This is the English version of an article I wrote as an user of German gaming site Gamersglobal. The original user-review can be found here (in German).
Ants, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers and a queen bee – this is not a list of things to find in your garden at the end of summer. It rather lists the protagonists to play in the digital version of the board game Hive. Read on to find an answer how the video game released for Xbox 360 and PC compares to the original board game.
Hive has been developed by game designer John Yianni and was published in 2001 as an abstract strategy board game for two players. Ranked in the top ten of abstract games at the site Boardgamegeek, Hive is a game worth mentioning within that genre. In 2013, Blue Line Game Studios developed a digital version for Xbox 360 followed by a PC-release on Steam in 2014. The digital version is an close conversion of the original rules with very similar visual appearance in comparison to the board game.
Rules and AI
The basic rules of Hive are easy to learn. Each of the five different pieces – ant, spider, grasshopper, beetle, queen bee – has its own rule of movement, comparable to chess. Most notable difference to that board game classic is the lack of a chessboard. Pieces are placed from a pool and in comparison to chess there is no capturing of the opponent’s tiles.
The goal of Hive is to corner the opponent’s queen bee. It doesn’t matter if you achieve this with your own or the other player’s pieces. To get new insects in play you place them in contact to one of your pieces already in play not adjacent to an enemy insect. Alternatively, you can move one of your insects as stated in its rules. For instance, the grashopper can jump in a straight line to another free space, while the beetle is able to move one space and can climb on other pieces to block their movement and overrule their color. Even with this simple set of rules, Hive allows for significant strategic depth. Indeed, to master the game you should invest some time.
Empty online lobby
In Hive you can choose to battle the computer AI or a human opponent in a hot-seat or online game. The AI is scalable in five levels of difficulty and even the medium one gives you a tough opponent to battle. Nonetheless, it does make mistakes occasionally.
There is matchmaking available online but it is almost impossible to find even one single opponent. At different daytimes and days of the week there happened to be only one player in search for a game.
Appearance and DLC
The visual conversion is quite appealing and the 3D-overview is very close to the impression of the original board game. During a play, the 3D-rendered insects turn on their pieces to face in the diretion of the opponent’s queen bee. If you rather like a simplistic conversion, there is the 2D option of the insects printed on the pieces in colour or black and white. Additionally, the ambient sound is unobtrusive with insect sounds and silent drums in the menu. While playing there is only one instrumental song in repeat.
There are three small expansions available as DLC, as are available for the original game. Each includes a new piece for the game with its own additional rules: ladybug, mosquito and pillbug. These open new strategic possibillities and can be switched on and off before each game by choice.
Hive offers a well done conversion of the boardgame which goes by the same name. A session of this games will often take you only a few minutes, but can also drag on. The interface is intuitive and all possible moves are visualized. The AI is scalable in five levels and gives you the chance to mirror your own skills. Thus, singleplayer is a valid alternative to a multiplayer match, as there is almost zero chance to find an opponent online. Nevertheless, you can also check out the original tabletop game, which is worth a try with a friend in place.