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Hot Pot Havoc

Designed by Steve Ng Wen Xi and published by Mercat Games, Hot Pot Havoc is a card game for 2-5 people where players will use quick hands and quicker wits to make and eat the perfect hotpot. With the best-constructed hotpot earning the most points, just be careful not to overeat!

Played over four rounds players will start by selecting a sauce card and bowl. Each bowl will have different requirements and score a differing amount of points, with some bowls being easier and quicker to fill than others. Each sauce will require its own unique set of ingredients.

When everyone is ready the round begins and players will flip their ingredient cards over one at a time deciding as they go if they would like to use the ingredient or discard it. Ingredients you use go into your bowl to score you points at the end of the round, those you discard go into the communal pot in the centre of the table. These are then free for anyone else to take. Everyone plays simultaneously and keeps going until one player decides to stop. As each player finishes they take one of the ability card rewards, these give points or abilities. Once the second to last player has taken an ability card the round it over.

Everyone tots up their points from their bowl, sauce and ability cards. Play continues for three more rounds with the win going to the player with the highest score at the end of four rounds.

Hot Pot Havoc is a simple game that combines some manual dexterity with mental maths and thinking on the fly. It is chaotic and fast paced and we found it took several rounds before players were accustomed to the cards and symbols. Those players who picked it up more quickly, or had faster reactions (the younger players amongst us!) rapidly out-scored everyone else. This evened out after a few rounds of play but we felt that the game would benefit from larger cards printed on thicker stock. The cards are good quality and the artwork is charming but everything is very small, which can lead to some frustration during play with people struggling to pick up cards in time. Larger cards would also make everything easier to read at a glance and smooth out the learning curve.

There is an interesting tension in the game, as everyone is racing to get the right cards, with the highest value into their bowls without over-filling the bowl and suffering penalties. So whilst everyone is moving quickly they are also adding up the points and food values, checking the sauce card, bowl card and communal ingredient pot. You need to ensure that your speed isn't at the expense of your accuracy.

Hot Pot Havoc is a good little game, neatly packaged in a small box, making it ideal to take whilst travelling. It is family friendly and its rapid style of play will certainly appeal to younger players. There's good replay value, with a wide range of sauces and bowl cards to choose from, and the game can be taught quickly.

(Review by Toby Hicks)

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