Be a Hero and Fight Forest Fires in Hotshots

Hotshots

Strap on your helmet, pull on your boots, and enter the woods to fight fires. Will you and your team be heroes or will the fire grow out of control?

Fireside Games has designed creative and unique cooperative and semi-cooperative games in the Panic line.  But will their brand new co-op game be as fun? Read and find out!

Gameplay

The nineteen terrain tiles are randomized and placed on the table in a pattern (the rulebook suggests several patterns but also encourages you to try creating your own). Each terrain tile has its own artwork and a scorch limit number. A scorch limit is how many flame tokens it takes before that tile is burnt and flipped over.

Each player chooses one of the four firefighters, each with its own unique ability, flame tokens are placed on a handful of tiles, and the game begins.

In order to win the game, players must remove all flame tokens from the board. You lose if eight tiles are flipped over or the base camp tile is flipped. Each character’s ability will be disabled if a certain tile is burnt. There is also a tile with vehicles. If you make it to that tile, each vehicle has a powerful ability you can use once per agem. But if that tile is flipped, those vehicles are lost.

On your turn, you may move up to two tiles, immediately ending your movement on any tile that has a flame token on it. After movement, you can choose to fight a fire on your current tile. To fight a fire, you roll six dice. Each tile has a series of symbols that correspond to the faces of the dice. If you roll symbols that match the symbols on the tile, you can choose to set aside one or more matching dice and roll again.

You can keep rolling (or choose to stop), as long as you roll matching symbols and keep setting one aside after each roll. If you ever roll and you do not roll any matching symbols, a flame token is added to your current location and your turn ends. However, if you are adjacent to the lake tile, it counts as support in fighting the fire. Each other player on the tile with you also counts as support. For each support you have, you can ignore one failed roll and keep going.

If you choose to stop rolling after you have three matching symbols, you can place a firebreak between your current tile and any adjacent tile, which helps prevent the spread of fire. With four matching dice, you can remove one flame token; with five you can remove two flame tokens and either build a firebreak or take a reward token; with six you can remove three flame tokens, place a firebreak, and take a reward token. Reward tokens give you one-time special abilities that you can play on your turn, such as moving another player to your location, or acting as a particular die symbol.

At the end of your turn, you draw a fire card. This often spreads the fire (though is less likely to do so if there are only a few fires on the board) and changes the direction of the wind (the direction the fire will  spread). If a tile reaches its flame scorch limit and is flipped, the fire will spread to the adjacent tile with the lowest scorch limit that is not blocked by a firebreak.

If a firefighter is on a tile that gets flipped, one of the six dice is placed on the fire camp tile, and a player must end her turn on it in order to reclaim the die.

Hotshots Components

Review

Hotshots beautifully blends press-your-luck dice rolling with careful planning as you choose which fires to fight and whether to stick together or split up.

Like most great cooperative games, it’s wonderfully challenging. The fire spreads quickly and it’s easy to soon find yourselves overwhelmed. It’s the kind of game that after your first loss, you’re eager to play again to figure out how to beat it! But once you do figure out how to win, there’s so much variation in the ways the board can be laid out that can increase the challenge.

The rules are a bit detailed, but are fairly easy to get the hang of. However, there is a lot to keep track of during game, particularly when the fire spreads and wind changes. It’s easy to miss something and only realize it after the fact.

Most of the game looks greats, from the dice to the tiles, but the flame tokens particularly look fantastic. The firefighter tokens could be a little bigger though, as at their current size they’re a little difficult to distinguish, and we kept finding ourselves moving the wrong ones.

Beautifully and richly thematic, Hotshots balances nicely between being easy to learn and challenging to play. You face tough choices, have to work together, and won’t find it easy: exactly what you want from a cooperative board game. Recommended!

Pros: Thematic, challenging, fun press-your-luck mechanics

Cons: A lot to track, firefighter tokens could be more distinguishable

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.