We’re Losing Him! – Race the Clock to Save Lives in ‘Paramedics: Clear!’

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Paramedics Box

“It’s going to be a long night in the city tonight, rookie. Full moon, bad weather, and two trucks are down for mechanical problems so we’re understaffed. Just follow my lead–take care of the Criticals first, stabilize the non-crits, and keep the cabinets organized and stocked, got it? If time permits, try to put a few key items within easy reach, but otherwise stay calm and let’s try not to lose anyone tonight.”

*** ALARM *** “Rescue Squad, confirm and depart!”

“Respond to that rookie!”

“Rescue 53… responding!”

“Alright, let’s go save some lives….”

What Is Paramedics: Clear!?

Paramedics: Clear! is a fast-paced game for 1-4 players from Smirk & Dagger. Players are tasked with stabilizing and saving the lives of numerous accident victims over three rounds of pulse-pounding pressure. A real-time clock is ticking (via a free companion app for iPhone and Android) that keeps the pressure mounting as you try to obtain supplies to stabilize your passengers and get them to the hospital. Too slow or make a mistake, and you should plan to stop at the morgue instead.

A typical game will last around 20 minutes for two players and up to 40 minutes for four players. Rules are provided for solo play (10-minute play time), and the recommended age for the game is 14+.

Paramedics: Clear! Components

Included in the box (11″×8″×2″ with internal tray organizer) are the following components:

  • 4x Ambulance Player Mats
  • 64x Patient Cards
  • 82x Supply Cards (13 of each in Yellow, Purple, Orange, Red, Blue, and Green PLUS 4 Wild)
  • 1x First Player Token
  • 4x Sets of Upgrade Tokens (2x Extra Cabinet, 1x Medevac, 1x Hand Upgrade) – 16x Tokens Total
  • 4x Sets of 18 Medical Supply Tokens (2x Blood, 2x Syringe, 2x Oxygen, 4x Meds, 4x Bandage, 4x Cast)
  • Spare Medical Supply Tokens
Player Mat
Paramedics: Clear! Player Mat

The Ambulance Player Mats are where all the action occurs. These full-color mats are printed on heavy-duty cards. Graphics are bright, text is sharp, and all relevant play locations and tools are easy to spot and understand. The colors for the Supply Cards are vivid and easy to distinguish, but for those who have difficulty with colors, the graphics on each color card are distinct by the use of different emblems on the cases.

The Medical Supply tokens are small and round, with a single image (no text). These images match exactly the images found on the Patient Cards. The Patient Cards show the required medical supplies running down the left side of the card, with the points (Hearts) and losses (Toe Tag) situated beneath some (sometimes) humorous flavor text and graphic of the accident in question.The Patient Cards are also divided between Critical (red border) and non-crit (gray border).

How to Play Paramedics: Clear!

Objective

Over three rounds, you’ll be competing against yourself (solo) or other players to save the lives of as many accident victims as possible. Each round is timed, with the first round providing 60 seconds, the second round providing 45 seconds, and the third round providing only 30 seconds. At the end of the game, the player with the most points (obtained by successfully delivering stabilized patients to the hospital for points and then subtracting points for those unfortunate victims heading to the morgue) wins. Winning a game will require careful attention to resources (medical supplies and supply cards) as well as smart triage skills (choosing the right victims to take versus handing off to other drivers) and time management.

Paramedics 1
Gary Kagan (center) teaching Paramedics: Clear!

Setup

All players will begin the game with an equal number of Medical Supply Tokens. These are placed along the top of the player mat in an organized manner in the box with the matching label. All players are dealt five random Supply cards (the cards can be displayed or kept hidden) and four Upgrade Tokens are placed to the right of the mat (but not on the mat). Finally, each player will draw two random Patient Cards; one is placed face-up on the Main Gurney area of the mat, and the other card is placed face-down on the Back-Up Gurney of the player to their left. Two medical supplies (player’s choice) can be placed immediately, one in each of the available Medical Cabinets. (Players start with two Medical Cabinets and can purchase an additional two cabinets during the game.) The Supply Deck is placed in reach of all players, with five cards drawn and placed in the Supply Row. An extra five cards are drawn and set aside (facedown) as the Reserve Deck.

You’ll also need to install and launch the Paramedics: Clear! app from either the Apple iOS AppStore or GooglePlay.

Your Turn

There are three basic tasks going on during a player’s turn:

  1. Obtain supplies to stabilize non-critical patients or to immediately treat Critical patients and deliver them to the hospital during the time limit set by the phone app. This is done by “purchasing” supplies using the specified number of colored cards displayed beneath each supply type.
  2. Purchase additional Upgrades by placing identical-color cards on the Upgrade Card slot on the mat and purchasing Extra Cabinets, a Medevac, or a six-card hand when the proper number of cards is obtained.
  3. Keep the Main Gurney filled with a patient at all times. At any time when a player’s Main Gurney is empty, the player must draw two cards and select one to place in the Main Gurney. The second card can be placed face-down in any open Back-Up Gurney on another player’s mat, otherwise, it is discarded.

