Hive Review – Busy Buzzing Boards

I got a chance to check out Hive for Steam, a digital version of an existing board game with some interesting twists. The most noticeable difference from a traditional board game, both in this form and in the game’s boxed forebear, is the apparent lack of, well, a board. The board – or hive – is built by placing the pieces themselves onto the playing area. Pieces are represented by hexagonal bits with a variety of creepy-crawlies, each with different specific rules surrounding them. I dove right in just a quick glance at the rules, which seemed more complicated than they worked out to be in practice.

There are a few basic rules that are always in effect. Two players take turns either placing pieces onto the field, thus building onto the Hive, or moving the pieces they have in play according to the rules of those pieces. The objective is to surround your enemy’s Queen, a queen-bee piece that must be put into play by your fourth turn. In addition, the Hive must always remain connected. This is called the ‘One Hive Rule’, the most prominent restriction on which pieces can move. Since the Hive must remain connected, a piece that’s the only tie another has to the Hive cannot be moved. Beyond that, the individual pieces are, for the most part, free to do what they can. Your pieces consist of three soldier ants, three grasshoppers, two beetles, and two spiders, in addition to the aforementioned queen bee.

Hive Steam Board Game Review - Game Board

A typical game board, early in a match. White is placing a soldier ant, the most versatile piece; the orange hexes show valid placement locations

Game pieces on the board can be moved at any time after a player’s queen bee is in play. The game plays out just like I’d expect the board game version; sound is minimal, and the animations simply show the pieces sliding around to new locations on the board. I really like this aspect – it keeps away from some board game “port” problems of trying to do too much, or become a new experience. Since things are kept clean and simple, it’s a very low-impact, easy-to-play affair. In addition to playing computer opponents, the game offers online play, as well as hot-seat and two-controller local play to offer some variety. There’s also a hint at yet-to-come “DLC” of a sort, offering pieces that exist in hard-copy expansion sets. The bottom line is that you’re paying $7 for an online version of a board game that retails for over $20 on Amazon, which makes it a pretty great deal for those who are after the experience of playing games with friends but not covering material costs that are associated with physical game pieces.

Hive Steam Board Game - Victory for White

Here, the White player’s pieces have surrounced the Black queen bee, and White has won the match. The Hive is relatively compact compared to some games I played, but quick victories are not uncommon if one does not pay attention

I haven’t had a chance to try out the multiplayer here, but I played a good couple of dozen rounds against the computer opponent, trying a few different difficulty levels and noticing that I’m not especially good at the game, but it was still a lot of fun; more fun, perhaps, on levels where I stood a chance of winning, but seeing the different methods by which the opposition would trounce me helped me learn, too. I’ve never played the board game version of Hive, but after trying this out, I’d certainly consider it. The simplicity of it means there’s not a whole lot for me to count against it, I think – it does what it should, and in a clean, understandable, and pleasant way that will keep me trying to learn the strategy of this deceptively simple-to-play, difficult-to-master timekiller.

Final Breakdown

[+Simple, straightforward play] [+Feels like a board game] [+Range of difficulty levels adjust to play] [+Plenty of multiplayer options] [-Mildly annoying sound]

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