Playing a card on Hanabi: choose the pile first, or play it and then check?

My playgroup and I are a little confused on this part of the rules. Say the piles are as below:

Blue: 1
Green: 2
Red: 2
White: 3
Yellow: 4

I have a Green-3, but only know the number. Before playing it, do I announce "I'm playing this in the green pile" and check if it works, or do I show the 3, see that it is Green, and put it there?

It makes sense you'd select a pile before playing the card, else it's too ambiguous and easy to stack piles. If the card is green, it goes on the green pile, but if it was red, it also goes in a pile.

You announce the card you are playing, then it is played. Checking for legitimacy is a separate act. Play proceeds as follows:

1. Play the chosen card face-up on the table (not on a pile).

2. Check whether it can be legally placed on an existing pile. Do so if possible, increasing that pile by one.

3. Otherwise, check whether it can be legally placed to start a new pile (i.e. it is the first number one card in a colour). Do so if possible, starting a new pile.

4. Otherwise, discard the played card and lose a fuse token.

The ability to play a legal card before knowing precisely how it is legal, is intentional. Latter stages of the game rely increasingly on the tactical use and provision of information to others.

If it was necessary to know the precise pile on which to play a card before doing so in order to succeed, the game would be made far more difficult than it already is.

In your example, you would play the Green-3, then, seeing it is a legal card on the Green pile, place it there.

• Ah, alright. My group thought as you do but I thought you needed to select a pile to play the card before checking its legality. My argument was if you have five piles of 2, a player need only tell you that you have a 3 in order to make a play; no one would tell you the colors and only the numbers which seemed too easy in this circumstance. Sep 4, 2016 at 15:59
• @gator the thing is that circumstance can't be supported throughout the entire game. It will get you to about 3 on all piles, but with no information tokens left, and a majority of the table not knowing a majority of their cards. Hence, piecewise information sharing in context, and logical consideration of both, as well as meta-information, become crucial.
– Nij
Sep 4, 2016 at 18:52
• One of the best parts of Hanabi to me is the meta-information and inferred best moves. If someone tells me a 3, the underlying message is "play this 3". Great game just ambiguous at times. Sep 4, 2016 at 23:03
• It also allows for the fun moves like "I give this clue, which normally implies that you have the blue 3, because you actually have the red 3 and I want you to play it". Sep 4, 2016 at 23:55