Hive (game)

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Designer(s)John Yianni
Publisher(s)Gen42 Games
Playing time20 minutes
Random chanceNone

Hive is a bug-themed tabletop abstract strategy game, designed by John Yianni and published in 2001 by Gen42 Games. The object of Hive is to capture the opponent's queen bee by completely surrounding it, while avoiding the capture of one's own queen.[1] Hive shares elements of both tile-based games and board games. It differs from other tile-based games in that the tiles, once placed, can then be moved to other positions according to various rules, much like chess pieces.


The game uses hexagonal tiles to represent the various contents of the hive. The original two editions used wooden tiles with full-color illustrations on blue and silver stickers to represent the units, but the current third edition has been published using black and almond phenolic resin ("Bakelite") tiles with single-color painted etchings.

There are 22 pieces in total making up a Hive set, with 11 pieces per player, each representing a creature and a different means of moving (the colors listed are for the third edition of the game; the first and second used full-color drawings):

  • 1 Queen Bee (Yellow-Gold)
  • 2 Spiders (Brown)
  • 2 Beetles (Purple)
  • 3 Grasshoppers (Green)
  • 3 Soldier Ants (Blue)

In addition, one or more of the expansion pieces may be optionally added to the game:

  • 1 Mosquito (Gray)
  • 1 Ladybug (Red)
  • 1 Pill bug (Cyan)

In addition, the game is packaged with a travel bag (a black drawstring bag for older editions; a nylon zippered case for the current version) to make the game more portable. Given the durability of the tiles and the lack of a board, the game is marketed as a "go-anywhere" game that simply needs a relatively flat surface on which to place pieces.

In 2011, the publisher released a "Carbon" edition of Hive, with a monochrome design of black creatures on white pieces and white creatures on black pieces. Tiles for the Mosquito and Ladybug expansions are included in this set.

In 2012, the publisher released a lower-priced "Pocket" edition of Hive. The pieces are smaller versions of the colored Bakelite tiles, and include the Mosquito and Ladybug expansions. The game is sold with an orange drawstring bag for storage.


Setup and placement[edit]

The game starts with an empty layout,[1] with all of both players' pieces in stacks or otherwise arranged as each player prefers. It confers little or no advantage to conceal the faces of unplaced pieces; both players have "perfect information" about the state of the game, and thus by process of elimination any piece not on the board is yet to be played. The official rules do not specify that a specific player color begins; either white (similar to Chess) or black (similar to Go) may play first and players may alternate first turn between games without swapping pieces.

On each turn, a player may place a new piece from their supply, or, if their Queen Bee has been placed, move a piece according to its function. A new piece, when placed, must be adjacent to only the player's pieces; it cannot touch any of the opposing player's pieces. The only exception to this rule is the first piece played by each player; the first played piece simply cannot be adjacent to anything, and the other player's first piece must be adjacent to the first player's piece (see the "one hive rule" in the Movement section below). Once placed, a piece may be moved to a new space regardless of what pieces it will touch, except that it must be adjacent to at least one other piece.[1]

After the Queen Bee has been placed, a player is at liberty to place or move at will; as pieces are placed, the layout, known colloquially as the "hive", gets larger, and pieces become surrounded by others. The strategy in placing tiles is thus usually to wait to place stronger tiles until they have a strong chance of not being immediately trapped.

The Queen Bee must be placed in one of the first four turns, and if a player's Queen Bee has not yet been placed, that player may not move any pieces. Therefore, it is generally preferable to place the Bee before being forced to do so on the fourth turn.

Movement and Pieces[edit]

Movement of pieces in Hive is governed by the hexagonal shape of the tiles. Tiles must be situated such that one face of a tile contacts the face of an adjacent tile, and a movement of one "space" equates to a shift to a different (imaginary) hex-shaped area that is adjacent to both the current space and to one other piece. The game has no actual board, however it can be thought of as being played on an infinite plane of tessellated hexagons.

A major rule in Hive is the One-Hive Rule;[2] a piece may never be moved such that during or after its movement, there are two separate groups of pieces in play. Even if as a result of the piece's move, the layout remains one group, if the hive becomes disconnected while the piece is in transit the move is illegal. This allows for the basic strategy of "trapping" an opposing piece or pieces by moving one's own piece to the outside of the opposing piece; the opposing piece then cannot legally move because the trapping piece would be stranded.[3]

With two exceptions, moves are made around the circumference of all pieces of the layout, and a piece may never move into or out of a hex that is almost completely or completely surrounded (known as the Freedom to Move Rule). The two exceptions to both are noted below.[1]

The movement of the pieces is as follows (number in parantheses indicates number of each piece type per player):

