Nature’s chess, with no board
Gen 42 Games
We first bought Hive a few years ago before a train holiday to the Dolomites in Italy, we were in need of small two player games that could be packed in a rucksack and be durable enough to survive the journey. Alongside other favourites such as Jaipur, Port Royal, The Mind and Vadoran Gardens, we played dozens of times while sat outside our hotel or after a picnic or while sat in a cafe and it quickly became our go-to two player game.
Whenever I teach someone Hive I describe it as being “a lot like Chess, only simpler and without a board” and I think that is pretty accurate.
How the game works
In Hive, the aim of the game is to completely surround the other player’s Queen Bee by maneuvering your army of bugs and creepy crawlies. Whoever’s Queen Bee is surrounded first, loses. The major difference between Hive and Chess is that Hive has no board, and it begins with the first player selecting any insect and creating the Hive.
On your turn you either add a new playing piece to the Hive (it has to be added adjacent to only pieces of your colour!), or move one of your pieces already within the Hive. You can’t move a piece if it would break the Hive into two separate sections, and in most cases you can’t move pieces if they’re surrounded by others! These two movement rules make it possible to trap the other player’s Queen Bee into not moving, then slowly add pieces around her and win the game. You’ll also want to trap other pieces of your opponent’s to stop them moving against you, this can be a crucial tactic in the attack vs defence in Hive.
As with Chess the pieces have different movement abilities, combining the strengths of the insects at your disposable is key to outsmarting your opponent.
Spiders can move exactly three spaces around the edge of the Hive. My personal least favourite piece (cannon fodder).
Grasshoppers can hop over as many pieces in a straight line as possible from their current position.
Ants can move anywhere so long as they aren’t trapped.
Beetles can only move one space at a time but can climb on top of the Hive, trapping whatever is underneath! Such a crucial bug!
The Queen Bee needs to be protected at all costs, and can move one space around the edge of the Hive.
There are also ladybird, pillbug and mosquito mini expansions available which have slightly more complicated rules, but they really enhance the gameplay so after you’ve got to grips with it I’d highly recommend adding these.
You keep taking it in turns adding and moving pieces until somebody manages to surround the other’s Queen Bee, then it’s game over!
Hive is one of those games that grows on you with every play, where at first you’re terrible at it and you want to get better so you play it more and more until you are seemingly undefeatable! When Jess and I first learnt it, I lost the first seven games in a row and was growing increasingly frustrated (I even researched how to get better at Hive!), but it’s such a beautifully tactical game that it’s incredibly rewarding when you do get that first win. When you get to the point where you’re evenly matched, it can lead to some really epic battles.
As you’ll see from the pictures, the pieces are so well made and are incredibly tactile, it’s a really satisfying game to play. They are weighty enough to feel like proper playing pieces, and even the pocket version of the game (we have the full size version, d’oh!) is top quality. It’s a shame our version didn’t come in a box so doesn’t sit nicely on the board game shelf but that’s purely my own vanity and it makes it easier to transport in it’s little case. It makes it the perfect travel game (or even just to the beach!)
It’s a bit cliched to say but Hive is simple to learn and hard to master (my kind of game!), and that makes it a perfect beginner’s board game. So I enjoyed teaching it to my parents and my in-laws who prefer simpler games and after a few hammerings each of them improved and now it’s much more even when we play. You will always have a few landslide games when somebody who has played it a lot teaches it to someone new, as you would with Chess.
There are just so many tactics to go for (especially with the ladybird, pillbug and mosquito additions) that allow you to set traps, ambushes, bluffs that are so satisfying to pull off and the times you think you’re a lost cause yet somehow you find a path to victory are amazing! Often attack is the best form of defence, as your opponent can sometimes get you into a bit of a tug of war around your Queen Bee which is tricky to escape from, but taking a turn or two to apply some pressure to their Queen can often flip the game on its head.
I can’t really think of anything bad to say about this game, I would say it is my second favourite two-player-only game of all time (after 7 Wonders Duel), so definitely recommended from us – especially with the extra bugs!