Francesco Salerno and John Yianni

Francesco Salerno and John Yianni

If they told you that you can play chess without a board you wouldn’t believe it. The chessboard is a close space on which the game exists and cannot be differently. However, in England in the 90’s John Yianni started to imagine how chess without a finite and predetermined space would look like. Legend says he was inspired by a movie where the two main characters meet to play chess regularly bringing along each their own pieces and one half of the chessboard. In 2001, at the start of the new millenium, he brilliantly created Hive and the rest is history. Although the goal might seem similar to chess, (‘mating’, that is surrounding the opposite queen bee) Hive finds in its boardless nature the real soul (and fun). The board gets built by the pieces themselves (in the form of colored bugs: beetles, ants, spiders and grasshoppers) and by the ‘void’ around them, move after move. This allows to create a virtually infinite number of shapes and configurations of different pieces during the game. The fundamental rule is the one Hive rule, according to which bugs cannot move if a connection between all pieces is lost during the movement. This rule provides Hive a plethora of rich tactics and strategies. Games are often very tense and one wrong move can change completely the outcome, making Hive extremely fun and exciting!

The rules of Hive are pretty simple and are grasped immediately by youngsters too but the strategy behind them is deep and provides challenges even after years of practice. This means that Hive can be enjoyed as a ‘quick’ and educational game, taught to a class of students for example, and at the same time, it contains layers of complexity to discover and all the potential to be called a mind sport.

I found out the existence of Hive by chance 4 years ago and since then my conception of board games is completely changed. During this time, I never got tired to introduce the game to several friends and people at live board games meetings and on social media trying to spread my enthusiasm.

John Yianni started to imagine how chess without a finite and predetermined space would look like. In 2001 he brilliantly created Hive and the rest is history.

On the more competitive side, an online world championship exists since 2007 on and thanks to this and to other platforms such as BoardGameArena, a very friendly and supportive online community has grown. Everyone gives their contribution: helping weaker players to improve, organising tournaments and club sessions or simply having fun discussing about the game. Former World Champions (Randy Ingersoll and Joe Schultz) have written best-seller books for those who wish to improve and find out how deep is this ‘bee’ hole. After the initial success, even three additional bugs with new abilities have been released over the years (mosquito, ladybug and pillbug) and those are now an essential part of the game in competitions.

Although I don’t consider real insects very pretty at all, these bugs on hexagonal tiles have enlighten my playing experience and are still able almost 20 years after their invention, to capture the attention of kids and adults in the same way.

I believe Hive is now spreading more than ever and will be able to bring hours of fun still for long time. On a personal side, during the last years I have met many many new friends thanks to Hive (online and in person too!) and I’m therefore satisfied it is fulfilling successfully the social function every game should have, that is connecting people from all walks of life, speaking the common language of games. Feel free to challenge me on BoardGameArena (my nickname is Frasco), join our facebook community (Hive: the boardless game) or contact me to chat about anything related to Hive!

Francesco Salerno