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Subject: Our first 25-point game. How much practice does it take? rss

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Chris Casinghino
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Long story short: I finally managed a 25-point game after months of effort. It was epic!

Details: My gaming group has been playing Hanabi weekly for 3 months now. It's a big hit, with multiple hand-made decks circulating. I've probably personally played 20-25 times (though usually with new players - we have a big group, 20 people or so most weeks). It comes out a lot between other games. We almost always play with 4 players, as that's the preference of the guy who initiated the craze.

We've done a lot of strategy discussion since the game was introduced - figuring out that discarding is costly because it uses up turns, when the fives should be played (at the end, if possible), conventions for which cards will be discarded, etc. But before our last meeting we had managed just one 24-point game, with experienced players.

At our last meeting, I got some experienced players together for a game. The initial hints were a bit suboptimal, and things got confused. We salvaged the game, though, and managed 24-points (a first for one of our players). We were feeling pretty good, so we tried again. This time the shuffle was really with us - we got out all the 1s very quickly. We had a couple strikes because of some ambiguous clues, but that only focused us. As we neared the end, it looked like 25-points was possible and the tension was crazy. With careful hints, we managed it with one turn to spare. Jumping and cheering ensued.

So, I'm curious. Have you played a 25-point game? How many players? How experienced were they, and how frequently does it happen?
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Ghislain LEVEQUE
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That's really fun because we managed a 25-point during lunch break today at work and we the same kind of tension that you are describing. We were 3 players (with 5 to 10 games average I think).

We had less luck than you are describing with the 1s because the yellow one appeared only in the second half of the game but we had the luck to complete two colors pretty quickly so we had a sort of discard frenzy in the middle of the game.

Although, we always gave clues permitting our partners to discard and we never fell in the case when you have to discard without knowing if you can ruin the game or not.
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Simon Blome
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Congrats!

My main gaming group is at 23 at the moment.

Some questions:

1) How do you handle communication (e.g. telling what you know about your cards, I heard about such variants)?

2) How do you handle the discard pile? Is it open for everyone as a reference?

3) How many hint/lightning tokens do you use?

4) Which conventions do you use (e.g. holding new cards left, possible discards right or something)?
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Chris Casinghino
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BenOni wrote:
Congrats!

My main gaming group is at 23 at the moment.


Thanks! Even 23 can be pretty tough to get!

BenOni wrote:

Some questions:

1) How do you handle communication (e.g. telling what you know about your cards, I heard about such variants)?


I haven't seen any official rules about what sort of reminders our allowable. My group's belief is that Hanabi isn't meant to be a memory game, and anyway it's hard enough without making people remember everything on their own.

So, it is very common for one player to ask another player: "What do you know about your hand?". As a group, we will help that player remember what he is supposed to know, if we remember it ourselves and he is having trouble. We also think it's perfectly fine to ask questions about where cards have moved in your hand, if you forgot. For example: "I know you told me I have a 2. I think I put it here, is that right?". Of course, it's important not to reveal information the player wasn't supposed to have.

Is there a consensus about this kind of thing?

BenOni wrote:

2) How do you handle the discard pile? Is it open for everyone as a reference?


Yes. We play with the discard pile as public information. My copy of the rules says that cards are discarded face up, so I think this makes sense.

One consequence is that after all the cards have been drawn, each player can know exactly what is in their hand (because they can see every card that is not). Instead of making players puzzle this out, we often just tell them what's in their hand on their last turn (but not where the cards are).

BenOni wrote:

3) How many hint/lightning tokens do you use?


We play with 8 hints and 3 strikes/lightning tokens. We basically never lose from strikes. (I have only lost 2-player games this way. I think 2-player is much harder.)

BenOni wrote:

4) Which conventions do you use (e.g. holding new cards left, possible discards right or something)?


Over time, we have developed the convention that we don't rearrange our hand and we always add newer cards on the same side. Players will always discard their oldest card, unless they've been given a hint suggesting it's important. As a result, it's easy to figure out what card a player is likely to discard next by looking at their hand and asking them to remind you what they know about it.

