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Subject: Serving the nation with Hive rss

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Keng Leong Yeo
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小富靠勤,中富靠智,大富靠德。
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This isn’t a single session report per se, but more of a series of Hive games stretching over the course of 2-3 weeks.

As some of you may know, every Singaporean male, bar those with serious medical conditions, goes through National Service. That comprises of 2 years of full time service (used to be 2.5 years) followed by almost annual call-ups known as in-camp training (ICT). The number of ICTs is capped at 10 or when the male reaches 40, whichever happens first. Those serving the 2 years of full time service are commonly known as National Servicemen Full-time (NSFs) and those serving the ICTs are called National Servicemen (NSmen). NSmen was introduced to replace the term reservists. That latter term is still used frequently today.

I happen to fall under the age group of the reservists. Indeed, my last ICT has just ended.

This session report is about how I introduced Hive to my team’s fellow reservists, and their reactions to the game.

At the beginning of the ICT, I was considering the possibility of bringing some board games into camp to introduce to the guys. Whatever I brought has to satisfy the following considerations:

i) Easily cleanable, i.e. cardboard is out
ii) Portable, for I have lots of other barang barang (Singlish for baggage) to lug around
iii) Game time should not be overly long, since rest time may not be that long or predictable
iv) Multiple players preferred, since there is a sizable group of them

I own a modest board game collection. Only two games squeaked through on those criterion, i.e. Hive and Blokus. Hive can only be played with 2 players, whilst Blokus isn’t exactly very portable.

I wasn’t sure about the receptiveness of the guys towards board games, so I decided on only Hive on the first day of the ICT.

Our first day turned out to be rather lax and we all enjoyed a lot of relaxation time. I broke out Hive with one of the guys. He understood the rules quickly, but did not grasp the importance of each different insect and especially the one hive rule. I did not want to keep defeating him, thereby causing a loss of interest in the game. From our second game onwards, I would explain the motive behind every of my moves, analyse his move for him and allow him to balek (Singlish for reversing his move) should he want to. By the end of the third game, he announced that he really liked the game and asked me how and where to get a set!

A group of men have also surrounded us by then, some of them being the guys from our team, the rest being some NSFs who happened to stay in the same bunk as we did. Every time someone left the hot seat (to rest, to eat, or to go out for deployment), someone else would sit down to take over. I ended up explaining the rules 5 times that day before it was my turn to go out on deployment. I was sure those who had already picked up the game continued introducing the game to a few others after I had left.

Over the course of the next few days, most of the guys improved in their grasp of the game. The slower ones would declare their affinity for the Ant quickly, but some were able to grasp the power of the Beetle within a couple of games. The one hive rule was forgotten frequently, and that led to many Queen Bee escapes, often accompanied with howls of regret.

There was an NSF who sat quietly besides us observing the game, occasionally asking a rule question. By the end of our game, he declared himself ready for a game with my opponent. He even managed to give that opponent, who already has a few games under his belt, a run for his money before eventually losing narrowly. Now that’s a real quick learner!

One of my section mates likened the game to Xiang Qi (Chinese chess). He compared the Ant to the 車, the Grasshopper to the 炮, the Beetle to相, and of course, the Queen Bee to 將. It was an interesting comparison, and I could see his point.

On day 3 or 4 of the ICT, I spotted a thread in BGG about the Hive IPhone app being available for free for this period of time and alerted the guys to it. Some promptly downloaded it (on their offdays from the comfort of their homes, for IPhones were not allowed in camp) and I understand some wives/girlfriends were also introduced to the game as a result. The feedback I got was the IPhone version was too easy to beat, and that nothing beats the feel of the tiles in your hands. Heh.

Halfway through the ICT, the much awaited for Ladybug expansion arrived. I only had time for a game or two with my Significant Other (pic below), but did bring it along with me to camp to share with the guys. My general observation was that the others seemed reluctant or were a little lost on how to utilise the Ladybug. Perhaps my 1.5 years of Hive playing allowed me to appreciate the possibilities of the Ladybug quicker than the rest. I often used the Ladybug during the late game stage, if the landing places for the Grasshoppers were blocked.

First Hive game with the Significant Other involving the Ladybug:


Throughout the ICT, I often observed a Hive game in progress when I returned from deployment. Perhaps the only negative comment I received about the game was how taxing it got on the brain. There were days when we were required to deploy for longer hours and hence were more physically drained. On such days, some of the guys would rather watch others play than sit down for a game.

Towards the end of the ICT, some of the guys had improved enough to start forcing a few draws and occasionally beating me. The "whiz kid" NSF (from above) being one of them.

I would really love to have taken some pictures of the Hive games we had to post here, but cameras are strictly forbidden in our camps. Pity.

I averaged 4-5 games of Hive a day during the ICT. At the end of the ICT, I reckon I have taught 5 from my team, and 3 NSFs the game. Some of them planned to check out the local stores to buy the game when the ICT ended. I received quite a few thanks from the team for bringing and introducing Hive to them.

As an aside, I also brought Blokus on a couple of days which we expected to have more downtime. They enjoyed that too, as more players can be involved at the same time and it was less taxing on the brain (quote from one of the guys).

Till the next ICT then...
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June Hwang Wah
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Recruiting boardgamers during ICT. What better way to spend 2 weeks? Well done!
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