playing hive for the first few times

imageHive is an insect-themed  tile game for two players. The version I picked up was the travel version which included two extra bug types to play with.

imageAfter reading a post on reddit.com about the best games to buy if you only had $150 to spend total, I picked up Hive and Battle Star Galactica.  The game tiles are similar in weight and feel to Backgammon pieces with a visual element to them that makes it seem as though you are playing an ancient game, such as Mahjong. The rules are quite simple, with only a few notes on how gameplay works and then a rule for how each insect moves.

The layout of the game is also quite interesting—no board is involved. You just start one player at a time laying down tiles and the insects must always touch at least one other insect, creating a chain. The object of the game, essentially, is to capture the queen bee by trapping her until there is no free space around her tile.

There are four types of insects in the original version of Hive. Ants, which move much like a Queen in chess; Beetles, which are similar to how a Backgammon piece moves. Spiders move much like a Knight in Chess, except without the jumping as they must move three spaces. Finally, Grasshoppers move similarly to checker pieces but can jump over groups of insects.

Initially, I found the Beetles to be the weakest piece because I didn’t realize the power of being able to jump up on pieces and hold them in place or jump down into a space that other insects couldn’t get to. Currently, my least favourite piece is the Spider since having to move three spaces without a jump seems very restrictive.

imageThe travel version of Hive recommends playing without the extra insects that came with the board until you have somewhat mastered the original version. This definitely makes sense as the new insect’s abilities are related to the original pieces. The more you play the more you will discover new strategies for different pieces and how they relate to one another and what they are can be utilized for. Adding the expansion insects when you get used to the initial game adds even more levels of complexity while still keeping the game relativly simple.

Strategies quickly become apparent in the game: Two easy ones would be locking an opponent’s piece by making it part of a chain so it can’t slide out without breaking the chain; or jumping the Beetle on top of the Queen so it can’t move thus allowing the Beetle to drop down and immediately take a blank space. The Beetle is also good for immobilizing a piece that is overly threatening. The Grasshopper was difficult to maneuver but could appear from seemingly nowhere if one was not paying attention. Changing the placement of your Queen every so often also seems like a good idea to keep her from being surrounded too easily.

The other two insects in the travel version of the game are the Ladybug and the Mosquito. The Ladybug moves in a way that combines the abilities of Beetle and Spider. It moves two spaces on top of the chain and then one move down, making it more like the Knight in Chess than any other piece. The Mosquito is the most complicated piece to learn as it inherits the power of any insect it is touching. The constantly shifting ability of the Mosquito makes it hard to predict, even for the player controlling him at the time.

Using the Ladybug is fairly easy and and it is a pretty powerful piece. Bringing her in when you start to surround your opponent’s Queen Bee makes it so you can usually just hop over a couple pieces and take up a blank space. The Mosquito is a little harder to manage because of the way it takes on the traits of other pieces–you have to be careful that you don’t end up attached to a Queen and be otherwise useless for a couple turns. Attaching the Mosquito to the Ladybug as much as possible seems like a good combination, however, the more you can see a string of future moves the more you can use the Mosquito’s power to your advantage. The expansion pieces feel like your playing a more dynamic game but, perhaps it is possible to end up relying a bit too much on them.

This game is so well made it has me wanting to introduce the game to anyone I know that plays board games. This game could also go over well with people who don’t traditionally play games but have played classics like Chess and Backgammon. If you find it, I highly recommend picking it up.