Yesterday I was introduced to Wasteland Express Delivery Service, a board game that fans of Borderlands and Mad Max will love. Even the instructions have a flair of Borderlands charm with world-building elements like the history of the wasteland, and an introduction that I can’t help but read in Marcus Kincaid’s voice:
I’m s’posed to be explainin’ to you how we got here. So I’ll keep it short. World went to shit. Some say there was a great war that ended everything. That we ran out of water and the land stopped growin’ stuff, so we fought over what was left… What’s done is done, and it’s down to us to play the hand we’re dealt.
In the game, players take the role of drivers in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and must travel across the wastelands making deliveries of cargo, fighting raiders, and working towards the completion of missions in order to score a victory. Though there are three main contracts to fulfil for a win, each end of round also triggers an event that can inspire players to make a change in strategy. Job cards are also available to each player at the beginning of the game, and optionally throughout, offering structure and a clear direction for what could easily be an overwhelming experience with such a complicated map.
There are a few game mechanics that I’ve never seen in board games before that really excited me. Firstly, the concept of momentum when it came to movement – if you do more than one movement action consecutively, then your truck builds momentum and you pick up an extra space in speed per turn. Another element I enjoyed was the market system. The price of goods would fluctuate constantly, responding to how the board itself developed through player’s choices. These small details all added to how immersive an experience Wasteland Express was – I really felt like I could be trucking across the deserts of Borderlands’ Pandora, dodging raiders, buying and selling goods.
What adds to it even further is the fact it comes with so many pieces. Players can access a mod shop throughout the game to give their truck some upgrades, which include adding a machine gun (+1 to rolls), or providing your truck with a sleeper cab so you can house some allies to accompany you along the way. If the amount of content didn’t justify its price tag enough, the sheer number of pieces surely will.
My first playthrough took around two and a half hours, including a number of pauses while I clarified rules. I didn’t come anywhere close to winning, but I loved every minute of it regardless. I can only offer the weakest of criticisms by saying that I felt the stickers on the sides of the raider trucks seemed a little tacky – when everything else had been so well designed, it felt like an element that had been overlooked. Otherwise, everything looks and feels great, and the pieces are packaged beautifully in layers of trays. I found it refreshing to play something post-apocalyptic that didn’t feature zombies, and I honestly can’t wait for an opportunity to play this again.