Level 1 - Fundamentals

  • Level 1 strategies can be learned with no games of Hanabi played. You can either learn them before you play your first game or after you play a few games to learn the basic mechanics.
  • This stuff is mostly a repeat of the beginner's guide, but we go into a bit more detail here.



  • When players have to discard, they typically discard their right-most unclued card.
  • A player's chop is formally defined as the next unclued card that they would discard if they had nothing to do.
  • If a player has a clued card that is known useless, then they will typically discard the useless card instead of discarding their chop. (But the useless card does not count as the chop - their chop remains the right-most unclued card.)

The Definition of Playable#

  • First, see the section on Delayed Play Clues from the beginner's guide.
  • When we say that an unclued card is currently playable, we do not mean that the card would be able to play on the stacks right this instant. If an unclued card is playable, then what we really mean is that it would be legal for someone to give either a Play Clue or a Delayed Play Clue to the card.
  • In other words, if an unclued playable card was given a Delayed Play Clue, that card would eventually play on the stack without any additional clues needing to be given by anyone else - all the in-between cards, if any, are present and accounted for.

One-Away-From-Playable Cards#

  • As noted in the previous section, sometimes unclued cards happen to be playable.
  • Additionally, sometimes unclued cards happen to be one-away-from-playable.
  • A card is one-away-from-playable if only one other card would need to be given a Play Clue or a Delayed Play Clue in order to make the card playable.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • No red cards are played on the stacks.
    • Bob has a red 2 with a number 2 clue on it. (It was saved with a 2 Save clue earlier on.)
    • Cathy has an unclued red 3 in her hand.
    • Alice knows that the unclued red 3 is currently one-away-from-playable, because there is only one card needed in order to make it playable - the red 1.
  • Players are not allowed to give Play Clues or Delayed Play Clues to one-away-from-playable cards - they are not playable yet!
  • Players are not allowed to give Save Clues to one-away-from-playable cards - unless they also happen to be critical.

Save Clues#

  • You are only allowed to give a Save Clue to a card that is on chop.
    • This means that if a clue focuses a non-chop card, then it must be a Play Clue!
  • You are not allowed to give a Save Clue to any card you want. You are only allowed to give a Save Clue on these specific cards:
    1. 5's (with a 5 Save clue, e.g. number 5)
    2. 2's (with a 2 Save clue, e.g. number 2)
    3. Critical cards (with either color or number)
  • Additionally, everyone in the group also agrees to never let anyone discard a (unique) playable card. However, a clue to a unique playable card would be defined as a Play Clue, not a Save Clue.

The Early Game#

  • The Early Game is the period of time before someone discards for the first time.
  • Players must "extinguish" all of the available Play Clues and Save Clues on the board before ending the Early Game.
    • As outlined in the beginner's guide, "extinguishing" all the Play Clues does not include giving Tempo Clues. Tempo Clues do not meet Minimum Clue Value Principle, so in general, they should almost never be given.

Special Moves#

The 2 Save#

  • A 2 Save is when someone uses a number 2 clue to clue a previously-unclued 2 that is on someone's chop. (Everyone agrees that this is just a Save Clue instead of a Play Clue.)
  • By definition, you can only perform a 2 Save with a number clue.
    • If the other copy of the 2 is in the discard pile, then you can save it with color. But that would not be a 2 Save, that would just be a "normal" Save Clue.

The Visible Rule#

  • Players are not allowed to perform a 2 Save on a 2 if the other copy of the 2 is visible in someone else's hand.

Double Chop 2's#

  • The exception to the Visible Rule is when the same 2 is on two people's chops at the same time. In that situation, players are allowed to 2 Save whichever one they want. And if it is the Early Game, then players must choose to save one of them before giving a 5 Stall or before discarding to initiate the Mid-Game.

Interaction With 5 Stalls#

The 5 Stall#

  • A 5 Stall is when someone uses a number 5 clue to clue a previously-unclued 5 that is not on chop yet.
  • 5 Stalls are only allowed to be performed in the Early Game and in other special stalling situations.
  • For level 8 players, there are additional rules relating to the 5 Stall.

The Prompt#

  • A Prompt is when you get a player to play a clued card that was previously unknown.
  • If the player was already going to play the card, then it isn't a Prompt. Prompts can only be on cards that were not going to play otherwise.
  • An example of a Prompt can be found in the beginner's guide.
  • For level 5 players, see the Prompts in Multi-Color Variants section.

The Finesse#

  • A Finesse is when you get a player to blind-play a card to fulfill a promise that a certain card is playable right now.
  • An example of a Finesse can be found in the beginner's guide.
  • Finesses must be on "connecting" cards. (For example, the red 1 leads directly into the red 2, so they are considered to be a "connecting" pair of cards.)
  • When a player is Finessed, they should blind-play their card right away in order to demonstrate it!

Finesse Position#

  • A player's Finesse Position refers to the slot that their left-most unclued card is in.

Finessed Cards#

  • Even though Finessed cards are unclued, you can think of them as having an invisible clue on them. (Because they are already "gotten".)
  • Thus, if a clue touches a Finessed card and some other card that did not have a clue on it, then the focus of the clue would be on the other card (because the focus of a clue is always on the "brand new card" introduced).