Hanabi is Japanese for “fireworks” and it is also the title of this great, fast paced card game where you work to produce the best fireworks display the world has ever seen! Fun fact – in Japanese, hanabi is written as 花火; these are the ideograms flower and fire, respectively. Hanabi is a little different from other card games you may have played in that it is a cooperative game. That’s right – all the players work together, it’s the game itself that is their opponent.
The deck of cards consists of five different colors, and for each color, the players must make an ordered row from 1 to 5. Here’s the catch – the players cannot see their own cards; they face their hand to their teammates, so that you can see everyone’s cards but your own. On your turn, you have three options of play – 1) lay down a card (and hope it’s in the right order), 2) tell someone about their cards, or 3) discard a card.
If you choose to lay down a card, you hope it’s in the right order. For example, if you lay down a yellow 4 and there’s no yellow 3 on the table… that’s bad for you and your team. You get a little closer to defeat. If you want to give another player a hint about their cards, you can return a token from your supply to the box and tell one player one thing about their hand. For instance, you could say “you have two blue cards – here and here” or “you have one number four card here”. You CANNOT say “you have a blue number 3 here”. Finally, if you discard a card, you get to take a token from the box and add it to your supply for later use.
Giving another player a hint is really the “meat” of this game. You have to be careful to give a hint for a card that the player doesn’t already know. This means you have to keep some mental track of who has said what to whom – about everyone’s hand including yours!
Play goes around the table in this fashion until one of three things occurs – 1) the player run out of cards (they lose), 2) the players make too many mistakes when laying down cards (they lose), or 3) the players successfully manage to launch enough fireworks to please the crowd (they win)! As a team, the players score based on how many fireworks they launched, so that they can try to improve the next time.
Hanabi is a breeze to learn and to play. Just by reading this post, you know 90% of the rules. Gameplay takes 30-45 minutes, and is easy to setup so you can play it a couple of times in an evening, or as filler between other games. The box is pocket-sized, so you can easily take it with you when visiting friends or your gaming group. Play is appropriate for ages 8 and up.
Conclusion: Don’t Cheat!
If I have one criticism of Hanabi it is of the colors used on the cards. I find that some of the colors, particularly the white and yellow, and the blue and green, look very close – especially in dim light. Luckily, the publisher had the foresight to give each color a unique shape identifier as well (diamonds, stars, etc), which helps for both the “close color” issue and allows our color blind friends to play.
One final comment about Hanabi, and this really applies to all cooperative games. You have no opponent but yourself. It’s very, very easy, and often tempting, to try and skirt the rules in order to win. I have played Hanabi with people like this – they’ll wink and nod to try to “cheat”. Beware these people as they’ll suck all the fun from the game, and do not play with them again.
In summary, Hanabi is a fast-paced, fun, cooperative card game appropriate for families and gaming groups! Pick up a copy today!