I've been playing Hanabi for a while now with a few groups of people.

Recently, we realized that there was a considerable discrepancy in how some people understood the rules. Specifically, one person gave a clue saying "None of your cards are red".

We turned to the rule book, but even then couldn't find a definitive answer. The rules specify that if you give a clue, you have to give a color or a number, and you must point to every card that matches this information in the player's hand. For example, you can't say "red" and point to only one of their red cards.

There doesn't seem to be anything allowing or disallowing giving a clue that matches none of the cards.

Some of our players were absolutely fine with that (according to them, if nothing says you can't, it means that you can)

Some of our players were against it (you are not cluing cards, therefore the clue is invalid), and some even thought it was insanely powerful for advanced plays because your available alphabet for communication becomes publicly known and much larger.

Are there any other editions than mine where the rulebook actually specifies if this is allowed or not? If not, are there any other sources that could answer this question? (ex: interview with creators, official community consensus, etc)


This depends on which edition you are playing.

There are different editions published by different people, and the R & R Games rulebook answers this clearly:

Important: The player must clearly point to the cards which he is giving information about. (Thus saying "You have zero of something" is not allowed as you cannot point to anything.)

However, this rule did not exist in the original publishing, and the designer of the game actually specifically said it was allowed.

As per the heading really - when giving info can you tell someone they have zero of a colour or value?

The official answer by Antoine is "yes" and we also included this in our rules.

It seems that one of the reasons to disallow this is that with that clue as an option, it is possible to come up with a fool-proof convention where each different clue you can give has a known meaning... basically you can encode information into the clues.

  • 1
    it is possible to come up with a fool-proof convention can you give a source or more information on that please? Aug 2 '19 at 23:08
  • @GendoIkari: If you want to include the text of my answer in yours too, I'll happly remove mine. Aug 4 '19 at 5:20
  • 2
    @AndrewSavinykh coming here a year and a half late, but a set of conventions called "hat guessing" are what you're looking for. There's a Github repo that contains several Hanabi academic papers, including hat guessing e.g. github.com/hanabi/hanabi.github.io/blob/main/academic_papers/…
    – Ryan Amos
    Feb 24 '21 at 16:45
  • 1
    @RyanAmos very nice, thank you for sharing this Feb 24 '21 at 17:55
  • The link above is now dead, so for future visitors, here’s a relevant paper: Bouzy, Bruno. "Playing hanabi near-optimally." Advances in Computer Games. Springer, Cham, 2017.
    – Ryan Amos
    Nov 28 '21 at 16:05

The German version of the rulebook says its allowed

 Der Farb-Hinweis, dass ein Spieler überhaupt keine Karten
 einer bestimmten Farbe hat ist erlaubt!
 Beispiel: „Du hast keine blauen Karten.“

roughly translates as

 The color clue, one player having no cards 
 of a certain color at all, is allowed. 
 Example: "You don't have any blue cards."


Only posted as answer because of the amount of qouted text, GendoIkari posted references the German version first, so his answer is the "better" answer.

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