Right out of the gate I need to say I’ve never seen a more organized game than Wasteland Express Delivery Service. The box that this game came in had a very specific system of trays in which everything fit into, and I was so thankful to have that, because this game had more pieces than I knew what to do with. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, and whenever I get a big-box game I know I’m in for a few hours of both fun and heavy reading. That being said, I had no clue what to expect when I cracked open the box and saw everything this game had to offer. I got my friend Tony to come down to Watchtower Cafe in Salt Lake City with me to tackle the gigantic game from Pandasaurus Games for this review.
Wasteland Express Delivery Service is a game set in a Max Max-like post-apocalyptic world where there is nuclear fallout and civilization is now rebuilt itself into a weird system of outposts and crater-filled deserts. You take on the role of a delivery service driver who ships goods and other items from town to town, all while trying not to die. The goal of the game is to complete three priority missions, which are marked on several cards with what looks like a passport stamp. There are several ways to accomplish this, but there are also several ways to fail.
Each character has a specific truck with specific cargo and holding areas. Some come with guns and shielding automatically, others have extra bed space for allies and storage for specific items. Each round is divided up into five phases, indicated by gray cogs on your character sheet. You will use these to move, pillage, engage in combat, deliver shipments, purchase items, interact with outposts and other necessary functions. Bare with us as we’re boiling down the game to its bare bones because there is a lot to take in that we’re not covering and wouldn’t translate well unless you play the game.
You do missions by interacting with different factions in the game, such as the New Republic Army, The Oracles Of Ceres, or The Archivists. Missions range from purchasing water (at whatever the market price may be in an area) and delivering it to a specific outpost. Others will take you on a vision quest where you’ll have to complete three specific items, or attack a truck of raiders for their goods, or carry a nuke in your truck from one side of the board to the other. Completing these missions will earn you scrap, which is the game’s currency, for you to use in building up your truck or buying more supplies and goods to ship around. A lot of the game will be based on how you choose to play as an individual and whether you’re more attack crazy or mission obsessed.
The board is laid out in a 4×4 grid of octagons, all shuffled and random in placement at the start. The square in between each one are randomly placed towns where you can draw cards, buy supplies, visit the Mod Shop to upgrade your car, the Depot to repair it, and other side missions. Some of the squares are covered in radiation, which you’ll roll to determine if you take damage to your truck. Other have raider trucks on them where you’ll be attacked if you enter their area. You’ll be doing a lot of planning to get across the board and figure out how you’ll be able to complete missions you’re given.
In a standard game, the round kicks off with an Event card, which will have an overall effect on the board in some fashion that could either help or hinder your progress. Each player will take a turn using one gear to make a single action. The plays going clockwise until everyone is out of gears, then it goes to the next player. When you move on squares, some of them will have a red, green, or blue marker that corresponds with a raider truck. If you end a turn on one of these, you can move that specific truck one space in any direction except diagonally. If you move it onto a square with an opponent on it, they then have to roll an engagement die to see if they take damage.
Attacking these raider trucks can be both painful and fulfilling. Each one is carrying two items in the back (depending on the Raider card you drew) ranging from food (green), water (blue), and bullets (black). If you decide to attack a truck, you draw a card to see the raider’s strength, let’s say for example it’s 5. You then roll the amount of attack dice equal to the weapons and armament on your truck and must meet or beat that number. If you win you get the items in the truck, if you lose you take damage and possibly ruin an area of your cargo hold. It’s a risky venture, but it pays off well if the dice are in your favor.
One of the biggest pains in the game is completing the three priority missions to win the game. You’re given three right off the bat which will lay on one side of the table for everyone to complete. Once you complete it, you place one of your figures on it as a sign you have finished it, as seen below. You can also do this for priority cards you draw if you manage to complete them as well. Often times you’ll need to do specific events in a specific order to complete it. For example: one card had me buy bullets, then donate the bullets free of charge to a specific town, then dash across the board to donate eight pieces of scrap to another town to get the priority win.
There’s an equal amount of strategy and luck to the game, which is fine by me since it makes things chaotic and unbalanced with no way to predict a winner. However, two familiar tropes will come up in this game that you see in several games of this fashion. There will always be one player who is flush with money, and there will be another player who is always taking damage and can’t do anything. We experienced both in our playthroughs very quickly, and there’s no way to counter-balance it unless you manage to get something awesome through luck of the draw or roll. But ultimately, the game is very even handed when it comes to finishing goals and winning the game, so even if you’re on top of the world for most of it, that doesn’t mean automatic victory.
Wasteland Express Delivery Service is an awesome game, and it works well for two players, but it definitely needs to be played by five. It was easy for both myself and Tony to rack up wins against each other, but in a multiplayer game there would be too much unpredictability to know who would win, and that makes it all the more interesting. It is a bit pricey sitting around $80, but the way it is set up and the way everything packages together, married with how fun the game turned out to be, you’re actually getting your money’s worth. If you’re a fan of games like Scythe, this is going to be right up your alley.