  • The Queen Bee (1) is the most limited in movement; she can only move one space at a time. Although restricted, a well-timed movement of the Queen can avoid her being trapped and frustrate an opponent's plans.
  • The Beetle (2), like the Bee, can move only one space at a time. However, unlike the Bee, a Beetle can also climb on top of any adjacent piece, and then if the player so wishes can move one space at a time over the top of the layout. The piece under the Beetle cannot move as long as the Beetle remains on top, and for the purpose of placing new tiles, that space is the color of the Beetle's tile, not the underlying tile. Beetles can move on top of other Beetles even when that Beetle is atop another piece; theoretically a stack 5 tiles high can be constructed, with all four Beetles atop some other tile. A Beetle on top of the layout can crawl back down onto the edge of the board, or into any surrounded space.
    • Beetles have an important but rarely-seen movement restriction, a variation of the Freedom to Move Rule; a Beetle may not move directly between two adjacent hexes if doing so would require passing through a gap between two stacks of pieces that are both higher than the origin hex (without the Beetle on it) and the destination hex. The Beetle may, however, take two turns to reach this spot by first crawling into either of the stacks blocking its path.
  • The Spider (2) can move exactly three spaces around the circumference of the layout. This makes the Spider restricted in terms of its usefulness later in gameplay, however it has a high degree of utility at the beginning of the game as a base for other pieces or as a fast-attack piece while the layout is still small.[4] Even when the layout becomes larger, the Spider, when positioned correctly, can still affect the game significantly.
  • The Grasshopper (3) is, like its namesake, a jumping piece; it moves by jumping over one or more other pieces in a straight line to the first adjacent space on the opposite side of the line of pieces. It always jumps in the direction of one of its faces, never one of its corners. Because of this mode of movement, it can quickly traverse from one side of the layout to the other, and like the Beetle it can move into a surrounded space.
  • The Soldier Ant (3) may move only around the edge of the layout, like the Bee or Spider, but unlike either piece it may move as many spaces as the player wishes. This makes the Ant a very powerful piece, capable of moving from anywhere on the edge of the Hive to anywhere else to trap an opposing piece or free a trapped piece.
  • The Mosquito (1) is a piece that acquires the power of any piece (allied or opponent) adjacent to it. If the Mosquito is adjacent to a Grasshopper, for example, the Mosquito can move like a Grasshopper. If the Mosquito climbs atop the Hive using Beetle powers, the Mosquito can only move as a Beetle until climbing down onto the main level of play. If a Mosquito is touching another Mosquito, each Mosquito only gets the powers of the pieces immediately adjacent to itself; a Mosquito can't inherit powers through another Mosquito.
  • The Pillbug (1) can move a piece next to itself to a free space that is also next to itself. The action happens in two steps. Step 1: The Pillbug lifts the piece out of the Hive. Step 2: The Pillbug places the piece into a free space next to itself. These two steps are important to understand because the Pillbug cannot break the one-Hive rule. That is to say, it cannot move a piece essential to the Hive. There are a few other restrictions for the Pillbug as well: the Pillbug cannot move a piece if either the Pillbug or that other piece is covered; the Pillbug cannot move a piece if that piece was moved in the most recent turn; the Pillbug cannot move a piece if the Pillbug itself was moved in the most recent turn; the Pillbug cannot move a piece through a Beetle gate (if there are two Beetles creating a gate on the second layer of the Hive).
  • The Ladybug (1) is a piece that moves by temporarily climbing atop of an adjacent piece, moving on top of a different piece, and then climbing back down to an open space on the main layer of the Hive.

In the official online version of the game, if a player can not make any legal move then their turn passes and the other player moves twice (or more) in a row.[5]


The game ends when a Queen Bee is captured by surrounding it on all 6 sides by either player's pieces, and the player whose Queen Bee is surrounded loses the game.[6] The game is a draw if a move results in the simultaneous surrounding of both Queen Bees, or in a situation where each player's best move for a turn leads to an endless cyclical repetition of a series of moves (this situation is known as stalemate).[7]


There are many possible opening strategies, but two main formations are recommended by the game's publisher. They are reproduced below in order of placement:

  • Spider - Bee - Ant (in a V formation with the spider at the point):[8] This is a flexible opening that allows the Bee maximum movement possibilities while also quickly introducing a powerful Ant that can move as needed to block or trap. Beetle-Bee-Ant and Hopper-Bee-Ant are common variations that replace the first Spider with a piece that can still move when surrounded and is thus less likely to be trapped for the entire game.
  • Bee - Spider - Spider (in a V formation with the bee at the point):[9] This is an aggressive quick-strike opening that allows the player the fastest possible opportunity to move (on the third turn if necessary); the Spiders can thus quickly block the opponent's opening pieces. In addition, if the opponent answers with the same or a similar opening, it provides the best opportunity to force a draw if necessary as the Bees are adjacent. For this last reason, tournament rules forbid the placing of the Bee on the first move, as this opening leads to a preponderance of draws. Bee-Spider-Ant is a common variation very similar in its mechanics.

