Thursday, 3 April 2014

Gamery: Hanabi Review

The sky is dark, the party is underway, but somebody forgot to set up the fireworks display... Time for 2-5 people to save the day (in around 25 minutes)!

Hanabi - co-operative card game
Hanabi - a co-operative fireworks card game

In my quest for shiny new portable pub games I recently picked up a copy of Hanabi, a co-operative card game by Antoine Bauza (who seems to be becoming my new favourite designer with previous games like the fabulous 7 Wonders, Tokaido and my latest purchase, Rampage).

My very basic knowledge of Japanese translates the title as 'Fireworks', and the aim of the game is to build a fireworks display by laying cards in the correct order. The cards are divided into five coloured sets and numbered 1-5. To complete the game the group needs to lay each set on the table in order from 1 to 5, which sounds really simple until you find out that you can't see what cards you're holding!

Hanabi fireworks card game
Creating a beautiful display in Hanabi

Each player holds their hand of cards facing away from them, so that everyone else can see it. On your turn you can choose from one of three actions. You can choose to tell someone a piece of information about their cards at the cost of one of the group's 'time' tokens - there are only eight of these and if they run out, the game ends! The only information you can give another player is to point at all their cards of a certain colour, or all their cards with a certain number value - so the ambiguous 'you have three 4s' rather than the more helpful 'that card is a yellow 4' is all that's allowed. Your other options are to lay a card (using your powers of deductive reasoning to figure out what on earth your friends have been trying to get you to do...) or discard a card, which will earn back one of your spent time tokens.

You have to keep a balance in the group between giving information and discarding enough cards to get your time tokens back. All too often you find you've run low on time tokens at exactly the wrong time, when you really needed to indicate to someone that they have the next card but instead have to discard one of your cards - which is invariably something that would have been useful - and helplessly watch them take their turn.

Hanabi time tokens
Hanabi time tokens - never enough of these!

Like all good co-op games, Hanabi offers multiple (highly likely) opportunities for failure. If someone makes a mistake and lays a card out of order, the group loses a 'fuse' token - lose three of these, and BOOM (game over). If you use up all the time tokens: game over. Run out of cards in the draw pile and - you guessed it - game over.

Hanabi fuse tokens
Hanabi fuse tokens - tick, tick, tick, BOOM!

Despite this, after our very first game (read: crushing defeat) we were shuffling the cards straight away for another try and I can't wait to break this out again! Hanabi won the Spiel de Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 2013 and I can definitely see why.

If you like other co-operative games like Pandemic or Forbidden Island/Desert I think you'd definitely like this. So simple in principle but challenging to accomplish, the game is incredibly frustrating but fun at the same time - it leaves you with a 'just one more game' feeling that I can't remember having since playing 7 Wonders for the first time.

Hanabi also avoids the problem common to a lot of co-op games have where people can get left out or take over all the decisions - each person takes their own turn without the possibility of talking it over or being over-ruled.

It fits in a handbag, is quick to explain, great fun to play and costs less than £10... Buy it immediately!


Thursday, 20 March 2014

Gamery: #10x10in2014 Update #1

It's almost three months into the year, meaning I'm a quarter of the way through the time allotted for the #10x10in2014 board game challenge, where I have to play ten nominated games ten times in a year.

According to I have played 30 games so far in 2014, but thus far only 10 of them have tied in with my list for the challenge!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Gamery: Board Game Arena and electronic board gaming

As the disgraceful lack of recent posts will demonstrate, busy times at work have made it difficult for me to find time for fun things lately.

Getting time for proper gaming sessions has been difficult, but in the meantime I've fitted in some board gaming in electronic form. I have a number of iOS versions of board games for my iPad, but hadn't played them on a PC for a long time until I was pointed to the Board Game Arena website, where you can access online ports of certain games.

I'd heard of these sort of sites before, but had never quite gotten around to visiting until a recent #boardgamehour on Twitter focussed on electronic board gaming. Lots of people mentioned how much they liked Board Game Arena, so I hopped over and signed up.

Board Game Arena website
Board Game Arena - lots of games to choose from!

I have a lot of conflicting feelings over electronic board gaming, some of which I seem to have summarised into two main categories:

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Interviewery: Designing oddball Aeronauts - with Nigel Pyne of maverick:muse

oddball Aeronauts Kickstarter campaign avatar
Courtesy of

The beginning of 2014 has been quite dangerous for my well-documented Kickstarter addiction and the site is currently packed with games that I wish I could back!

The latest project to play havoc with my bank account is oddball Aeronauts by UK based maverick:muse game design studio.

It's a two-player card-based strategy game where fantasy-steampunky-roboty airships fight it out for control of the skies. The game plays in your hand without the need for a table and takes about 15 minutes.

The designer of oddball Aeronauts, Nigel Pyne, has been kind enough to answer some questions for me about the game, Kickstarter and game design in general:

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Modelry: Malifaux 2.0 - Hired Swords #2

This weekend I had a chance to make some progress on my Malifaux models from the Viktoria crew Hired Swords box set. This was where I left them last time:

Wyrd Miniatures Malifaux Hired Swords - Viktorias crew
Malifaux Hired Swords miniatures

If you want to read about the fiddly model-building process, I covered it in my last Malifaux blog post here.

Next up: basing! The Wyrd Miniatures base inserts are really pretty and far nicer than anything I could sculpt myself. They also have the added advantage of speed, thus catering for my laziness and limited time!