A superb board game without a board
British carpenter John Yianni wondered why board games required a board. He noodled about, trying various permutations and finally honed in on the unique nature of six-sided tiles. Crafting the tiles initially from wood, he developed an addictive strategy game based on various insects trying to surround a queen bee. During a recent train trip in Europe, I tested the game with my wife and two daughters. The game invariably comes in a box, which we quickly jettisoned (on a train between Cornwall and Bath) in favor of the handy bag into which the 20 tiles and instruction sheet neatly fit.
Each insect has its unique mobility characteristic, and the object of the game is to use these moves to surround the opponent’s queen bee. The tiles become the battleground, thereby solving Yianni’s quest to eliminate the board.
Any game designer will tell you the perpetual conundrum is to make the game initially appealing yet difficult to master. Hive strikes that balance almost perfectly; it takes a round or two to understand each insect’s movement, but each subsequent round exposes deeper nuances and strategies.
I was delighted to see my daughters (8 and 10) become as enamored as my wife and I with Hive. The box advises ages “9-99” which is not an overstatement. The tiles have an attractive design and heft, about the feel of a large chunk of Toblerone chocolate. The tiles are made from a Bakelite-like composite.
Like classic strategy games (from chess to backgammon), Hive penalizes the player for being overly offensive or defensive. Finding that balance for the player makes Hive a sweet and sticky game.