First Impressions of Heat: Heavy Rain – Rainy Forecast Turns Out to Be Sunny With Clouds

Here we go again! It’s finally time for Heat’s first expansion to hit the market and it’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect: I’ve got a couple of days off work, a serious cold is keeping me mostly indoors, and even the weather here in Hamburg has decided to play along and be appropriately dreadful to match the expansion’s theme. As a result, I’ve been what can only be described as binging the new expansion since it landed on my doorstep.

If you’ve read my piece on the base game of Heat: Pedal to the Metal or my conversation with Asger for Origin Stories, you’ll already know that I’m a big fan of Heat. It simply ticks a lot of boxes: the base game already had a lot of content in it including a system to customise cars and mimic weather conditions, the artwork is lovely, the gameplay thrilling, and even the solo mode is among the most fun solo experiences I had in recent years. Pretty much everyone I’ve played Heat with had a good time and I know of at least one person that has bought their own copy.

However, Heat hasn’t become a lifestyle game for me. I didn’t play championships with friends or regularly met up to play Heat but rather played a session here and there. That’s not Heat’s fault, there were just so many other interesting games that also wanted to get time on the table. The expansion coming out is thus a more than welcome reason to finally dedicate some time and play Heat again!

What’s in the Box?

Usually in these write-ups I like to start with the setup of the game to relate how much effort it takes to get going. Since this expansion is a collection of modular components, there isn’t really any setup beyond that of the base game. So let’s rather talk about what’s in the box.

The box format itself will look familiar to anyone that has ever bought a Ticket to Ride expansion: it’s the same footprint as the base game but only a slim 4cm of height. In it we find a double-sided board featuring the courses of Japan and Mexico, player components for a 7th driver (even including additional stress and heat cards), a new 4-stage championship as well as the overview cards for the two new courses, a couple of sponsorship and upgrade cards featuring a new cooling mechanism and even an additional scoring block. What surprised me a bit is that the cards were nicely wrapped in paper instead of plastic (a recent waste-saving trend I’d like to see in more games) but the box features a plastic insert. That’s even more surprising considering that the base game’s insert already had enough space to hold two additional drivers and so the expansion box mainly is needed to store the map. But the insert is nicely done, so no real complaints here.

The included rulebook is just 4 pages, though it’s more like one and a half when not counting the cover, component list and credits section. Overall, there are four new mechanisms, each one being so simple to teach that one might as well include them in first teaches to new players.

Super Cool

The sponsorship and upgrade cards contain a new symbol called “super cool” (yes, I agree, that name is a bit odd) that acts similar to the normal cooling symbol but recovers heat from the discard pile instead of a player’s hand. That doesn’t sound like much but in practice turns out to be quite a fun mechanism. As with the original upgrade cards that show the cooling symbol, the right timing is key here and I multiple times found myself holding a sponsorship card that would recover two heat if there were only some in my discard. While waiting for that to happen, the card clogged up my hand because it seemed just too tasty to discard.

I also found super cool interesting in combination with other upgrade cards that have a cooling symbol, making me extremely flexible to recover heat in pretty much any situation. Suddenly spending 3 heat to get around a corner with breakneck speed no longer seems that wasteful …

Aggressive Legends

The next element is rather subtle: a new symbol on the boards themselves. Some of the corner chevrons now have what almost looks like a fake drop shadow but turns out to be a black mark above them. When a legend (=an automa controlled driver) starts its movement on such a space, the normal limitation that a legend may only traverse a single corner per round is removed. This is featured prominently on both maps but the rules also mention a corner on the GB map where it can be added. A bit strangely, the rules actually encourage players to draw the new symbol onto the board, I guess with a permanent marker. Not sure about you, but while being pragmatic, it feels a bit weird to me. A nice sticker or even a simple card that has the board background on it and could be used as an overlay would have been highly appreciated.

Gameplay-wise, this small addition makes the legends noticeably more competitive. I haven’t really measured it, but it feels to me like an advantage of about half a turn saved per such corner which is quite considerable! There was more than one time where I envied the legends for the ease with which they were able to fly through some tight corners now. Again, thumbs up for this module!


