I love watching racing on television and for years have followed Nascar, Formula 1 and even MotoGP leagues. So, when I heard that Days of Wonder (one of my favourite board game publishers) was releasing a new game with a racing theme, I was very excited.

Heat: Pedal to the Metal is designed by Asger Harding Granerud, with art by Daniel Skjold Pedersen. Asger is experienced in making a game that feels like a race. Previously, he has designed another game with a racing theme, called Flamme Rouge.

A board game box standing upright on a table.

Playing Heat: Pedal to the Metal is surprisingly simple. At its core, this is a hand management game, with each player having their own deck of cards. In the base game, minus any of the expansion modules, every player starts with the same deck of cards.

The strategy is in how each player uses their cards. Choosing when to be aggressive and when to play it safe, is where this game truly comes alive and feels like the race that it is.

The inside of a board game showing all the cards and tokens.

Components Are Outstanding!

Days of Wonder has a strong reputation for producing games with outstanding components (Ticket to Ride, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, Memoir 44, and more) and Heat: Pedal to the Metal is no different.

  • The art in the game is amazing. The cards, the tracks on the board, and all the iconography are clear, colourful and easy to understand.
  • The race car models and gear shift components are awesome.
  • There is a ton of content in the core box. Aside from the base game mode, there are a bunch of expansion type modules included. On top of that, there are 4 tracks included. All of these provide a lot of game variety and replayability.
  • The insert is truly one of the best inserts for a core game I have ever seen. It organises the cards for individual players and modules, and is large enough for sleeves! Plus it has space for an additional expansions, like adding two more players.

What Stuff Did I Bling? I have sleeved the cards with Gamegenic brand sleeves and 7 packages of the Standard American size are needed. Sleeves are a great way to protect the cards. They are especially good with cards that get shuffled or handled a lot during gameplay.

Overhead picture of a game board with player cards set up.

Game Summary

A game takes place over several rounds and each round includes the following steps:

  • players set their gear (moving up or down 1 to 2 spots on the gear).
  • playing cards (the number of cards played is determined by what gear the player has chosen). For, example if a player is in gear 3 they can play 3 cards.
  • move their car the number of spaces on the track determined by the value on the cards they have played. The leader always moves first and car in last place gets an adrenaline boost and can move their car an extra space. If any player ends their movement behind or next to another car, they can slipstream and move an additional 2 spaces forward.
  • each players draw their hand back up the 7 cards.
A hand holding a bunch of cards for a game.

How You Manage Your Hand Is Critical

Every player has 7 cards in their hand. These are the types of cards in the base mode:

  • Speed cards have an indicated numerical value on the card. This indicates how many spaces the players car can move on the track.
  • Stress cards have a + symbol on them and they represent lapses of concentration when played. They introduce a random element that may be good or bad for the racer when played. Choosing when to play these cards so they will not hurt you in the game is critical.
  • Heat cards are a useless card that will clog up your hand giving you less options.
One card being held.

Manage Your Heat

At the start of the game, everyone starts with only one heat card in their deck. Over the course of the game, depending on the actions taken, players can add extra heat cards to their deck. Some of the ways this can be done is by shifting their gear two places up or down in a round, or taking a corner too fast.

When you play a heat card it does not give your car any movement on the track. In many ways seems like a wasted play. Learning when to take heat and how to effectively get rid of the heat is a key strategy in this game.

The first couple of times playing Heat: Pedal to the Metal, I avoided heat cards like the plague. I have played many deck building games like Dominion and Lost Ruins of Arnak that have similar cards (curse and fear). After a couple of games, I discovered that, while the heat cards are useless in many respects, it is important not to avoid adding them to your hand.

Sometimes it is important to take actions in the game that will give you heat. Gaining heat by taking a corner hard, at the proper time, can be what is needed to push you in the lead.

Cooldown is an important part of the game as this allows you to remove heat cards from your hand and place them back on your player board. There are multiple ways to cooldown, including being in 1st or 2nd gear, as well as being in last place.

Racing cards on a track.

Check Those Corners!

Just like in real life, where races can be won or lost by how people enter and exit the corners, this board game replicates these same crucial moments in the race. In Heat: Pedal to the Metal, if a player speeds into a corner too fast, they will need to add heat cards to their discard pile. The problem is, if they do not have enough heat to add, then they will spin out and stop at the corner.

How a player manages the corners is key. If you always play it safe and take the corners easy so you do not have to take any heat, then you will likely not win the game. But, if you play too aggressive and take the corners too fast you might spin out and fall behind the pack.

A racing board game set up and in the middle of a game.

Best Player Count

Heat: Pedal to the Metal is best played when there are lots of cars on the track. The game supports 1 to 6 players and I have played this game at every player count. Many games come to a crawl at 6 players, but Heat: Pedal to the Metal still moves along at a quick pace. Some actions are done simultaneously and the other actions move along quickly.

There is a legends module included in the core box. This allows AI cars to be added to the game, filling up the track for lower player counts. I have played using the legend cars for a solo game as well as a 2 player game. Their rules are simple and make sense. This module puts a full slate of cars on the track regardless of player count. This module also turns this into an excellent solo game.

Four racing car tokens on a board.

Extra Game Modes

The core box includes many different modules that can be added to the game whenever players are desiring a deeper game or more complexity.

  • The championship system allows multiple races to be played consecutively, providing points based on how players finish. This mode works great to make the game feel like a tournament.
  • The garage module lets players add unique cards to their deck representing upgraded vehicle parts. This provides so much variety and I love playing with this module.
  • The weather and road conditions module can affect the game by making it more difficult to turn corners, boosts to slipstream, inability to cooldown. These are just a few examples of the way weather can impact the game.


This game is easily one of my favourite games over the past year. We have played it many times and every game has been a blast. In some games, the winner was determined by how people took that final turn and gunned it for the finish. The game truly lives up to its name. Victory is so often determined by knowing when to take heat, and when to push the pedal to the metal.

Heat: Pedal to the Metal Rating
  • Score - 9.5/10


This is a racing game that replicates the tension of a real race very well in the game and is tense right up to the finish line.


Card management that gives the player lots of agency

Shifting gears, taking corners, and using slipstream all make sense in the game

There is so much content in the core box

Components are top quality


If you fall behind it can be hard to catch up if the leader does not make a mistake

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