Level 2 - Basic Finesses

  • Level 2 strategies should only be learned if you have played with the group a few times and have got the basics down (5-10 games of experience).

Special Moves#


The Double Prompt / Triple Prompt / Quadruple Prompt#

  • Sometimes, someone can give a Prompt that is prompting two (or more) cards with one clue, which is pretty good.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • Red 1 is played on the stacks.
    • Alice clues Cathy red, which touches a red 4. This must be a Play Clue, because the red 4 is not on chop.
    • Bob has two clued red cards in his hand. Since Alice has indicated that the red 4 must be playable right now, he knows that his two red cards must be a red 2 and a red 3 (in order from left-to-right).
    • Bob plays the left-most card as the red 2. On Bob's next turn, he plays the other red card as the red 3.
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBob(2)(3)Cathy(4)

The Double Finesse / Triple Finesse / Quadruple Finesse#

  • Typically, Finesses are performed by cluing a one-away-from-playable card. However, it is possible to get two different people to blind-play their cards in a row if you give a clue to a two-away-from-playable card. This is very efficient, as it is a 3-for-1 clue.
  • For example, in a 4-player game:
    • Red 1 is played on the stacks.
    • Alice clues Donald red, which touches a red 4.
    • Bob plays red 2 from his Finesse Position.
    • Cathy plays red 3 from her Finesse Position.
    • Donald plays red 4.
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBobRed 2CathyRed 3Donald(4)
  • Similarly, it is possible to get a single player to blind-play 2 cards in a row. In this situation, since they see that the blind cards are not in anyone else's hands, they will blind-play two turns in a row, playing from left to right.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • It is the first turn and nothing is played on the stacks.
    • Alice clues red to Cathy, touching a red 3.
    • Bob blind-plays red 1 from slot 1.
    • Cathy would normally think that she has red 2, which would connect to the red 1 that was just played. However, she sees that when the clue happened, there was a red 2 next to the red 1.
    • Thus, Cathy discards, giving Bob a chance to blind-play the red 2. If he does not blind-play it, then it was a normal Finesse and she has red 2. If he does blind-play it, then it was a Double Finesse and she has red 3.
    • On his next turn, Bob blind-plays red 2 from slot 2. Cathy now knows that she has the red 3.
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBobRed 1Red 2Cathy(3)

The Prompt + Finesse#

  • In general, remember that players will always assume Prompts over Finesses. Thus, is it possible to do a clue that Prompts a card from a player's hand and then gets them to blind-play their Finesse Position card on the next turn.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • Red 1 is played on the stacks.
    • Bob has a clued red card in his hand on slot 4.
    • Alice clues Cathy red, which touches a red 4 as a Play Clue.
    • Bob knows he must have both red 2 and red 3 (in order to make the red 4 playable), but he only has one clued red card in his hand. So this must be both a Prompt on him and a Finesse on him at the same time.
    • Since Prompts take precedence over Finesses, he plays the clued red card first from slot 4. It is red 2 and it successfully plays.
    • On his next turn, Bob blind-plays slot 2 as red 3. (His Finesse Position at the time of the clue was slot 1, but he drew a card, and now it slid down to slot 2.)
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBobRed 3(2)Cathy(4)

The Reverse Finesse#

  • In a normal Finesse, you give a clue to a player who comes after the player blind-playing a card. (e.g. clue --> blind-play --> clued-card plays)
  • If you give a Finesse clue to someone who gets to have a turn before the blind-play occurs, it is called a Reverse Finesse. This is more complicated than a normal Finesse and is harder to see. (e.g. clue --> clued player does unrelated action --> blind-play --> clued-card plays)
  • Because Reverse Finesses exist as a strategy, before playing any cards, players should always check out everyone's Finesse Position. If a card in someone's Finesse Position is playable and "connects" to the clue, then they need to defer playing the clued card for at least one go-around and wait to see what happens.
  • If the player with the "connecting" card blind-plays it, then it means that the clued card is the next card in the chain.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • It is the first turn and nothing is played on the stacks.
    • Alice clues Bob red, which touches his red 2.
    • Next, it is Bob's turn. Normally, Bob would think that he had the red 1, and play it immediately.
    • However, Bob also notices that on Cathy has a red 1 on her slot 1 position. Thus, he has to give a chance for Cathy to prove whether or not a Reverse Finesse is happening. If Cathy does not blind-play anything, then Bob should have the red 1, and he can play it on his next turn.
    • Bob discards.
    • Cathy blind-plays red 1. Bob now knows that he has the red 2.
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBob(2)CathyRed 1
  • If the player with the "connecting" card does not blind-play, then the clued card is probably the other copy, and can be played on the next turn.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • The setup is the same as the last example. Bob is clued red, so he suspects a Reverse Finesse is occurring and discards.
    • Cathy discards.
    • Now Bob knows that the red card in his hand is actually the red 1.

