Do You Dare to Brave the Wasteland?
As the years have gone by, and my game shelves have become less spacious, I have noticed that I have become far more selective about the games that get added to my collection. A couple of months ago I decided to peruse the game store. Ten years ago, this would mean that I’d be going home with at least one game, likely two or more, yet it is now rare that I find something that stands out to me. On this particular occasion, high on the top shelf, I found a game that looked like it might just be worth the risk of purchasing and filling up more of my precious shelf space. I brought it home and convinced my wife to sit down and learn the game with me. This gem that I found was Wasteland Express Delivery Service published by Pandasaurus Games. I have found that themes have become more important to me, and though a post-apocalyptic world isn’t necessarily my favorite theme, it was so well implemented with this game that it really struck home for me.
In Wasteland Express Delivery Service, you are a character in a world where three different factions run the show, that is, if you don’t count the raiders. The Archivists are obsessed with how the world used to be and want to return it to its former glory. They are fixated on finding tech from the ancient times, and they also mint the $crap that is used as currency throughout the wasteland. The Oracles of Ceres are religious zealots that blame mankind for the state of things. They worship the earth and make continuous sacrifices in the hope that mother nature will again allow plants to grow, and water to run. The New Republic Army is a military group that used to patrol the Wasteland, but ever since they lost the war with the raiders at the Battle of Silo 42, they have pulled their “freedom patrols” back into the cities, leaving the folks in the wasteland to fend for themselves.
Then there are the Raiders. They used to be united, led by Grand Lord Emperor Torque, but since his timely demise, they have split into four different enclaves: The Railmen, The Eyeless, Nien Nien, and Bonesaw. They constantly patrol the wasteland, preying on innocent travelers and the occasional delivery driver. That is where the players come in. Each player will play as one of six drivers that works for the Wasteland Delivery Service, each with a unique back story and an asymmetrical starting setup/ability. These drivers are the only people that connect the settlements to each other since very few are willing to brave the raider infested and radioactive wasteland. Each player will have their own rig which they will upgrade throughout the game. Each truck has a limited number of upgrade slots. These are where players can add additional cargo compartments for food, water, and weapons that need to be delivered to meet the demands of each of the outposts and settlements throughout the wasteland. Rigs can also be upgraded with machine guns, gunners, sleeper cabs for more space for allies, turbos to increase speed, a radiation shield, a broker, and even a nuclear vault. If players run out of space for their upgrades, they also have the option to add up to two trailers, adding four additional upgrade slots each.
Wasteland Express Delivery Service uses a simple market to determine the value of goods. During setup, the market is set based on the number of demand tokens on the board for each type of cargo. The players gain cargo by visiting different outposts that sell goods, or by giving the raiders a taste of their own medicine, raiding their trucks that are traveling around the gameboard. Battles with the raiders have also been implemented in a fun and easy way. Each player starts the game with two combat dice. Each face of the six-sided die has hit icons ranging from zero to three. Additional dice can be gained by adding gunners to your truck. Machine guns give you one automatic hit for each one added to an upgrade slot. When a battle occurs, the player will flip the top card from either the Raider Truck deck or the Raider Enclave deck. The player will then roll their dice, count the hits, adding any extras from machine guns they may have, and compare that number to the strength value on the raider card. If the number of hits is equal to or greater than this value, then the player wins the battle. In the case of raider truck battles, the player will then gain the cargo tokens that are in the raider truck miniature on the game board. The truck is then refilled with new cargo as indicated on the raider truck card. If a player attacks a raider enclave and wins, they will gain the cargo indicated on the raider enclave card. If a player loses the battle, then they must add a damage token to their truck, which will be placed in an upgrade slot. This could potentially cover up an upgrade and make it unavailable to use until it is repaired.
The goal of the game is to complete three “priority first class” contracts. During setup, three public contracts are placed on the table (two are random). All of these are considered “priority first class” contracts and can be completed by each of the players. There are also private contracts in the game that are related to one of the three factions in the wasteland. Some of these contracts are also “priority first class” contracts, though most are not. Contract requirements range from performing simple deliveries, buying a digger upgrade, and going out to dig for treasure on the different map tiles, to stealing a nuke from one of the raider enclaves in order to deliver it to one of the other rival enclaves. Once a player completes their third “priority first class” contract, the game ends and they win the game.
On each player’s turn they will place one of their five gear tokens over one of the action spaces on their player board. The gear tokens remain until the end of the round (after each player has had five turns). This will lock certain actions from being taken again in the round, so careful plans must be made to properly manage your actions to ensure that they are timed properly. Once the last player takes their fifth action, all players move their gears back to the “available” space, the starting player now shifts to the left of the previous starting player and a new round begins. Play continues in this way until someone wins.
The theme is so rich and well done in this game. For me, it is one of the rare games that while playing, it becomes more about the experience rather than the win. Of course, you still want to win, but the journey, win or lose, makes this one of the more enjoyable games I’ve played in a while. The artwork is unique but is very appropriate for the theme. The action selection mechanic is interesting and adds depth. Most of the components are good quality, but I would have loved to have had metal $crap tokens for the currency. The cardboard pieces have a great design and art and had they actually been metal for the “$crap metal” coins, I think it would have taken this game to the next level thematically. Overall, Wasteland Express Delivery Service is a fun game with exciting game play, nice components, good artwork, and an extremely immersive theme. It is not overly complex to be too much for the casual gamer yet has enough depth and flavor to draw in the serious gamer as well. It is one I would highly recommend and have greatly enjoyed having it in my collection and bringing it to the table.