50 Games in 50 Weeks: #1, Hive

Jul 18 2011

Years ago, I designed a territory-building game, one in which players lay down territory cards, then spawn monsters on them in an attempt to capture another players’ castle. Never went anywhere; turns out that game design is hard.

But as I sat down with a co-worker to play Hive over lunch last week, memories of my territory-building game floated to my mind. This had a similar concept, beautifully realized as a chess-like pure strategy game.

Each player has a set of bakelite hexagonal pieces, each representing an insect. Each player sets down a piece next to each other, then take turns either laying down another piece or moving an existing piece. By the fourth turn, each player must put down their bee, which corresponds somewhat to the king in chess. The object of the game is to surround your opponent’s bee with pieces.

Each piece has its own style of movement. Grasshoppers can jump over any number of continuous pieces to land in an empty position, while beetles can climb on top of other pieces.

There are other rules, but you see the overall shape of the game: the hive grows as the game continues, and the pieces shift based on each player’s strategy. One has to be careful about what piece one moves. What are you leaving vulnerable, and what pieces can take advantage of your new position?

Very young children would probably have a tough time remembering how all the pieces move, but tweens should have no problem playing. Better, the game comes in a vinyl carrying case the size of a hardback book, so it’s easy to take anywhere.

Despite the simplicity of the rules, there are a lot of complexities that arise from gameplay. Because there’s no random element, beginners are at a massive disadvantage against expert players. So be nice if you’re teaching!

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