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Hive Strategy: Four Starting Strategies

Hive is an oddly deep game. It is a game where players battle it out over the table, using abstract hexagons to compete against each other in a game putting opposing minds to the test. It is fast paced and really interesting to play.

Hive starts with the players each placing pieces one at a time. The first placement on either side is needs to touch one another. From that moment on the pieces can only touch pieces of the same colour. The only other restriction is that the game doesn’t really start until the players have placed their Queen Bee, and that Queen Bee needs to be within the first four placements.

Hive Strategy – Starting Placements/Positions

Okay, so through this article we are going to look at a few core positions and why you might want to consider them as starting positions. These are far from the only starting placements, since we’re only going to be looking at four starting positions, but just a few strategic options.

Important Concept #1: Sacrificial Bug

Okay, so there is an important concept to know before we move forward. The very first placement in Hive will 90% of the time remain static. This is due to the One Hive rule in which it states that a hive cannot be separated into more than one constituent piece at any point. What this means is that, since the game literally starts pivoting on the first two pieces, it is more than possible that those pieces will not move. Now, this doesn’t need to be the case, and it may be so that later on in the game the piece can be freed up, but for the sake of the very start of the game all these starting positions are going to assume they will be locked up for the time being.

Important Concept #2: The Queen Bee and Movement

Only after you Queen Bee has been placed can you move pieces around. Until that moment the pieces can only be placed and cannot be moved around. This means that, in theory, each player has four placements to position themselves for the rest of the game.

There are limitations on this. Placing your Queen Bee first is not the best move, since the piece can become locked. Second also doesn’t make a huge amount of strategic sense the majority of the time (although it does under some circumstances, but that is for another time); however, it is possible to place 3rd and rush your opponent or 4th and act more reactively to what they do. Some of these placements will take those concepts, and move show you how those positions can be used.

Important Concept #3: Hive Not Hive Pocket

There are a few very important differences between Hive and Hive Pocket. Hive only has five types of piece – Queen Bee, Grasshopper, Spider, Ant, and Beetle. We actually own Hive Pocket, which has two additional pieces – the Mosquito and the Ladybug. For the sake of these placements we are going to ignore the Mosquito and Ladybug so these strategy ideas should help no matter what version of Hive you are playing.

Also, disclaimer, these strategies don’t have names, so I’m naming them myself 🙂

Hive Starting Strategies and Starting Placements

Okay, let’s do this –

Hive Starting Strategy #1: The Lone Soldier

Hive Strategy Placement 1

The first strategy we are going to look at is the Lone Soldier. This is where you place the Queen first, after already having placed an Ant. You’ll notice that I’ve used a spider as the starting piece – this is because the Spider is one of the hardest to use pieces in Hive due to the movement limitations. If that piece is to be sacrificed it is best something that is difficult to use rather than something easy.

The idea here is actually that you rush your opponent. You can start moving pieces as soon as you have placed your Queen, so you place Spider first, then Ant, then Queen, and then, straight away, you move the Ant. What is more, you move it to directly next to their Queen Bee. This gives you a placeholder on the other side of the board and allows for you to bring reinforcements in around the Queen Bee. This can then lead into the Beetle Bomb strategy as described in a different article. Alternatively, having something close to the Queen Bee whilst the board is relatively empty is incredibly valuable. It allows for you to bring other insects in to use their special abilities right away around the area you need to dominate to win the game.

What is more, by getting there early, you can actually restrict how your opponent places their pieces at the start of the game, thus potentially filling in more sides to the Queen Bee. It’s awesome.

Hive Starting Strategy #2: The Beetle Defence

Hive Strategy Placement 2

From one incredibly aggressive strategy to a defensive one – this is the Beetle Defence.

The idea here is that the Beetle acts as security. You place the Spider, followed by the Beetle, then the Ant, and then the Queen Bee. The idea is that the Ant can go on to do what the Ant does best. It can break away as soon as the Queen has been placed and cause aggro on the other side of the table (this is such an important concept in Hive). The Beetle however, reserves a space. It can be used to block a space from an opponent who wants it, and then if your Queen ever starts getting surrounded you can move your Beetle on top of either your Queen or another piece to get in an additional turn.

Please note that this doesn’t have to just be with the Beetle, in fact there is probably a stronger argument for it being the Grasshopper; however, it needs to be one of those freer movement pieces that can just get the hell out of dodge. The Grasshooper can leap across the board. The Beetle can just step up.

Hive Starting Strategy #3: Surrounded by Ants

Hive Strategy Placement 3

Ahh Ants. In Hive the Ants are definitely the best piece, being able to move all around the outside of the structure with ease, and not being limited by how far they can move. This makes them infinitely better than the Spiders, who are limited to a very specific number of spaces that can make them quite difficult to use.

Surrounded by Ants is the idea that, when you start the game, you create a kind of nest for your Ants to cushion the Queen. Then, very quickly, unless the opponent is super quick, they can be moved into better positions. This then fulfils two different criteria. Firstly, it moves the strategic pieces to the strategic area. Secondly, it opens up your area around the Queen Bee, meaning your opponent has to fill in even more space – win/win.

Hive Starting Strategy #4: The Grasshopper Conga

Hive Strategy Placement 4

Now this final one (we’re only going to look at four starting positions for now) does actually involve playing the Queen Bee second, before quickly playing the Grasshopper behind her. The idea here is you are trying to get a piece in your opponent’s side of the board as quickly as physically viable. That is on turn four, which if they place their Queen last makes this an incredibly viable strategy.

By placing the Grasshopper there, and launching it to the other side of the piece labelled “YOUR OPPONENT’S PIECE” it is possible to not only give yourself a base with which to bring your own pieces in future, but you can also restrict where they put their Queen. Due to the fact their Queen Bee can’t touch your piece when they bring it in, that means you can shift it in one direction or another, ready for Spiders or Beetles to head in for the attack. It’s a really neat move.

Hive Starting Strategies – Four Different Moves

So, there you have it – a quick look today at the world of Hive and how to start off in the game. These are four core ideas and concepts that work nicely as methods for starting the game. They are simple, but they are effective and they are mighty.

Now over to you. What are your thoughts? How do you like to start games of Hive? Are there any pieces that you like using in particular? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. Interesting food for thought. Generally I follow strategy #1 so I can place my ant next to the opposing queen as soon as she’s placed.

    I would be very wary of trying the grasshopper conga — if your opponent is able to move a piece behind your grasshopper, you have three trapped pieces and a queen surrounded on two sides.

    Liked by 1 person

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