Game of the Week Reflection 2- Hanabi

In the second week of EDL290, we played two games: Mental Blocks and Hanabi. This reflection will focus on Hanabi, which is a collaborative card game about creating a firework show. Mechanically, this manifests itself in a way similar to Solitaire- The players must arrange the firework cards both by color suit and in ascending order (in this case 1-5). The more cards you can lay down before running through the deck, the more points you get, and the better your fictional firework show is. The twist is that you must hold your hand facing outward so that everyone but you can see it. You then must rely on the other players to give you hints about which cards you should play. This requires some memorization on your part- You want to remember the hints other players have given you, because the whole table has a shared, finite pool of hints and lives (the former of which can be replenished, and the latter cannot). Primarily though, the outcome of the game relies much more on communication and collaboration between teammates than any one player’s memory skills. It is important to anticipate the other players’ moves and give them hints that will be immediately useful, rather than wasting hint tokens to try and give them a picture of every card in their hand. People who like the puzzle aspect of Solitaire but always found it too, well- solitary- will like this game. I like it, and I think many of my close friends would as well.

The hardest part of Hanabi and its themes of leadership are one and the same. The game hinges on your ability to guide individual teammates as well as communicate effectively with the group as a whole. As our table got the hang of the game, we found ourselves having conversations about what the next several people should do on their turns. For example, ‘This person needs to be given a hint, but we need to replenish tokens first so someone before them should discard a card…’. This became easier to do once we worked out a system for giving and understanding each other’s hints. This required a good amount of nonverbal communication (since hints can only be specific kinds of phrases) as well as trust between our players. Understandably, this took the first several turns of the game to build, especially because we didn’t know each other that well yet. Despite this, we ultimately completed the game with a decent (but far from perfect) score. Everyone at the table was ready to jump right back in and play again- We were sure we could do even better the second time after having figured out how to work together. Unfortunately, we did not have time. But this is a game I would absolutely consider picking up with almost any group, especially if we did have time to play two or three games of it so that we can perfect our team’s own, unique leadership and communication strategies.

-Sam Hartzell