Hive Mind - A Honey of a Party Game
Everyone’s heard the term “Party Game.” But what exactly makes something a party game? Party games often try to accommodate a large group of players, and feature limited player elimination, simple-to-teach the rules, easily identifiable strategy, and fun for players of various skill levels. Interaction in a party game is usually a major factor in the players’ experience. Party games often require some aspect of “performance.” Enjoyable games like Charades, Outburst, and Guesstures can require introverted players to leave their comfort zone. Sometimes this can lead to new and exciting experiences; other times it can worry a more shy participant.
Great party games will often be as much fun to watch as they are to play. A group of people sitting or standing around laughing, cheering, and talking will draw a crowd. That crowd will often want to be drawn into the game (or ask to play in the next one). And when a party game has a way for new players to join during the game, that can serve to make the experience even better. Player inclusion, rather than player elimination, can make playing a good party game even better.
Hive Mind, by Richard Garfield, is Calliope Games’ entry into the party game genre. When we began thinking about bringing a party game into our line, we knew that we wanted a game that would: 1) accommodate lots of players (Hive Mind comes with twelve “beeples” but more people can play with additional pawns), 2) avoid player elimination, 3) be easy to learn, and 4) be as inclusive as possible. Richard had incorporated all these ideas into his design and created a game that was not only inclusive, but that created community and empathy.
The key difference between Hive Mind and a standard trivia party game is that in Hive Mind players are using their own experiences and opinions rather than trying to recall information. Questions like, “What are 5 places where you line up?” are easy to answer because we all have experiences with lining up. After each player writes down their answers, points are assigned based on the number of people who also gave that answer. As a player reads answers, all players raise their hand if they also wrote that answer. If six players said “Disneyland,” each of those players gets six points for Disneyland.
I was teaching the game at Origins Game Fair in 2017 and a group of kids came over and asked to try out Hive Mind. My answers to the question were: 1) the ATM, 2) the post office, 3) the DMV, 4) the movie theatre, and 5) the bank. As I read my answers, I was greeted by blank stares; all of the other players were 10 or 11 years old and none of them stood in line at the post office. I had scored 1 point for each answer (as I had matched only one player – myself!). The first kid read his answers. “The swings!” Every one of the kids’ hands went up. “The Slide!” Again every hand went up. “The lunch room!” At that moment, I was drawn into the game. Could I think like an elementary school student? Hive Mind managed to challenge me to think like the rest of the players.
When a group gathers to play Hive Mind it can bridge generations, cultures, abilities, and common experiences. By the end of the game, players have shared memories, created new inside jokes (“Why did you say Unicorn? The question asked for 3 unusual pets.” Well, a Unicorn would be a pretty unusual pet, right?), and let the players learn more about their friends and family.
Finding a game that works as well for complete strangers as it does for old friends and family can be a challenge. When a game like Hive Mind hits the table, the whole crowd can join in on equal footing and have a hilarious, memorable time together. And that, in the end, is what party games are supposed to do.