Hive is a board game like chess, but with colorful insects in place of the the traditional pieces. Published by Blue Line Game Studios, it’s available on Xbox Live and Steam, with Macintosh and Linux releases planned for the future.
As the title indicates, you’re building an insect hive not unlike a colony of bees, with a single queen supported by many workers. This structure leads to a number of logical rules: Your queen must be placed in the first four turns; no piece can be moved until the queen is in play; when placing a piece, it must be next to one of yours and cannot be next to the opposing team’s pieces; pieces must move in a sliding motion and can not move into a space where it wouldn’t naturally fit; and no piece may break the Hive, which means a piece may not move if it connects two or more other pieces. The rules aren’t too cumbersome making it easy to pick up, but a challenge to master.
Hive is played on a dynamic hex map, and each game creates a unique board as pieces are placed. Once you learn the rules, play proceeds naturally and quickly.
Like the king in chess, the queen is the weakest piece and moves only one space at a time. The objective of the game is to surround the opposing player’s queen using any pieces, yours or your opponent’s. One move by the queen can turn the tide of the game.
Other pieces have their strengths and weaknesses. The ant is powerful because it can move anywhere, but frequently gets in the way of your own strategy as well as your opponent’s. The beetle can move in three dimensions to occupy a hex over other pieces, but only one space at a time. The grasshopper can move any distance through any other piece, but only in a straight line. And the spider, like the knight in chess, must move in a specific pattern over a specific number of spaces. An upcoming expansion will introduce a mysterious new pill bug piece to add more strategic options.
The Steam version AI has four different difficulty levels, and provides a satisfying challenge. When playing I started off with a very aggressive tactic, going straight for the opposing queen. Over time I learned that I had to also protect my own queen in order to be successful at higher difficulties. I enjoyed the level of depth that can be applied once you master the basics.
My only complaint is that playing the AI can get dull after a while. Blue Line Game Studios plans to release their multiplayer patch soon. Player vs player is where I know this game will shine, so I was a bit sad that I didn’t get to experience that since the human factor is really a key element to games like these.
All in all Hive is both interesting and challenging, and will appeal to people who enjoy games like chess, checkers or other classic board games. You can get early access to the Steam version here.
This game was reviewed using a PC copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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