Healthy Heart Hospital Review

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Healthy Heart Hospital is a game by Scott and Anna-Marie Nelson, published by Victory Point Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of physicians working to restore an ailing hospital to it’s former glory. Unfortunately the previous administrators really messed it up so it’ll take a lot of hard work and a bit of luck to get everything back to running smoothly again. Players will have to work together to juggle responsibilities and patients without becoming too greedy or hard hearted in the process if they want to be declared the winners.

To begin, the board should be placed in the middle of the play area. 5 bed tokens are randomly selected and placed in the appropriate ward. The token is placed on either the 2 or 3 side depending on which token was selected. Ward ability tokens are randomly distributed to each ward and placed on the space above each. The remaining tokens are placed to the side of the board within reach of all players. All the colored cubes are placed in a non see through container which will be referred to as the “cube cup”. Players choose 4 Doctors and an Administrator from the characters, either randomly or by choosing. These are then divided up as evenly as possible between players. The Ambulance deck is shuffled and the top 18 cards are dealt out to form a stack which is placed at the Draw Pile space on the board. The remaining cards are returned to the box. The training markers are placed face down on the appropriate space. 2 of them are then randomly flipped face up. The hiring markers are randomly placed on the Job Line with one marker per space. Each Doctor is given 2 Medical Action tokens. The Administrator is given the Chief of Hiring marker and an Administrative Action token. If a player has the Dr. Glass character they also receive an Administrative Action token. The 10 money marker is placed on the 00 box of the money area of the board. The 1 money marker is placed on the 5 box in the same area. The ten and one prestige markers are placed in their appropriate boxes on the prestige area of the board. The remaining bed tokens, O.R. markers and tombstone markers are placed to the side of the board within reach of all players, as are the remaining administrative and medical action tokens. The first player is chosen based on which doctor or administrator they have in alphabetical order. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round is divided into 3 phases; Ambulance Phase, Player Actions Phase and Housekeeping Phase. The first phase is the Ambulance Phase. In this phase several things happen in order. First off the top 2 Ambulance cards are revealed from the draw pile and are placed on the discard piles on the right and left sides of the Waiting Room area. These are called the Left and Right Triage entries on the board. If the players have a Security Guard Hiring marker in the Parking Lot area, one of the cards may be returned face down to the bottom of the draw pile and a new card drawn. The hiring marker is then returned to the front of the job line, more on this later. If the players are unable to draw a card, the game ends and the players lose.

The next thing that must be done is to draw cubes from the cube cup. Each ambulance card tells you how many cubes to draw. The cubes are then placed in the waiting room in the appropriately colored area starting with the number 1 by the chair of the same color and moving left. This is done for each side adding the appropriate cubes to that side of the waiting room spaces. If a black cube is drawn, it must be replaced with 2 more draws from the cup. If a fifth cube is added to a color and ther is no emergency room or space in the emergency room, that patient dies. It’s cubes are returned to the cup and a tombstone marker replaces it. There are special places designed to hold these dead patients, if there is nowhere to place the marker, the players lose.

The final part of this phase is to make the rounds. To do this the players check each patient in the wards by drawing a cube from the cube cup for each one. If the same color cube as the patient is drawn, their condition gets worse and they gain 1 illness level. If a black cube is drawn, two more cubes must be drawn for the patient. If a different colored cube is drawn, nothing happens. Once this has been done for each patient in a ward, we move on to the second phase.

The second phase is the Player Actions Phase. In this phase, players take turns performing a player turn. This can be done in any order chosen and until players either can not perform any more actions or choose not to. There are several actions to choose from and once a player performs an action, the appropriate medical or administrative action token is flipped over to the used side. Doctors can use their own available action tokens as well as any shared resource tokens or money. However shared tokens and money should be agreed upon by all players first before using. Their are actions for each type both medical and administrative. The medical only actions are to heal a patient and build or upgrade an area for which the Doctor has a discount. The Medical or Administrative actions are to transfer a patient or conduct research. The Administrative only actions are to build or upgrade any area, hire staff, assign staff or train a doctor. The Administrator’s special action allows an administrator to perform their special actions. I’ll now spend some time explaining the different actions.

Healing a patient is a medical only action. It’s done by using a medical action token to heal one patient. Of course multiple actions may be used to heal the same patient. To do this the player chooses a patient. If it’s in the operating room, the OR marker is flipped to it’s EKG side. The player then draws the specified amount of cubes from the cube cup as indicated on the board for the specific area of the hospital. Healing bonuses are added if possible. The player then checks the cubes drawn. If the cubes match the patient’s color, the illness level is reduced by 1. If the cube is black it increases the illness level by 1. Other colored cubes have no effect. A number of cubes may be returned to the cube cup equal to the total bonus used and the remainder of those cubes drawn are discarded. The player then collects $1 per illness level reduced times the patient value of the area that they were treated in. If the patient’s illness level is reduced to 0, they’re considered cured and are removed from the board. The hospital gains 1 prestige times the patient value of the area of the hospital that they were discarged from. If however the patient dies by gaining 5 points/cubes they are treated the same as was mentioned earlier about dead patients.

