It’s the first day of July! You know what that means! It’s time to be American! Yes the 4th of July is coming up and it’s time to love your country until it hurts! Eagles! Apple Pie! Baseball! American Football! American Cheese! And the most American thing on the planet: Fireworks! So we’re celebrating this American day with a French game with a Japanese name based on a Chinese invention! This is Hanabi! America!
In the game of Hanabi you and up to five friends are irresponsible fireworks technicians. Instead of being a game where you try to collect missing fingers from premature explosions, though, you and your friends are scrambling to put the fireworks display within mere minutes of it going live. Oh, and some one shuffled all the crates, so no one knows where any thing goes. Good job buddy, you had one job!
Hanabi‘s gameplay can be summarized aptly: It’s a blind, multiplayer version of Solitaire. You don’t get to see your cards, but you can see every one else’s, and you have to work together to make sure you get every firework color (think of them as suits from traditional playing cards) to it’s maximum American-ness of 5, because as we all know 5 is the most American number available.
Each round, you have a few options: You can discard a card and give your team more time tokens (which is dangerously close to socialism, which is NOT American), you can play a card, or you can spend a time token to give some one in your party a clue. This is where the real meat of the game is, as you can’t just go “You have a Red 1, A Blue 1, and a White 1, and we win the game because America.” No, you have to look at your friend’s cards (Which, lemme remind you, they can’t see) and tell them either how many Numbers they have (“You have two threes”) or how many colors they have (“You have five greens, you green party commie!”)
Of course, Time Tokens, much like capitalism (Second review in a row, can you tell I’m job hunting?) are a zero-sum expenditure. If you use all the Time Tokens, you’ve run out of time and you have to do it live! So some turns you can’t just give a clue, and you have to discard a card, but– Oh, crap, you don’t know what you have and suddenly every one is looking at you like you’re about to cut the red wire or the blue wire and blow up the entire ship! Well you can choose to play a card but if you play a card that can’t go any where you set off one of the wicks, and we only have three of those to begin with! Ahhhh!
This game isn’t exactly “relaxing” is what we’re getting at, but it’s certaintly fun. As it’s, at it’s core, a game about communication, you slowly start to realize patterns and tells from the people around in a reverse-Poker sort of situation. This might violate the rules on communication, but who cares, it’s fun! And that’s what we should be doing! Having fun! For America!
For our non-American readers, we can be much more succinct: This game is a cross between Poker, Solitaire, and that game they played in Inglorious Basterds where they had to figure out what character they had on their forehead. It’s fun, if not a bit stressful. It’s not for every one, but if you’re looking for a fun little co-op game, this one’s a pretty good choice.
Players: 2 – 5
Skip-A-Turn Variation: AMERICA!: Make a Red White And Blue cell while you’re playing. If you complete it, you win you very own law eagle*!
*Skip-A-Turn has no idea where to get a Law Eagle. If you end up with one, it’s not our fault. Seriously.