Hanabi Board Game's box and cards.
Image: R&R Games Incorporated

This is our Hanabi review. Stick around. It’s going to be a good one.

There are two types of people.

Those who can’t work with incomplete information, and those who…


Hanabi is one of the simplest board games you will ever play. In it, you just have to place five differently color-suited decks with numbers of 1-5 and place them in the correct order.

Sounds quite simple, right?

You can even see your opponents’ hands, but here is the thing – nobody can see their own hands, and since you are going to be playing your own hand, this is where the game gets interesting.

This makes for one of the most fun card games you will ever get to play. Why the five colors?

Because Hanabi is the Japanese word for “fire flower” or “fireworks” (we think) and the 1-5 color decks represent the different colors of a firework display.

To get it done, you need to place the cards into numerical order and match the correct colors as you go along. You do this by getting tips from your teammates.

This Hanabi review will explain how this works and why we think Hanabi is probably the best game in our hobby you can buy and get the most value out of. After all, how many plays can you get out of chess?

How to Play Hanabi

Hanabi is very straightforward to play. Up to 5 players will get a set number of cards to start with. Each turn, a player can do one of three things. They can tip the player next to them about their cards, or they can play or discard a card.

Sounds good, right?

Discarding cards though should be done with care, as there are limited copies of each card, and if you end up chucking away a 5, you cannot really get another one. The available cards are as follows:

  • 1’s – 3 of each
  • 2-4’s – 2 of each
  • 5’s – 1 of each

This means that you have some wiggle room to make mistakes. So, your turn will boil down to the following actions. You will hint your fellow players and by hint we mean tell them either the numerical or color value of the cards they have that have the same value.

For example, your friend is holding three green cards, you can tell them “These three cards are green,” or if they have 3 1’s, you can tell them – “These three cards are 1’s.” You cannot tell them if they have a repeating color of a given number, however.

Each time you tip, you will flip one token you are given. You gain tips back by discard a card or completing a 1-5 color suit and flipping a token back to its “face” side. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, really.

Besides hinting, you can play a card. You take a card and plunge it greedily down on the table to the cheer, silent judgment, or emphatic eyeroll of your fellow players.

Now, you can also play blindly and if this is the case, you have three bombs or the number of times you are allowed to try and fail. They are counted down by purple tokens.

If you flip all three, your forth card played this way will result in a loss if you play a card that does not match.

Dead, I say!

Remember. You can only match the same color cards and only if they follow each other in a numerical order.

You can also discard a card, which will grant you a tip back, and which is definitely helpful. However, there is a tiny problem with that. Burning through cards to get more tips and not playing cards may end up working against you.

Once the cards are out, you have failed to make a beautiful display and lose the game. Well, you count the points and any result above 20 points is a win.

It feels good, doesn’t it?

Discarding a card is fun. Oh, and you aren’t sure how to discard blindly, right? Well, that’s for the other players to figure out.

After all, they are the ones who actually see your cards and the discard is publicly available, so you can infer what cards are needed.

With this said, you are now able to play Hanabi and find out one of the best games that you will ever fit in your pocket. Hanabi has a nice tin edition that is truly one of the best small-sized board games.

Why May You Like Hanabi?

Hanabi is simply the best deduction game that you can fit in your pocket and bring around with you.

It’s fun, it’s definitely stimulating, and although you need to figure out logical conundrum there is a lot of good-humored banter, grimacing, and sighs of exasperation (or relief) that accompany it.

It’s not the tasteless black humor of “party games with cards,” and it feels incredibly fun to work together using your mind to figure out simple yet challenging card patterns.

Why You May Think Hanabi Isn’t That Great?

There is absolutely no way you know how to hold a pencil and you think that.

In all seriousness, Hanabi is a game that is about figuring out a way to communicate incomplete information to your fellow players as much it is about figuring out people.

No two minds are alike and Hanabi can be an eye-opener. However, this is not the TRUE downside to the game.

The fact is sooner or later you will figure out how people think, create strategies, and consistently perform well. It’s also an exercise of trust – do you trust your teammates to tip you correctly?

Of course, this is not to say that Hanabi won’t be a pleasant challenge with each sit down. 

Hanabi Review Conclusion

Hanabi is an institution in our hobby. It’s a fun pocket-sized delight that you can use to introduce even the biggest skeptic to the board games hobby. It’s challenging and rewarding.

It’s elegantly designed to be teachable in 2-3 minutes, and yet, it packs countless replayability and value in every play.

Hanabi is simply the…

You figure out the rest.

Stoyan Todorov

Stoyan entered the hobby over seven years ago and his collection has been growing at a pace his spouse has described as “concerning.” Willing to push the boundaries of the connubial bliss to its extremes, Stoyan is here to bring you the latest updates and developments from the world of board games.

Stoyan entered the hobby over seven years ago and his collection has been growing at a pace his spouse has described as “concerning.” Willing to push the boundaries of the connubial bliss to its extremes, Stoyan is here to bring you the latest updates and developments from the world of board games.


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