There are a lot of conventions that I imagine are pretty standard (I'm not sure these are really conventions). For example, if I give you a hint about some cards in your hand, you can assume they are playable unless the situation is very unusual. We almost never give a hint like "These are your 1s" if two of them are the same color. In the late game, this is sometimes unavoidable. We've thought about conventions as to which card should be played in such a situation, but haven't come up with anything good.

What does your group do?

Of course, it's most fun to let new players discover the game on their own, so we try not to lay all of this on them at once.
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Ghislain LEVEQUE
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BenOni wrote:

1) How do you handle communication (e.g. telling what you know about your cards, I heard about such variants)?


I agree that Hanabi is not (mainly) a memory game but I think it's more fun to play with memory losses so we often ask "What do you know about your hand ?" but if the player's answer is wrong, we don't tell him, we just need to give hime more clues and that makes the game harder.

On the other hand, if you give me clues about my hand and I can deduce stuff by looking at your hand, when you will ask me what I know about my hand, I may give you more informations and that gives you informations about your hand.
Is there a consensus about this kind of thing?

BenOni wrote:

2) How do you handle the discard pile? Is it open for everyone as a reference?


Yes my rules also says that the discard pile is public information. We order by it by color and by rank. When all the cards are drawn, we take the time needed to deduce what we have in hand and, as I said previously, if one player is wrong, the group has to do with that.

BenOni wrote:

3) How many hint/lightning tokens do you use?


We play with 8 hints and 3 strikes tokens too. When we made the 25-point victory, we had two strike tokens left and we decided that our next goal is to achieve a 25-point victory without using any stike token.

Yes 2-player is much harder. The more player you play with, the easiest the game is. With 5 players, you have many informations visible. It involves more calculation/deduction but less memory.

BenOni wrote:

4) Which conventions do you use (e.g. holding new cards left, possible discards right or something)?


The only "hand holding" convention we have is to put the 5s downside to clearly remember that we can't discard them.

About clues, we try to give more clues about what you can discard than clues about what you can play unless we can give a "1 card" clue that says "play this card now" or "play this card on your next turn". Sometime we can put the clues in a sort of "queue". (Imagine we have the blue 1 and 2 already played. A says to B "this is a 3", B discards a card that is known to be discardable, C discards a card that is known to be discardable, A says to C "this is a 4", B plays his 3, C plays his 4)

ccasin wrote:

Of course, it's most fun to let new players discover the game on their own, so we try not to lay all of this on them at once.


I totally agree with that, I just tell new players some conventions or deduction they can make after the first game is over.
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Chris Casinghino
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courtjus wrote:
On the other hand, if you give me clues about my hand and I can deduce stuff by looking at your hand, when you will ask me what I know about my hand, I may give you more informations and that gives you informations about your hand.

Is there a consensus about this kind of thing?


Ah, interesting! We are very careful only to repeat what we have been told about our hands. Our thinking is that the only way more information is supposed to come in is by hints and deduction. We don't want to reveal information to other players that they can't deduce!

However, players might infer something based on my plays - for example, if I make a play that looks risky, another player might infer that I deduced the color of the card based on what he is holding.

I can see it both ways, though!

courtjus wrote:

About clues, we try to give more clues about what you can discard than clues about what you can play unless we can give a "1 card" clue that says "play this card now" or "play this card on your next turn".


I see. We have started to try to avoid giving clues about discardable cards and avoid discarding cards in general whenever possible.

In a 4-player game, you get only 13 discards if you are aiming for a perfect score. Once 14 cards have been discarded, you've used up too many turns discarding and there aren't enough turns left to play 25 cards.

To see this, observe that the deck starts with 34 cards left in it. So, once you have played or discarded 34 times, the deck is drawn out and there are 4 more turns before the game ends. Thus, you get a total of 38 plays or discards. If you discard 14 times, that leaves only 24 chances to play cards.
 
