How It Plays
The Arena Game
The Arena Game can be played by itself, but is also the combat segment of the larger Hive Game. In the Arena Game, groups of bugs battle each other to the death.
Build a Bug
Players begin the game by designing their mutant insects. A bug starts with one head, three limb pairs, and an abdomen. The player chooses these body parts from a selection of cards representing various bug pieces. For example, you might construct a bug with spider fangs (the head); scorpion claws, ant legs, and dragonfly wings (the limbs); and the cerci pincer from an earwig (the abdomen). The cards all go on a "mutant display"; during the game, the display also records things like damage, morsels of food, and so on.
Each body part gives the insect a power of some kind, such as a movement ability (crawling, flying, jumping), a weapon, or a defensive organ (such as a shell). In addition, each bug can have a special power: venom, armor, or defensive spines.
During combat, bugs move and attack. Faster bugs can control whether they move before or after slower bugs. For example, the faster bug might want to get the jump on a slower bug, or instead might want to hesitate, forcing the slower bug to move into a vulnerable position.
Bugs fight either in close combat (with fangs, claws, pincers, and so on) or by firing projectors at long range. Projectors include the bombardier beetle's cannon, which fires a boiling mixture of chemicals, and the spider's web bola, which throws sticky balls of web at the target. Projectors have the advantage of range, but eventually they run out of ammunition.
Combat is deadly: Bugs have their limbs torn off, are poisoned, get tangled up in various forms of glue and spider webs, and otherwise suffer bodily injury. But combat is also tactically challenging. Jumping and flying bugs must worry about getting "pinned" in a hex when another bug hovers over them. Slower bugs need to position themselves so as not to get attacked from the rear, where it is hard to defend. Team mates need to stay out of each other's fields of fire, lest someone get caught by "friendly fire." And bugs with a low instinct rating are easily confused and may attack the wrong target, becoming a menace to friend and foe alike.
The Hive Game is the complete Insecta experience. A team of mutant bugs joins together and journeys through the deadly Hive, battling hordes of real-world insects. One player is the Hivemaster, who controls the Hive bugs. All the other players are teamed up together. Their goal is to escape from the Hive. To do so, they must travel between chambers, moving up through five levels of Hive, until they reach the top level and can escape. (If no player wants to take on the role of Hivemaster, there are rules for automatically controlling the Hive bugs.)
The Hive bugs are displayed on cards that are like miniature versions of the mutant displays. Unlike the mutants, they are pre-built, and each one represents an actual arthropod native to the Sonoma Desert. On each level of the Hive, the Hive bugs are larger and fiercer than on the previous level. However, the mutant bugs can kill and eat their enemies, and as a result become larger and fiercer themselves. As part of the growth process, bugs grow additional limbs and extra head weapons. Also, they can recover from damage incurred in combat (and even grow back limbs that were torn off).
If the Hivemaster kills off all the mutants before they can escape, the Hivemaster wins. If some or all of the mutants escape, they win. (There is a scoring system to determine which mutant gets first place.) Optional rules allow the players to adjust the difficulty of the Hive, making it harder or easier to survive, depending on the experience of the players.
Preying Mantis, a fast and deadly Hive bug
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