• Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Players: 3-5
  • Time: 25 Min

“What have you done?” a man shouts as he runs hastily in your direction. “That fuse is completely wrong… and you’ve mixed up the gun powders!” A panic sets in as you realize your mistakes. “The show is going to start any minute, and the king has brought his mother to see the display!” The man tears a fistful of hair from his head in frustration and points the matted mess in your direction. “You will bring dishonor on us all if you don’t fix this right now!”

This is how Hanabi (Japanese for fireworks) begins. You and your friends must work together in this cooperative game to set the show back in order before your reputation as master of pyrotechnics is tarnished forever.┬áHere’s how it works. Each of the 60 cards in the game is numbered from 1 to 5 and denotes one of six firework types. Each player is dealt a hand of cards with the objective of placing similar types of fireworks in runs of ascending value. However, in a clever stroke of genius that further propels Antoine Bauza forward as my favorite designer… you don’t get to look at your own cards. That’s right! You can see everyone’s cards but your own. Herein lies the cooperative aspect of the game. On your turn you will be allowed to perform one of three actions: play a card from your hand in the hope that it is the one you all need, discard a precious point-giving firework, or sacrifice time to give another player a piece of information. The latter is where the game gets interesting, because you are only allowed to point out a specific color or numerical value within another player’s hand. The game ends when the last firework card is drawn or the fuse has burnt to its end, unleashing a chaotic explosion and dishonoring you and your crew.

The game is unlike anything I have played before. It won the coveted Spiel de Jarhes (game of the year) in 2013, and its easy to see why. Hanabi is simple, innovative and, above all, fun. The theme and light mechanics make it a fantastic game to tuck away at a cabin or beach house, and like a lot of great family games it rewards you for playing with the same group of people. Each game inches you closer and closer to perfection as you start to develop patterns and a rapport with your crew. But don’t take my word for it. Give it a try, and I think you too will find it a blast.

Pros: Simple, Fun, Innovative, Compact, Affordable

Cons: A Bit Light for Some

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