Heat: Pedal to the Metal

review by Brendan

    Hello! Are you a fan of racing, test your luck games, on the spot planning and risk calculating, and beating your friends? If so, Heat: Pedal to the Metal is the game for you! Heat is a racing game where the goal is to hit the goal as fast as possible, exploiting every opportunity possible to do so! Heat is a fast paced and fun competitive game for 1-6 players that challenges you to best learn how to control the tempo and risk reward, hoping your hubris doesn't blow up in your face!

    First, everyone selects a car, then picks up their matching deck of cards. This deck consists of three types of cards! Basic Cards, which are typically numbered from 1-4, with certain special variants representing 0 and 5. The remaining two types are Stress Cards, which have a plus sign on them, and Heat Cards, which are covered in fire and start in your engine. On your turn, you'll draw seven cards, and everyone must decide which cards to play simultaneously, with cards going into effect afterwards. Basic cards can be spent to move that many spaces ahead (a 4 will put you 4 spots ahead, a 2 will put you 2 spots ahead), Stress Cards reveal a random Basic Card from the top of your deck (skipping cards until you reveal a Basic Card), and Heat Cards are basically duds that bog up your hand. At the end of your turn, you can discard any Basic Cards that you want, then you draw back up to seven cards. Unused Stress Cards and Heat Cards will carry over until dealt with, so planning when and when not to use them is crucial, as leaving them in too long means having less options and reliability!

    In terms of maps, the game has two double-sided, giant racing track boards, meaning four possible maps to choose from! Some maps will have different starting conditions that affect your deck composition, but they'll have different layouts and corner spots. Why are corners important though? Well, if you go past a corner while moving too fast, you'll need to add Heat Cards from your engine to your deck! And if your engine is out of Heat Cards? Even worse, you'll spin out and stop right before the corner! Trying to keep ahead of the competition while also being mindful not to ding up your car too bad around corners is one of the key aspects to the strategy in Heat!

    Well if corners are so bad, can't you just intentionally avoid them? And is there a limit to how many cards you can play? These are important questions! You have a stick shift for your car that affects how many cards you can play per turn, with everyone starting at the 1st Gear (meaning one card!). Once per turn, you can shift up or down a single Gear, allowing you to play more cards and go even faster, but this has risks! If you overcommit, you might end up needing to play riskier Stress Cards, meaning you have far less control over how fast you'll be going, putting you at risk of hitting those corners on the map and accruing Heat or spinning out! This is how you can end up biting off more than you can chew and really screwing your deck up and costing yourself some speed!

    Well, what the heck is the point of Heat Cards?! Basically, Heat Cards are a cost for doing some of the special actions in the game. You'll start with 6 in your Engine, separate from your deck, and certain actions or penalties will require you to place Heat Cards into your deck. Less Heat Cards in your Engine means you have less special actions to perform and less ways to avoid even more severe penalties and more Heat Cards in your deck means more duds messing up your hand! Finding a good balance of when and when not to use Heat Cards is crucial to keeping the lead! For instance, going fast around corners will help you get further ahead, but will cost you Heat and not having any when you do so spins you out! Spinning out also resets you to 1st gear, meaning you'll have an even harder time catching up to your opponents! Not all are detrimental though! You can spend a Heat Card to shift TWO gears instead of just one on your turn, either up or down! Being in a higher gear means more speed potential to catch up or secure a lead! Being in a lower gear will allow you to pitch a Heat Card from your hand back to your Engine, allowing you to clear up your deck and recycle Heat for future special actions! You can also spend a Heat Card to Boost, letting you play a random Basic off of the top of your deck, kinda like a Stress Card, which is a good desperate maneuver to try and steal the lead. It may be playing with fire, but learning how to manage and take advantage of Heat will make the difference between first and last place!

    All together, these mechanics blend together in a delicate risk/reward balance of knowing when to push and when to pull back, constantly checking yourself around opponents and corners. A Slipstream mechanic allows anyone right behind another car to steal 2 spaces ahead without counting towards their speed check on a corner, which offers even further strategy. Why burn yourself out trying to secure the lead and taking all the risks when you could play it cool and try to coast behind the lead and sneak through a corner for free with the Slipstream bonus? But what if you play it too safe and your opponents all blast off in high gear and leave you in their dust? Or why not just burn out as much as possible when you're so close to the finish? It doesn't matter how messed up your Engine and deck is if you're the first across the finish line, right?  Think so far ahead that you end up in a completely different realm of thought from your opponents and explode on a corner while your opponents chill in low gear to clear up their Heat!  All the planning has to be done at once, so there's no perfect way to plan a turn, you have to do your best to make the most of what you have while trying to weigh the risks against what your opponents will do and what dangers you might face if your risks don't pan out well!

    This isn't even getting into the tournament mode, where everyone does back to back races where they get to customize their car and deck in between matches! With this, multiple maps, and up to six players, Heat has a ton of flexibility and customization that keeps things interesting! If this lunacy sounds like your jam, give Heat a look and see if you have what it takes to take first place!

Heat: Pedal to the Metal is available now at our webstore.

Heat: Pedal to the Metal