Heat Review

andysmAndrew: Heat is a heist game, with each player pulling off a series of jobs (or should I say ‘jobs’, ::wink-wink-nudge-nudge-crimes-crimes::), trying to be the criminal mastermind who ends the game with the biggest bankroll.  Some jobs are subtle, requiring careful planning and consideration.  Some jobs, well, let’s just say that bank vault isn’t going to blow itself off its hinges, yeah?

For added ambiance to this review, play ‘The Perfect Crime #2’ by the Decemberists

Heat is brought to us by Asmadi Games (We Didn’t Playtest This At All and Penny Press) and designed by Dave Chalker (Get Bit! {That’s the name of his game, not an editorial comment on our part, I swear}).  It is a card drafting game for 3-5 players and weighs in at around 20 minutes, give or take how indecisive your most analysis-paralysis-prone player is.

Each round (heist) starts with a drafting phase.  Players will decide both what cards to add to their own hand as well as what card to pass to their neighbor.  Once everyone has a full hand of cards, the second part of the heist begins.  Players will pick one card from their hand and everyone simultaneously reveals what they have chosen.  Each card is triggered during a certain phase (A, B, or C), with all cards of the A phase resolve simultaneously, then B, then C.

This process repeats until everyone has played 4 cards, thereby completing the heist.  After the third heist, the game is over and whoever is sitting pretty on top of the biggest pile of cash is the new kingpin!

After a few profitable crimes, sometimes it pays to lay low for a moment.
After a few profitable crimes, sometimes it pays to lay low for a moment.

But here’s the thing – you and your buddies may be dangerous criminals, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to fear.  Many of the most profitable B-phase cards draw ‘Heat’ – exactly the kind of unwanted attention you and your fellow crime bosses aren’t interested in.  And trust me, no matter how badass you think you are, enough Heat will bring you down faster than a sharpened toothbrush to the kidneys.

Heat is drawn from the ‘State of Affairs’ board and its reserve is finite.  See, a certain amount of police attention isn’t that big a deal; after your third heist, each player will need to pay for all the Heat they have amassed (lawyer’s fees, bribes, funeral bouquets, etc) before a winner is declared.  The cost per cube is determined by the highest emptied row of the Heat tracker.



The State of Affairs tells you how bad things are, and how much that Heat will cost you.
The State of Affairs tells you how bad things are, and how much that Heat will cost you.  If the game ended now, each Heat cube would cost $2.  It can get much worse…

Of course, paying off your Heat at the end of the game could cost you the win; however, emptying the Heat reserve during the game is also potentially a killer.  If the amount of heat drawn during a round exceeds the reserve, well, measures need to be taken.

Well THAT hardly seems fair...
Well THAT hardly seems fair…

In the basic game, each player returns 1 heat cube and loses $3 – the cost of doing business – and everyone repeats this act until there are enough heat cubes to resolve your B cards for the round.  However, if you are playing with the APB mini-expansion (it comes in-box and you absolutely should use it), you will draw an APB card instead.  APB cards always return heat to the reserve, but each one varies in how it does so; sometimes the person with the most heat is punished, or everyone gets it equally, or, in one particularly groan-inducing case, the person with the most heat gets away scot-free!

Heat is an excellent little filler game.  It scales perfectly well from 3 to 5 players, since the simultaneous resolution of cards makes the game quick.  There is minimal player interaction, but what there is can be really fun – the game encourages you to brag about the job you’re doing in order to throw off your fellow players, or you can agree to (or lie about) playing the Heat-reducing cards which work better when played together.

I like the artwork on the cards very much; the stylized pictures are quite cool.  Unfortunately, the other physical components leave much to be desired; the Heat cubes are inoffensive little red wooden bits, but the ‘money’ discs are absolute garbage – the game deserved better than it got in this regard.  Still, they are entirely functional and, if you like the game as much as I do, easily replaced.  And hey, they kept the cost of the game down to a very reasonable ‘under $20’ which really feels like a steal.  Sorry.

We love Heat; it fits really nicely into any gamer’s library as a lean, portable filler.  If you’ve got a taste for quick cash and daring crimes, grab a copy it here!

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