Tag Archives: Hive

Boardgames in the News: Bugs on the Brain

Over the last few years there have been a few boardgame-related publications in scientific journals.  More recently, work by Wasserman & Koban1 using Hive to study the development of player skill was reported in the Journal of Expertise.  Unsurprisingly, they showed that the more Hive is played, the better the understanding and the better the player becomes at playing.  There is conflicting evidence in the literature about whether skill acquisition generally increases at a continuous rate (linear) or increases with diminishing returns (more curvilinear).  This study suggests that player skill increases with diminishing returns, however, understanding increases linearly, at a continuous rate.  Thus, the implication is that if the best players wish to improve their game play, they need to increase their understanding more than less advanced players.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

1 Wasserman, J. A. & Koban, K., J. Expertise (2019), 2(2), 121.

22nd April 2014

This was our first meeting back at the Jockey after the fire, so some of us met up before the start to try their new menu.  The first to arrive we’re early, so played a quick game of Hive.  This is a game we’ve messed about with before, but not actually played within the group (though the players this evening were quite experienced).  The game is often compared to Chess because the pieces are Black and White and different pieces have different characteristics in the way they move.  Although much of the thinking is similar, the theme is insects and there is no board, so it is perfect for transporting and playing in the pub. The first game was won by Black, so a rematch was called for.  This time the Ladybug expansion was added, but the result was the same – a second win for Black.


By this time, more people had arrived so orders were placed and food arrived and duly consumed to everyone’s satisfaction.  We were still expecting more people, so after food we had a quick game of Marrakech.  This is a strange little game about carpets, played on a board made of a grid with coloured strips of fabric representing carpet.  Basically, on their turn, players can choose to rotate the wooden character called Assam by 90 degrees, before the roll the die and move Assam the appropriate number of squares. Players then lay a piece of their coloured fabric covering two squares, one of which must be adjacent to Assam. When Assam moves, if he lands on a square covered with carpet, then the active player pays the owner of the carpet; the amount paid is dependent on the contiguous area covered by that colour.  The nature of the game means it swings to and fro, however, it felt quite tight, so much so that when two players finished with the same score, it seemed they must share victory, until Blue reported her score that is…


Next up was Mammut. This is a funny sharing game that (amongst other things) features the incongruity that is the sabre-tooth duck.  The idea is that on their turn players can either take any number of prey tiles from the central pool or take all the tiles from one other player, retuning at least one to the centre.  Thus, you have to be careful what you take because if another player thinks you have been greedy or you have tiles they want, they may get stolen!  The round ends when everyone has tiles and there are no tiles left in pool, and players score points depending on who has the most or least of the different types prey.  Yellow and Blue made a good early showing, but Blue soon struggled and Red, Green and Purple all began to compete strongly.  Coming into the final round Yellow was clearly in a good position with Green and Blue languishing at the back.  With the final round of scoring, Blue surged forwards only to be overtaken by Purple who picked up a lot of points.  Despite her valiant efforts though, Yellow just pipped her to the win by just one point.


The last game of the night was our “Feature Game” which was Mascarade.  This is a relatively short game of bluffing that also challenges the memory.  Each player is initially dealt a character card face up. Players study the cards and try to remember who has which card before they are all turned face down and play begins.  Players take it in turns to either swap cards with another player, look at their own card, or declare their character in a bid to perform the associated action.  Since swaps are done in secret under the table, all certainty quickly goes, so when a player declares their character it is not always obvious whether they are right.  If a player is unchallenged, they perform the associated action without revealing their card.  If, on the other hand, another player thinks the declaration is incorrect, they may claim they are that character instead, in which case, the cards belonging to all claimants are revealed and anyone who is wrong pays a fine.


This was a new game to all of us, but once we got going it was a lot of fun with a lot of confusion as cards were swapped (or not).  At one point, Green bought Yellow’s dummied swap for Blue’s “Cheat” card and decided he also fancied the “Cheat” so traded with Yellow.  Blue then traded with Purple, so when Green declared he was the Cheat, Purple challenged – the confusion on Green’s face was a picture!  In the confusion, Blue capitalised and collected the last three coins she needed to win.


Learning Outcome:  Don’t try to cheat a Cheat!

9th July 2013

This was our first meeting after the fire at the Jockey, so was the first meeting in someone’s home and therefore had a slightly different feel.

While we waited for people to arrive, we had a mess about with Hive.  This is a little two player game that some have compared to Chess.  This similarity comes from the fact that the pieces are Black and White and different pieces have different characteristics in the way they move.  Although much of the thinking is similar, the theme is insects and there is no board.  We had hardly started when everyone else arrived, so we left the teaching game for another occasion and decided to start something bigger.


In honour of the Jockey, we considered playing Flash Point:  Fire Rescue, however, we thought this could be considered bad taste so we decided to stick with our original plan to play our “Feature Game”, Agricola.  This is a game we played a few weeks ago, about farming in the middle ages.  Each player starts with a two room wooden hut and farmer and his wife.  In each round, players take it in turns to send the members of their family out to work.  The problem is that each action can only be taken once, by one player in each round.  In addition, there are only fourteen rounds and at intervals there are Harvests when all members of the family must be fed or the family has to go begging.  Last time we played the “basic game”, but as everyone had played it before (though some had only experience of the “basic game”), this time we decided to add a layer of complexity by playing with the “E-Deck” of “Minor Improvement” and “Occupation” cards.

We had a bit of a debate about whether we should just deal out the cards or whether we should “draft”.  Drafting is where everyone chooses to keep a card from their hand and passes the rest of their cards to the player on their left;  they then choose a second card from the hand they receive from the player to their right, before passing the rest on, and so on until all the cards have been shared out.  This has several purposes.  Firstly it means everyone knows what cards are in play, which allows for a deeper level of strategy where players can deliberately play to obstruct other people’s game.  Secondly, in theory, it means that nobody ends up with a really good hand while someone else ends up with all the rubbish cards.  Finally, it also means that players can choose cards that work well together, however, this can result in a bit of an “all or nothing” game depending on whether the plan works or not.  We decided against drafting as two players had never played with the cards and felt that they wouldn’t know what a good card or a good combination of cards was.  Although this was undoubtedly the right decision in the circumstances, unlike many games, the cards are not carefully balanced and there are definitely some cards that are better than others, so it would certainly be something to try another time.


After carefully tiling the boards to make them fit on the table, we dealt out the cards and Red won the start player lottery.  Everyone made a dash for occupations before the players began to develop their different strategies.  Red had a occupation cards that made upgrading his wooden hovel into a stone palace cheaper, so decided to prioritise that, while Green decided to expand his family and went in for agriculture and fishing.  Meanwhile, Blue enclosed a massive pasture and Turquoise engaged in vegetable farming.  Each strategy appeared to have its good points and bad points, for example, Blue covered a lot of the space available, however, she spent the early part of the game flirting with starvation; in contrast, Green had plenty of food available, but struggled to make use of all the land.

In the last few rounds, everyone made the obligatory dash for points.  Red finally managed to upgrade his five bedroom mansion to stone, but at the expense of everything else except one solitary field; Blue added a stable to her pasture and invested in the next generation; Turquoise built three large pastures and crammed three children into his three bedroom brick house, and Green optimised his final harvests and enclosed a pasture for a couple of cows.  Turquoise ran out an easy winner with over forty points having managed to participate in a little bit of everything except sheep.  Blue and Green came in joint second with twenty-nine points apiece.


Learning Outcome:  Living in a stone mansion does not make you a good farmer.