Tabletop games Wargaming

Hive - game

Players 2
Age range 9 and up
Playing time 20 minutes
Random chance None

Hive is a bug-themed tabletop 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. Hive is an abstract strategy game.

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. Thus, the game has mechanics comparable to an abstract strategy board game and is marketed in that genre. It does not fit the classical definition, however, as there is no gameboard involved; the pieces are simply placed on some relatively flat surface.



The game uses hexagonal tiles to represent the various contents of the hive. The original two editions used wooden tiles with full-color insect 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 an insect 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):

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

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 insects on white pieces and white insects on black pieces that are equivalent in size to the base game. 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

The game starts with an empty layout, 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.

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 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"; 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.

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.

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.


A finished game of Hive. The Black Queen Bee (hidden under the two stacked Beetles) is surrounded on all six sides.

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. 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).


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:

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.