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Ghislain LEVEQUE
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ccasin wrote:

I see. We have started to try to avoid giving clues about discardable cards and avoid discarding cards in general whenever possible.

In a 4-player game, you get only 13 discards if you are aiming for a perfect score. Once 14 cards have been discarded, you've used up too many turns discarding and there aren't enough turns left to play 25 cards.

To see this, observe that the deck starts with 34 cards left in it. So, once you have played or discarded 34 times, the deck is drawn out and there are 4 more turns before the game ends. Thus, you get a total of 38 plays or discards. If you discard 14 times, that leaves only 24 chances to play cards.


Ah... that's really interesting how we all take this game and make it ours :-)

We only look at what cards can be discarded without risk (two 1s, one 2... no 5 per color) so if one red 4 is discarded for example, we will try to inform the owner of the other red 4 that he cannot discard it. But while there is not red 4 discarded, we will try to make him discard it. What we think is that you always miss clue tokens and so the more you discard, the more clue token you have and the more information you can guess (don't forget that the only cards that give no information are the cards in the deck so you will want to draw as quick as possible to get more information)
 
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Mike Olson
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Quote:
My group's belief is that Hanabi isn't meant to be a memory game, and anyway it's hard enough without making people remember everything on their own.


Our group plays with the same philosophy, but we've added the concept of a "shame token" that you can receive if you accidentally give more information. For example, if you say, "What was I told about this card again" and I say, "It was red NO IT WAS A 2!" I get a shame token. Or if I give an incorrect clue like, "This is a 2.... oh damn and also this". Obviously I wanted you to play the first one I pointed to. Then I get a shame token.

Obviously we only use this concept on experienced players who should know better. It's really amazing how easily you can give information out of band. Even a well-timed sigh can suddenly make people be like, "Oh, he was frustrated with me taking so long, that must mean he thinks what I do should be obvious, so that means I have...". I guess that's part of what makes the game so awesome.

I've even found that sometimes when I play with beginners (not absolute beginners, but people who've played a handful of games) we do better than with really experienced players because we're not as strict about table talk and more info gets passed out of band like that.
 
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Kirk Bauer
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ccasin wrote:

In a 4-player game, you get only 13 discards if you are aiming for a perfect score. Once 14 cards have been discarded, you've used up too many turns discarding and there aren't enough turns left to play 25 cards.


We are relatively new at this game, but so far the only time we have made it over 20 points is in a 2-player game, and only once to 25 with mild cheating. With 4 or 5 players I understand you only have 4 cards per hand, not 5, and to me it seems harder because it is more difficult to use clues efficiently.

We typically use a discard queue where the oldest card that hasn't been hinted at is discarded next. We typically give clues about cards that can't be discarded (5s) or cards that are ready to be played. How do you give enough information to 4 different players to play 25 cards in sequence with only 21 clues?
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Chris Casinghino
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kirkbauer wrote:

We are relatively new at this game, but so far the only time we have made it over 20 points is in a 2-player game, and only once to 25 with mild cheating. With 4 or 5 players I understand you only have 4 cards per hand, not 5, and to me it seems harder because it is more difficult to use clues efficiently.


I guess your point is that, with 4-card hands, you're less likely to be able to give one clue that identifies multiple playable cards. That's true.

But it cuts both ways. With 4-card hands, you're also less likely to need two clues to identify a single playable card. This happens when you need to identify a single card to another player, but they are holding unplayable cards of the same rank and number as the card you want. Clearly, it's more likely in 5-card hands.

Quote:
How do you give enough information to 4 different players to play 25 cards in sequence with only 21 clues?


I think you forgot about the clues you get back for playing a 5. So, there are 25 possible hints in a perfect 4-player game (8 initial hints, 13 allowed discards and 4 played fives).

This seems about right to me. Most of the time, you identify a single playable card with a hint. Occasionally you are lucky and can identify two or three (like when someone draws two or three 1s of different colors at the beginning). And occasionally you will need two hints to identify a playable card.
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Kirk Bauer
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I didn't know about the completion bonus, thanks!
 
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