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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.
  • If you have not read the beginner's guide yet, STOP NOW and read that instead. Only come back here after you have played 5-10 games. (This page is just intended to be used as a reference for players who have already read the beginner's guide.)



  • 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 else 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 of the in-between cards, if any, would be present and accounted for at the moment that the Play Clue was given.

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.
    • No player has any red 1's in their hand.
    • 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.

Clue Focus

There is a 4-step process for determining the focus of a clue:

  1. If no cards are new, then the focus is on the left-most re-touched card.
  2. If only one card is new, then the focus is on the new card.
  3. If two or more cards are new, and one of them was on chop, then the focus is on the chop.
  4. If two or more cards are new, and none of them were on chop, then the focus is on the left-most new card.

This process is represented in the following flowchart:

Clue Focus Flowchart

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.

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.
  • Finesses are covered in detail 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 "new" card introduced).

Prompts > Finesses

  • Prompts always take precedence over Finesses.
  • This means that if Alice has to decide between:
    1. playing a card in her hand with a red clue on it, and
    2. blind-playing a potential red card from her Finesse Position
  • Then Alice should always do #1.

Website Features

  • If you have played a few games on Hanab Live, then you may have noticed that the website has several features.
  • The website has an extensive documentation. You can get to that page by pressing the "Help" icon in the upper-right part of the website lobby.
  • Below are a few of the most important features that a beginner should know about.

Card Notes

  • If you are following the beginner's guide, then you should be writing card notes in every game.
  • Certain special notes change the appearance of the card for you.
    • If you write the name of a card like "red 2" or "r2", the image of the card will snap to the written card.
    • A note of "f" is used to indicate a card is Finessed (meaning that it will blind-play in the future). The website draws a special border around Finessed cards.
      • You can use shift + right-click as a shortcut to add this note.
    • A note of "cm" is used to indicate a card is Chop Moved. The website draws a special border around Chop Moved cards. (Chop Moves are a special convention introduced in level 3. If you are a level 1 player, don't worry about this for now.)
      • You can use alt + right-click as a shortcut to add this note.
    • You can also use brackets to stack multiple notes. For example, "[f][red 2]".


  • During a game, clicking the arrow button in the bottom-left-hand corner opens the in-game replay feature.
    • You can also use the arrow keys as a shortcut to move backwards and forwards through time.
  • This is useful if you need to recall what happened several turns ago.


  • If you press the space bar or left-click on someone else's hand, you can see how the cards appear to them.
  • This is the equivalent of asking "what do you know about your cards?" in real life.
  • This feature is referred to as "empathy".

Challenge Questions

The challenge questions for level 1 are listed in the beginner's guide.