Friday, June 13, 2014


The hardest part of this game is that you hold the cards the wrong way around.

No. Really. That's going to be the bit that trips you up more than any other.

In Hanabi, you play technicians tasked with putting on a spectacular fireworks show, but you've made one slight error. The sequence for firing each rocket has been mixed up, and now you and your fellow technicians must correctly launch your coloured gunpowder tubes, without admitting your own fault.

Everything is backwards

Each player has a hand of cards, but holds them facing out to the rest of the table. Thus, you know what everyone else has, but no idea what you hold yourself. On your turn, you can play a card, discard a card, or give a piece of information. Information is limited, represented by eight clock tokens that get removed as information is shared, and recycled if a card is discarded.

It is up to the players to make five suits of fireworks, one in each colour, each containing five cards, numbered one to five, in ascending order. If a card is played incorrectly, either because a copy of it is already in play, or the card one lower than it is not yet in play, then the fuse shortens and the tension rises.

The game ends if all five fireworks are completed, if the draw deck empties or if three fuse tokens are discarded to the box, revealing the explosion token. At that point, the highest value card in each colour is added together to get the groups final score.

Hanabi is a fun, tense game of strategic planning, memory, deduction and a little luck. It plays fast, and supports up to five players.

We love this game at my house, and it gets a lot of playtime, most popular with four or five players, but fun with two as well. Because information is scarce, and there are restrictions on how information is given, what you chose to tell someone, and what you chose not to tell them becomes the key to victory or defeat. Also, once a piece of information has been given, it's up to that player to remember it. Other players shouldn't remind their fellow technicians what was revealed in previous rounds.

It's hilarious being able to see everyone else's hand, but not your own. Looking around at opening hands is always fun, realizing that the other players all hold all the fives, or that one player has three red ones in her hand. Co-ordinating the distribution of information with other players is easy at first, but becomes more difficult, as you can't explicitly tell the active player what to do. Trying to work out the value of being told "These two cards are RED" can be tricky, and I've often found myself discarding a valuable card or playing an inappropriate card because I misjudged something.

It can also be incredibly frustrating seeing a valuable card in another players hand, but not being able to get them that vital piece of information. But that's all part of the game.

I recently brought Hanabi into work with me and tried it out with some of the kids I teach. I was planning on just teaching the older group, but we had one seven year old in the group, and he was the first to totally get how the game works. While I was explaining the rules, he would stop and ask me a clarifying question, by way of a play example, and he was right in his assumption every time! When we played, it was clear that the group had no issues with understanding the rules, and enjoyed the tension of watching another player agonise over whether to discard or play a card inhand.

Hanabi is a wonderful game, and comes highly recommended. It's also the first of three games by designer Antoine Bauza that I'll be reviewing in upcoming posts!

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Let's Play

Whelp! It's been a while! What?!? I've been busy... Mostly.

Claire got me a powerful PC for Christmas, and I started recording my games and uploading them to YouTube, which was a lot of fun while I was playing games, and then not so much when I started back into board games in a big way. I was only ever doing the YouTube thing as a hobby, so once I started spending my time on another, more social hobby, that fell to the sidelines.

Still, I had a blast making YouTube videos. I did a bunch of short plays, mostly showcasing opening areas, while I collectively called "Couch Projections". These were a lot of fun, and usually involved minimal editing, as they were straight plays of what I experienced. Some, like the fantastic OctoDad: Dadliest Catch ended up being too long, with too much of me feeling lost and not knowing what to do, so I editted those down to tight, short plays, highlighting the best parts. Others, like FLT: Faster Than Light seemed to be paced perfectly for what I intended the Couch Projections series to be. Either way, they were a lot of fun!

The only extended series I did was a full run on XCOM: Enemy Within, including all the DLC. The whole squad was named after friends and family, and they bravely fought aliens and died to protect humanity. I had an absolute blast recording this, and it was my first time ever finishing a full playthrough of XCOM, which I had originally owned on the Xbox 360 since launch.

As of this post, the final mission is not yet online. That's because, once I got to it and played it, it was kind of boring. It's a straight run through a linear base, with an alien voice explaining away any questions you had about the creatures you've been battling with for months. I struggled to edit and narrrate an engaging version of the mission, adding in fluff story details like I had been doing, but nothing was coming together. I'll really make an effort to go back to it and finish it just for the saake of completion, but it's not going to be a great ending.

I actually have plans for another XCOM series I'd love to do. There is a fan-made mod for the PC game called The Long War that dramatically changes many of the game elements, including skills tree, which are now much more in-depth, the terror tracks on nations, research, weapons and upgrades, and basically the whole feel of the game. I've been really excited about trying it out, so this is something I'm interested in doing. So keep an eye on my YouTube for that!

And if you want to volunteer to protect humanity, leave a comment on this post and you might see yourself drafted! Remember, service guarantees citizenship!