When I was growing up, I was a bit of a Mancala prodigy. I could beat just about anyone, child or adult. On the summer before entering high school, my father and I helped a family friend take his sailboat through the Champlain canal as part of his trip down the inland waterway. I brought mancala along with the full expectation of remaining the reigning champion. Instead, the guy's six year old son started trouncing me in game after game. I was confused, to say the least, then I was fascinated. This kid had a strategy that was completely new to me, and had me completely wrong footed. I've come to love games like that. You can think you've mastered it and then somebody comes along and teaches you that there's more to it than you thought. I think I've found a great example, and it has everyone in the family hooked.
Hive is one of those games with a small set of pieces and a simple set of rules that then creates an incredibly complex set of possible games and strategies. For the southern branch of the family, it's become a regular tradition during our Sunday morning trips to Panera. The northern branch has had several delayed bedtimes for "just one more game."
The basic ideas is that you take turns either putting down one of your tiles, or moving one that is already in play. The pieces need to be placed to create a single, continuous "hive."
Each player has a queen bee, that must be put down within the first 4 moves. The object of the game is to surround your opponent's queen. Sounds simple, but your opponent has other ideas.
The different arachnids (since we have both spiders and insects) can move in different ways, giving them different strengths and weaknesses. Most can only move around the perimeter of the hive, with a varying number of steps. The beetle can also climb on top and move across it. It is handy as a "pinner" because the tile it's sitting on is prevented from moving. Grasshoppers can jump in a straight line over as many tiles as necessary to get to the next open space.
The game comes in a zippered pouch and can be played anywhere there's a flat surface. There are also a couple expansion tiles that we've jumped on. The Ladybug, as a member of the beetle family, can climb on top of the hive, but must move exactly two spaces on top and come down again each turn. The Mosquito is a shape-shifter that can assume the movement abilities of any piece it is in contact with.
The game has several levels of strategy, and can still hold some surprises. I've been legitimately beaten by a six year old because while I had a strong strategy, I just didn't see what he had in mind, just like those Mancala games of my youth.
I think we'll be playing this game for a long time to come.