Hive: A good old fashioned buzz

By Tim Hange

This review is a summary of an audio review by Get on Board. Feel free to click here for the full audio review (from episode #7) ›

Introduction (mist rises…)

Way back in 2001, in the pre-history of board gaming, before the internet, Botox, and indoor plumbing, John Yianni released a strange looking innovative abstract:  Hive.

Thirteen years later, I was flying my space hover car by a friendly local game store and saw Hive in the window.   Three words sold me on it:  Chunky, Hex, Tiles.    Gorgeous Baklelite pieces with  colorful, textured insects on the face–It was a thing of beauty, and happily, it played as well as it looked!

So if you’re late to the party, in Hive, two players are placing hex insect tiles on the hive, or moving said tiles around the hive, in an attempt to surround the other player’s queen bee (no reference to the Lourde song).  Each player places an initial tile on the table, touching each other.   From then on, a turn consists of a player either placing a new piece on the hive (in which case it must only touch his own piece), or moving one of his existing pieces on the hive (in which case it must follow the move rules for the insect).

There is no board!   The hive morphs as players move their pieces.   Once a player’s queen bee is surrounded (even if some of the surrounding pieces are friendly), that player loses the game.

The magic:

Hive is TRULY innovative.   In 2001, this was a NEW kind of abstract, and it still remains fresh and alive.

Hive is gorgeous—beautiful in a visual and tactile sense.

The “cant break the hive rule” MAKES this game amazing!   So see this example.    Let’s say the white player wanted to move the ant.  No can do.  When his opponent moved the grasshopper next to the ant he effectively blocked that piece.   If the white player manages to sneak a couple of pieces next to his ant, we have a different story.   NOW the ant can move without breaking the hive.

Hive has a wonderful ebb and flow.   One player may be trouncing the other, but  he will usually run out of steam as his new pieces diminish.  Then it becomes a sword fight as players dodge, parry, and lunge their pieces about the queen.

The tragic:

Nothing much tragic, but a few things to keep in mind:

Experienced players will typically trounce newbies, and it can be discouraging.   If you want to bring this person into the, uh.. hive of players, you might consider giving them some hints and tips as you go—helping them see the strategy up front.

In base hive, it is not uncommon to end up in draws.   

The expansion bugs fix this but go easy.   In my humble opinion, adding all three opens the game too much.


There are certainly deeper, more intense abstracts out there.  And yet, even after  17 plus years, Hive still manages to fill an interesting space for a mid-weight abstract with beautiful design sensibilities (both visual and game play).    It is a pleasure to play,  easy for newcomers to get into, and provides a  fast and satisfying duel of wits.

So check out our audio review here, and if anything I’ve said sounds interesting, check out this little abstract.   The price is certainly right for the fun you are going to have.

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