It was Bastille Day on Monday and (more important to this blog post) it was also my mother’s birthday. Sadly she’s been gone for more than a decade, but I really do credit her with my passion for game design. I come from a game playing extended family, but it was my mother who really instilled the math and strategy aspects of gaming into my impressionable young mind. You see, my mother was a math teacher who loved to share her passion for the not-so-popular subject. She taught at a high school before staying home to mother my sisters and me for a few years. At some point she got sick of us (understandably!) and went back to teaching at the community college. She also tutored neighborhood students and tried to do “bonus math” sessions with her own kids, but the lessons that really stuck were the ones that came from doing something fun — like playing games. Anytime there was a die, there was a discussion on probability and she was aghast anytime she saw a calculator in someone’s Yahtzee box as we were all expected to do any scoring calculations in our head at lightening speed. My Mom was great!
Every once in a while I do a fun brainstorming exercise where I pick a person I know and invent a game I think they’d really like. Sometimes I have a style of game I want to make, like “a kids dice game” or “a speed game,” but often it’s open ended. I used my mother as my subject a little while back and came up with a fun solo math game that managed to find a home with Fat Brain Toys! Enter Hex Hive…
Hex Hive is simple – you’re using hexagon cluster pieces to cover up groups of numbers that, when added, equal 7. In addition to basic adding, the game has players use some deduction and reasoning to figure out where to use the buzz-worthy bees! The bees are placed ON TOP of a single hexagon so the number it blocks doesn’t count toward the total of the cluster. Sneaky right? So it might look like that cluster piece doesn’t work in a spot because the numbers beneath it equal 10, but you have a bee to place on top of the unwanted 3 so the cluster piece fits! (example at right) Now, you may think that this sounds kind of hard, but there’s a whole other spatial aspect to the game. Since the pieces are all different shapes, you have to get them to FIT so that every cell is on top of a number. In a way it narrows down your options, but it also makes the game a multi-faceted challenge! (yeah.. now you have an idea of where I get my geeky side from!)
Just like most solo-player games, it comes with a variety of challenges that take you from beginner to expert puzzles, and along the bottom of each card it tells you which pieces to use and how many bees you’ll need. The cards are held in a stack underneath the clear hexagon cover and the answers are all in the instruction booklet. I have to give big kudos to Fat Brain for the nice tactile pieces that are both easy to slide along the board but also snap into position and don’t accidentally move when you’re trying out different solutions. It definitely makes playing with the puzzle very satisfying! Lastly, all of the pieces and bees are contained in a nice little Hex Hive fabric bag – and while you’re thinking “ah.. she’s a bit biased” I totally am. But take a peek and I’m guessing you’ll be impressed too: Hex Hive at Fat Brain Website
Overall, I think my mother would have really enjoyed Hex Hive for several reasons. First, she was big on brainteasers/solo-games – it kept us quiet while challenging us! Second, it’s all about MATH. Third, I really think she’d be geeked on the spatial skills and deductive reasoning that are needed to complete the puzzles. So I’m calling my brainstorm a success! I’m just sad that she wasn’t here to help me create and test all of the puzzles – I can almost hear the excitement she would have had in her voice regarding spending so much time doing fun math!
Hex Hive Stats:
~$21 Amazon.com, Fat Brain Toys, and your local game store
How long do you want to play for?