Let’s be honest, it’s been a while since the words “virus” and “fun” have been used in the same sentence. Viral is a 2017 release from Arcane Wonders that our family immediately picked up when it hit our local game store. Since we’ve never done a formal review for Viral, I want to give some context for this expansion.
Viral is an area control game where players are in the role of viruses attacking different regions of the body. This is easily one of my favorite games with this mechanic for so many reasons. Each round players are infecting regions of the body, picking fights with other viruses and even absorbing opponents. The way players interact and how the game unfolds is so thematic.
When the viruses get out of control, crisis tokens are placed on organs. Crisis tokens award points to players but also clear out the viruses that are present. As players hit different point thresholds, they draft new viruses onto their team. Viral is smart, challenging and the iconography is excellent in the game.
If you’re a fan of area control games, this is a great addition to your game shelf. So now let’s look at this new expansion that was published in 2021.
Welcome to The Hive
Viral: The Hive is a small box expansion that adds some pretty big changes to the base game. Each player is given a “hive” token that they attach to an organ at the game setup. Players are given 4 additional virus tokens, 1 new mutation card and the 4 upgrade cards for their virus.
Setup for the game changes slightly and the number of rounds is reduced from 6 to 5. During the game, players slightly alter the way they reveal their cards each round. All of these adjustments feel really good honestly.
Each players hive token becomes a new location for travel and allows players to place a virus token in their hive up to twice per round. Players can discard viruses inside their hive once per round to unlock special abilities linked to their upgrade cards. These abilities are really unique and gives each virus a lot more personality.
The virus upgrade cards introduced in Viral: The Hive are all really unique and it makes you want to try them all. While my favorite player color is yellow, it’s much more difficult to select your virus based solely on color. In this expansion, the yellow virus thrives on organs that go into crisis. Unlocking upgrade cards give you additional points when resolving a crisis, or even give you a free infection action at the site of a crisis.
The purple upgrade cards lean into the absorption action while the orange upgrade cards encourages combat against other viruses. Viral: The Hive introduces asymmetric abilities and it really levels up the gameplay in a meaningful way.
Since each player has a hive attached to an organ, this means players have more locations to move and attack one another. With players getting two opportunities to add viruses to their hive each round, there are more viruses in play during the course of the game. This is going to lead to more battles, crisis events and bigger points for everyone.
Viral was a game that Erin and I normally skipped when it was just the two of us. At 2-players, the base game requires you to bring in a dummy player. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. In my opinion, Viral is a 3 to 5 player game. The rulebook that comes with Viral: The Hive tells you to skip the addition of a dummy player in a 2-player game.
With the introduction of this expansion, I would absolutely play Viral at just 2-players. Having these asymmetric upgrades in Viral: The Hive really adds enough depth that the 2-player gameplay is fun. In our experience, we saw higher scores at 2-players than any of the other player counts.
While some game expansions settle for adding a couple new cards to an existing game, Viral: The Hive adds another layer to the gameplay. If you already know the basics, this expansion should be an easy add to the familiar gameplay loop.
After a couple plays of Viral: The Hive, we’ve now added to the base game box. This expansion brings more depth and unique abilities that really refreshes this game. I’ve enjoyed checking out the different viral upgrades introduced to the game. If Viral is already on your game shelf, Viral: The Hive is an expansion that you need to check out. If you’ve never played this great area control game, this year seems like a great time to catch the bug.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Asymmetric abilities give each virus more depth
- Adding viruses to hives means more options
- Expansion opens up more possibilities on the board
- Don’t be surprised when some players have analysis paralysis