Hive Pocket – Shut Up & Sit Down Review


[BIRDS CHEEPING] QUINNS: “You know why gold is valuable?” It’s not because it’s rare. For as long as humans have been around, we’ve valued gold because it doesn’t react to anything.’ When you died in ancient history, the two things you’d leave behind were your children and your gold. So, here’s some gold for you. The most portable and hard-wearing game we’ve ever encountered, and one that might just be around long after
“Shut Up & Sit Down” is gone. Say hello to “Hive”… or more precisely to “Hive Pocket”. Although it.. doesn’t fit in my pocket. This is ridiculous. Still, this bag of bugs is an appealing thing to get out and show off, whether you’re in an elegant café, smoky discotheque or foreign prison. It’s that lovely to touch, and simple to teach, but little do your friends know, this game actually won an award from MENSA for being such an uncompromising test – they’ll find that out later. ‘”Hive” sees two players taking turns to either add a creature of your colour to the hive – but, not touching any of your opponent’s pieces – or move a piece. Your lethargic queen has to be placed in your first four moves, and you win if you completely surround your opponent’s queen. Fetty Wap fact: did you know that Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” is actually about his love of “Hive”? [PLINKY PLONK] The pieces all move differently. The grasshopper leaps over everything, the beetle can climb on top of the hive, the ant can go anywhere – Because just like in real life, ants are bull-[BLEEP] – but this puzzle is a sticky web for you to pick your way through, because a piece can only move if it doesn’t split the hive. Now, beginners are going to assume that “Hive” is a game of swarming the queen like teens on a YouTuber – [BEEP]
Yep, there’s a bike, here – there he goes. [ENGINE HUM] How fast is he going? Has he stopped? Oh no. ‘No, thank you.’ Beginners are going to assume that “Hive” is a game of swarming the queen like teens on a YouTuber, and it is. But, the queen can waddle out of traps if she doesn’t break the hive. And, you can’t swarm a queen in the first place if your eager-creeper moving would break the hive. As “Hive” starts to turn over in your head like plastic clockwork, your spiders start to look a lot less useless, If they can hold a valuable ant in place. But that involves figuring out where the ant’s going to be, so you can put the spider there first, which means that if you want to put an ant down, you have to predict where they’re… gonna… put the.. spider… [SYNTHESISER WOBBLE] So, what we have here is actually a rarity for
“Shut Up & Sit Down”. Usually we showcase bombastic games t hat get everybody laughing, or excite us with scale or story. “Hive” is more like a cerebral, silent slugfest in the style of chess or go. The kind of game where if you see it at just the wrong angle, it doesn’t look like people are playing a game so much as they’ve received some really terrible news. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that “Hive” is better than chess. What could be ‘better’ than chess? What is even ‘better’? All experience is subjective! The idea of a site that tells you which board games are better than others is functionally meaningless. [SYNTHESISER WOBBLE] But, I will point out that you probably don’t play chess because it’s a drag! It’s too long, and because the game’s so expansive and wide, when you lose you don’t even feel like you learned anything! Except that you suck at chess. Which is the only thing I’ve learned about chess, over and over again. I’ve actually got nothing against people who like to measure their chess-ticles, but I will say that I don’t find chess fun. But I really like “Hive”. I like showing it to people even more. You see, “Hive” takes just 20 minutes, and also, while it’s incredibly quick to play, and it’s wonderfully interactive with players literally crawling over each other from turn one, and by turn four you’re always looking at a board state that you’ve never seen before. The long-term strategy of “Hive” is deeply mysterious. And what I mean by that: you don’t even know the value of the different pieces; you don’t know what’s good, you don’t know if playing offensively or defensively is good, but- and this is the key thing, after every game of “Hive”, players will
sit back and think, ‘Yeah, I think I get this a little more. I think I understand.’ If you play “Hive” in an evening, three, four, five games… your fifth game will look nothing like your first because you’ve learned so much. And that makes it tremendously rewarding to play. You see, we always talk about ‘easy to learn, hard to master’, but there’s a third step: You want games to be easy to learn, hard to master, and rewarding and fun, to progress on that journey… between my index- and middle finger. You see: yes, you want to surround the queen, but actually there’s a delightful game of risk/reward here, because there are loads of spaces around a queen. So the longer you let your opponent laboriously drop and nudge beetles into place – taking a turn, take another turn, take another turn – the more moves your opponent is giving you to secure the rest of the hive. And you then end up with a board state like this: Yes, they almost have your queen,
