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.
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.
- The players will take it in turns placing pieces down. The first piece from each player much connect.
- 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.
- The Queen Bee must be placed on the fourth placement if not before.
- Once the Queen Bee has been placed, the players may then move pieces instead of place on their turn.
- Each of the pieces moves in a unique way:
- Queen Bee may move only one space in any direction.
- Grasshoppers can move in straight lines, like Rooks.
- Spiders must move three spaces – no more, no less.
- Ladybird must move three spaces – two on top of the hive, and one at the same level.
- Beetles move one space, and may move onto the hive to stop another piece moving.
- Ants may move to any outside space (making them incredibly versatile and useful)
- Mosquitoes can move the same way as any piece they are adjacent to.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.