What: Solitaire-like firework simulator where you can’t see your own hand
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 5 – 15 minutes
People: Competent communicators or those with sound memory and logic.
Available: Amazon UK (£11.95), or Amazon US ($10.42)

The Gist

Why we recommend it

I’ve always like games where playing it really feels like the fiction they’re spinning on the back of the box. That’s exactly the case with Hanabi, a tiny co-operative game that sells for about as much a cinema ticket.

In Hanabi, you’re trying to put on the best fireworks show of all time. Only problem is, all the lights have gone out 5 minutes before the fuse is set to blow. So, what follows is a stressful, creative and hilarious 15 minutes as you and your lighting-partners try to get the show ready – totally blind.

Fireworks get set off by stacking cards of the same colour in ascending order (you know, just like solitaire). To mirror the pitch-black environment, Hanabi actually requires you to hold your hand of cards away from you. Your fellow players can see your cards, but you can’t.

Every turn, you can give a player one fact about their hand. You also point to the cards you’re referring to The colour, or a number, and a finger – that’s it.

For example, you can say “you have two blue cards”, or “you have one three”.

Losing doesn’t really happen in Hanabi. You just finish the game having done well, really well, or – most likely – really poorly.

How you succeed depends of some key skills that you and your partners may or may not possess. Firstly, memory: it can be pretty hard to keep track of where you “two blues” and “three twos” were. Secondly, deduction.

When receiving clues in Hanabi, what isn’t said is far more important than what is said. If you’re staring at a nearly-complete stack of green fireworks, what clue will make the idiot in front of you finally play that green 5? If you’ve just received a seemingly useless clue, does that say something about the other cards in your hand?

You’re forced to get inside the mind of your partner, who in turn is trying to get inside of yours. At the same time you’re trying to remember the location of five cards, four different colours, and five numbers.

It’s this kind of of wierd second guessing that makes Hanabi fun.

After a while, you might get pretty good at Hanabi. All the subtle winks and nudges eventually lead to knowing exactly what your partner means after saying “you’re got two greens”, then raising their left eyebrow suggestively.

That kind of communication is totally against the rules, but totally unavoidable for seasoned players.

Adding new players is how Hanabi stays exciting. They’re a whole new bundle of flawed logic and useless clues that’ll take your perfect 50 score down to measly 14.

Over in less than 15 minutes, it’s a great way to really get to know people and work out how their brain works. Perfect for a couple looking to sharpen up their game, but also great when newcomers drop in for a session. For $15 and the size of a large card deck, it’s essential for almost every collection.