still works just fine.

The game has about 60 turns (~40 cards to draw, and ~20 clues to give) so if we're taking an hour that is roughly 1 minute per turn (though it's not distributed evenly; some are easy, and some are hard). We've played some longer games too but I think 1 hour is the most useful estimate I can give.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Deb Wentworth
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I understand (I think) how much players can communicate about card specifics (color and number) but I don't think I appreciate how much players can communicate about strategy in general during the game. Are their guidelines for this, or is it left to the players as to what to allow.

For instance, would it be within the spirit of the game to say something like "it would be helpful if anyone knows they have a '1' to place it to start a firework".
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean McCarthy
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Generally, no.

If you want to discuss strategy you should do so before the game starts. Of course, if you have new players and are just trying to teach them, it seems perfectly reasonable to explain some strategies during play.

But the rules are no communicating except through taking actions in the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Deb Wentworth
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks, Sean. I should have prefaced it by saying that I don't actually have the game yet, and therefore don't have any rules other than what I'm gleaning on this forum. Then again, if the only rules that come with the game are in French, contributions on BGG may be my only source!

Thanks for your great review. Except that it prompted me spend a lot of money to order the game from Europe.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Simon Lundström
Sweden
Täby
flag msg tools
Now who are these five?
badge
Come, come, all children who love fairy tales.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've played the home-made spinoff MadoMagion, and it's really one of the best games I ever saw. From your review I saw more differences between the two than I first thought (mainly when it comes to limiting the amount of tells) but the main idea is still the same. It's indeed a really, really fantastic game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.