Gen 42 Games Review: ‘Tatsu’ and ‘Hive’

Gen 42 Games: Tatsu and Hive Boxes, Image: Sophie Brown
Gen 42 Games: Tatsu and Hive Boxes, Image: Sophie Brown

What Are Tatsu and Hive?

Tatsu and Hive are both two-player strategy games from Gen 42 Games. In Hive, you play as insects using tiles to surround the other players Queen Bee. In Tatsu, you control a team of dragons who battle in a circular arena and attempt to the destroy the other player’s team.

What’s in the Box?

The Tatsu box contains:

  • 18 Dragon Stones
  • Two Six-Sided Dice
  • One Board
  • Instruction Sheet

The Hive box contains:

  • 22 Playing Pieces (11 White, 11 Black)
  • Storage Bag
  • Instruction Sheet

How Do I Play?

Tatsu:

A game of Tatsu begins by placing three of your green vine dragons on the three starter spaces that match your tile color, the remaining dragons are placed on the triangular tray on your left. The other player places their dragons in an identical formation on the other side of the board.

A Game of Tatsu Ready to Play, Image: Sophie Brown
A Game of Tatsu Ready to Play, Image: Sophie Brown

There are three different kinds of dragons in Tatsu and players receive a different number of each kind. Each dragon type has its own attack that comes into play when they land on a space already occupied by another dragon.

The game contains:

  • Four green vine dragons – attack by trapping the other dragon on the space until that dragon can break free
  • Three blue water dragons – attack by sending the other dragon back to the player’s tray
  • Two orange fire dragons – attack by sending the other dragon out of the game

There are no expansions, but an online game is available on Steam.

At the beginning of their turn, the player rolls two six-sided dice. The numbers on the dice can then be used to perform various actions. Players can:

  • Move one dragon around the arena by both numbers shown. (Rolling a two and a five would allow one dragon to move seven spaces ahead. This must be performed separately, e.g. moving two spaces, performing any required actions on this space, then moving forward five spaces or vice versa.)
  • Move two dragons around the arena (using the same roll from the above example, one dragon could move two spaces, while another dragon moves five spaces).
  • Free a dragon trapped by another vine dragon (the trapped dragon moves the number of spaces indicated by the lowest die result, the other die is canceled – this is the energy used to escape).
  • Release a new dragon into the arena. Rolling a one, two, or three allows a dragon on the holding mat to enter the arena on the corresponding starting space.

Players may also choose to discard one or both dice rolls if they cannot, or prefer not to move.

A game of Tatsu in play, Team Black has a green vine dragon on their mat ready to launch, and on the right, Team White's vine dragon holds one of Team Black's water dragons, Image: Sophie Brown
A game of Tatsu in play, Team Black has a green vine dragon on their mat ready to launch and on the right, Team White’s vine dragon holds one of Team Black’s water dragons, Image: Sophie Brown

Players start each game with only three vine dragons in the arena. New dragons are moved from the player’s tray to their holding mat by landing on a green, blue, or orange space in the arena. Once on the holding mat, the dragons wait until the player chooses to release them into the arena by rolling a one, two or three and moving them onto the matching starter space. Only dragons in the arena can be attacked by the opposing player’s team, meaning any dragons in the tray or waiting on the holding mat are safe, however, these dragons are also incapable of helping their player’s team.

Tatsu is won when one player destroys all the dragons of one color in the opponent’s team, either all four vine dragons, all three water dragons, or both fire dragons.

Hive

In Hive, each player controls a set of 11 hexagonal insect playing tokens. The aim of the game is to surround the other player’s queen bee before yours is surrounded. Queens can be surrounded by tokens of either color, so you must watch out that you are not inadvertently trapping your own queen while trying to surround that of your opponent.

Your insect team is made up of:

  • One Queen Bee
  • Two Beetles
  • Two Spiders
  • Three Grasshoppers
  • Three Soldier Ants
A completed game of Hive where Team White is the winner, Image: Sophie Brown
A completed game of Hive where Team White is the winner, Image: Sophie Brown

Each of the different insects can move in a different way, similarly to the pieces in chess, and there is a similar type of strategy involved.

  • The queen bee can move one space per turn in any direction.
  • The beetle can move one space per turn but is the only token able to move on top of another.
  • The grasshopper can move in a straight line to the next unoccupied space along that line.
  • The spider moves exactly three spaces but must remain in direct contact with another piece at all times and cannot backtrack.
  • The soldier ant can move to any other position around the hive, provided the other basic restrictions of movement are adhered to.

A number of expansions are available that add in new bugs to the game, including ladybugs, mosquitoes, and pillbugs. There is also an online version available through Steam and on XBox.

The hive, or playing area, is defined by the tokens in play. The game begins with each player placing one of their tokens so that the two touch, players can then either move one of their existing tokens or add in another to extend the hive assuming they have one left to add. One of the first four moves by each player must be to place their queen bee into the hive. After the first turn, new tokens cannot be placed in the hive touching an opponent’s token. Only existing tokens can be moved into positions where they touch the other player’s tokens.

The first four turns of a Hive game, Image: Sophie Brown
The first four turns of a Hive game, Image: Sophie Brown

In addition, two key rules exist in Hive. Firstly, the hive must remain as a single entity. This means that if moving a token would result in the hive becoming split into two separate groups of tokens, even if only for the duration of the move, that token cannot be touched. Secondly, tokens can only move in a sliding motion (except for the grasshopper and beetle) which means that tokens may not move into or out of a space that they cannot slide into. The grasshopper and beetle can bypass this rule by jumping over other tokens, or by climbing down from above.

What’s the Verdict?

Myself, my husband, and our seven-year-old son all came to the same conclusion when choosing between Hive and Tatsu. All of of us preferred the latter.

Hive is a very clever game with the possibility of an almost infinite number of hive layouts being created thanks to its freestyle playing area. However, all of us felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available at any given turn – it’s probably one of the reasons none of us are keen chess or RPG players. This wealth of choice also resulted in very slow gameplay as each player analyzed the hive on their turn, something we personally found off putting – especially when playing with a child. For fans of chess and other slow-paced, deeply strategic games this is a must have, the storage bag making it an excellent choice for taking away whilst traveling, however, it simply wasn’t for us.

Tatsu, on the other hand, was also strategic but with fewer options available it didn’t feel nearly so overwhelming on each turn and kept the game flowing at a far more comfortable pace. If Hive can be likened to Chess, then Tatsu is more like Backgammon. The mixture of luck through dice rolling, and strategy through choosing how to use those rolls and when to release new dragons, meant that the game felt balanced between players of different ages and abilities which made it an excellent family game, even if only two players could play at once – a multiplayer version would be very well received here. Our entire family enjoyed Tatsu, and that’s honestly the best thing I can ask for in a game.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes.