I recently picked up the game, and have been thinking about it (since I haven't had someone to play it with yet).

In chess, the pawn is the weakest piece and also the most numerous at 8. The rooks, are much more powerful, but you only have 2, and queen is unique.

So why in Hive are you given 3 ants (infinite slide... almost free choice) and 2 spiders (exactly 3 slides)? It seems that ant/spider roles should be reversed.

I know they're different games, and I haven't tried Hive enough to draw conclusions, but I was wondering if anyone who's more experienced had any insight on the flow of the game. I know i could use house rules and just switch their roles, but would that make the game too slow/difficult to complete?

It seems as if spiders would be throw away early pieces, with the ants doing a lot of the mid-late game work?

3 Answers 3


The way Hive is played is that a lot of pieces end up trapped by the 'one hive' rule. Ants are very good at this. Once your ants are trapped, it's hard to win. Spiders are weaker pieces and get sacrificed easily. With too few powerful pieces, it would be hard to keep the game interesting. The boardgamegeek faq adds:

Aren't spiders just weak ants?
A spider is indeed strictly weaker than an ant. Some people are bothered by this and propose many variants to "fix" the "problem". Others are not bothered by it, and say "A rook or bishop is strictly weaker than a queen in chess, too." While more limited, Spiders are useful in many circumstances, particularly in the early phase while the hive is small. Learning to use your spiders correctly can give you an advantage, especially in a circumstance where you might have just used a soldier ant. If used correctly, you'll usually only use them once, and they'll give you the pinning power you need early on, without wasting your soldier ant pieces for when you'll really need them in the late game.


Although I'm not a really experienced Hive player, I assume it's due spiders movement is limited and the game would be far more stalled if 3 spiders were in play and with Ants. When most of the pieces are on the board and the position is somewhat stalled with only 1-2 pieces able to move for each player feels like having more options of mobility benefits unlocking other pieces for movement, unlike with the spider that would mean slower movements and harder to place in spots where you free other pieces.


Another way to phrase this would be: why doesn't the game have 5 ants? And when playtesting the game what might have happened?

5 ants: the game would be all about ants, and ants are already op 4 ants: probably still ant dominated 3 ants: maybe ok but now there are less pieces and you need enough pieces to make the decision when and where to play them meaningful. 2 ants: probably wasn't enough? (maybe games dragged on or were too short with only 2 ants?)

Solution... Spiders! Weak ants, that count as pieces, are almost fodder, but can still be used to great effect in many scenarios.

This is pure speculation based on how I might approach such designing balance in a situation like this.

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