Hive Review

Hive game in play

Ok, we need to start this review off with a confession: I've already reviewed Hive here. In fact, it was one of my first reviews. Unfortunately, in my early reviews I was very eager to write as many reviews as I could (and did so on most of the really popular games), but I wasn't very good at diving into what made a game good or bad (of course, this is good or bad in my opinion).  Hopefully in the year or more that I've been writing this blog now, I've developed a better writing style.  Because of this, I'm going to start occasionally "archiving" some of these older reviews; starting with Hive. This essentially means that I'm going to rename the old post to have "Archive" in the title instead of Review, and will remove it from the alphabetical review list.  I will also make a note on the original post linking it to the newer review. With all that said, let me start telling you about how great of a game Hive is!

In Hive, each player takes on the role of an insect swarm attempting to capture their opponent's queen (who, obviously, must be a usurper to their queen's throne). To do this, you alternate taking turns - which consist of placing new insects (you cannot touch your opponent's pieces with the newly placed insect) or moving an existing piece. And, so that you don't hide your queen forever, she must be placed in one of your first three turns. Now to the insects. Your insect horde consists of grasshoppers, spiders (yes, yes, they're not "officially" insects, but you'll have to ignore that), beetles, ants, and (of course) the queen bee. Grasshoppers jump directly across a line, spiders move exactly three spaces, beetles move one space (but can move on top of other pieces), ants can move to any space along the outside of the game, and the queen can move exactly one space. Play continues back and forth until one queen is surrounded.

The first thing that I like about Hive is the way that you can trap your opponent's pieces. Specifically, one of the movement rules restricts anyone from splitting the hive into two disconnected sections. This allows a shrewd player to move a piece (such as an ant) to where it is only touching one single piece - the piece he doesn't want his opponent to move. Once you have moved your piece into position, your opponent will no longer be able to move that piece because he would split the hive; he at least cannot move it until he brings other pieces along to reshape the hive.

The next thing that I like about Hive is the fact that the queen can move. She is often hindered by one of the other movement rules - you cannot move any pieces except the beetle and the grasshopper into a place that they cannot slide into. Hive is played with hexagonal shaped tiles, and thus you can create "choke points" where a piece is not able to slide in (by surrounding most of the sides of the position you want to block). This rule will often prevent the queen (who is normally at least partially surrounded... after all, that is the point of the game) from moving. However, when she is able to move, you can often completely throw your opponent's strategy into disarray. They will be stuck desperately trying to reposition their units while you capitalize by (hopefully) surrounding their queen!

The next thing I like about Hive is related to the actual components of the game itself. The game is incredibly portable and also a great tactile experience - and all with no setup time. The game (at least the edition I purchased) comes with a travel bag, which allows for the game to be thrown into a backpack and carried with you. If you also factor in the fact that there is no board, the game can be easily setup anywhere ("coffee shop") and play can begin as soon as the pieces are separated. Finally, the high quality tiles themselves make the game feel classy.

The final pro that I will mention about Hive is that I like the differences in the insects. Each piece is useful, but in very different ways. The person who wins the game will be the person who is best able to capitalize on the strengths of each piece. The easiest strategy to grasp is the ants, as it's fairly apparent that their speed allows them to move quickly to trap enemy pieces or to fill some of the spaces around an opposing queen. However, once you master some of the more subtle strategies such as moving a beetle on top of an opponent's piece so that you can start placing next to it, your play of Hive will advance to another level. I cannot say that I am incredibly skilled at Hive, but I do enjoy getting to challenge myself by finding new strategies and watching my opponents counter me at every move.

Now one thing that you need to be aware of with Hive is that there is no random element to the game. There is no dice rolling, nor is there any shuffling and random draw. Similar to chess (and many abstract strategy games like Yinsh and Pentago), every facet of the game is completely visible to both players and so Hive is a challenge to see which player can out-think the other - not which player can out-roll the other. I personally like some element of random chance in games, but I can also appreciate games like Hive which are completely strategy based; as long as they are fast paced, which Hive is.

Overall, I give Hive an 8.5/10. I think that it is a masterful game that you should look to try out (if you haven't already).

If you want another opinion on this game, check out this Hive Review from the Board Game Family. Or if you have already decided that you like Hive, you might also be interested in checking out Atlanteon, Abalone, Gipf, and Rise!


  1. Hey, Josh. Curious how many times you - or others reading - have played this game, and what the average time is. I just bought it and played ONE game with my wife last night. After two hours of side-stepping each other, I made two bad moves around 1:15am and lost. My question is.......How is this game quick? Is the aim to be more aggressive? Better strategies? Some help, please! We were looking forward to an engaging, SHORT game. Thanks!

    - Danny

  2. Hey, Danny. I don't really keep count of plays, but I'd guess I've played Hive a dozen times or so. With that, I don't know that it has ever taken me an hour. I actually just played it a couple of times over the weekend, and each game took me around 15-30 minutes, I think. I guess I'm more impressed that you guys were so well balanced that you were able to keep a game going that long (unless you stopped and took a nap in the middle or something).