The wasteland is a deranged and dangerous place, full of raiders and bizarre characters at every turn. As an employee of the Wasteland Express Delivery Service though, your truck is all you need to navigate its perils and even earn a buck or two along the way.
Wasteland Express Delivery Service is the latest title from Pandasaurus Games and made a huge splash at Gen Con this year in Indianapolis. Up to five players operate Mad Max-inspired trucks, hauling goods between settlements and completing contracts to win. Understanding the supply-and-demand needs of the citizens is important — as the market value of food, water or ammo fluctuates, so do the priorities of truckers and their precious cargo space.
With its colorful box oozing personality from every angle, curious attendees flocked to the publisher’s booth to catch a glimpse of the trucking action.
Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle had originally designed the game with a space-faring Vikings theme. But the duo sought input and began collaborating on the project with Jonathan Gilmour of Dead of Winter fame, who had a very different idea.
“One of the things I try to do when I design is make sure the actions really try to match the experience you’re trying to get the player to feel,” Gilmour said. “So as soon as I started looking at the actions and the map, I thought this totally feels like a trucking game in the post-apocalypse.”
From top to bottom, Wasteland Express features some of the most amazing art I’ve ever seen in a game board. Pandasaurus co-owner Nathan McNair envisioned something with a similar art style to DMZ, one of his favorite comic books. He was able to leverage existing relationships in the comic book industry to hire DMZ’s artist, Riccardo Burchielli.
“I asked my friend, ‘Hey, you’re a comic guy who works for a comic company, who do you have that can hit this style? Specifically, who looks like Riccardo’s style?’” said McNair. “He comes back to me with, ‘You want Riccardo? He’s free right now.’ We couldn’t believe it.”
One of my favorite mechanics in Wasteland Express is how it handles movement and momentum. Massive trucks take time to build up speed, and the game reflects this by initially capping movement to only a few spaces. However, each turn that a player continues moving, the truck’s movement increases by one, up to a specified maximum. Plotting routes in advance can help maximize efficiency so that momentum isn’t wasted.
In addition to dealing with the demands of settlements, raiders also roam the wasteland and can ruin any trucker’s day. Combat in Wasteland Express is very simple — players roll two dice and compare any hit results to the raider’s combat card. If it equals or exceeds their combat value, the player wins and pillages any cargo the raider was hauling. Truck modifications like machine guns and missiles can expand and manipulate these dice.
This provides two distinct avenues that players can use to obtain goods — buy them the old fashioned way (presumably when prices are low), or take them from the wreckage of raider trucks. Bloodthirsty players can even take the fight directly to raider enclaves to secure additional goods. Truckers will need to be cautious though as failing combat results in damage, reducing the amount of cargo space available for goods.
During my playthrough, I attempted the more capitalistic approach of earning cash, using my knowledge of basic economics to buy cheap goods to turn a profit. One of my opponents instead opted for resource acquisition via raider extermination, decking out their rig with weapons for mass destruction. Neither of us felt that one approach was more efficient than the other, as both methods required investing money in specific cargo holds or modifications. Providing multiple viable avenues to victory is something that Wasteland Express succeeds at.
Note that I only mentioned raiders in the context of combat. I haven’t discussed the rules for combat between players because they actually don’t exist.
There’s essentially zero interaction between players, making the game a race to complete three objectives before anyone else. This will certainly come as a blessing to some, as direct confrontation would alter the dynamics of the game into something much more antagonistic. To others, it may feel too much like trucker solitaire.
“Early on, we talked about the rules of this world we were building,” Gilmour explained. “You all work for the same company, so it made sense you couldn’t directly attack one another. You could, however, put obstacles in each other’s path, or have raiders do your dirty work.”
And then there’s the three different factions that offer additional jobs, or Grand Emperor Torque and his own unique miniature that only makes an appearance on one specific contract, or vision quests, or the fact that the rulebook contains six distinct scenarios that are playable in succession as a campaign. Needless to say, Wasteland Express Delivery Service has a lot going on under its hood. Thankfully, the core systems of the game are simple to learn and feel exciting to execute, while leaving little downtime between player turns.
Even the included storage trays are pleasing to the eyes, but a word of caution — there are hundreds of cardboard tokens to punch out on your initial play. The plastic trays will neatly organize everything in the box, but you are required to set it all up yourself. This process took over an hour to punch and sort pieces, while I struggled to decipher the vague organizational instructions provided. The payoff is worth it though, as future plays can be easily set up and ready to go in under 10 minutes.
“We hope people play and enjoy it, and keep your eyes out for more,” said Gilmour. “This system is so robust, there’s endless things we can do with it, and we’re already working on some things. We’re very excited about what’s to come.”
Wasteland Express Delivery Service is widely available now for $79.99.