Wednesday 4 July 2012

Review - Hive

Hive board game

Published by Gen Four Two
Designed by John Yianni
For 2 players, aged 9 to adult

I wrote a review of Hive a long time ago, and posted it on A good few years have passed since then, and I thought it was time to revisit the game to give an updated opinion and also to pass on words of wisdom learned the hard way.

Before I get started, I should say that this game doesn't exactly fit into my collection of out of production games, as it is still readily available; however, I am bending the rules slightly and putting it in The Vault because I own the first edition which has a very different production quality to the version you can pick up now.

I picked up Hive at a time when I was looking for short, simple, two-player games to play with my wife. Hive certainly fits the bill. The game comprises only 22 playing pieces which will also form the board during play. However, it is amazing what a strategic experience those 22 playing pieces can generate. Furthermore, the design means the game is easy to transport and there is absolutely no set-up time. You simply open the box, grab the 11 playing pieces in your colour (blue or silver) and start playing.

The pieces in the first edition are chunky pieces of wood with stickers applied. They are completely functional, but look rather shoddy compare to the beautiful Bakelite pieces that you get in the current version. I often think I would like to upgrade my edition, but then I remember I don't really get to play this game any more. But more on that later...

Hive - playing pieces
The blue playing pieces.

The rules for the game are simple, and the rule book is in full colour and wonderfully illustrated throughout, meaning you shouldn't have any trouble learning how to play.

Hive - the rules
Illustration showing how the Grasshoppers move.

The basic premise is that you have 11 pieces representing different types of bugs and you need to move your bugs to surround your opponent's Queen Bee. When the game starts there are no bugs in play, so on your first turn you just pick a bug to play. Your opponent then does the same. From then on, on each turn, you can move one of your bugs (unless your Queen Bee is not yet in play), or bring a new bug into play. On the turn a piece is brought into play, it must be positioned touching one of your pieces already in play but not touching an opponent's piece.

You have to place your Queen Bee by your fourth turn, and you cannot move any pieces until you have done so. Movement is worked out based on the edges of the hexagonal playing pieces. So if you were in the space directly above a playing piece, and moved three spaces around that playing piece, you would now be directly beneath it instead. Once you move a piece, it must never move so that the pieces in play break up into separate groups. In other words, all pieces in play will form a single group (the "hive") at all times.

There are a few other minor rules, but that basically covers the main elements. It all sounds very confusing, but really it isn't. Within a minute of playing your first game, you will have the swing of it, and it all makes perfect sense.

What makes the game really interesting is the selection of bugs players have available to use. Each side has the following:

One Queen Bee - Can only move one space, and needs to be protected.
Three Grass Hoppers - Jumps to the next unoccupied space moving in a straight line over joined pieces.
Three Soldier Ants - Can move to any empty space around the edge of the hive.
Two Spiders - Always move exactly three spaces.
Two Beetles - Move only one space, but with a special caveat.

It is the Beetle pieces that have resulted in the situation where I never get to play this game any more. Basically, when Beetles move, they are allowed to move on top of any other piece (friend or foe). While the Beetle is on top, that piece cannot move and is considered "not there." That seems like an innocent enough ability, until you remember that when bringing pieces into play, you are not allowed to play them adjacent to an opponent's piece. I developed a strategy of sitting a Beetle on top of my wife's Queen Bee, and because the Queen Bee was then considered "not there" I could bring new bugs into play each turn directly adjacent to the Bee, who couldn't move to safety. My final turn would be to climb the Beetle off the Queen Bee, by which time the Queen Bee would be completely enclosed and I would win.

This was a bloody good strategy, and for some reason, my wife never managed to prevent me from doing it. My wife is a pretty smart cookie (also a pretty, smart cookie), and she normally does really well at strategy games; but for some reason, she could never see the Beetle-Queen move coming, and every time I did it, she became increasingly annoyed.

I was enjoying winning, and because it was a good tactic I kept doing it. Of course, I should have tried different tactics; I should have seen my wife's growing annoyance. But no. I was stupid, and enjoying a winning streak.

And then one day my wife refused to play Hive.

She has never played it since. And now I am sad.

Hive - the box
The ant gets the front cover slot - because the ant is bad ass.

Since those days I have become a lot less concerned with winning, and I now just play games for fun. I'm just not that competitive any more; but I have learned my lesson too late.

I have a gaming group, but when I am with them I can't roll out two-player games. Two-player games are mainly only played against my wife. So, Hive is one of my favourite two-player strategy games of all time, and I never get to play it.

There's the lesson for the day...

Don't piss off my wife.

Happy gaming.


  1. Hi, I've seen your review at BGG. Good story, and sorry for your wife.
    You can try to explain her your strategy and how to develop it. This should make the game more competitive.

    Hive is a great game, I bought it yesterday :-)

    Good luck!

    PS: Sorry if bad english, i'm spanish!

    1. Hi - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

      I think the problem now is I have made my wife hate the game, so she is reluctant to play even if I promise not to use that tactic at all. Maybe one day I will convince her... Maybe if I buy the newer Bakelite edition I could convince her it's a totally new game.

      And your English is fine!


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