Players: 2 players
Time: ~7 minutes
Times Played: 20+
There are a few things that I’ve done recently that I realized I should have done a long time ago. Working out regularly, eating more healthily, and playing Hive. Hive is an abstract strategy tile-laying game that can be best summed up crudely as “Bug Chess”.
There are currently three different versions of Hive available.
Standard Hive, which is the basis for this review, comes with a set of bakelight (think Dominoes) black and ivory pieces, each ordained with a bug of a particular color. The color for each bug isn’t important as each bug has their own unique design. The black and ivory pieces are what set the opposing sides apart. The standard version only comes with the original twenty-two pieces (eleven per side). The expansions (the Ladybug, the Mosquito, and the Pillbug) are not included and sold individually,
Hive Carbon includes both the Ladybug and the Mosquito expansion in it’s twenty-six piece offering. Besides the inclusion of the expansions, Carbon’s aesthetic is strictly black and white. I personally find the light/dark contrast more enjoyable aesthetically. The pieces are of the same mold, size, and consistency as Standard Hive. The Pillbug is available for purchase separately in the Carbon model.
Hive Pocket features the Ladybug and the Mosquito and the same color scheme as Standard Hive. The difference here is that this version is slightly smaller in dimension compared to Standard Hive. While all versions are fine for traveling (in my opinion), Hive Pocket is ideal for areas where space is at a premium. Playing on an airplane or a high top table at a bar? I would recommend this version.
That being said, you really cannot go wrong with any version. It’s purely up to you and your needs.
Hive requires zero set-up as the “board” is created as players place their pieces. Each piece has their own unique movement and each player has the same amount of pieces available to them. Base Hive comes with five pieces:
One (1) Queen Bee: Can only move one space. The most important piece as if this is ever fully surrounded (by your own, opposing, or a match of both) pieces, the game ends.
Two (2) Spiders: Must move three (3) spaces in the same direction. No more. No less.
Two (2) Beetles: Can only move one space but can move vertical, landing on top of another piece. If the Beetle ends on top of another piece, that bug underneath cannot move until the Beetle moves off.
Three (3) Grasshopper: Jumps over adjacent pieces. Can jump as far in a single line as it can go. Can land in “wall-offed” locations.
Three (3) Ants: Can move anywhere as long as it can slide there.
The gameplay is simple. On your turn, place a bug piece or move one of your existing pieces. To place a piece, it can only touch one of your pieces already played. To move a piece, it must be able to move. By the fourth turn, your Queen Bee needs to be placed. The game ends when a players Queen Bee is completely surrounded by pieces. That player loses.
Hive can take at most fifteen minutes and at its quickest five minutes. Games are fast and we typically play a best of three or best of five scenario
Before diving deeper into Hive, I want to talk about the quality of the pieces. I feel like calling them pieces is a dishonor to the components as they are such large, sturdy tiles. They are incredibly over-produced for the game but it doesn’t matter as that gives the game a deeper feel with each turn. The depth of your move feels heavier as you place the hexagonal stone.
Hive comes with a box and a zipper bag and I purchased our copy used. I tossed the box immediately as I knew this would be a travel game and the bag more suited our needs. The bag has seen trips to conventions, hotels, holiday gatherings, and more and has held up just fine. The art on the bag has faded and is worn but I don’t worry about the bag breaking. It even fits the expansion pieces. For the money, Hive is one of the best bang for your buck board games I’ve ever purchased in thanks to the components and depth of play provided.
As I have the Standard Hive now, I can see myself upgrading to the Pocket version in the future and making some type of art with the original bakelight pieces. They’re just so photogenic.
As with all abstract games, the theme is take it or leave it. Why are these bugs living in harmony? Why is the Spider limited to three movement? Why does the Grasshopper actually fit the theme of its movement? Who knows. I don’t mind the theme as its fairly simple to remember what each piece does due to the bug associated with it.
I described Hive as “Bug Chess” but I do want to pump the breaks on that analogy. I think Chess is a much deeper game, in variety and strategy, and is still indoctrinated in our society as a thinking game. While Hive does take careful planning and thought, it’s more akin to a lighter version of Chess on speed. As the board is ever evolving, the game plays faster than any game of Chess I’ve ever attempted.
Also unlike Chess, this is a game that people can pick up on the strategy very quickly. Games do not take long so after an initial play, we always have new players asking to go again. Taking a cue from Aldo Raine, we oblige them as Hive thrives on a minimum amount of rules that it lets players just play the game. You’re not going back to the rulebook over and over to see if X is legal or if Y can do that. This game amazes me with so little going on yet so much game to discover. One game I’m wondering what the point of Spiders are and how anyone could ever use them effectively and the next they’re single handily winning me a game.
Hive has even spawned its own book for help with strategy if that’s something that you’re interested in.
This abstract tile laying game offers a depth that can rarely be matched in the abstract world. The unique movements, placement rules, and modular board (due to the movements and placements) creates a game that lets players perform the intricate plays of games like Chess and Go without committing the hundreds of hours to learning and perfecting those games. Laying a trap and having your opponent fall for it is such a rewarding feeling. Unlike Chess and Go, Hive is not linear in nature and because of that, each game develops and unfolds different than the game before it. The exact strategy that worked for the last game may fall completely flat for this game. Hive does not feature the elimination of any pieces (except when a Beetle parks on a piece) and I think that, above everything else, helps Hive cement its status as an amazing game. You’re free to take risks and try new strategies as you know your piece is ‘safe’.
Hive becomes incredibly replayable due to these factors as well as the ease (regarding time) of play. I think Hive is one of not only the best abstract and two-player games I’ve ever played, but also one of the best games I’ve played period. I always wonder what games from my collection will stand the test of time and I know Hive will. Hive is a game that everyone can appreciate and anyone can enjoy. I kick myself for not purchasing this years ago when it sat on my want list and I urge anyone else toeing the line of whether or not Hive is for them to dive into the deep end and explore this bug game.