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Subject: I think 2-player is the most difficult rss

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Kirk Bauer
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Smyrna
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Assuming nobody makes any mistakes, and assuming the shuffle you are dealt is winnable, I can get perfect scores fairly regularly in 4-player games.

But in 2-player games you can play perfectly and have a winnable shuffle and still lose. Here is how (from a game I just finished and received only 23 points):

Both players have a green 4 in their "next to discard" slot, but of course neither know it.

1) Player 1, instead of giving a clue, discards their green 4
2) Player 2, not knowing the situation, also discards their green 4

In a 3+ player game, there would be somebody between those two actions who could make the necessary corrections.
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I've played a lot of 2p and I agree it can be very difficult, or at least feels very different and is much less flexible. I've run into the situation you describe quite a few times and it's very hard to mitigate. We definitely see a much higher variance in scores for 2p.

It's also easy to fall into a cycle where P1 clues, P2 plays or discards, repeat and P1 never gets a chance to learn anything about their hand, so it's important to manage the clues in a way that allows for role switching.

An interesting difference I've noticed is that in 3p+, I often make an unsafe discard because the next player has very important cards that I don't want them to toss. However, in 2p I often make an unsafe discard because the other person has complete garbage that I don't want to waste the last clue on (and fall into the cycle mentioned above,) and want to give them a chance to clue me instead. Of course, sometimes this doesn't end very well!
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Chris Casinghino
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I agree that 2-player is the most difficult.

The reason is that 2-player games are much more sensitive to a bad shuffle. In particular, think about how much the number of cards you can see on your turn depends on the number of players:

2p: 5 visible cards
3p: 10 visible cards
4p: 12 visible cards
5p: 16 visible cards

With only 5 visible cards, it is very likely that there will be many turns where you can not do anything useful because none of the visible cards are playable or worth hinting at. Turns are a very important resource in Hanabi.

This analysis might make it seem like 5-player games should be the easiest, but the number of visible cards isn't the only constraint on how easy the game is. Another is how many turns each player will have to play the useful cards in their hand. In a 5-player game, each player gets few turns and they are spaced farther apart, so it can be very tough to get a 25 if one player draws too many valuable cards.

The 3 and 4-player versions seem to exist in a sweet spot where there are enough visible cards that you can do something useful on your turn, and you'll also get enough turns to do all the things you need to do. A very nicely balanced game.

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