This review is part of my attempt to review as many co-op games as I can. All of my reviews are in the geeklist A Crazy Couple's Co-op Guide: 2013 and onward Edition
Modes: Co-op, Solo
Playing solo uses special rules to control two characters. You could also easily just play as multiple characters.
With a couple: Plays OK, but you have more options with more characters. Easy to play as 2 characters each.
Play Time: Short - Average (1 hourish or less)
Difficulty: Seems easy on base game, but there are a bunch of variants to increase or decrease difficulty.
Lots of luck in the die rolls and card draws.
Mostly group decisions.
* All information is openly shared, no hidden decks or other individual elements.
* Generally good if not thrilling. Both functional and nice looking.
* Plastic fire markers are very nice.
* Some cards only show the picture of a tile. I can take a bit to figure out which tile is is.
* Easy to learn and read.
* One or two minor problems, like not mentioning what to do if you run out of firebreaks.
Wildfire fighting game. Spend actions to move around, try to put out fires and establish firebreaks to limit the spread of the fire.
Fighting fires is done via push-your-luck die rolling; better results let you extinguish more fire or get more bonuses, but failing a roll is disastrous. We found the push-your-luck element weak; we rarely saw places where it was worth taking any real risk on a roll.
Controlling the fire via firebreaks and sacrificing areas to burn is an important part of the strategy. You have options such as limited use firefighting vehicles to help out, and a lake tile makes it easier to extinguish nearby fires.
This differs from many similar co-ops in having your defeat and victory conditions closely linked. To explain, most co-ops have different victory and defeat conditions; ie, in Pandemic, diseases spreading out of control kills you, but just controlling diseases doesn't let you win; you need to cure them. In Ghost Stories, you must control the flood of ghosts which can make you lose, but just beating ghosts doesn't let you win; you must defeat the incarnations. In Hot Shots, you need to get rid of all the fires to win, and fires burning too much makes you lose (though there's a bit of a rubber band built-in when an area burns out and gets rid of flame markers). This means that if you are close to winning the game gets easier; you are just trying to clean up the last few fires. If fires are really out of control, you are also far away from winning. Its not objectively a bad thing, but I think the more common disjointed victory conditions work better, allowing more exciting finishes; with Hot Shots, you're likely to have an anti-climatic "mopping up" period before you win.
However, it is very thematic, and for a simple game Hot Shots really nails the theme. Almost everything you do in the game has a strong thematic connection, and the tactics and the way the fire works give a good immersive feel of fighting a fire.
Its not perfect, but for a quick-playing and family accessible co-op it is a lot of fun and well worth adding to a collection.
We didn't like...
* Anti-climatic endings.
* Less ability to team up and get re-rolls when playing two characters.
* Obvious push-your-luck choices.
We really did like...
* Fast and easy gameplay.
* Planning ahead to create firebreaks and contain the fire.
* Strong theme.
I agree a lot of the endings are anti-climatic,but I've had a couple of tense nail bitters.
I taught the game to a group of 4 Boy Scouts. On the final game they played it came down to the final turn. They had already lost 7 tiles so one more would lose them the game. They had one fire fighter on the far side of the map on the last tile on fire with 4 of 5 flame tokens. The spotter also knew that the next card was going to be a double 5! The pressure was on. That lone fire fighter got only 1 match on every single roll.
He got rid of two flame tokens and stopped. Two more sprang up. The other players started to move to his aid, but couldn't reach him in one turn. They held their breath with every fire card turn and you could hear them start breathing again when it wasn't a 5.
The spotter again knew the next card up was going to be a 5. So the fire fighter on the tile had no choice but to keep rolling. So now the pressure is on again. A failure means they lose. Again this fire fighter rolled only a single match every time. Thought these guys were going to pass out because they were holding their breath so much. On his fourth roll it came up no matches, came over.
Certainly not the normal type of ending, but they really had fun. They still talk about it months later.