Wasteland Express Delivery Service is a pick up and delivery style board game. From publisher Pandasaurus Games, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world and takes around 2 hours to play. Designed by Jonathan Gilmour, Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle, the game sees 2 – 5 players revving their engines, modding their rides, avoiding crazy raiders and more. However, is this more Mad Max or Postman Pat? Let’s find out!
The game may normally take 2 hours to play but this probably won’t include the setup for the first play, with a mountain of tokens to punch and sort. The wasteland itself is constructed from 16 terrain octagons and 21 square location tiles. With rules for where a few specific locations must be placed, the map is mostly randomised. Players pick their character: taking standees, action gears and a player board accordingly – before placing their trucks on The Depot location in the wasteland.
At the beginning of a round each player gets their 5 action gear tokens, placing them in the available location on their player board. The starting player flips the top event card over – with everyone following the special rule for the round. Some of these are instant, such as everyone gain a resource, while others impact the entire round, like making deliveries payout more. Then, players take it in turns to spend an action token – until everyone has spent all 5. Actions can be moving, combat, various outpost actions, purchasing goods, occasionally bonus actions or, something important in a pick up and deliver game, to make a delivery.
The trick is that a lot of these combo with movement, which itself has momentum mechanics. When a player takes the movement action they put the action gear on the first stage of movement valued 3. They can then slide it to an appropriate action other than bonus. For instance, ending their movement on an outpost they may be able to make a delivery. Choose not to do this and the gear remains. If movement is taken the next turn they would be able to move 4 spaces – with tiles not having a consistent number of spaces. As momentum would work as soon as a player stops to do a different action momentum is lost. With subsequent movement turns starting back at 3.
Players main aim is to complete three priority first-class contracts or missions. To help them afford truck modifications, artifacts and more is the core of the game – a dynamic market. Three shop locations allow players to purchase resources. These shops are indicated by supply tokens that show the resource type and a cost. Whenever a player purchases there that token is removed and replaced randomly. When purchasing a player can buy as much of the resource type as they wish, multiplying the cost accordingly. Note, players can only store as many resources as they have specific types of storage on their trucks.
Once purchased players will want to drive across the wasteland to deliver the goods. While water, food and ammunition all have basic prices these are increased one step per demand marker. Therefore, ammunition which has a basic cost of 4 with 5 demand ammunition markers on the board is worth 9 scrap at any of the demanding locations. Like the supply markers, when a demand has been fulfilled it is removed and replaced. Whenever a demand token is removed the value of the associated resource drops, with whatever it is replaced with increasing. This is how the market fluctuates. So, buying and selling the resources at the right time is key to big profits.
Almost every outpost has an action that players can perform. While a number of these are unique there are a few main types. Some allow faction missions to be picked up, others a visit to the mod shop or temporary mod shop. The unique outposts are more interesting though. The Depot at the centre of the board – where players start the game – will remove all damage on a truck. Another, The Coffers, can be vital early game as it hands out 3 scrap – the currency of the game. It’s nice that some of these have unique things as it makes it important to traverse the wasteland.
Roaming the wasteland are 3 raider trucks. Whenever combat occurs, whether it is the player attacking to pillage or an ambush, dice enter play. Turning over the top Raider truck card reveals the number to match or beat, with two dice rolled by default. Success to an attack will see the trucks goods pillaged by the player, while success to an ambush only means you’ve dodged damage.
Thankfully, while there is a good chunk of the game where dice rolls will determine the outcome Wasteland Express Delivery Service comes with plenty of luck mitigation. It isn’t just combat either. Without a radiation shield passing through radiation areas also sees a die roll happen. Modding you truck to have gunners, which give you additional dice to roll, or radiation defenses, so you can safely pass through irradiated zones, certainly helps. There are also allies and more that players can acquire along the journey to help out.
One of the best parts of Wasteland Express Delivery Service is the mission deck. While one mission Blue Screen of Death remains the other two are randomised each time. Making the game feel extremely different each time, in one game players might be attempting to pillage an incredibly tanky opponent called Grand Lord Emperor Torque. In the next, they will risk driving across the wasteland with a nuke on their truck. Those are only the first-class contracts. The factions decks can then give players secret objectives. So, players never quite know what others are up to.
The way the raider trucks roam the wasteland make staying out in the open feel dangerous. Even if it is at the expensive of rolling a radiation check so you’re not nearby a raider it gives you breathing room. Not using all of the available movement to stop on a location rather than be in the wasteland, and vulnerable to ambushes, more often than not is the wise thing to do. It is impressive how only three trucks can do this but if gives the wasteland character.
Production quality is very high, as it is expected from a game with such a price tag. The minis for the trucks, the board tiles which perfectly fit together to create the randomized board, the large range of tokens and the decks of cards are all ideal. The only slight niggle are the stickers for on the side of the three raider trucks – used to distinguish them. Side on they are visible but at the wrong angle you cannot see which truck is which without weaving your head around and leaning across the board. It’s the one element that doesn’t feel as premium as the rest.
A lot of hype can be made over the inserts made by Game Trayz. Wasteland Express Delivery Service is one of the only games where this truly made setup easier. More importantly, during the game they mean the mod shop is well laid out and time isn’t wasted finding the right token in a pile. Tear down time is certainly increased as a result, you can spend a good 10 minutes putting the game away, but it is a worthwhile tradeoff.
On the table Wasteland Express Delivery Service looks a huge meaty game and to some extent it is. There are multiple factions, combat, an ominously large looking mod shop, with multiple choices to be made each turn. The rulebook is long, though only around half of it is rules – with a campaign detailed to link games together if you wish. This all builds the game up to sound incredibly complicated yet it isn’t. The thick rulebook is well laid out and easy to follow. Once in motion, a turn or two in, and every aspect becomes incredibly easy to follow. Even the large variety of mods is easy to handle. You’ll only slowly over time aquire mods so you don’t need to know them instantly, all allowing the game to be played, enjoyed and grow with players.
Wasteland Express Delivery Service is a surprisingly easy game to play, yet it provides choices, a thematic journey and sense of accomplishment. Despite competing with each other the wasteland gets players to cheer for each other when raiders ambush. It is also a game where you feel progression has come at a constant rate, even if you were furthest from winning. Players get a sense of being in the world, plus how much it and the raiders inhabiting it are against you. Everything in the box comes together to create what turns out to be a non-daunting incredible experience, and one that shall hit the table time and time again.
[Editor’s Note: Wasteland Express Delivery Service was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £70.99. It is also available from local board game stores, find your local store here]