Monday, January 5, 2009

Review -- HIVE


It's only a couple of sleeps until Christmas, so it's a rather special time of year.
With that in mind I thought it appropriate that I write about one of the most interesting, and special games to come out this millennium.
Yes, that is only a period of eight years, but it has been a great eight years for board gamers as the hobby has experienced something of a resurgence with numerous games arriving on the scene to rave reviews.
Hive certainly makes the list of the best of the era, probably sitting number two on my list, only a smidgen behind Arimaa, a game that will soon be reviewed here as well.
In the case of Hive, designer John Yianni came up with a true classic.
The game, which was released in 2001, uses a rather unique mechanic in that it does not have a pre-set board on which the game takes places.
Instead, the hexagonal pieces themselves ultimately form the board as they are played, and maneuver throughout the game.
In the original Hive, each player starts with a single queen bee, two beetles, two spiders, and three each of an ant and grasshopper. Each of the insect themed pieces has a unique movement pattern.
Players start with their pieces in front of them, and take turns placing a piece on the table, each piece having to connect to the 'hive' as it is added to the 'board'.
Within the first four turns, a player must place his queen, which is the key piece in the game, since a player wins by completely surrounding the opponent's queen. Six pieces are needed to surround the queen, and they can be either player's.
Other than the rule regarding the queen's placement within the opening four rounds, a player can either add a piece to the hive, it has to touch only other pieces of his colour, or they can opt to move a piece already in play.
The only other overriding rule to remember is that the 'hive', the combined pieces in play, can never be broken into separate units – all pieces must remain connected.
With each piece having a unique move, the queen moves one field around a neighbouring piece, while the grasshopper has the ability to hop over the hive to rest on the other side, the game is reminiscent of chess.
However, the game almost always has a different look as the pieces are played out, and moved, to create an ever changing 'hive' pattern.
Early sets of Hive had the pieces made of wood, with stickers which depicted the various insects. the components have since gone through a major upgrade, with current sets having Bakelite pieces, with engraved images of the bugs.
The Bakelite pieces make this a true heirloom game which should last forever.
Yianni, has also created a game that has evolved. In 2007, he created the mosquito piece as an addition to the game. Each player has one mosquito, a piece which once placed mimics the movement of any piece it is adjacent too.
In correspondence with the creator, Yianni hints that he has other ideas percolating which could add even more bugs to the Hive family in the future.
The arrival of the mosquito, and hints of more to come, add to an already great game because it will add new strategic options to game play.
A game with few flaws, it has great pieces, interesting mechanics and it plays quickly too. Simply a winner all around.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 24, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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