The third module comes in the form of chicanes, which are quite easy to explain: imagine two regular corners with the same speed value that are unusually close together, and you’re there. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal … until you realise you have to pay the penalty for speeding through them for each of the two lines, not just one! So rushing through a 2-chicane with speed 4 means paying four heat, not just two, a lesson I unfortunately learned only after I already had run into it.

The chicanes effectively narrow the margin of error for traversing corners correctly. Where with a normal corner there is some leeway on where exactly one stops before the corner, for chicanes there is a much narrower window of opportunity to not waste two turns instead of one to pass it. Take the 2-chicane in the image above. In the example, it has been eased off by the road condition system to a 3-chicane, but that still means one has to hit the spot directly before the chicane or the one before that to move through it next turn without stopping. Anything further away and you’d better prepare for wasting a round or spending a lot of heat.

Flooded Spaces

The other new board element are areas on the track that are covered with water. While chicanes can be found on both new maps, flooded spaces sadly only exist on the Japan map. When starting movement on such a space, shifting down always costs a heat, even for the first step. And of course these can be found exactly in the areas one typically wants to shift down in! My favourite example of this is the lower left corner coming down the long straight. The upper right corner of the board features a super narrow corner which forces players to shift down, then aggressively shift up to gather speed again only to then somehow figure out a way to approach the next corner. One wants to be close enough for a swift traversal but also not end up in fourth gear doing so.

After a few attempts, timing it to get around the 5-corner in third gear wasn’t much of a problem anymore but that only led to the next challenge: hitting the dry spot behind the corner to be able to shift down for the even narrower corner that follows it!

In the end, the penalty of an extra heat for shifting down is less devastating than players initially might think and actually a viable option. However, as anyone that has played Heat: Pedal to the Metal knows, that might be the one heat you’ll be missing later in the race! Note: the Legends are unaffected by flooded spaces.


So with the mechanisms out of the way, lets take a look a the two new courses. With three rounds of 60 spaces each, Mexico is the longest race track there currently is. Its two long straights reminded me of portions of the France track but the chicanes give Mexico it’s very distinct own feel. Playing against the aggressive legends, the 7-chicane is definitely something where players will want to time their approach so they can pass the chicane in one turn and not lose too much ground. The 2 chicane on the other hand can cost players a lot of heat if they aren’t careful.


In some sense, Japan feels like Mexico shrunken down and taken up a notch. Both the shorter straight crossing the bridge and the longer one going under it urge players to accelerate and thus lure them into the flooded spaces. I can almost hear the broad grin of Asger and Daniel (the two designers) as they were laying out this trap and waiting for reckless players to stumble into it. Depending on what modifications the road condition system puts in the corners, things can get very hairy indeed.


Something I was a disappointed with at first but now don’t mind is the integration of the new tracks into the championship system. For the new 1964 season, Japan is featured twice, which just feels odd, and no new cards were added to extend the existing seasons. I think it would have helped to at least add a suggestion in the rules on how to use the new tracks for custom championships. For example, what I did was separate all cards by country and then pick one from each. However, a 6-track championship actually takes quite a while to play, so I can see why the designers rather chose to offer 3- or 4-track championships instead of extending the existing ones with every expansion.

What I did like were the special conditions on the new championship cards. For example, one allows players to actually discard heat cards! There is fun stuff in there. I think the base game simply shouldn’t have introduced the year numbers on the cards in the first place. Using the cards to create custom championships instead of doing pre-crafted ones seems much more appealing to me now that we have more tracks.


In the few days since this expansion has landed in players’ hands, a surprising amount of criticism has already surfaced on BoardGameGeek. Different people are looking for different things in an expansion, and that’s all well. What frankly shocks me is the tone some of those discussion have. I’m not sure what it is with Heat: Pedal to the Metal, but this game in particular seems to have evoked a lot of strong reactions from the get go. Even setting aside all those that were venting because they weren’t able to get a copy of the base game for months, there were a sizeable number of people that proclaimed Heat to either be too expansive, too complex, not complex enough, missing two more drivers, or had a number of other concerns.

