Hive Strategy: The Beetle Bomb
In the game of bugs…you win or you…have your Queen Bee surrounded by other bugs…
Okay, that doesn’t work.
Hive is an interesting game. A two player, relatively abstract strategy game, in which players battle it out in a game of wits. In many ways, it is very similar to games like Chess or Onitama, a game where you have to be aware of the whole playing area at any one time. Whether it keeping an eye on the Grasshoppers or spying out Spiders, there is a lot to keep in mind.
In Hive, and Hive Pocket (which is essentially the travel version), there are a lot of different pieces. Like how Chess has six piece, Hive Pocket (which is the version we’ve been playing so we should probably refer to that) actually has seven pieces – those are –
- Queen Bee
- Ant (or Soldier Ant)
- Ladybug (in Hive Pocket)
- Mosquito (in Hive Pocket)
Each one of those insects can do a different thing, with the goal being to surround the opponent’s Queen Bee. That can be with your pieces, or with theirs. Either way, that Queen Bee, mustn’t have space to breathe.
Now, this is where it gets cool. You know how specific Chess moves have names – Queen’s Gambit, for instance. You also have things like Double Pawns and Back-Row Checkmate. Well, the same kind of thing can be done with Hive, only in Hive the names don’t really exist…yet.
So, today, I thought we would give a name to a move in Hive and Hive Pocket. This is a strategy we shall call – THE BEETLE BOMB.
Before we continue however, we do need to recognise one thing. In this article we will be using the terms Hive and Hive Pocket pretty interchangeably. There are differences between the games. Hive, the original, doesn’t have the Ladybug or Mosquito. Those were added at a later date as an expansion, and to the base game of Hive Pocket. We have the Hive Pocket edition in our collection which does include those pieces. That won’t matter for this strategy, but I wanted to give you a fair warning as a reader. Let’s move on…
Hive Strategy: The Beetle Bomb
“Okay, so what is this Hive strategy,” I hear you ask, “what is this Beetle Bomb?”
Well, dear reader, I am glad you ask. The Beetle Bomb is a b*stered of a strategy that can be used to really get under the skin of opponents in Hive, and that is because of how it uses it uses the Queen Bee of the opposing player. Namely, it sits on top of the Queen Bee and turns it into a Beetle of that colour. In order to do that it relies on one line in the rule book. The Hive Pocket rules say this:
A piece with a Beetle on top of it is unable to move and for the purposes of the placing rules on p.1 & 2 [One Hive/Freedom to Move/Unable to Move or Place] the stack takes the colour of the Beetle.
So, if you are new to the concept of Hive there is one rule you need to know in order to put how awesome that is into context. That is awesome because of this rule:
Pieces may not be place next to a piece of the opponent’s colour.
You can probably see how those go together now. The Beetle is a walking wildcard. He can move on top of the Hive, sit on a piece, and then you can place your pieces next to that piece, no matter what colour it is because your Beetle is on top. Since you need to surround the Queen Bee – why not change the colour of the Bee so you can move next to it with every single piece?
So, how is that done? Let’s take a look in some detail. In best Blue Peter fashion (if you’re from somewhere other than England, you may need to look that up) here are some diagrams I made earlier.
The Hive Beetle Strategy: The Beetle Bomb
Okay, so picture this –
Your opponent has put their Queen on an outer edge. That queen is attached via some form of tile/insect. It may be yours or it may be an opponent.
It could be a little bit like the above. Now, there is a caveat here that says that if it isn’t one of your colour connected to the Bee, that isn’t the end of the world. This strategy can be adapted as needs be. We’ll come onto this later on as there are options, and it may add in an extra step, but let’s continue for now.
Step 1: Trap the Queen Bee with the Soldier Ant
Step number one is to stop that Queen Bee from moving. This can easily be done in Hive by simply moving something on the other side of the bug you want to freeze.
Freezing a piece is useful in so many ways. It can be used both defensively and offensively. It can also be done in a few ways – Grasshoppers are one such way, and Spiders, which are traditionally one of the harder pieces to use in Hive – can both be used. My personal favourite way to do it though is to use an Ant. Ants are fantastic in Hive, and can be used to so many ways. To do this, place the ant as one of your starting pieces to ensure it is on the field as early as possible.
Step 2: Bring in the Beetle
The next step is to bring the Beetle in and position it. This is made possible by the Ant being in position.
It should look a little bit like the above.
Step 3: Start the Crawl
So there is something really interesting about this next bit. There is only one way the opponent can stop you doing this next bit, and that is through using the exact same trapping strategy; however, if that doesn’t occur to them then there is nothing they can do to stop you using their bee against them. Over the next two moves the task is to move the Beetle over the Queen Bee.
Now, the Queen Bee is yours – insert an evil laugh here.
Step 4: Bring in the Reinforcement
Once the Beetle is on the Queen Bee, the reinforcements can come in. Now, at this point, two of the pieces don’t matter. For the sake of the image below, these are the Spider and the Grasshopper. In theory, those could be anything you want; however, the third and final piece matters.
Remember a little bit up the page, where I said that you may need to tweak a part of the strategy. This is that bit. If that grey hex touching the Queen Bee is one of yours, you can fill that space with any piece you want. If not then a piece may need to be moved to that space. Hopefully this is one that is already placed – if not you may need to place one and move it. This may add in an additional turn.
Step 5: Drop the Beetle
The final step in this Hive strategy is to drop the Beetle into the space that is remaining. This will surround the Queen and hopefully win the game.
Congratulations – hopefully, you just won Hive.
Holes in the Beetle Bomb Strategy
Okay, so this is not a flawless strategy; however, once the ball starts rolling it becomes difficult for the opponent to block you. They can, through dedicating their own strategy to try, in which case use Beetles and Grasshoppers to your advantage to drop in gaps.
The biggest hole though is that this strategy takes 8 moves after the Queen Bees have been placed. Depending on how aggressively your opponent plays, their best defence may be a good offence. In which case, if left completely open, it is, in theory possible to end a game of Hive in about 6 moves. It would be close, but it is possible.
To help counteract this, it is an idea to place Ants with your Queen Bee at the start. This puts Ants on the table, meaning they can (a) be moved easily, (b) be prepared for that fourth step, and (c) get out of dodge as needed if your opponent starts blocking you in. This reduces the number of sides your Queen Bee is surrounded by having easily manoeuvrable pieces on either side.
Hive Strategy: The Beetle Bomb
Personally, I really like this strategy. It’s neat and it’s fast. It’s difficult to defend against, and that makes it brilliant to play. With a bit of practice it can become unstoppable.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you have any favourite strategies in Hive? What are your favourite pieces? Let me know in the comments below.