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SPIEL '22 Preview: Heat: Pedal to the Metal

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Heat: Pedal to the Metal
Publisher Days of Wonder releases only a few games each year, and most of those titles are spin-offs or line extensions for existing games such as Small World of Warcraft or Ticket to Ride: San Francisco.

With Heat: Pedal to the Metal, Days of Wonder is releasing its first original game since 2019's Deep Blue, and the designers of that game — Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen — are also responsible for Heat, which I played at Gen Con 2022 on mock-up components and summarize for you below.

Heat is a racing game, and the goal is what you might expect: Cross the finish line first. If multiple players cross the line the same round, then go farthest past the line.

Your race car in Heat is controlled by an engine that consists of a fixed deck of cards — three copies each of 1-4 speed cards, a 0, a 5, stress cards, and one Heat card. Additional Heat cards are placed in an engine block space on your player sheet, and when you take certain actions, you add Heat to your engine — that is, your deck — which gums up future action until you cool down. Essentially, Heat is a management game, with you managing the flow of Heat through your deck and hand, while also taking risks (or not) as you race around the track.

On a turn, everyone simultaneously adjusts their gear, then plays face down as many cards (1-4) as their current gear. If you shift two gears on a turn, move a Heat from your engine block to your discard pile. In game terms, I pay one Heat.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
There's Candice (blue) in front...then everyone else

Then in order from front to back on the track, everyone reveals and plays their cards. In the image above, I'm in fourth gear, so I'm playing four cards: two 4s and two stress cards. For each played stress card, you flip cards from the top of your deck and discard them until you reveal your first speed card (value 1-4), which is then played.

This turn, my green car is going 10-16 spaces depending on what's revealed, which could be a problem since a corner awaits after the 14th space. (The track spaces are numbered between corners to help you plan your moves.) That corner has a speed limit of 3, and if you break a speed limit, you must pay Heat equal to the difference between the speed limit and your speed — and I wouldn't have enough Heat to pay, which means I'd spin out, paying all available Heat, adding more stress cards to my deck, and starting in first gear.

However, if I've been paying attention to all the cards that I've played (because I can't look through my discard pile), then I know what's left in my deck, which means I'm not gambling with the stress cards as much as it might seem. Ideally I'll move 10-14 spaces, then drop two gears next turn (paying one Heat), then manage to play cards from my refilled hand that keep me close to that speed limit. Heck, depending on what I draw, I can even stay in third gear and keep the Heat out of my deck.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Mock-up components

In addition to tracking what's been played and what's in your deck, you're managing stress and Heat.

Before you refill your hand to seven cards at the end of your turn, you can discard unwanted cards, but not stress and Heat. To discard Heat, you need to drive in second gear (which lets you discard one) or first gear (discard three). (If you're the last player or two to move in a round, you get an adrenaline bonus of one extra movement and one Heat discard.)

Note that you discard Heat not to your discard pile, but to the engine block, giving you the resource needed to shift gears twice, break speed limits, and take the boost action. (To boost, after your movement, you can pay one Heat to flip cards until you get a 1-4 speed card, then you move that distance.)

The only way to rid your hand of stress cards — which represent moments when your focus slips, so you hit the pedal (or not) unexpectedly — is to play them. If you have a hand of nothing but stress and Heat, then you have to play stress cards, so who knows where you'll end up.

The resolution of each stress card is a bit of a gamble since you discard everything that's not a speed card, i.e., anything other than 1-4. To expand on my previous example, if I know that my 5 is still in the deck, then I actually hope to reveal and discard the 5 since I need to keep my speed low on the next turn. If I know that my deck still has lots of Heat in it, I'm fine having that Heat move directly from my deck to my discard pile so that it doesn't hit my hand. Playing a stress card when you have a full deck increases the variability of what you'll get compared to playing it when you know you have only a 3 and a 4 left in the deck.

Candice and I played quite differently in our six-player game — her boosting like crazy, then managing extra Heat and me managing my cards to hit limits as closely as possible and stay Heat-free — yet we were neck-and-neck at the finish, with her edging ahead for the win as I foolishly didn't keep a Heat in reserve for a boost on the final move.

Beth spun out on an unlucky stress play in a corner, which added more stress to her deck, which caused more randomness on future turns. It was a nice representation of a driver losing control as more bad things kept happening.

Board Game: Heat: Pedal to the Metal
Expansion components

After the game, Days of Wonder's Franck Lefebvre showed off the upgrade cards in the Garage Module, the weather cards and road condition tokens in that module, the Legends Module that puts one or more automated drivers in play, and the Championship System that makes use of many of these modules as well as sponsorship cards in a multi-race game. I don't recall Days of Wonder including expansions in a game previously, and these elements, along with the two double-sided game boards (giving four different tracks) means the Heat box is about 50% thicker than a normal DoW release.

Heat: Pedal to the Metal will debut at SPIEL '22 in October, with a worldwide release scheduled in Q4 2022.
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