So let me begin by saying this: Heavy Rain in my opinion is a reasonably priced and well executed expansion. If you liked Heat, you’ll almost certainly like Heavy Rain as well, it’s as simple as that. I’d have to think for a bit to be able to name an expansion that this neatly integrates into its base game and just gives you “more”. There is a minimum of rules and all elements feel like they could have been in the base game. The amount of new upgrade and sponsorship cards might seem small at first but is just enough so that the new cards come up without flooding the existing decks. Heavy Rain isn’t an expansion that fundamentally changes its base game, just another ingredient in an already nice stew.

Thus Heavy Rain first and foremost for me turned out to be a reminder of how amazing the core game is. When I’m playing on the new tracks, I still marvel how amazingly well the Legends work, how cool the road condition system is in making tracks feel fresh on every play, how good the flow of the game is. As nice as it is to have the new elements and the 7th driver, the gaming experience is fundamentally the same as before, which in this case isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like Heat a lot, and so I have as much fun racing on these new tracks as I had on the old ones.

Speaking of which, I definitely would say the two new tracks are more challenging to master. On the original four tracks, I can quite easily get a first place against the Legends where on Mexico and Japan I sometimes didn’t even make the top three. In some part that is of course because I’m still new to them, but I believe they’ll stay among the more challenging ones when playing, especially when using the aggressive legends.

The single dark cloud on the horizon of these first impressions (besides that my cards have a production issue and aren’t rounded on one side, something I hope the publisher will remedy for me) is that Heavy Rain – as good as it is – also feels like a missed opportunity. When the name “Heavy Rain” was announced, it conjured up images for me of Rush and similar racing movies where everything goes haywire as soon as the rain sets in. I also was reminded of Flamme Rouge’s Meteo expansion which first introduced weather to that system and also some simple rules for crashes. But for as strong of a title as “Heavy Rain” is, there is surprisingly little rain in this expansion.

There is no addition nor alteration to either the weather system or the road condition system which limits the “rain” part to just Japan. There is also no form of crashing or bumping into each other, further detracting from the theme. Imagine instead an expansion that would have had the weather change in the middle of the race or add a way to add flooded spaces to other tracks. Or the puddles of water grow or shrink during the race, water from one car splashing on trailing drivers and reducing their visibility, … rain is such a great theme in the context of racing, it’s a shame it hasn’t been explored more.

The designers intentionally went for a carefully crafted experience by placing exactly where the flooded spaces of the Japan track are, and that works very well. However, would it really have hurt to add road condition tokens that would specify a range (i.e. 5 spaces before the corner to 2 spaces after it)? Or at least feature flooded spaces on both new tracks? I would have loved it if adding Heavy Rain to a session of Heat would have been something that changes everything and puts horror on the players’ faces. In its current form, “rain” is just one more sprinkle on the Heat cake and despite the title even within its expansion only a small portion of it.

Which raises the question: why is this so? Heat is popular with a wide spread of player types, from casual to heavy gamers, and Heavy Rain seems to be designed with that in mind. There is something for everyone: want a 7th player? It’s in there. Want a new track that is similar to the old ones but a little bit more tricky. We’ve got Mexico for you. Want something quite different? There is Japan. Want more upgrades? There is “super cool”.

In general, I’m not adverse to this approach. Adding for example the 8th player already in the box as well as road condition tokens would have made a lot of people happy but also increased the price noticeably. I personally also don’t mind that there isn’t an updated set of Legends cards that includes the new colour as that seems wasteful to add with every future expansion from now on. Keeping it at around 30€ makes Heavy Rain an easy purchase. It’s “snackable”, similar to getting a new Concordia map and in contrast to for example Maglev Metro‘s 6 map expansion that cost me more than the base game itself. So I really like the small-box expansion format in general.

I just wished Heavy Rain would have doubled down on its theme. I – and I might be alone here – would have gladly skipped on the 7th driver if in exchange the expansion would have had more of a fundamental impact on the game formula. Or skipped on the rain and instead added 2-4 more cars and gave the legends even more of a personality. There are many ways to go here and trying to hit multiple angles at once might have hurt Heavy Rain’s reception despite the good content in it. Overall though, a very solid and fun first entry that leaves me intrigued about the next expansion for Heat: Pedal to the Metal. I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking up that one as well. It never hurts to have new reasons to bring Heat back to the table.

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