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Hive Pocket Review – The War On Ants

This year has been a good year for our abstract game collection. First Onitama, the Japanese martial arts game, then Tsuro, a game based on Chinese philosophy, then Tash-Kalar, a Vlaada game that bends your mind, and now Hive. Yeah, it has been a really really good year for abstract games.

I’m not proud to say that the first five times we played Hive Pocket we played it completely wrong. Out of a game that only has around eight rules, we missed one of the most important rules out – that when you place you cannot touch an opponent’s piece. We then went on to play it properly, but seriously, missing one rule in eight is crippling to the morale. I am ashamed.

Step 1: Learn to read.

Since learning to play though, we have grown to enjoy this little brain teaser about building your insect hive and surrounding your opponent’s queen bee.

With that in mind, today, sit back, kick up a cup of warm lemon and honey (get it, because Bees make honey), and let’s talk about abstract games. In particular, let’s talk about how to know whether Hive is a game you would enjoy or not.

Hive Pocket Review - A very strange opening.

A very strange opening.

The Premise and Rules to Hive Pocket

It’s always really interesting with abstract games, trying to really nail down what they are about because, ultimately, they are about the game.

In Hive Pocket you play the part of half of a hive of insects of two parts. You have a series of insects at your disposal, each one moving differently (a little bit like insect-based Chess in a way). This includes Ants, Beetles, Spiders, Mosquitos, Ladybirds, Grasshoppers, and your Queen Bee. The goal of the game is to get your opponent’s Queen Bee completely surrounded, although it can be from a mixture of your tiles and theirs.

It is a game for two players – one playing black and one playing kind of off-white ivory.

The rules are ridiculously simple, and once you read them you will wonder how we got them so wrong.

  1. The players will take it in turns placing pieces down. The first piece from each player much connect.
  2. After that the players must place their pieces so they only touch their pieces, and not the opponent. Pieces can only be moved or placed into a space they can slide into. This is a steadfast rule that lasts the whole game.
  3. The Queen Bee must be placed on the fourth placement if not before.
  4. Once the Queen Bee has been placed, the players may then move pieces instead of place on their turn.
  5. Each of the pieces moves in a unique way:
    1. Queen Bee may move only one space in any direction.
    2. Grasshoppers can move in straight lines, like Rooks.
    3. Spiders must move three spaces – no more, no less.
    4. Ladybird must move three spaces – two on top of the hive, and one at the same level.
    5. Beetles move one space, and may move onto the hive to stop another piece moving.
    6. Ants may move to any outside space (making them incredibly versatile and useful)
    7. Mosquitoes can move the same way as any piece they are adjacent to.
  6. The only limitation to movement, bar the aforementioned comment about a piece needing to be able to be slid into space, is that it is can never break the hive. A broken hive is a sad hive.
  7. Once the Queen Bee of either side has been surrounded, the game is over.

That is literally it. It’s simple, right? It’s insanely simple, and yet all the best games are.

Very quickly, before we move on, the pieces are very domino-esque and feel sturdy. The insects are embossed on top. It also comes in a bag, which is incredibly ugly and made out of a really horrible suede-like material, but it gets the job done.

Hive Pocket Review - The Bag

The Bag

What Is It Like Playing Hive Pocket?

Playing Hive Pocket is an interesting experience in the modern gaming world. Where we are becoming used to theme heavy games, or games where the theme at least plays a part, in Hive the theme is completely unimportant. This makes it similar to Chess in so many ways, in fact, of all games, it is probably Chess that Hive is most similar to. I would go so far as to say that if you enjoy Chess then you will probably enjoy Hive, and vice-versa. Both require well thought through moves, where each piece has a set of moves it can do, in order to get a primary piece of the other team in a compromising position.

Okay, so leaving aside being similar to Chess, what is playing Hive like?

Well, Hive is like a puzzle. It is a real brain teaser that pitches opponents head-to-head in a constant swaying of the hive, looking for some way to pin your opponent down. The first few times you play, it is a war of wits, and this can be (if you will excuse me sounding really preppy for a second) exhilarating. It feels fast paced and exciting.

Soon, however, strategies start falling into place. It is possible to see areas where certain strategies can be played to manipulate your opponent’s position. These will, it has to be said, be explored in later articles, as Hive is rife with potential strategies; however, they are not as complex as they may sound. Due to the lack of a board, there are infinitely more moves than in Chess but, again due to the lack of a board, they are easier to get your head around. It’s complex, but it is not overbearing.

Hive Pocket Review - The Beetle doing what the Beetle does.

The Beetle doing what the Beetle does.

TL;DR – The Hive Pocket Conclusion

Whether you fundamentally enjoy Hive comes down to why you game. If you game because you use gaming as a form of escapism, then Hive is not a game for you. At no point will you be fooled into believing you are a beetle (for instance). If you want a game for being social, then the fact it is only for two players also makes Hive a difficult game to recommend.

HOWEVER, and this is a big “however”, if you game because you like the challenge associated with gaming, because you enjoy putting your brain to the test, and because you enjoy out-thinking your opponent, then Hive is something worth looking into. It could be ideal, and you will really find it a worthwhile investment.

So, what do you think? Is Hive a game you enjoy, or is it a game you would rather leave alone? As a wider question, do you enjoy abstract games, or do you prefer games with theme? Let me know in the comments below.

If you enjoyed reading this
you may also enjoy:
Onitama Review – Simple, Yet Amazing

14 Comments »

  1. Theme is pretty important to me, but not always. Codenames is a good example, I don’t think I’ve really thought of it as a spy game, but we really enjoy it. There are quite a few games where theme just takes a back seat to actual gameplay.

    Then again, I’ve played games with themes that I totally love, that just fell flat. Maybe because of complexity (too simple or too hard), or poor mechanics, broken balance, etc. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my porridge must be just right. 😉

    Thanks for the article, because Hive is one I’ve seen online and always been curious about. I think insects are pretty cool, so that’s part of the intrigue definitely. I have a feeling I’d have to play or watch a game or two, to really decided whether it’s something I like though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you there – sometimes theme does take a back seat. Sometimes it is the main part of the game. With Hive it is definitely more of a background thing, but I’m not sure that matters. The gameplay is more puzzle like, that is for sure, so it has a strong mechanical base no matter what the theme is.

      And dude, you are more than entitled to search for the perfect porridge haha.

      Let me know if you decide to get it…the game I mean…not the porridge 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      • Will do. Been awhile since I’ve had some boardgame time though. But this weekend we got to play Settlers of Catan. I also played King of Tokyo and Go Nuts for Donuts and we included the Toddler. She acts more as a random element, but it’s fun. I might get one more game in tonight…looking like Chimera Station, Lords of Waterdeep, or Great Western Trail. Having guests over, isn’t always so bad. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha I know that feeling all too well. I feel like I’ve barely been online recently or writing about games recently due to life and not being able to play as many games (etc.) – I envy your board game time this weekend!

          That sounds like great fun. Catan and King of Tokyo are awesome. I’ve heard of Go Nuts for Donuts, but haven’t played it.

          You should definitely play both of those games! All of the games!!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • If only! I’m not sure which one, but will see. GoNuts for Donuts has cute art, but a really simple bidding game. Probably a good family game, especially with the littles.

            Liked by 1 person

    • For me it’s a case of theme gets me in the door, but mechanics get me to stay.

      Then again as Luke said 2019 has been a fantastic year for abstracts, as I too have been playing a lot and I’ve been in love with a bunch of them!

      Liked by 3 people

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