Striking a Bargain Among the Raiders - A Review of Wasteland Express Delivery Service

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On Sunday morning, I got up early to play a board game with my friend Jon. Jon introduced me to the amazing game Lisboa a couple months ago. We had met up at an afternoon, end-of-school-year party on Saturday and realized that we both had free time the following morning. Jon suggested 8 am, which I agreed to, though immediately regretted it since I have a tendency to stay up late watching 5min segments of a dozen different movies on Netflix on Saturday nights. It's kinda become my thing lately.

When I arrived bright and early (and only 10min late), I saw a beautiful (and new) collection of boards, die, tabs and buttons organized on his table. It's hard to explain how much like a giddy 12yr old I feel when I walk in and see a whole board game ecosystem and the knowledge that someone will explain it to me. It’s so fantastic because it is so unusual. We’re adults, no one explains anything to us. From assembling furniture to doing your taxes to investing in the stock market, instruction is either non-existent or only offered for actual money. There are entire realms of subjects (music composition, social media, film editing hacks, etc.) that I would love to get just a 45min practical tutorial by looking over the shoulder of an adept. Please show me the five techniques you use to gain Twitter followers. Please show me how you craft the basics of a song or store your film clips so you can edit faster. 

With board games, Jon is exactly that kind of person. He already knows the game fairly well, so he'll explain the basics in 10min. Then the game starts. As things get moving, he will answer questions or provide suggestions as we go. Somewhere half-way through, things will begin to click. Also, Jon seems to enjoy what is often called Eurogames or designer games, which are less aggressive in nature than playing chess or go. Even if you lose, you won’t lose fast. There will be plenty of opportunities to make progress. 

This time, we were playing a game called Wasteland Express Delivery Service. In the game, Jon and I are competing couriers each with a truck that travels the burnt out deserts of an apocalyptic society. My truck can carry a variety of items (food, water, weapons, etc.) and I'm in a constant process of moving from one trading post to another, completing jobs for various factions. To win I must complete at least three extended projects while avoiding damage, rampaging war machines and radioactive fallout. The skill is in how well I can use the various resources. The more “mods" I put on my vehicle, the more damage I can do, the more fights I can win, the more cargo I can carry. However, I have to remember that there is a purpose for being here. I'm trying to win and selling resources and running jobs are how I’m going to do it. However, we both know that Jon will win this game, and probably the next several games. But, that’s okay, since it's both engaging and complex and I enjoy the gameplay even if I know I’m going to lose.  

The design of the board is beautiful with various pieces and tokens that all feel “right" for a world that just might use blood-soaked washers for money and tiny gears for game tokens. The game is fun, varied, and intellectually challenging enough that I wanted it to keep going, just for the thrill of pretending to be a marauding swashbuckler while drinking my coffee. Jon won handily in just over an hour, completing his three goals while I was still trying to figure out how to move around. However, I am proud that I was able to rampage one enemy encampment even if it took too long to hire a gunner, and I probably shouldn’t have double-crossed the Oracles of Ceres with the shipment of weapons. But, there are worse ways to spend a beautiful Sunday morning than fighting a monster raider truck among nuclear fallout while your friend corners the market for water at New Chernobyl.