Transferring a patient is either a medical or administrative action. This is done by taking the cubes or bed token of a particular color and moving them to another suitable location, as long as their is an empty bed, chair or table in that area. The patient must have the correct color and illness level for the location. Cube patients may be turned into the corresponding bed token. However bed tokens may not be reverted to cubes.

Conducting research is also a medical or administrative action. Before this action can be taken, a Research lab must be built. Once this has been done, either basic or advanced research may be performed depending on if the Research Lab has been upgraded to a Research Center or not. Basic research allows the player to reveal a training marker in the training pool or to assign a revealed training marker to one of the doctors. They may choose their own doctor if so desired. Advanced research allows a player to do a comibination of 2 actions. Either of the previously listed basic research actions may be chosen. They also may choose to gain 1 prestige point instead.

Building or upgrading areas are both medical and administrative actions. Some areas my be built or upgraded for a medical only action by the Doctor whose card has a discount for that area. For example, Doctor Aorta the Cardioligist can get a discount to build the Cardiology area. Any area may be built or upgraded with an administrative action. The hopital only has 8 areas to build on which are on the outer portions of the board. There are 10 areas that may be chosen from. Previously built areas can be removed and replaced with new ones. Areas can be upgraded and flipped to the improved side which usually provides more places to hold patients. Half of the areas are simply operating rooms while the other half provide special abilities that will help assist the players. An administrative action may be used along with spending $10 to build a new area or upgrade one that’s already built. Once the area is built or improved, any prestige points that are shown on that side of the card are gained immediately.
Hiring Staff is an administrative action only. Using an administrative token and spending $5, an administrator may hire a face up hiring marker from the job line. Once hired some markers are placed on their respective places on the edge of the board while others are placed in the parking lot. A new administrative action must be used to reassign them. That brings us to assigning the parking lot staff. This is also an administrative action only. It takes an administrative token to place a hiring marker from the parking lot to another area of the hospital.

Training a doctor is an administrative action only. This can be done by spending $5 and an administrative action token. The player chooses a training marker from the training pool that is either revealed or unrevealed and assigns it to any doctor including their own.

The administrator special actions are only available to the chief administrator who uses the Chief of staff token to perform one of the two super administrative actions listed on their card. This chief of staff token may alternatively be used as an additional administrative action if the player chooses to not use one of their special actions.

After the player phase has been completed, the Housekeeping Phase finishes out the round. This phase cleans up and prepares everything for the next round of play. This is done by following the following tasks in order. First players check to see if certain office staff and/or doctor tokens, like the Chaplain or Chief Financial Officer, are in play and apply their benefits. Next the job line is updated by checking the hospital’s current prestige rating against the unreavealed tokens on the job line. Hiring markers are revealed that meet the prestige requirements. Next any patients in the Emergency Room die and must be dealt with. Patients in the Clinic, if it’s been built, get better by one cube. If the paitent is cured $1 is received per discharge. Discarded cubes are returned to the cube cup. Next all of the administrative and medical action tokens are flipped back to their available sides. Finally, the Operating Room markers are inspected. If it shows an EKG side, it’s flipped over to the Flatline side. If it’s showing the Flatline side, the illness level of the patient increases by 1. If the patient dies, just like any other time, the body must be dealt with. Once these tasks have been completed, a new round is ready to begin.

One thing should be noted about death when it comes to patients. Not only must the body be placed somewhere but a settlement cost must be paid as well. The cost is a prestige point and an amount of money equal to the newly placed tombstone marker’s location, multiplied by the patient value of the hospital area where they died. This gives both a cost in prestige and money that must be paid.

The game continues each round until either the players win or lose. If players find that there are no more Ambulance cards left to draw, they have won. The hospital’s final score is then calculated by adding prestige points with the amount of money divided by 2 and rounded down. If the hospital goes broke and there’s no more money, the players have lost and the hospital is closed down. Another outcome is if the players have no more places to hide their last dead patient. In this event, players neither win nor lose. Technically you can count it as a win but just barely. The players subtract an amount of prestige points equal to the number of tombstone markers that they accumulated during the game including the final one that could not be hidden. The final score is the amount of prestige points that remain. The scores tell the epilogue of the hospital’s story. Win, lose or draw.

