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5 Reasons Hanabi Rules

Hanabi. It is such a simple game and one with an incredibly unique mechanic. Designed by Antoine Bauza, this little game has taken the world by storm. It won a Spiel de Jahres, one of the most respected awards in the gaming industry, and has entertained all kinds of gamers (from casual to hardcore) due to how unique it is.

In this article I want to take a little time to celebrate the game, and give five definitive reasons why Hanabi rules.

Why Hanabi Rules

#1: The Rules are REALLY Simple

Together, as a group, you must build a series of fireworks in five or six different colours. These need to be built in chronological order. You are all dealt a hand of cards with numbers (1-5) and colours on them. The difficulty is, you can’t see your own hand. You can only see other people’s. The up-side being you can give others advice on which cards to play each turn. The downside is you can only give one piece of complete information. If one card is red, for instance, you can say “this card is red”. If two cards are red however you must say “these two cards are red”.

Each turn, players can either burn a card to gain a fuse, give advice about a card, or play a card. When you give advice you burn fuse tokens. If you run out of fuse tokens the game ends. You can get fuse tokens back by discarding cards.

If a player decides to play a card then they play it on top of a card of the same colour in numerical order. Otherwise the card cannot be placed.

It’s that simple – three paragraphs for the main rules set. There are additions to the game, like you will notice I said 5 or 6, this is because there is a rainbow set as well. More information can be read up on the Hanabi rules here.

The Hanabi box...which contains the Hanabi rules...not currently displayed in the photo.

The Hanabi box…which contains the Hanabi rules…not currently displayed in the photo.

#2 The Designer is Incredible

Antoine Bauza is one of the big players in board game design. Aside from Hanabi, he was one of the designers on one of the highest rated (and most owned) games of the board game renaissance, 7 Wonders alongside Bruno Cathala. Bauza also created the Conan game, the incredibly well received Ghost Stories, the beloved Takenoko, the highly respected Tokaido, 7 Wonders: Duel, Terror in Meeple City, and so many more.

Antoine Bauza is a legend, with a lot of his games focusing on a unique game mechanic and mastering it in a single move. He is an all time great, and deserves respect from everyone in the industry. His repertoire is phenomenal.

All of those games are highly thought of, and, although this won’t mean a lot to non-board game fanatics, for heavy gamers like myself, that is a really impressive line up.


Firework building in Hanabi.

#3 The Theme is Deeper Than It Appears

Hanabi literally translates as Fireworks, and is shown like this – 花火 – in the Japanese script. That being said, fireworks have a rich history in Japan. They were first introduced as a way of warding off evil spirits,  and since then fireworks have become a cultural phenomenon in their own right.

Now, according to Japan Guide, a whole culture has grown up around fireworks, where a show will last over two hours in the evenings. They would usually take place in summer (and rather unusually, said he from a Western perspective, not at New Year) where food stalls will be placed around the display and patrons would have a relaxing evening enjoying the show. Sometimes shows will be so long they need to be broken down into shorter episodes with breaks in between.

Fireworks, in Japanese culture, are not the byproduct of a celebration, but also the celebration itself.

This, when compared to the UK, is the exact opposite. We have our firework displays in the rainy season. We have them, not to celebrate independence or the height of summer, but our biggest night of fireworks is to celebrate a dude who tried to blow up parliament in 1605. We all gather, standing in discomfort, usually squinting into rain to see a tiny 10 minute fizz. It’s great fun.

Hanabi Rules: A discard pile...da da daaaaaaa....

A discard pile…da da daaaaaaa….

#4 Hanabi Promotes Collaboration, Interpersonal Skills, Puzzle Solving Skills and More

Hanabi, as a game, is often compared to a game called Indian Poker due to the mechanic where you cannot see your own hand. It is, it has to be said, a far more advanced version of Indian Poker since the latter is a guessing game to do with guessing a single card allocated to you.

Instead, Hanabi is an intellectual puzzle, a math puzzle, and a linguistic puzzle all rolled into one. Each turn you need to figure out exactly what it is you are trying to say. You need to figure out, in a mildly Sudoku-esque way, which the best possible way to explain and explore the cards you want your co-players to place are. Do you simply point and explain? Do you give whole pieces of information, even if that information has the potential to mislead? Or do you give information about the other cards to provide a verified false negative? The options are countless, sometimes confusing, and always worth the challenge.

I think, on a personal level, this is the main reason Hanabi rules for me. It offers a challenge, but a slightly different challenge to the norm. Instead of being a game where the strategy is purely mathematical, there is an aesthetic, communication, and even social level to Hanabi making it a real joy to build fireworks.

I love this game because everyone needs to be on the same level, and that is always something really cool within a game. I could be pointing at a card in particular, but you need to understand intrinsically why – like truly understand why. That’s awesome. Challenging, but awesome.

Why Hanabi Rules

Okay – so not the most interesting of views…

#5 Hanabi is a lot of “Bang” for the Buck

One of the good things about Hanabi is that it is an engrossing game, making it easy to play a few games back to back. One of the great things about Hanabi is that to do so it is relatively cheap. The game costs less than £10 on Amazon UK, and less than $10 on Amazon US. When you consider that Hanabi has an average play time of  25 minutes and can be played by 5 people, that gives it an ROI of about £1 per person per hour the first time you play. That really isn’t bad.

Our gaming group actually got given Hanabi for free over three years ago, at our first ever UK Games Expo. For that we are very grateful. It’s a shame it’s taken me this long to write about it. We got it, I believe, after buying the big box of Kingdom Builder, but that is a story for another time.

So, there we have it. Five reasons why, in my opinion, Hanabi rules. You know, when we first got this game, I didn’t appreciate what it is; however, I have to admit that now that I am older, fatter, and wiser, I really do think it is a great game. Give it a go, and let me know what you think.

If you’ve already played Hanabi, then let me know what you think of the game in the comments below.

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  1. A fantastic game! It’s one of our travel staples 🙂 Still holding out for the perfect score (is it even possible?) The only criticism I have is that the yellow and white cards can be difficult to distinguish in some light which can be confusing…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the article. I’ve heard a lot about Hanabi, but not a lot of positives. Most people seem to say it’s an average game, so it’s interesting to hear that you really like it. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be good for my family and me to play. Now I have read your article, I’ll have to take another look.

    Liked by 1 person

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