Sunday, July 10, 2011

Board Game Review: Hive

Here's a review of a really interesting and innovative board game. Part of the innovation is that there is no board. It's called Hive, and if you're interested, you can play it online. And let's not forget the ratings:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 6
Randomness: 0
Complexity: 2
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: Pretty.
Expected Length of Game Play: 30 minutes.
The basic Hive set consists of twenty-two hexagonal tiles, eleven each in black and white. Each tile is embossed with a representation of an insect (technically, with an arthropod, as spiders aren't insects): one bee, three ants, three grasshoppers, two beetles, and two spiders. There are two expansions: one adds two ladybug pieces to each side, and the other adds two mosquito pieces to each side.

The twenty-two pieces from the base set: the eleven white pieces on the right and the eleven black on the left. Each set is a thick Bakelite hexagonal tile with an arthropod embossed into the top and paint poured into the recessed area. On each side, there are two purple beetles, two brown garden spiders, three green grasshoppers, three blue worker ants, and one queen bee.

The game is, at its most basic, sort of like chess on LSD. Each piece moves in a specific way, and although you can't capture enemy pieces, the goal is still to 'checkmate' your opponent's king (or in this case, queen: the 'queen' bee). This is done by causing the opponent's queen piece to be completely surrounded (it doesn't have to be surrounded by your pieces; as long as there's a piece of either colour on all six sides of the bee, it counts). Each piece moves in a specific way.

The game starts out with each player taking turns placing pieces on the playing field. You must place your queen on the field within the first four turns. Other than that, on any turn, you can either put one of your pieces into play, or move one of the pieces already in play. When placing a new piece, it cannot touch an enemy piece. When moving, you cannot move a piece that would cause the hive to be split into two separate parts; all pieces must be connected to all other pieces at all times.

Queen Bees move one space in any direction around the outside of the hive. Ants can move any number of spaces around the outside of the hive. Spiders move exactly three spaces around the outside of the hive. Beetles move exactly one space around the outside of the hive, or climb onto an adjacent piece. Grasshoppers jump in a straight line over any intervening pieces to the first empty space across the hive. If using one of the expansions: Ladybugs move like the grasshopper, but are limited to moving exactly three spaces (jumping over exactly two pieces), however they do not have to move in a straight line like the grasshopper does. The mosquitos move as any piece that they are touching at the beginning of the turn.

And that's pretty much it. If you'd like to know more, you can check out their US or UK website or just go straight to the tutorial video. But I think it's a neat idea, a fun little strategy game that's easily portable, challenging, and imaginative. So give it a try, let me know what you think, and don't forget to

Game on!

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