Today, we will be playing Wasteland Express Delivery Service...
* opens Box *
Correction. Today, we will be punching out Wasteland Express Delivery Service.
Welcome to Discount Dive, where I review games that I have found discounted and “on the cut.” This episode is a bit different. I have games like Firefly: The Game and Black Fleet in my collection and wasn't actively searching for another Pick up and Deliver. However, when I stumbled across Wasteland Express Delivery Service for a mere $35.00, I didn't hesitate to pick it up. The price I paid has no bearing on the rating I am giving it, but since it was key to it ending up in my collection, I would be negligent if I didn't mention it.
While the punching and organizing is a one-time multi-hour chore, you need to put together the modular board with every play. If I lose whatever currency geek cred is paid in because I don't want to spend a good twenty minutes of my game night playtime setting it up, so be it. The quality of the modular board is good, I have no issues with pieces moving or easily becoming dislodged when set up on a proper game mat. I just would have preferred a traditional game board or an A/B double sided board for variety. I would be willing to swap the possibly of a player memorizing the optimal paths to various areas to save those precious game night minutes for actually playing the game.
Once you do have everything punched, you'll really appreciate the included Game Trayz insert. To say it is nice would be a severe understatement but to say that it is required is “The Truth.” I don't want to even imagine the chaos if all of the various chits and bits had to be separated into baggies and lined up for each game. Hats off to Game Trayz, you are the real hero here.
I went into the game expecting Mad Max references, but ended up with Smokey and the Bandit (Now I'm required to hum “East bound and down” every time I head to the right side of the board). Since everyone is driving big rigs here, I guess it is more Rubber Duck than Ayatollah of Rock n' rolla. (Edit: Okay, to be fair, the enemy Grand Lord Emperor Torque is totally from Road Warrior). The starting asymmetrical powers are good in a “I want all of those” way. The selection of female drivers is limited to one choice, which I found disappointing (And how does a Foxy Brown clone fit into this?). Interestingly, some players tend to gravitate more toward the rigs than the actual characters, so, maybe it is a non-issue.
You won't find a simple “Have the most money” win condition, instead you will be racing to be the first to complete the three “priority first class contracts.” Three community goals are revealed at the beginning of the game but there is a nice twist that you are not tied specifically to these goals, you can “back door” other first class contracts by using faction quests that are only available to the player who drew them. This isn't a short game time-wise but the pacing means it never drags. You always feel like you are making progress, loading up on resources and weapons, getting that proper ratio of might versus freight on your rig. Even during a couple of three hour learning games, it was a refreshing “Where did the time go?” situation. One thing that really stands out is that when you add more players, you don't add a ton of extra time to the session. Decisions are simple enough that you don't have a mass of Concentration Constipation moments, so a four player game is only moderately longer than a two player game, instead of doubling the game time as other games can.
You never directly attack other players, interactions are mostly limited to flipping them the bird as you cruise by or using said middle finger to direct a hostile clan toward their location. Combat with the various NPC clans is a double edged sword, they can ambush you or you can turn the tables and attack them and steal a resource. Combat is resolved quickly with a single roll of a fistful of dice with any rig modifiers added in.
Players take turns placing their action markers on their individual dashboards. You use the dashboards to Move, Attack, Purchase, Deliver, Activate and take a bonus action. With the exception of some slight initial confusion regarding the difference between a Activate and Deliver/Purchase, it's all extremely intuitive. The majority of actions you take will be movement and I love the momentum aspect. You'll be ripping through the upper gears of your rig and putting it up on 9 of it's 18 wheels because each moment you take without interrupting it with a non-movement action allows you to go faster and farther.
I do have a few small niggles with the game. The standees are a bit large and can block board and card text when they are placed. There is an included scenario based campaign mode but I guess I was hoping for more of a “Legacy” Scenario. Going back to your default truck and equipment after each scenario just felt counter intuitive. And, whoops, looks like (redacted), the character I played though the first 7 missions of the campaign, isn't available to play in the final showdown. Not cool, bro.
Plenty of variants are included in the rule book. I personally think the Event Cards are cool, especially since they affect all players equally. Sometimes, you'll have to shift gears (har, har) from delivering to combat after the bottom falls out of the market on traded goods because of a card that is drawn for that round. But, if you aren't fond of the events, they tell you how to play without them. Another variant adds player vs. player combat for those looking for more player “interaction.”
Wasteland Express Delivery Service hits on all cylinders. It balances depth and smoothness skillfully, the art style is eye catching (Is “bleak and bright” a thing?) and it's table presence is undeniable. It crashes game night like the semis it portrays: This reviewer saw it all real clear, it never hit the brakes and it was shifting gears.