but you control the hive. Your pieces are encircling it like an iron fist. Your opponent can’t move anything and you can slowly – cautiously – surround their queen. But then the easiest way to do that is with ants, so if your opponent locks your ants into place and you try to lock your pieces, then… the solution for that is… obviously.. to… uh. [SYNTHESISER WOBBLE] And this is why I think “Hive” is such a cool travel game, because it’s a fun and diverting, tactile 15 minutes, but, to get the most out of it, you want to be locked away with it. You want to be with a friend or a group of friends who are stuck with this game, so that then by playing it over and over and over again, you start to realise how coy it is. Yes, it’s mysterious, but you start to
unpick those secrets – you realise immediately that ants are good, and then you realise that, well, you don’t want to bring them on too early, but you don’t want to bring them on too late. Then, you realise how good beetles are if they’re next to a queen, because then they can always crawl out, ‘even if your queen is surrounded.’ It’s difficult to think and plan ahead, in terms of.. hexagons? And to remember that any piece that moves locks and unlocks different other pieces. It’s also difficult – never mind ants – to know when to bring on the expansion pieces: the mosquito and the ladybird – which is a bit like including optional steroid injections with your gym membership. The mosquito copies the movement of any pieces it touches, so if it’s next to an ant and a beetle, it can move like an ant or a beetle. I’ll let you in on a secret: I thought this would be annoying and tedious; it’s awesome, and allows for really cool plays.’ The other creature is a ladybird, which goes two spaces on top of the hive, and then a final space – boop! – dropping down. Yes, we call them ladybirds in the UK –
not ladybugs, it’s a better name, get over it. So, do we recommend this? Well, “Hive Pocket” is a lovely package, it’s catnip for poindexters, it is tactile and playful and mysterious like… the tactical equivalent of a handbag-sized dog. It is also, however, a gamers’ game – by which I don’t mean ‘gamer’ as in the sense it’s come to mean in the last 20 years. I mean ‘gamer’ in the sense of the last 2,000 years! It is a contest of wits for people who just want to sit down together and think, and be tested! I don’t mean tested as in ‘you might require some patience’, I mean tested as in, you might not have what it takes to be good at “Hive”,’ and for that reason, it’s not for everybody. It’s also not for people who are just playing games at home, because my goodness, I don’t think it can compete with the big boxes which “Shut Up & Sit Down” recommends. There’s far too much out there. But, if you’re going away to another country or a bar,
or a foreign prison, and if you want to carry a world of options, [GROANS]
for you, in a little drawstring bag, I can’t think of anything more lovely than “Hive”. And with a bit of luck, I honestly do think this game will be around for longer than “Shut Up & Sit Down”. Obviously not actually… .. going to leave the game here. You know, it’s… It’s my game.
[PUFFING] [WHINING] Ohh, it’s got dirt on! [MUZAK FADES IN] Hi. So, there’s our review of “Hive”. And by the way, while I was never going to miss my opportunity to film in an ancient ruin, I don’t mean for that to give a stereotypical or othering impression of India. While it’s an amazing country, it’s also a country like any other, with board game meetups like any other – and slightly more surprisingly, “Shut Up & Sit Down” fans. You can watch the full Q&A I did with this Bangalore board game meetup on the next donor newsletter, but I particularly enjoyed this question.’ My question is that in India what typically happens,
in a typical household, is we get introduced to games like
“Scrabble”, “Monopoly”, and “Monopoly” has gone on to become something like.. whenever I tell people I play board games:
‘Oh, like ‘Monopoly”?’ Yeah, well, that’s the same everywhere I think. Is, is it the same world-wide? Yeah!
[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] What a great question! Yes, “Monopoly” is
a global disease. [MORE LAUGHTER] Thanks for watching, everybody! Because I’m from England, I don’t really know how to film in sun, so I’m kind of.. squinting… If you enjoyed this video, please do us a huge favour and subscribe, and also hey, hey, hey. If you want to watch some other reviews of abstract games that are slightly too clever for their own good, don’t miss our reviews of “Azul” and “Tash-Kalar”: two fantastic abstracts, or fant-abstract.. as I like to say.
Take care.

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