The Self-Finesse#

  • It is also possible to perform a Finesse on a player by giving them a clue.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • All of the 1's are played on the stacks.
    • Alice clues number 3 to Cathy, touching one 3 on slot 2.
    • Bob discards.
    • Cathy knows that this was a Play Clue on the 3, but there are no 3's that are directly playable. Thus, someone must have the connecting 2. Since Bob discarded, Cathy must be the one who has the connecting 2.
    • Thus, Cathy plays her Finesse Position card as any 2. It is a red 2 and it successfully plays.
    • Cathy now knows that her 3 must connect to the 2, so she marks her 3 as a red 3.
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBobCathyRed 23(R)
  • Note that Self-Finesses can be difficult to perform because the player receiving the clue will only consider the possibility of a Self-Finesse if there are no other possibilities for the clue. For example:
    • If the clue looks like it could just be a normal/direct Play Clue on a card, then the clue receiver will not blind-play anything - they will just play the card that was clued.
    • If the clue looks like it could be a Prompt, then the clue receiver will not play anything and assume that it is a Prompt. (At least, until the other player has had a chance to play the Prompted card.)
    • If the clue looks like it could be a Reverse Finesse, then the clue receiver will not play anything and assume that it is a Reverse Finesse. (At least, until the other player has had a chance to blind-play the card.)

General Principles#


Trash#

  • Trash cards are defined as cards that have already been played. Thus, they are useless to the team.
  • Players should generally avoid "touching" trash cards with a clue, as doing so would violate Good Touch Principle.
    • Rarely, it can be useful to deliberately clue a trash card and violate Good Touch Principle in order to perform a special move. Several such moves are covered later on.
  • In the case where a suit is partially "dead", the unneeded cards are also considered trash. For example, if both copies of the red 3 have been discarded, then the red 4 and the red 5 are both considered trash.

Common Mistakes#


Stomping on a Finesse#

  • This is the term used for when a player clues a card directly that was going to be blind-played from a Finesse. Typically, this means that the player who gave the clue was not paying attention and failed to see that a Finesse happened at all.
  • Stomping on a Finesse essentially wastes a clue for the team.

What to Do After a Strike#

  • When a card is misplayed and goes to the discard pile, the team accumulates a strike (which is also referred to as a bomb).
  • If three strikes are accumulated, the team will get a score of 0. This is to be avoided at all costs.
    • (One exception is when players are explicitly going for a perfect score in a really tough variant, but this is less common.)
  • Building on this concept, it can also be very bad to get two strikes in a row. For example, say that Alice performs a bad clue and Bob misplays, causing a strike. And then Cathy "still believes" the original clue (thinking that Bob was the one who made the mistake instead of Alice), and Cathy goes on to misplay, causing yet another strike.
  • So, in general, we want to isolate one mistake to one strike. Why? Since Hanabi is so difficult, mistakes are common, and we don't want to push the team to the precipice of failure after one tiny mistake. That kind of thing is not very good for the overall win-rate.
  • This means that when a strike happens, the state of information should "reset" back to what it was before the mistake happened, at least most of the time.
  • For example, if Alice clues red to Cathy, and Bob misplays a card, then Cathy should not go on to play any of her red cards, and Cathy should not make any assumptions about what her red cards could be. Obviously, some kind of mistake happened, and Cathy should sit and wait patiently for further instructions.

The Wrong Prompt#

  • First, see the section on What to Do After a Strike.
  • Normally, after a strike happens, you are supposed to relax and not make any additional assumptions.
  • However, there is one major exception. A common mistake in Hanabi is to attempt to perform a Finesse when there is a matching clued card in that player's hand. Since Prompts take precedence over Finesses, the player will always play their matching clued card first.
  • When a card is Prompted and it misplays, everyone can read into this mistake - it was almost certainly a Wrong Prompt, meaning that the player who gave the clue probably intended for the Finesse Position card to play instead.
  • Thus, if there is nothing else special about the situation, the player who misplayed should go on to play their Finesse Position card on the next turn.
  • For example, in a 3-player game:
    • All of the 1's are played on the stacks.
    • Alice sees that Bob has a red 2 on his Finesse Position.
    • Alice clues red to Cathy, touching a red 3 as a Play Clue. She is trying to perform a Finesse.
    • Bob sees that Alice is signaling that he has the red 2. This must be a Prompt, so Bob plays his clued red card as a red 2.
    • However, it is actually a red 4 and it misplays. Oops! Alice forgot that Bob had a clued red card in his hand.
    • Bob knows that this was a Wrong Prompt. He really does the have the red 2 and it was on his Finesse Position at the time of the clue.
    • On his next turn, Bob blind-plays his slot 2. (It is on slot 2 now because he drew a card when he misplayed the red 4.)
AliceClue GiverClue GiverBobRed 2(4)Cathy