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COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really interesting and unique looking pieces. First off there’s the board which is a bit thin but I’ve come to expect that from Victory Point so it’s not really an issue. The artwork on the board really draws you into the hospital theme of the game. There are several different types of cards which are really cool. The different room cards add to that hospital theme and are double sided for when you upgrade the area. The Ambulance cards give of a dangerous feel as they are bright red with the traditional red cross sign on both sides. You’ll feel nervous each time you flip over a new card thanks to the design. The Doctor and Administrator cards are beautiful. Each one of these has a really great looking person on them that give off a bit of a Pandemic meets a 1950’s advertisement look. I absolutely love these as they are probably my favorite part of the game. The game also includes a whole bunch of brightly colored cubes in 6 different colors. Granted you have to provide your own cup or container to draw these out of but it’s not a big deal honestly. For me I grab an old dice bag that’s not being used for anything and problem solved. There are lots of tokens for the game as well that come on a die cut sheet. These look really nice and are very unique. Many of them, like the tombstone, action tokens and bed tokens, look really great and really help get you into the theme of the game. I’ll warn you though, some tokens like the money and prestige tokens are very small and are a little bit difficult to get punched out properly from the sheet. All in all, I like the way each piece looks and the thematic feel when everything gets set up. I’m quite happy and think this is probably one of the best looking games that I’ve seen from Victory Point.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is really well designed and looks great too. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. The designers even included special little boxes scattered through the book to give you more information on concepts and ideas of the game. Everything is laid out really well from start to finish so that the ideas simply flow from one to the next. The different areas that can be built an upgraded are fleshed out a little more so as are the different administrator’s special abilities. The book also includes was to adjust the difficulty of the game to make it harder or easier as well as a variant that allows cubes to be removed from the discard pile and returned to the cup known as the Ordering Supplies variant. The back of the book has a handy reference guide that includes the step by step play sequence as well as hiring marker explanations and a illness level chart. Also part of this reference guide are references to what action tokens can be used to perform which actions. Everything in this book is easy to read and understand. I couldn’t find anything difficult at all. It’s extremely helpful and easy to find whatever you need inside. I’m very happy with it.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a great looking game that is rather fun to play. That said, the game is quite long. I mean REALLY long. After awhile you just get to the point where you’re ready for it to be over. Technically the game is designed to last about 9 rounds. Those rounds can last close to 2 hours especially if you’re really analyzing every move and thinking everything through like we tend to do. Look, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here. The game is really intriguing and very unique. I don’t mind pulling cubes from a cup or dice bag. That doesn’t bother me at all. Yes it’s random and a bit of luck is involved but then again sometimes life is random. I can say that for me I enjoyed the solo version quite well. It seemed to be a bit more difficult without others to express their thoughts and concerns. Sometimes you’ll miss something that could have kept you out of trouble. Needless to say, I’ve yet to win a solo game. As for the multiplayer games, those are much more enjoyable. Not that I’ve won those games either but it was more fun losing with more people involved. There’s really a lot to think about and sometimes you will second guess your decisions especially when the cube pull doesn’t work in your favor. Having the right selection of doctors in the beginning can be key. I found that if we had doctors that matched up with the patients in the beginning made it a bit easier to get rolling in the right direction. Of course later on when things start going bad, it doesn’t matter what you have. So yes, there is some strategy involved in this game. Planning each move and which doctor does what will be your salvation. This game is great for those people that love games like Pandemic or other co-op games of that nature. As I mentioned earlier, luck is involved here as well especially when it comes to cube pulls. If you don’t like that aspect of the game then this might not be the game for you. All in all, the game is thematic and fun but a bit of a brain burner. I enjoy it.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Healthy Heart Hospital is a medium weight game of pandemic proportions. The game is fairly long especially if you have players that tend to over analyze everything. Most sessions we played lasted close to 2 hours. The look of the game is very thematic and fun. I especially like the doctor and administrator cards which feel like and old 50’s advertisement. The game can be quite difficult to win. Add in the long play time and you might find yourself just wishing the game was over especially if you’re playing solo. With more players the game tends to be more enjoyable although the difficulty doesn’t decrease unless you play with one of the variants. I find that the game is a bit of a brain burner. You’ll definitely want other player’s advise and thoughts when playing. As a co-op, the game works rather well. Fans of games like Pandemic should enjoy it. This is not a game for every one. If the theme and idea of pulling cubes from a cup or bag don’t interest you, then neither will this game. As for me, I enjoyed, more so with other players than solo. That said, the solo game does have it’s merits and can be an intriguing puzzle for those players looking for a challenge. I would recommend giving it a chance especially if Pandemic has gotten a bit stale for you.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Victory Point Games at their site.

http://www.victorypointgames.com/

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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