Direction-Based Notation for Hive
A consistent notation system plays a key role in the practice and study of board games. The direction-based notation for Hive was created to fulfill the following goals:
- Games that are mirrored, rotated or played with reversed colors all have identical notations.
- Pieces of the same kind do not need to be tracked.
- Moves are easy to record and replay for human players and computers.
- Every move has only one notation.
These goals are even more important when studying openings where — save for transpositions in move order — this system produces identical notation. This is true regardless of which color moves first, rotations and mirroring.
The notation uses directions which are thematically derived from the movement of the sun. This choice was made because it both achieves the stated goals and fits the way bees communicate and navigate in real life.
The notation identifies the piece being moved and its destination. The destination is notated using either a direction or a ‘reference piece’ and a direction. Let’s take a look at what the notation looks like before we look at the details:
- Ba means the Beetle moves in the afternoon direction.
- M+Qn means the Mosquito is placed to Queen Bee’s noon side.
- A2×Pm means the second Soldier Ant moves against opponent’s Pillbug’s midnight side.
This article explains the rules for the notation and includes two example games.
Players and Turns
For notation purposes, “opponent” refers to the other player than the one whose turn it is.
Turns are numbered separately for each player. A passed turn is counted as a turn by that player.
The playing pieces of both colors are notated using capital letters as follows:
- Q: Queen Bee
- B: Beetle
- G: Grasshopper
- S: Spider
- A: Soldier Ant
- M: Mosquito
- L: Ladybug
- P: Pillbug
The six directions in the Hive are named. The names are always assigned in the following order either clockwise or counterclockwise, and notated using lower-case abbreviations:
- n: noon
- a: afternoon
- s: sunset
- m: midnight
- r: sunrise
- f: forenoon
Determining the Directions
The first turn by the two players determines noon and midnight directions as follows: The second player’s piece is in the noon direction from the first player’s piece.
The remaining directions are assigned when either player places or moves a piece to a space that is not in the noon or midnight direction from other pieces in the Hive. The clockwise or anticlockwise order of direction is selected so that the new space will be in the afternoon or sunset direction from all the other pieces.
Once the directions are established, they stay fixed for the rest of the game, even if the first two pieces were to move.
The notation records which piece is being moved (moved piece) on a player’s turn and the space where it is being moved to (its destination). The notation is based on the positions of pieces at the start of the player’s turn.
A “moved piece” is the piece being physically moved. This means that pieces that are being placed into the Hive and opponent’s pieces moved using the Pillbug special ability are also considered “moved pieces.”
The moved piece is notated using the Piece Notation, below.
Piece Notation identifies a specific piece as follows:
- If the piece belongs to the opponent, notate × (multiplication sign, or lower-case letter x).
- Notate the abbreviation of the piece. (See Pieces above.)
- If the piece is not the only one of the same color and kind visible (uncovered) in the Hive, notate a number (1, 2, or 3) assigned to the piece among the identical pieces using the counting method (see below).
When it is necessary to order or number several pieces, the counting goes from pieces that are located farthest in the noon direction to those in the midnight direction and — if two or more pieces are equally distant — the counting between them goes from forenoon to sunset.
If the destination is next to the moved piece or the moved piece is a Grasshopper using its regular move, the destination is notated using only the abbreviation of the direction of the move. In other cases, use the referenced destination below.
(Note that a Mosquito mimicking a Grasshopper cannot be notated using direct destination.)
Referenced destination notates first a ‘target’ next to the destination and then a direction from the target to the destination as follows:
- Determine a reference piece (see Selecting a Reference below).
- The reference piece is notated using the Piece Notation (see above).
- Direction from the target to the destination is notated as the direction abbreviation.
Selecting a Reference
To determine the reference piece from the pieces next to the destination, choose the top applicable option based on the following priorities and regardless of the color of the piece. If more than one piece matches the description, select the first one (as described under Counting above).
- Queen Bee, whether it is uncovered or covered in a stack.
- Uncovered inherently unique piece. (Ladybug, Mosquito, or Pillbug.)
- Only visible piece. (Uncovered piece in the Hive that is the only uncovered one of the same color and kind.)
- Any piece.
- First Turn: First placement by each player is notated using only the abbreviation of that piece.
- Placements: When the moved piece is a new piece being placed in the Hive, insert a +(plus sign) between the moved piece and the destination notation. If the + is followed by ×, the two symbols are replaced with a ✳︎ (an eight-spoked star, or asterisk *). Note that since a piece being placed is not in the Hive at the start of the turn, it does not use the number part of the Piece Notation.
- Passed Turn: Passed turn is notated as “—” (m-dash, or two hyphens
Although many moves can be recorded in an even more abbreviated form, the remaining redundancy was left in the notation on purpose: it makes the notation easy to read and record, and it makes it more resistant to errors.
In non-canonical notation, it is possible to leave out some parts of the notation (piece numbering, reference, or direction) or choose a different reference piece, provided that the notation still describes only one legal turn.
The following game was transcribed from 2019 Brilliancy Award Game Two on YouTube. (The game is diagrammed with Northern hemisphere directions, noon pointing up, and black pieces moving first.)
1st Player: Frank Chen
2nd Player: Joe Schultz
Date: September 8, 2019
Tournament: 2019 BoardSpace.net Online World Championship 1. L P
2. M+Lm A+Pn
3. Q+Ls Q+Pa
5. A+Pa A+Qa
6. AxA1a M+Qf
7. B+Lr A+Mr
8. Ba MQs
9. Qs A2xQs
10. Bn B+A2m
11. A+Lr Bf
12. A2xQn Bn
13. Ba G*Qm
14. A+Lr Gn
15. A1xA2m S+Pf
16. A2xA3m S+A2a
17. S+A2r B+S2n
18. A1xB1a Gm
19. A2xA1a L+S2m
20. A2xQn G+S1n
21. G+A3m LxQf
23. LxQf Pr
24. A1xB2a G1m
25. LxPr S1s
26. Bm G1s
27. Bs xLPs
28. MxQf MxQa
This example was transcribed from 2019 Brilliancy Award Game One on YouTube.
1st Player: Povilas Simonis
2nd Player: Christian Galeas
Date: May 12, 2019
Tournament: 2019 BoardSpace.net Online World Championship 1. L L
2. A+Lm M+Ln
3. M+As Q+Mr
4. Q+Lr A+Ms
5. MxQr AxAs
6. B+Mf P+Qn
7. Bs A+Pa
8. P+Qr A+Ms
9. A+Pf A2xA1f
10. Ba Mr
11. B+Qf B+Qa
12. Mn Bm
13. S+Mf S+Pn
14. SxQr xMQa
15. Bn Bn
16. A+Pr A1xA3m
17. G+Qm SxBf
18. Ba B+Pa
19. Bn B1r
20. QPm A3f
21. G+Pn LB2a
22. G+Lr B2r
23. G3n B2m
24. G1a B2s
25. S+Qa Mr
26. G3f Mm
Why This Article
In 2019, I played the Hive game with my children remotely and we used the directions concept to communicate the moves. Although I notated the two example games given above, I haven’t had time until now to formally write down the notation principles.