SNAP Review – Viral: The Hive expansion
Almost four years ago, we reviewed Viral. It’s an area control game with an interesting premise – you play as viruses infecting a human body and vying for who can control the most valuable organ zones before being cured.
Now an expansion is available! Does it make a good game even better, or bog it down with too much to do?
Viral: The Hive is an expansion to the area control game Viral, by Antonio Sousa Lara and published by MEBO Games and Arcane Wonders.
The original game – which we reviewed in 2018 – plays in 60-90 minutes with 3-5 players and we think it’s best for ages 10 and up. It says 2 players on the box, we’ll talk about that in a bit.
There is only a little bit of new art in The Hive – you get a much larger close-up of your chosen virus character, plus a powered-up “super virus” version (I wouldn’t want that in my body)! It’s even weirder and more gross than the original virus.
There’s also an additional Mutation card (called Basic Versatile), and it follows the same pattern as the original game.
Just as importantly, the new cards and tokens fit the old style exactly and won’t be a distraction, because they look like they’re parts of the main game. We’ve already just mixed them in with our standard game.
The Hive adds more virus tokens, an additional starting “mutation” card for each player which we mentioned, but the real jewel here is two new mechanics: the hive, and asymmetric player powers.
As part of setup, each player gets to place their “hive” attached to an organ. The hive acts like a connected organ for the purposes of movement, but it’s immune to both crises and cures.
During card selection every turn, players may “infect” their Hive with one of their virus tokens for free. These virus tokens act normally and may be moved by playing cards. But during a player’s turn, they can discard viruses from their Hive, to pay the cost to flip one of their Upgrade cards to the “super virus” side, unlocking that special ability for the rest of the game.
Each of the five player viruses has different abilities, focusing on a particular aspect of the game.
With The Hive expansion, Viral lasts for 5 rounds instead of the original 6. But remember that 2-player thing? The 2-player game no longer requires a dummy 3rd player automata.
I love Viral. It’s a great game. It’s a wonderful introduction to area-control for a more advanced kid. It was the first area-control game that our son Asher ever played and he loved it. We were looking forward to a way to make it feel fresh again.
The “super virus” art on the box was a subtle change, but we really liked it as we examined it. Every virus is just a little bit different and a little bit scarier.
Our first surprise in Viral: The Hive was just how much we liked the “super virus” abilities. They really made a difference in the way each of us played, since each virus focuses on a different strategy – movement, attacking, absorption, crises, or using the hive itself. So instead of just picking a virus because it looks different, everyone has a preference on which virus to use.
Our other pleasant surprise was the newly revamped 2 player game. Instead of the old automata, the game is played as normal, with either player needing to have 2 viruses in every organ in a zone to control that zone. This slight modification makes it so much easier to play – and much more likely that we’ll pull it out when there are only 2 of us.
I also really like how this is the same core game with a few well-placed adjustments. You don’t have to relearn the game or have it be a “different” game because the expansion changed everything. It’s just well-placed changes in a couple of places.
The teach for this was literally 5 minutes long, but it’s so deep with all those asymmetric powers.
The Hive expansion adds exactly what we would hope to Viral: a reason for players to try different play styles.
It also shortens the game a little bit and makes it easier to play with 2 players. Everything about The Hive makes Viral easier or more interesting – except for finding a place to put the player hives that without blocking important information!
Now that we’ve played it a few times, I don’t think we’ll ever play Viral without The Hive expansion. It fixes problems that existed in the original game and adds just the right amount of new interest without actually making it more complex. It is a great addition to an already great game.
We are going to give this our best possible SNAP rating. We give Viral: The Hive 5 out of 5 mutations!
Find it on Amazon or at your local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Viral: The Hive from Arcane Wonders for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Viral: The Hive Expansion
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range:12+ (we say 10+)
Playtime: 60-90 minutes