Review – Hive Pocket

Better than chess? Better Bee-live it.

HP box


Designer John Yianni

Artist John Yianni

Publisher Gen42 Games

Category 2-Player, Strategy

Length 5-20min

Release Date 2010

Player Count 2

Take control of insects and arachnids to outmaneuver your opponent on the hexagonal beehive in the pocket edition of the award-winning Hive game. Surround your opponent’s queen bee and win! 


To begin, each player takes all the pieces of their color and places them within reach. The players will then take turns either placing a bug (each bug is a hexagon) or moving 1 of their already-placed bugs, but you can’t move any of your bugs until you’ve placed your queen bee (which you must do by your 4th turn). So, no, there’s not really any set-up (gasp). To win, fully surround your opponent’s bee! 

Bugs must be placed adjacent to a bug (or bugs) of your color (unless it’s the second bug placed all game, which must be placed next to the opponents’ first bug). Bugs must also be moved according to their specific movement rules. Here’s some examples: the spider must move exactly 3 spaces, no back-tracking; the ant can move anywhere on the outside of the hive, but not inside; and the grasshopper leaps over the other bugs in a straight line. 

There are 7 different bugs in Hive Pocket because it includes 2 bugs as expansions: ladybug and mosquito. While it’s recommended to play with the 5 basic bugs for your first game, after a few plays, managing all 7 bugs isn’t as overwhelming as it seems. Hive Pocket is a short, light-hearted game, even though it offers considerable strategy for those that want it. 

For example, as the hive grows, the number of different moves players can take grows as well. Do you go on the offensive? Try to be as defensive as possible? Often a mix of both will serve you best because the queen bee can move (though only 1 space), which can heavily disrupt an aggressive strategy, paving the way for a methodical victory for your opponent. With 7 different pieces to choose from, there’s often a couple good moves available, which makes it feel like there are multiple paths to victory. 

What’s wonderful about Hive Pocket is that it allows couples to play chess without actually playing chess. What I mean is this: I like chess, and I’ve gotten pretty into it at different times of my life, but my wife, though she likes strategy games, doesn’t want to put in the time it would take to be competitive with me. Solution? A game like Hive Pocket, which scratches my chess itch without giving me a distinct advantage (my wife’s actually up in our running tally as of this review). However, don’t be scared of my comparing Hive Pocket to chess; it’s not. It’s much simpler, has a better theme, and is more fun. 

The components are top-notch. The hexagonal cubes are tactile while remaining compact, the instructions are easy-to-read, clear, and include wildly helpful examples of all the different bugs’ movement. The colored bug art by John Yianni on the tiles is clean and simple, fitting for such a game. The bag that holds everything is also great, although you’d be hard-pressed to fit it in your pocket, unless you’re Mr. Cargo Pants, in which case, I salute you. 

Hive Pocket is an excellent game of varied piece movement, strategic thinking, and puzzle-solving. It’s a better-themed, shorter, more fun version of chess, and I’m totally here for it. Great work by designer John Yianni. 

The Bottom Line

Lighter but still-strategic, better-themed, shorter, and all-around more fun version of chess.



Author: Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner.