Board Game Cafes are not unique to Seoul but I certainly spent a lot of time playing board games with friends this semester. In Sinchon there was a board game cafe called Holmes and Lupin where you could rent a room indefinitely for only 8,000 won. The workers there always seemed to have trouble using the cash register so it could always take like 20 minutes to get set up but other than that it was a good deal.
My friends and I played a lot of games over the course of many nights but one that stood out to me was “Hanabi”. It was a game where you were dealt four cards numbered 1-5 and with different colors. The goal was to place down each card in numbered order sorted by color. The catch is that you cannot see your hand, but other players can. On a player's turn you can either give information about someone else's hand or play a card, and you only have a limited amount of information you can give. You can also use your turn to discard one of your cards to get back information. The game ends when the last card is drawn.
The scoring system goes from 1-25 and it is a team game. The first time I played we got 19 which is pretty average. I am not one who can live with average and that 19 haunted me. In class I was thinking about Hanabi. At the cafe doing work, I was thinking about Hanabi. In my dreams I was thinking about Hanabi. I was only going to have four months to make lasting bonds with my study abroad friends. Getting a 25 in Hanabi would have been an accomplishment I had never forgotten.
The second time we played we again got a 19. We still were not fully used to the mechanics and hadn’t developed consistent strategies for keeping information numbers high. I was hopeful because after more Hanabi experience I was confident I could develop a consistent strategy.
The third time I played I knew what to do. I made sure to inform everyone of tactics to efficiently use information. Telling someone they had 5s so that they were always free to discard, and getting the same numbers played at roughly the same time seemed to be efficient. This third playthrough I felt confident we could do well but by the end of the game we only had 21. I was humbled for sure but I knew our plays weren’t perfect. There was improvement to do.
Play through number four was going well. The ones were placed within the first round and only a few people had twos making it easy to get all of them down. We were high on information and had one person who could consistently discard. Things were going well. Nearly all of the 4s were down and victory was in sight. Then all of the sudden a man opens the door to our room informing us that the board game cafe was closing. Our victory was stripped from us at the last second.
Attempt five was going to be different. Tonight is the last night I will see these friends. Were we going to be the losers who only got a 21 or were we going to be the heroes who got a 25? Four ones played in quick succession. Twos were being played left and right. One person had mostly 3s in their hand. Two 4s were down as the game was almost half over. But we had not even started on the greens. Me and other players were arguing about it. I favored getting all colors down early while they favored finishing what we had. I defied them at the last minute telling someone of their green one. Everybody had information to play it was just a matter of time. And as the last card was drawn we ended with a 23.
The board game cafe was closed and I had to say goodbye to my friends from the semester. This is Hanabi. Even though we can't always achieve perfection we can at least be grateful for the friends we made along the way.
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My name is Harry Pogorzelski-Ponichtera and I am currently a music composition major at Ithaca College. I have been playing guitar since I was 7 years old. In my spare time I enjoy making music and gaming with friends!