Published in: 2010
Playing time: 25 minutes
Genre: card game
Mechanics: co-op, hand management, deduction
BGG Page: Hanabi
Hanabi! This is a card game (with some tokens) where you know what everyone else’s hands are, but not your own. By giving away limited hints, you try to deduce what you have in your hand and work with the other players to build up numerical stacks of 1-5 in several different colors. The higher your score, the better the fireworks show!
Or something like that. Okay, Hanabi’s theme is tenuous at best. The pictures are of fireworks, but they could be of anything. You could honestly play it with a deck of cards if it had enough suits. If the pictures showed a progressing meal, increasingly adorable kittens, or more and more powerful Pokemon, it would still play the exact same. Okay, actually all of those sound good. Someone make these as rethemes, stat!
Done with those rethemes? Okay, good. Because the important part is that Hanabi is a great game in spite of not having any effective theme.
Because it’s a co-op – meaning no direct competition or confrontation – anyone but the most combative will enjoy this game. Your mom, your grandmom, and your great-great grandmom will enjoy it. Your child, your grandchild, and your great-great grandchild will enjoy it. Friends and enemies alike will clamor to play with you. Board gamers, video gamers, and currently-non-initiated-but-future gamers will all want to play with equal reckless abandon.
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little (but just a smidge). The point is, both Erik and I think this is a really great game. It’s very fast to play, requires meaningful but not stressful thought, and offers great interaction between players. It’s light enough to be played as a filler, but has enough depth to make you want to play several games to get the feel for it.
Hanabi also comes with extra rainbow cards to beef up the difficulty when you’ve played the game enough, which adds to the replayability. Though replayability is high to begin with – one non-optimal hint given or the wrong card discarded will have you chasing after a grasp on that perfect score for hours to come.
The cards themselves are a little flimsy and the edges get dirty. But after 100+ plays, you can’t really expect much else. We got sleeves and the problem was solved (though sadly the cards no longer fit in the nice little box it came in…our first world problems abound). If you really want crisp cards, you can always buy another one.
Buy another one, you ask in disbelief. Why, yes, I answer knowingly, because the game is currently only $12! Stirrings of an American reprint are issuing forth, so you might even be able to get it cheaper.
So get it! If you don’t like it, it was less than $20 spent. If you do, you’ve now got a great, quick game that plays equally well with 2-5 players. It’s a great bonding game for you and your significant other, and you’ll find the two of you creating your own unspoken communication to optimize the game. Just remember that if you play with others later on, they don’t necessarily know that if you discard the card they just told you about, it means they have that card in their hand as well. So prepare for them to freak out the first time.
A word of warning, though – I didn’t like this game the first few playthroughs. There are a few subtle strategies and one minor house rule that we picked up that made the game much more enjoyable for me personally. If you’re struggling and want to see if these would help, I’ve written down our strategies in the full review, so go check that out before you give up on it! Tweaking it a bit definitely changed my outlook on the game and made it my current favorite to play.
Component Quality: 4/5