Buzz buzz buzz goes the honey bee!

Posted 7/01/2008 by KP in Labels: , , ,

To quote the English box cover, "HIVE is a game buzzing with possibilities." It's a deep, tense, brain-burner of a strategy game for two players, a board-less affair with chesslike maneuvering and constant jockeying for optimum position that typically plays in 15-30 minutes. Hive is virtually unknown outside the grand halls of the gaming cognoscenti, which is a gargantuan disgrace.

Hive's components are exceptional: two sets of 11 black and white hexagonal Bakelite tiles, each with one of several different insects etched into it. These pieces are hefty, nigh-indestructible, and make an intensely satisfying clacking noise when touched together; in play, they create a pleasant minimalist appearance with a pretty high Wotcha-Doin'? factor. There's also a neat vinyl carrying bag included in the box, which makes this compact game even more appealing for travel, as there is no board to speak of, nor are there other components. Just fistfuls of wonderful, wonderful Bakelite.

The rules to Hive are fabulously simple, squeezing into a short, colorful, and well-illustrated pamphlet. Each type of piece moves in a unique way, and the goal of the game is to capture your opponent's Queen by surrounding her with any combination of your and your opponent's pieces. Each turn, you may either move one piece or add a piece to the "hive" (the every-growing and -mutating play area.) There are two interesting limitations to this, however: all pieces must remain attached to the hive, and you have to able to physically slide the piece into its new spot. (Hive is not recommended for the spatially-challenged.)

Most pieces move logically according to the bug depicted. It's an abstract game, so it's not perfect, but they put some obvious thought into thematic consistency: the grasshopper can jump over pieces, the spider skitters a few spaces at a time, the beetle crawls and squats on top of other pieces, and so on. Each piece plays a valuable role, and every piece is useful is the hands of an experienced player.

In order to succeed, a player needs to carefully balance between offensive and defensive play, constantly taking stock of the situation in the hive and the pieces an opponent has yet to play. A player who plays too aggressively will quickly find his queen pinned in by his opponent, while a very defensive player might waste all of his pieces trying to prevent his queen's capture, only to find that he has no pieces left to surround his opponent's queen. Very often, when one player wins, the other player will also be a move or two from victory; games are generally very close.

The Final Word

Very nifty - quick, tense, thinky, and pleasing to the senses. Durable and plays pretty much anywhere. A winner!

SUPERDELUXE ADDED BONUS FEATURE!!!: Hive is available for free, online play versus a sadistic AI opponent via the publisher's website, where you'll also find the full rules, gameplay tips, and a list of distributors should you begin to pine for your own copy (~$25 nets you the cool feel of Bakelite on your sweaty fingertips.) Link:

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