During a player’s turn, the app is counting down, with an audible BEEP-BEEP to indicate the patient is alive. Three shifts occur with the time limit reduced each round–60 seconds, then 45 seconds, and then 30 seconds. Each player can have up to two patients (Main Gurney and Back-Up Gurney) to treat and attempt to deliver to the hospital. Critical patients MUST be taken to the hospital if they are selected or discovered (in the Back-Up Gurney slot).

Paramedics 2
James (top left) just lost a patient and is headed to the morgue.

Each player’s mat has a different color card combination to purchase supplies. One player might need two blue cards to buy blood while another player will need two orange. Two supplies (Blood and Syringe) require two cards of the same color, one supply (Meds) requires only one card of a specific color, and two supplies (Bandage and Cast) require only one card from two possible colors. Each player can “purchase” supplies from the five cards in their hand, but a player may also trade one-for-one cards from the five card Supply on the table. There are four Wild cards in the Supply that can represent any color card, but you must trade two cards (any color) from your hand to pick up a Wild from the Supply. If a card you need isn’t available from your hand or Supply, your last ditch effort is to ask for assistance–you must offer two cards to another player for the one you need, and players are NOT required to take the trade… but doing so can put up to six cards in their hand instead of the standard five.

Non-critical patients (on either Gurney) can be stabilized by placing a single supply item (blood, for example) and then tipping the card at an angle. Once all patients are sustained, the player yells “CLEAR!” and then taps the screen to stop the timer. Another tap of the screen will start the next player’s round; anyone can tap the screen to keep the pressure on the next player, but the player who just ended his/her turn must do Clean-Up–tidying up the supply cards (making certain only five are available, discarding a sixth if it exists).

Don’t forget Upgrades! Each medical cabinet you have (you start with two) allows you to “purchase” and store a single supply item during your turn. Once you’ve got all patients stabilized, if time permits, you’ll want to stock your cabinets or place cards of a single color in the Upgrade Cards slot on your mat. Up to two Extra Cabinets can be purchased (cost: 2 cards). Players will always draw back up to five cards when their turn ends, but if you buy the 6-Card Hand upgrade (cost: 5 cards, same color) you can draw up to six for the rest of the game. Finally, the Medevac (cost: 4 cards) will allow you to immediately move a patient to the hospital; the Medevac token is a single-use token and goes away but can be purchased again and again.

Keep in mind that when your Main Gurney is empty (a patient goes to the hospital), you must immediately draw two cards and fill it again. This means you’ll have to stabilize a non-crit patient before your turn ends (before the timer ends) or deliver a Critical patient to the hospital and draw AGAIN! Timing is everything here–a well-timed use of the Medevac can deliver a patient to the hospital, giving you points, and allow you to refill your Main Gurney with another patient and potentially more points. Be sure to shout “Clear!” and stop the timer. While another player is taking his/her turn, be sure to tidy up your supply area by moving the various tokens into their proper columns and draw up to your max card size and plan your next turn.

Why You Should Play Paramedics: Clear!

I played this game a number of times at Gen Con 50 (and it was the second game I purchased right after playing). Game designer Gary Kagan was manning the Smirk & Dagger booth and showing visitors how to play. I could not stop grinning while I was playing, even as the timer was getting close to zero. The pressure of the timer really makes the game enjoyable for me, and my wife and children have enjoyed the high-stakes game, too. (Gary also came for a visit to the Game with GeekDads on Thursday night and taught a number of new players how to play–much appreciated, Gary!)

My boys love their video games, and just having this small timer on my phone was enough to grab their attention; all it took was one play for them to be hooked. I think boardgames that incorporate our mobile devices are great as long as they don’t become the main point of the game. One nice bit about the timer, however, is that any player can start it up and put the pressure on the current player… and the reduction in time per shift really adds to the fun. When the time limit hits 30 seconds per player turn, you’ll really start to see who can handle themselves well under pressure!

As I continue to play the game, I’ve discovered a number of different strategies that I use depending on who I’m playing AND the shift being played; my game becomes super-heavy on using the Medevac during Shift 2, but I move to sabotaging the other players during Shift 3 by trying to hit them with Patient Cards requiring the most supplies.

Why should you play? It’s just plain fun. The high-pressure gameplay may not be for everyone, but there’s a good mix of resource management mixed in with the card play and that constantly beeping app. I’ve been enjoying introducing this game to new player after new player, and I cannot recommend it enough. And if you’re playing against an experienced player, the rules offer up some variants that will make the game a bit more fair that involves putting only them on 45 or 30 second turns or disallowing trades with them. Four players can also divide up into teams and take cards from each other’s Upgrade pile. Solo players can test their skills against the designer’s score-based rating system (I’m currently EMT Intermediate with 31 points total, and that 40+ Paramedic Specialist rating just keeps taunting me!)

Note: You can find out more details about Paramedics: Clear! at the official website–smirkanddagger.com/paramedics. I’d like to thank Gary Kagan for demoing the game at the Game with GeekDads event, and for taking the time to talk to me about the game’s design and share some strategies.

Click here to see all our tabletop game reviews.

Disclosure: James purchased a copy of this game at Gen Con 50.

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