Hanabi: Deluxe Edition

“What a show!”

Hanabi Deluxe review by S vs J Board Games

2-5 players
25-45 minutes

Coiled Spring Games

Note: Coiled Spring Games sent us a copy of Hanabi Deluxe Edition so that we could write this unbiased review

Grab your coat, scarf and gloves and get ready for some fireworks! Hanabi (the Japanese word for “fireworks”) is a co-operative card game all about putting on the perfect fireworks display. Will you and the other players work together to wow the crowd, or will the event fall flat with rockets flying off into neighbours’ gardens and sparklers failing to light?

Blindly play cards from your hand in the correct order to create the display, hoping that your fellow players’ have given you the correct information about the colour and number on the card via clue tokens. Be sparing with your clues as they are finite- so give as much information with as few words as possible. Hanabi truly is a Hall of Fame game, and here’s why.

How the game works

The object of the game is to work together to put on the most amazing fireworks display, by putting down the numbers 1-5 in ascending order for each of the five suits. The wonderful twist compared to conventional card games is that in Hanabi you can’t see your own cards, you can only see everyone else’s cards. So how do I know which card to play and when?! You and the other players will need to give clever clues as to what is in your hands so that you can play cards in the correct order!

In 2-3 player games, each player has five cards facing outwards (in 4-5 player games it’s just four). On your turn you have three possible actions:

  1. Give a clue – Take a clue token from the supply and move it to the discard pile, before giving someone a clue about the cards in their hand. You can either tell someone about all the cards of a certain number (e.g. “you have two 3s, they are here and here”) or about all the cards of a certain colour (e.g. “you have three white cards, they are here, here and here). If you are given a clue, it is really important to remember which cards the clues related to, otherwise the clues are worthless! Most players rearrange the cards in front of them so that cards with clues are on one side.
  2. Play a card – Once you’ve been given sufficient clues about your cards, you can place a card on the table, as you overturn it you’ll learn straight away whether you were correct or not! If the card you’ve played continues the 1-5 sequence of any of the colours, you’re in the clear! Otherwise you lose a life. Lose three lives and the firework display ends early and everyone goes home. We don’t want that, unless it’s raining.
  3. Discard a card – Players begin the game with 8 clue tokens. That means after you’ve collectively given 8 clues, you can’t give any more until players start discarding cards from their hands. Discarding is very different to playing the card, as you are permanently removing that card from play. Within each suit there are three 1s, two 2s, two 3s, two 4s and only one 5, so discarding a 5 by mistake will instantly prevent a perfect game (so maybe tell Dave about that 5 he just picked up yeah?). Whether or not you discarding a card resulted in your team shouting at you for ruining the game, you gain a clue token back. Just hope the next player doesn’t waste it…
2 player set up mid-game. I can’t see my cards and Jess can’t see hers, we have three clues left and still haven’t started the blue suit. I could tell her she has two 1s but then she might play the red 1 and lose a life, so instead I tell her she has one blue card, and she takes the hint that I want her to play it.

Play continues until either the deck of card runs out (each player gets one final turn – note we house rule this and just play until all cards are played/discarded, it doesn’t seem fair if the last three cards in the deck were all blue 1s), you complete the show or if you run out of lives. You count up how many cards you successfully added to the display and that’s your score. The game provides a handy little breakdown of what each score equates to, but when I am logging the wins and losses in BG Stats I have 20-25 as a win, anything else as a loss.

Review

I think Hanabi is one of the most brilliant card games out there. It is a wonderfully simple puzzle that makes your head hurt but really rewards you taking the time to work out what your cards could possibly be. A seemingly pointless clue can actually be completely game changing, someone might tell you “you have one blue card and it’s this one”, and whilst you don’t know what number it is, you can be pretty sure it means “please play this card”. It’s so satisfying when you’re right and so frustrating when you’re wrong.

It’s not complex, but it can keep you entertained for hours and hours as you try and beat your score, and play one of the many variants out there. The rainbow suit is a real brain burner, as it counts as all colours. Any time you give a clue that pertains to colour, you have to include all the rainbow cards in someone’s hand too! E.g. “you have four whites” may mean the player has 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 white cards! Even trickier is the black suit that needs to be placed on the table from 5 to 1, and players are forbidden from giving colour clues for black cards. Savage!

One of the variants is the rainbow suit. These cards count as EVERY colour, so when you give a clue about colour (e.g. “you have these blue cards”) it has to include all rainbow cards too. So in this case, I would say “you have three blues” indicating the three cards on the right. Next turn I could say “you have three red cards” indicating the three cards in the middle and then Jess would know for sure where the rainbow cards were. Tricky!

Because of the variations, and because the order of the cards will always be different, Hanabi is an infinitely replayable game. I will never get bored of playing (and indeed haven’t, I’ve been playing it for years now). My friend Jack and I once even attempted to play where we weren’t allowed to vocalise our clues, merely point at the cards. Our best using this method was a massive 16 points!

It takes a little getting used to not looking at your own cards it has to be said, and explaining the concept to beginners I find oddly challenging, but I love watching them discover the game, the nuances and tactics as they gradually get better at remembering which cards had which clues, why certain clues are given and NOT TO DISCARD THE CARD YOU JUST PICKED UP!

There are several versions of Hanabi. The version I have played most is the original which is just the cards and the clues. Hanabi Deluxe contains lovely card racks to hold your cards (the nature of the game requires you to hold the cards up at all times which could be tiring with the original!), and proper solid clue tokens and bag to store them in. The cards in the Deluxe version are also much thinner in shape which we’ve found makes them quite flims and easy to knock out of the racks by accident (with obviously dire consequences).

Another variant involves a sixth suit (black). Black cards need to be played 5 down to 1, and have a card distribution matching that (three 5s, one 1). You can’t give any clues as to the colour of the black cards. This one is not for the feint-hearted! We are yet to succeed in putting on a fireworks display with this variant as yet. Very tricky!

I guess if I’m trying really hard to find things I don’t like about it, the fireworks theme is kind of loose but then that’s the same with The Crew and doesn’t stop me loving that game. And I’d have to say the artwork and box art isn’t spectacular, but when it comes to card games I really don’t care about looks (just check out Love Letter for example!)

Minor gripes about the Deluxe version aside, I absolutely adore this game and would heartily recommend it to any likeminded gamer out there, you won’t be disappointed by the challenge. Getting a perfect score is very difficult even without the variants making it even tougher. I would rank it up there with The Crew and Love Letter, and for that reason it makes it into our Hall of Fame. Wonderful game!

The weighty clue tokens come in this felt bag, along with some additional bonus tokens that you can use in one of the variants.

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Check out GamesQuest
https://coiledspring.co.uk/product/hanabi-deluxe/
Check this game out on Board Game Geek
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/290357/hanabi-grands-feux

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