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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Double Review: Hive & Hive Pocket

Title: Hive
Title: Hive Pocket
Publisher: Gen42
Players: 2
Play time: Around 20 minutes per game
Prerequisites: A flat surface

I'm going to save a little time, both for myself and you, dear reader, by reviewing Hive and Hive Pocket simultaneously ("Is he allowed to do that?!") which is pretty easy since Hive Pocket is basically a travel version of Hive, so they're different versions of the same game.

Let's start with the gameplay.  Hive is sort of like chess, with the different minibeasts* each having its own movement rules (for the record, utterly different to those of chess).  The aim is to completely surround the opponent's queen bee, either with your own pieces or your opponent's, or any combination thereof.  Basically, if she's surrounded, it's croaksville for her.

It's dissimilar to chess in that there's no board to play on.  The playing area is dynamic, dependent upon how play goes -- the hive is made up as hexagonal pieces are added and generally grows through play.  Which neatly brings me to the two choices a player has.  Every turn, a player may either place a new piece, ensuring it is connected to the hive and only touching others of its own colour, or move a piece, not breaking the links of the hive.

Hive Pocket being played on a chess table outdoors in public
The ThoughtonBOT once again forces me into submission, proving that she is amazing and talented, and I really should just give up on games permanently
There's a lot of strategy to it, and practiced players will likely dominate lesser-practiced ones.  That said, I think there is a point where the game can be mastered, although I'm not personally there yet.  I also don't think that Hive could be played indefinitely, but honestly I think I'd say the same of chess, so make of that what you will.

Let's talk about the physical components and practicalities of play.  I've mentioned before, Hive is a play-almost-anywhere game, and because it's relatively short-form I recommend taking it to exotic places to play, like beaches, restaurants, mountain tops and your friend's houses.  There's no board, and the pieces are made of sturdy Bakelite.  I've dropped them a few times, and none have ever cracked or chipped (warning: that's not to say they can't or won't).

So what about Hive Pocket, and how is it different?  Well, as expected with a travel version, it's smaller, which means you need less space to play it in -- not that Hive was really demanding much space to begin with.  It's also lighter, which for me means I'm much more likely to put it in a bag that I take with me "just in case a game breaks out".  It also comes with the two expansions, namely the Mosquito and Ladybug, all as part of the standard game.  The original Hive didn't have these pieces -- to get them, you'd need to buy the expansions, which my own LGS carries, though asking a little more than seems fair for two hexagons of Bakelite.  The new pieces do change up the game just a little bit, but nothing is compelling you to use them; just put them back in the drawstring bag if you don't feel like including them today.

Would I recommend Hive?  Absolutely.  This is a fantastic little game, and a perfect gateway boardgame (even if it technically has no board) to get people interested in playing more than Monopoly, as well as standing on its own as a fine game for veteran gamers.  It asks players to think strategically, but can happily be played while conversing or drinking tea or beer or motor oil**.  Between the two versions, I'd recommend Hive Pocket.  While it might be a little easier to lose the smaller pieces, it comes in at about 60% of the cost with two expansions included, and the game doesn't seem to suffer or get fiddly due to the smaller physical components.  Now I own both, I think the travel version is the one that'll see the most use by far, and there's really no reason to break out the bigger set unless two sets of people want to play simultaneously.

So, yeah... go ahead, push some bugs around, it's good fun.

* A more accurate term for bugs or insects.  But there's a spider in there, which is technically neither of those two.
** Hey, I'm not judging.

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