Calvin’s Commentaries: Hive

One of the best abstract strategy games created this millennium is Hive from John Yianni.

The game uses great, chunky, bakelite-like pieces that move around the ‘hive’ as you attempt to trap your opponent’s, Queen Bee. The pieces make it easy to take anywhere as they wash if they get dirty, aren’t affected if they get wet, and won’t blow around in the wind if playing outdoors.

The game, now being two-decades-old, is to the point players have delved into the strategies more deeply, and like chess, and similar games, books are beginning to emerge to help players become better at Hive.

One such book is by Joe Schultz, more widely known on online Hive sights by the nickname Jewdoka, a world champion at Hive.

The Canon Of Hive: Groundwork is a 312-page book is designed to give players a far better foundation upon which to build winning strategies.

Schultz said the book came about as a way to share his insights regarding Hive.

“I started to get good at the game,” he said via email. “I spent a ton of time studying it. Maybe more time than any other player… maybe.

“It was clear that I was reaching my capacity, as it became a giant head full of stuff overflowing and spilling from my head. I originally started collecting notes and they eventually evolved into isolated bits and pieces that I could see clearly enough to name.

“And giving these things names allowed me to hold onto them for a longer amount of time and to recall them much easier. For instance, if I name a defensive device (such as a “hex trap”) then I will be more prone to look for opportunities/threats for them.

“I thought that if I could empty my head of my current knowledge then I could fill it back up again with further lessons. It more or less worked, and the book sort of split from its original idea (which was about openings) into a sort of archetypical guide that provides players/readers with the basic building blocks derived from my overflowing Hive mind.”

Schultz said he had three goals for the book starting with the desire “to preserve some of the nuanced thoughts that I have had about the game. So I don’t forget and so I can have a reference that I can look at to solidify those ideas and concepts. If you can physically hold onto something then it becomes a lot more real than just holding onto it with your imagination.”

Then he wanted others to gain insights he had spent hours studying to initially learn.

“To share my knowledge about the game with the world and promote Hive at the same time,” said Schultz. “It is such a great game that I felt I almost owed it to the community to expose my thoughts about the game in hopes to further the game as a whole by upping the level of player competence and concepts.”

The third goal was to gain skills in (non-video) design, layout, and writing since Schultz is a video editor/animator/producer at an advertisement agency.

For Schultz Hive fit with his general gaming interest.

Have you always been a strategy game fan?

“Yes, I have always had a knack for strategy – specifically tactical strategy… meaning the back and forth between players type of strategy” he related.

“When I was a kid Connect4 was a good one. It still is in fact; a very basic but good tactical strategy.

“I found a lot of tactical play even in the game MarioKart for SNES. The battle mode specifically lets you battle it out with a friend… I had lots of cat and mouse type tactical training with that.

“Then I started playing RTS games like Command & Conquer. I was developing my tactics even further with that. And the fact that those games were real-time forced me to learn to be quick on my feet. I appreciate the simple with games like this. Once they become too complicated they become a novelty… Maybe fun for a bit, but ultimately something that doesn’t withstand the test of time.”

Then Schultz found Hive.

“I picked Hive up and loved the simplicity of it. The beauty is in the design of the gameplay and the balance between characters and teams,” he said. “I think John Yianni is super great for creating such a deeply strategical game while maintaining a sort of simpleness. Hive is within the top ten list for tabletop strategy games between two players, and I think that says a lot about the game.

“For me, Hive is the best strategy game there is. It is the newest classic.”

Schultz said his biggest hope for the book is that at least some of its readers evolve to surpass him as a player.

“I think that if people read the book and if I start winning less as a result, then I have done something right. Furthering the game is something that I cross my fingers for,” he said.

With that hope, Schultz said he hopes he created a book players can easily learn from by including “archetypical elements that provide building blocks for the player to experiment with.

“A novice could read a page and learn a lesson, and an expert could read the same page and learn another viable but different lesson. That notion allows the book to be both an easy read and a deep read at the same time. It is both complex and simple.”

And, Schultz is happy with the end result.

“I have a great sense of accomplishment for sure, for putting the book out there, yes, but more so for how far I have come with the great game of Hive,” he said. “And if I can push the game into a sort of evolution or revolution, then I will be satisfied.”

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