In the cooperative, press-your-luck game Hotshots, crews of 1 to 4 players take on the roles of wildfire fighters — crew boss, spotter, swamper, and sawyer — with special abilities, then roll dice on burning terrain tiles to match the combinations shown on those tiles. The more faces they roll, the better they fight the fire. Players can choose to cut firebreaks, which protect tiles from embers blown by wind gusts, or push their luck to reduce flames and possibly even generate reward tokens. If players bust and fail to match at least three of the six symbols on the tile, the fire grows. Another option is to maneuver vehicles — air tanker, helicopter, and brush rig — to save the forest.
Flame tokens are added at the end of each player’s turn by the draw of a fire card, which can bring about light or strong wind gusts, increase the strength of the flames on certain tiles, and start fires. Too many flame tokens will cause a tile to scorch and be lost. Losing a terrain tile could also affect the game play. Some tiles are tied to crewmembers’ special abilities, while others help the firefighters, and still others cause the fire to spread in unique ways. If eight tiles scorch or the fire camp scorches, the game is over and the forest is lost — but if the intrepid crew can extinguish the fire, the team wins together.
The press-your-luck mechanism with ratcheting rewards creates tension, and the variety of ways to fight the fire makes for interesting choices. The modular tile layout and fire cards bring high replay ability to the game, and the acrylic flame tokens provide an enticing table presence.