Hanabi Beginner’s Guide to the Beginner’s Guide
  • You know that trust-building exercise where you fall backwards and count on your teammates to catch you? Hanabi is like that, but ten times worse :)

This is meant to be read before (but not in place of) https://hanabi.github.io/beginner
The game itself is played at https://hanab.live/.


Rules of the game are at +Hanabi Intro: Rules of the game; there are also plenty of YT videos.

The H-Group conventions

When playing on hanab.live, most players follow a fairly explicit set of conventions so that clues have unambiguous meanings (at least early on). To learn these conventions properly, you will have to read the Beginner’s Guide, and later on the Learning Path and the Reference.

When you’re first starting, here are the specific principles that I think make sense to learn first. There’s a YouTube video with roughly the same information as below. You can also see the below picture for quick reference of the five “axioms”.

0. Play left, discard right (chop)

When discarding, discard your rightmost unclued card. This card is called the “chop” card, for “chopping block”.

1. Clue Focus

When a clue is given, the clue is always focused on one card, as follows:
  • If the clue touches the chop card, the focus is ALWAYS on the chop card.
  • Otherwise, it is on the leftmost new card (card not previously touched).

2. Good Touch Principle

The touched non-focused cards promised to be eventually usable but not necessarily right now.
Corollary: you should NOT touch the same card twice, i.e. do not touch two red 1’s.

3. Play vs Save (for focused card)

The focused card is promised as either a play clue or a save clue.
  • A play clue is a promise that the focused card is playable “now”: i.e. that all the connecting cards are ready to be played.
  • A save clue tells you to not discard the focused card because it is important. There are strict requirements on what you may save:
  • You can only save cards on chop.
  • The following saves are allowed:
  • 5 save: You can (and must) save a 5; if you do, you must use number 5 (not color).
  • 2 save: You can (and must) save a 2 if you cannot see the other copy of the 2 of the same color. You must use number 2 (not color).
  • Critical card: You can (and must) save any cards for which the other copy is discarded. You may use either number or color.
  • In principle, sometimes it will not be clear whether a clue is play or save. In practice, because the conditions on the save clue are so constrained, you can often rule out “save clue”. 
  • For example, if you get a green color clue to your chop, and there are no green cards discarded yet, it must be a play clue.
This information can also be drawn as a flowchart.

4. Prompts and finesses (aka trust your team)

Remember that a play clue is a promise that the focused card is playable now. So what if you see a play clue given where a connecting card is missing? For example, let’s say a red 2 is play-clued, but no red cards have been played yet.
  • The answer is that if you don’t see the connecting card, it means you have it.
  • If you have any clued cards that could fit, you should play them from left to right. (This is called a Prompt.)
  • If you don’t have any clued cards that could fit, you should play your leftmost unclued card. (This is called a Finesse.)

Website features: Notes/Empathy, Rewind, Review

As the game goes on, you will have more and more information to keep track of. The hanab.live website has some features to help you with this, but the most important one that you can use is the ability to take notes by right-clicking on a card.

You can put whatever you want in notes, and many notes have special effects on the UI, but here are some guidelines to help you:
  • If you know for sure a card in your hand is yellow 2, you can write a note of “y2”.
  • If a card is finessed (i.e. about to blind-play), you should make a note of “[f]” on the card. This highlights the card in a blue border.
  • When someone else should know what their card is, it’s often helpful to write the note “knows” or similar to keep track that they know their card. Better yet: write down the possibilities for what that person knows for their cards.
As a beginner, you should take notes on every card that is touched. (As you get better, some of this information becomes more obvious and you can be a bit lazier.)