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Heat Review

Heat Review

Heat Review

Welcome to our latest review! Today, we dig into Days of Wonder HEAT: Pedal to the Metal. It’s been a while since we wrote a review. The store side took off in July, and we’ve been in recovery mode since August. All our focus has been on that! So now we’re ready to get back to writing these reviews!

Heat is a fascinating racing game for up to 6 players. It brings all the excitement of a racing video game to a simple yet intuitive board game. Let’s drive into this game and find out why it’s one of the hot games out there!

Game Overview

In Heat, you take on the role of a driver and manager of a racing team. You can race on a single track or create a 4 track championship season. Each Race consists of multiple laps of a track, and the game includes four tracks to play. You can race past your opponents in style by playing cards from your hand and spending “heat cards” strategically. Just beware of the corners on the track. If your speed through the corner exceeds the corner speed printed on the board, you’ll spin out. This game is suitable for 10 and up, 1 – 6 players, and a race takes about 45 minutes to play. Let’s dig into some of the game components.

Game Components

Heat comes with two large double-sided game boards, each with its own track. Each player gets a player board that looks like the inside of a car cockpit. Place your gear shift token, heat cards, draw, and discard decks here.  The top of the player board looks like the inside dashboard of your racing car. Each dial shows you the order of steps in each player’s turn.

The cards that come with the game are beautifully designed, and the iconography is very easy to understand. Each player gets their own set of base cards in their team color. They also get a set of basic upgrade cards. All players then share the Stress cards and Heat cards. During setup, these get added to your deck.

We also really liked the optional weather billboards and track condition tokens. These were simple to understand and made of durable thick cardboard (almost board-like material)

What we loved were the cars. Tiny plastic race cars and the gear shift tokens.  They added to the overall immersive nature of the game. Everything is really well-themed to racing.

Game Setup

Each player starts by taking their colored player board, gear shift token, car, and 12 basic cards with the same color. One of the neat things about this game is the many options for add-ons included in the base game box. So, setup definitely varies based on what modules you decide to use. We focused on the base game for this review and then played a lap with the Legends module.


After the players take their 12 cards, they look at the key printed next to the track they are playing. That key will tell you how many Heat and S-tress cards each player needs to add to their deck. We played the USA track, which required us to draw 6 Heat Cards which we placed in the center of our player board on the engine slot, and 3 Stress cards got shuffled into our personal deck. Once shuffled, we drew 7 cards into our hand, put the gear token on the gearshift at 1 (the lowest gear), and placed our car on the starting grid. Now we were ready to go!


The game’s goal is to be the first to complete a set number of laps around the track before your opponents.

The strategy comes in with knowing how to spend your Heat Cards, then slow down enough to lower your gear into cooldown mode so you can get rid of the heat cards that are in your hand.

At the start of each round, all players simultaneously decide if they will move their gear up or down by 1. The gear slot represents the number of cards players play from their hand this round. The cards in their hand represent the speed of the car and how many spaces they can move along the track.


So far, there isn’t much strategy to the game, but that’s where the Heat Cards come in. Heat cards are helpful when you use them but later become a hindrance. There’s a cost/benefit to using them.

During the gear shift step, you can use one of your engine’s heat cards by moving it to your discard pile. This allows you to move up or down two gear positions. This raises and lowers the number of cards you can play.

Why would you want to lower the number of cards? Isn’t the idea to get around the track faster, and more cards means more speed?

Well, yes, technically, this is the goal, but there are two main reasons to lower your gear. First, if you go too fast into a corner, you’ll spin out. Second, remember how I said those Heat cards can be a hindrance? Since they are in your discard pile, when, eventually, in later rounds, you run out of cards in your draw pile, you will need to shuffle your discard pile to create a new draw pile. This means you’ll draw Heat cards into your hand. This is where they cause you issues. You can only have 7 cards in your hand at any time, so these take up spots in your hand where you could have speed cards.  The only way to discard them back to your engine is by lowering your gear to one or two, and during “cooldown,” you can discard Heat Cards back to your engine so you can reuse them in the future. It’s this risk and reward-aspect that makes this game exciting!

Heat cards are also discarded when you race around a corner at high speed. Each corner on the track has a speed dial printed on the board with a number. If you play speed cards that move you past the corner’s white line, you take the speed you are going at and subtract the number on the board. If that number is negative, you are going slower through the corner (this is ideal), and nothing happens. If your number is positive, you must discard Heat cards from your engine to your discard pile to make up the difference. For example, say the corner speed is “3,” and you go through the corner with speed cards of “5”; you must discard 2 heat cards to your discard pile. What happens if you don’t have heat cards to spend? Well, that’s when you spin out. Which places you on the track in the space before the corner, lowers your gear back to 1st, and adds a stress card to your hand.


So, what are these Stress cards?

Well, first, when they reach your hand, you can not discard them. You must play them as speed cards. So let’s say you have a “2 card” in your hand and a Stress Card. You play both of these at your speed. You turn over the next card in your draw pile for every stress card. If that card is NOT a speed card, you discard it (Heat, other stress cards) If it is a speed card, you add that card to your speed. So, in my example, you have a “2 card” down, and you draw a “4 card,” your speed is now 6. Basically, Stress cards add variability to the game. You also want to try to avoid playing these when going into a corner because you don’t know how high a number you will draw.

In addition, you can slipstream off other cars, allowing you to move past them.

If this all sounds complex, it really isn’t and is very intuitive when you get going.

Since only two of us were playing, the game can be a little too easy as you only pay attention to the other person. After we played our first race, which I lost, We added in the Legends module.

This module adds other automated racers to the board. These racers do one of two moves during their turn based on where they start in relation to the next corner on the track. On the board between each corner, there is a “legends line” printed. If the automated racer is on the track before the next legends line, they move option A and try to get as close to the next corner without going past. Their speed is dictated by a Legends card, which shows the speed of all racers for that round. If they are trying to get close to the corner, but their speed pushes them past the corner, this card tells you how to place that racer on the track back before the corner.

Now, if they are past the Legends line but before the next corner, they do option B, they try to race around the corner. They do this based on the corner speed and the Legends card speed. We found this module to be excellent as it truly captures the variability of the automated racers and makes for quite a challenge.

Overall Impressions

We really loved this game. We can see why it won so many awards. We loved the overall design aesthetic, specifically the detailed player boards. We also loved the strategy needed to know when to drop your car’s gear so you could get rid of the Heat cards in your hand.

We are excited to play again with the weather and road conditions expansions, which add a new level of complexity to the game.

This game is incredibly hard to come by. We don’t have any in stock, but we hope to have some. Go to our store page and click “Notify me” to be notified when it returns to stock. Or better yet, sign up for our newsletter!


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