Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hanabi Review

  • Designed by Antoine Bauza
  • Published by R&R Games
  • For 2-5 players, ages 8+, though I'd argue for 10+
  • Playtime is 30 minutes.
Players are working together to play cards in order, but you can't see your own cards.

Sample of the different cards
On your turn, you have 3 options.  1) Play a card. Probably not a good thing to do blindly.
2) Spend a token to tell someone something about their hand.  You can tell someone all the cards of a single number (1,2,3,4,5) or all the cards of a single color (red, yellow, green, blue, white).  3) Discard a card from your hand and gain a token.
While each turn seems fairly simple, they really aren't.  There's a lot going on in the game, and each person needs to know things.  The mechanics are simple, but there is a lot of depth in the game.

The Fuse(L) and Clue(R) tokens
There is a good deal of interaction is Hanabi.  You're trying to figure out your own cards by the clues people give you, but you're also trying to figure out the best clues to give to other players, as well as figure out who needs to know something right now and who can wait for a bit.  The game does get a bit thinky, so some players will retreat to their own thoughts, but each clue can really tell you a lot about your hand.

Hanabi has a firework theme, but the theme has almost nothing to do with the game.  To put it another way, you could put any theme you wanted on the game and it would play exactly the same.

What comes in the box?
Cards, Tokens, Rules
The components in Hanabi are pretty basic. You get 60 cards, a rulesheet, 8 clue tokens and 4 fuse tokens.  The tokens are sturdy, the cards hold up to repeated plays without scuffing.  I do have a couple complaints with the colors since blue and green can often look similar as can white and yellow.  I think the colors would have popped more on a lighter card back.

Learning Curve
This is definitely a game that you have to play several times before you're good at it.  Also, there's a great deal of logic to the game, so not everyone is going to be great at it even with a lot of practice.  I've played a bunch of games with my sister, and it took us 4-5 games to really get into a rhythm, and that was just the two of us.  Every time you play with someone new to your group, there's an adjustment period.

Weird hands, they happen.
Replayability is tricky to articulate for Hanabi.  I want to keep playing it, but I'll need to have a different mix of people when I play to really keep it interesting.  There's a certain allure to the game that makes you want to get a perfect score, but once you've gotten that a few times, you have to try to keep it fresh.  That being said, I've played the game 16 times (making it my 22nd most played game) in about 6 weeks, so it's still fresh to me.

Why I like Hanabi
To me, Hanabi is a different puzzle every time.  The game tests your memory, your deductive abilities, and your ability to work together.  You have to be careful of the things you say, how you say them, and also the things you don't say.  I appreciate that you can't tell other people what to do.  There is also an interesting way of thinking about things since any two people can see the cards of every other player, so someone can use that knowledge to their advantage in their clues.  Essentially, there are so many means of communication in Hanabi that everyone can enjoy it and get something out of it.

Why I don't like Hanabi
One can argue that Hanabi isn't really a game.  I've started to feel that way.  Hanabi is much more puzzle than game and much more group activity than game.  That's not a huge thing for me, but it does exist.  I also don't like that the shuffle of cards can really determine a lot of the game.  I've seen both white 2's come up in the last 15 cards which makes it really hard to make progress on the white cards.  Again, not a huge complaint but it exists.

The variant multicolor suite.
Hanabi is a keeper for me.  It's one of the few games that my sister actively requests.  We'll see if that keeps up, but for now, that's good enough for me.  I enjoy the challenge of Hanabi, and it has enough variety to keep me coming back.  I enjoy adding in the 6th suite for that added challenge every so often.

Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
I don't think so.  BGG's Game Night did an episode (that's what convinced me to buy Hanabi) and that worked because you saw every turn.  With the editing for Tabletop, I just don't think it would work.

Want to buy the game? Here's a link to Amazon, and you'll help support BoBG.
(I'll post it later when the game is back in print)
For now, click on over to the right side an get to amazon that way, or use the Store link at the top.  Thank-you to everyone who has been clicking through.  I really appreciate it.

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