Other openings include beginning with a Beetle or Grasshopper; depending on how the Hive's shape evolves, a Beetle or Grasshopper may be able to climb or jump out of its original position, when the Bee, Spider or Ant would likely be trapped for the entire game in a similar situation.

As mentioned before, it is generally considered unwise to leave the placement of the Bee until the fourth turn; not only can placed pieces not move, but the player risks being forced to play an extended string of pieces that can be easily trapped. It is also unwise to play an Ant as the first piece; this piece is likely to be trapped and/or surrounded for the entire game, and thus the player is forced to play short one Ant, placing him/her at a severe disadvantage.


In 2007 a promotional expansion was released that consisted of a new Mosquito piece for each player. This game piece can be added to each player's supply before the game begins. The Mosquito acts as a sort of "wild card" piece; once played, the Mosquito takes on the characteristics of any other piece it touches at the time, so that its movement and abilities change during the course of the game. For instance, if a mosquito is located adjacent to a Grasshopper and an Ant, it can either jump over a line of pieces as the Grasshopper moves, or move around the circumference of the hive as an Ant. That move may place it adjacent to a Beetle, Spider and the Queen Bee; if it moves again it can do so as any of those three. The only exception to this rule is that if it is moved on top of the hive (as a Beetle moves), it retains the abilities of a Beetle until it moves down off of the hive again.

In 2010, a Ladybug expansion was announced. It was presented at Essen 2010. The Ladybug moves three spaces; two on top of the Hive, then one down. It must move exactly two on top of the Hive and then move one down on its last move. It may not move around the outside of the Hive and may not end its movement on top of the Hive. This expansion was released in early 2011, first on electronic versions of the game for iPhone and on the Hive website, then as part of the Hive Carbon edition, and finally as an expansion set for the 3rd edition Bakelite set.

In January 2013, the Pillbug was announced as a possible expansion piece, and has been added to the game. It was designed as a defensive piece, to counteract the other two offensive expansions and to give the second player a bit of an advantage. The Pillbug moves exactly like a Queen. In addition, the Pillbug has the special ability, in lieu of moving, to pick up and move another bug of either color. When doing so, the Pillbug picks up an adjacent piece and places it into a different, unoccupied space adjacent to itself. This special ability may, for example, be used to rescue a friendly Queen on the verge of being surrounded. The Pillbug may not move a bug which was just currently moved by one's opponent in the immediately preceding turn. All standard rules apply to the Pillbug. The Mosquito adapts to both the movement and special power of the Pillbug.


John Yianni, designer of Hive, has recognized the annual tournament held at as the Online Hive World Championship. Here is a list of winners:

2007 Peter Danzeglocke, Germany, playing as woswoasi

2008 Sean Chong, Malaysia, playing as ahchong

2009 Edwin de Backer, Netherlands, playing as EddyMarlo

2010 Edwin de Backer, Netherlands, playing as EddyMarlo (first repeat winner)

2011 Randy Ingersoll, USA, playing as ringersoll

2012 Dimitris Kopsidas, Greece, playing as Fumanchu

2013 蔡慶鴻 Tsai Ching Hung, Taiwan, playing as image13

2014 Christian Sperling, Germany, playing as Eucalyx

2015 Christian Galeas Arce, Chile, playing as Quodlibet

2016 Dimitrios Kampilakis, Greece, playing as tzimarou

2017 Joe Schultz, USA, playing as Jewdoka

2018 Christian Galeas Arce, Chile, playing as Quodlibet (second championship)

2019 Christian Galeas Arce, Chile, playing as Quodlibet (third championship)

2020 Joe Schultz, USA, playing as Jewdoka (second championship)


  1. ^ a b c d "HiveMania - Rules Table Of Contents". Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  2. ^ "HiveMania - One Hive Rule". Archived from the original on 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  3. ^ "HiveMania - Tips Page 2". Archived from the original on 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  4. ^ "HiveMania - Tips Page 1". Archived from the original on 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  5. ^ "HiveMania - Online Hive Virtual Game". Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  6. ^ "HiveMania - Object of Hive". Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  7. ^ "HiveMania - Ending On A Draw". Archived from the original on 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  8. ^ "HiveMania - Tips Page 3". Archived from the original on 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  9. ^ "HiveMania - Tips Page 4". Archived from the original on 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2009-04-13.

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