Designer: Antoine Bauza
Date Released: 2010

Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 8 and up (14+ on the box; 10 for a family game)
Setup Time: minimal
Play Time: 25 minutes or less

Game Mechanics:
Cooperative Play
Hand Management
Set Collection

Game Flow and Review:
Hanabi is the Japanese word for fireworks, and the game Hanabi revolves around a team of fireworks experts trying to give spectators the most memorable display of their lives.

Hanabi01You and your team are trying to set off fireworks in the proper order, and there are five different colors of cards—depicting the various colors of fireworks—with numbers on each card—illustrating the number of colorful blasts at the moment you play the card—ranging from 1-5. Your goal is to place the different colored cards in ascending order. When was the last time a fireworks display started with the big finish?

It sounds easy enough. In fact, you get to see all of your teammates’ cards so you can help them play their cards in the right order. But there’s a catch. You’re not allowed to see your own hand. You’re playing this game blind.

Hanabi04You get three options during your turn: give a teammate a clue, play a card, and discard a card to earn another clue. It gets even more difficult. When you give a teammate a clue, you have to tell them where all their numbers of one type are or where all their same colored cards are. This proves problematic when you’re dealing with a hand with three ones but only one plays and there just so happens to be another card of the same color as the one “one” that plays. Suddenly, Hanabi turns deceptively complex.

You have to feed your teammates plays—while keeping a Poker face—and not leading them to a wrong conclusion about their hand. If you make a wrong play, the firework explodes in your face and you lose a fuse chip.

Hanabi05And of course you could always forget which cards are in your hand. You are allowed to shift cards around so you can keep track, and you’ll see players holding their cards between various fingers, grasping multiple sets of cards in their two hands, or staggering how they hold their cards to remember which group of cards are their ones and fives as well as their blues and reds.

Hanabi03The above picture of people playing with card racks instead of holding their cards is cheating in my book. Hold your hand, people.

Hanabi comes with an optional sixth suit of cards: the rainbow or wild cards. You have to determine how you’ll play the cards. If you want to make things easier, you can choose to play them as wild cards. But if you choose to play them as rainbow cards, you just gained another group of fireworks to play in the correct order. The second option is perfect for a group of people who need a bigger challenge.

Hanabi02Leave it Antoine Bauza to create yet another game with wildly different game mechanics and one that also attracts a different kind of gamer. Hanabi starts out easy enough but increases in difficulty and tension as the game progresses.

Verdict: A simple game with a mean streak, Hanabi spells cooperative fun for a group of friends and/or family. And it doesn’t hurt that it only takes twenty minutes or so to play.