Review – Hive Pocket

2 Players, Aged 9+ with a 20+ minute playing time

A review copy of Hive Pocket was kindly provided by the British designer John Yianni, and the team at GEN42 Games.

Hive was first released in 2001 with the monochrome version Hive Carbon in 2011 and two additional
insects the Mosquito in 2007 and the Ladybug also in 2011 and an iPhone / iPad version in 2009, there have been a number of developments since its initial release. Over this period it has won a number of awards including the Mensa Select Winner in 2006.
Hive Pocket - The game packaging
Given the success Hive has enjoyed the creation of this new smaller variant was a logical next step, and one that fans of the game may see as long overdue. Hive Pocket offers the same unique game but in a much smaller more portable package that makes me wonder if Army of Frogs may get the same treatment?

For those readers who have not encountered Hive before it is a tactile tactical 2 player game where players seek to surround their opponents Queen Bee using a number of different insects, each with their own unique characteristics. Obviously whilst trying to surround your opponents Queen Bee you are seeking to defend your own!

What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: The Game Components, Setting Up The Game, How To Play The Game, What Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if you don't want to read the whole review scan down to the heading that interests you.

The Game Components 
Hive Pocket contains 26 solid moulded plastic hexagonal playing tokens each with an insect carved on one side. There are 13 black or white pieces per player. Each player has the following combination of insects at their disposal:

Basic Insects
Hive Pocket - The Queen Bees
1 Queen Bee – Yellow - Move 1
Hive Pocket - The Spiders
2 Spiders – Brown - Move 3, no more no less
Hive Pocket - The Beatles
2 Beetles – Purple - Move 1 or can leap on the back of an insect it is touching and then in future moves move one on top of the Hive
Hive Pocket - The Grasshoppers
3 Grasshoppers – Green - Move /leap in a straight line over an insect or line of insects touching any side of the Grasshopper
Hive Pocket - The Soldier Ants
3 Soldier Ants – Blue - Has unlimited movement around the edge of the Hive

Advanced Insects
1 Mosquito – Grey - Takes on the movement characteristics of any insect it is touching at the start of its move. The only exception being that if it acts as a Beatle and moves on top of the Hive then it remains a Beatle until it drops down.
Hive Pocket - The Mosquitos & Ladybugs
1 Ladybug – Red - Moves two on top of the Hive and one down.

Setting Up The Game
Choose a starting player and they place one of their insects into the centre of the table.

The opposing player picks one of their insects and places it against one side of the insect already in play and so the game begins.

The connected group of insects is referred to as the Hive.

How To Play The Game
Hive is an incredibly simple game where in a players turn you either introduce a new insect to the Hive or move one of their insects, as described earlier, that is already in the Hive.

The only rules or limitations on movement are:

1. Other than on the first move, when adding an insect to the Hive it may never touch an opposing player’s insect.

2. The Queen Bees must be placed within a players first four turns.

3. Once a player’s Queen Bee is in the Hive/play they may elect to either move one of their insects in the Hive or place an additional one of their insects into the Hive.

4. Insects may not move in such a way as to create two or more Hives.

5. A move for insects other than Beatles, Grasshoppers and Ladybugs is described as a slide. If you put your finger on the insect and can move it without disturbing the other insects or creating a second Hive then it can move.

A key strategy in the game is to pin opposing player’s insects by placing insects around them in such a way as to limit their ability to move.

6. Only the Beatles, Grasshoppers and Ladybugs can move into a closed space, that is complete a movement where a slide is not possible but the insects tile will legitimately fit. By the nature of these insects movement they can also move out of an enclosed space.
Hive Pocket - The insects
The rules suggest that players familiarise themselves with the basic insects before introducing the Mosquito and Ladybug to their games and in my case maybe don’t use them at all as always seem to get in a muddle with them!

The rules simplicity hide a game with considerable tactical depth that favours those who can plan multiple moves ahead.

A player wins when all six sides of an opponent’s Queen Bee are in contact with another insect. It does not matter whether the insects is the opponents or their own.

What Did We Think?
The advertising claims that it is “highly addictive” and whilst I think that may be going a bit far I believe the absence of any setup time, it’s tactile nature, simple rules, quick playing time and quality playing pieces make it a game that begs to be replayed and one that by its nature can now be slipped into a rucksack or handbag and played anywhere there is a flat surface.

Spilled beers and coffees, let alone a wet British summer hold no fears with this game and in that sense it holds itself up as an ideal candidate for taking with you on any holiday.

See the following table and graphic for a sense of the advantages of this one over the original in terms of size and weight.

Hive Pocket
Tile Width Flat to Flat
38 mm
25 mm
Tile Height
12 mm
10 mm
Weight of 26 tiles (w/expansion)
600 g
200 g
Size comparison:
Hive - Pieces from Hive and Hive Pocket compared
This is a game I first encountered with Nigel from Imagination Gaming some years ago and when GEN42 Games agreed to send me a review copy of the new light weight ‘pocket’ version I was thrilled. It is a game that we took to the pub and on a sunny summers evening, and as we began to play immediately attracted a number of the children running around who wanted us to explain the game and help us play it. It is after all about insects a subject that frequently repels adults but has a timeless attraction for children. I know Nigel would recommend enhancing the appeal for children by making different insect noises when teaching the game / moving the insects.

As readers of my blog will know I love playing games with my wife but try to avoid those that leave me feeling tense and where to do well I have to destroy or be destroyed. However this is a stimulating game that whilst being a two player tactical game does not have the aggressive feel of some two player games, perhaps because you are not reducing or eliminating your opponents playing pieces.

I may not be very good at Hive Pocket as the slide show shows all too clearly (of just one of the many games where Gwen has beaten me) but I thoroughly enjoy this game and have found that as part of doing this review introducing it to non gamers has been easy and a very positive experience.

With a large games collection I always have plenty to choose from but this is one that I was left asking myself why I don’t play it more often. With a growing group of people in the office willing to have a go at a game over lunch it may well get more playing time.

Since receiving Hive Pocket I have played the original game a number of times and the pieces seem enormous in comparison. I find it hard to imagine that the sales of the new version, given its cheaper price point and lighter weight will not be good. 

Who Do We Think Will Like It?
Social gamers looking for something a little different where it can be taught / learnt easily but has a tactical depth that gives it bags or re-playability as players who become hooked on it seek to master their team of insects.

Parents looking for games that their children can enjoy and that will help develop their analytical abilities. Most obviously for those young people who love creepy crawlies or always have something sticky on their fingers!

Travellers expecting to spend time at airports, sitting on a ferry, relaxing by the pool etc - given its small size it will probably fit on an aircraft cabin table, although I have not tested that.

Walkers, hikers and campers looking for something to play by a flickering gas light that won’t take up much space.

Divers, yachtsmen and anybody else messing about on watery holidays.

Many fans of the original game may well look to acquire a second copy simply because of its portability.

Oh and obviously gamers!
Hive Pocket - The cloth bag
If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here

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