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An In-depth Review of Express Route, the Shipping Logistics Board Game

If you work at amazon or UPS this game might hit a little close to home for you. For everyone else who thinks they run a shipping company Express Route designed by Pat Marino and published by The OP will challenge you. Express Route's retro-future design features illustrations by Marian Berlin. Players will balance picking up, moving the packages and delivering them in this logistic brain cruncher of a game.

Express Route Game
Express Route Game

The basic premise of Express Route is that one to four players run a shipping company and need to keep up with the demand of the customers if the players get too far behind then they will lose. This is a co-op game so all of the players are working together. This is what i would call a classic pickup and deliver game.

It sounds easy but there is a lot of strategy that needs to be used if you hope to win.

SETUP

The game board for Express Route is a map of the United States and on it there are 28 cities on the map that are connected via roads. This map looks immediately familiar to games who play any other route building or pickup and delivery games built on a US map. There are also cities on the map with an airplane symbol these are cities with an airport. Players will utilize 3 express delivery trucks and one express delivery airplane to pick up and deliver the packages.


Specalist Card
Specialist Card

The player mats have each of the 3 trucks and the airplane on them. There is space to track the speed and loading upgrades that player can preform (trucks start at one movement but players can up grade to 3 movement). There are also 2 battery spaces next to both attributes for each truck and only one for the airplane. This is the near future where planes and trucks are battery powered. Players all get 3 silver battery tokens these can be played in the slots next to the movement and loading of the vehicles. The batteries represent players actions for the turn. There are a bunch of upgrade cards to help players move the trucks faster, load faster, get more actions and other things to improve the system. There are also Specialist cards and these are the personas that the players take on they all have a special setup advantage and an ongoing action that players can take.


The last main bits in the box are the packages. There are low demand packages and high demand packages. These are what you are picking up and delivering. There are five packages on the board to start the game and the demand points for them is 15 this is where you also start the demand marker. If the demand marker makes it to 35 (40 if you get the upgrade) then its game over.


Game Play

The game itself is fairly simple and intuitive. Players on their turn have 3 actions represented by the silver battery tokens. Players will place them on their playmats to track what they have done. Players will be picking up packages, moving the trucks and delivering packages. Once the players have 8 delivered packages in the tracker at the top of the board they win. It sounds easy but there is a lot of strategy that needs to be used if you hope to win.

The showcase of the foster dogs in the game and the instruction manual show how thoughtful the designers are about dogs and it comes through in the game play.

Delivering 8 packages sounds easy but its not. Players need to deliver 8 packages to win but its not so simple. The last 4 slots have special conditions to add them. There are conditions that are chosen at random during setup they each cover 2 spaces and include things like "must be dropped off in the same turn" "both destinations the same city". Players will want to optimize their engine by getting upgrades that will help them, these come at a cost. At the end of their turn a player may discard one of the delivered packages to purchase an upgrade. The upgrades have certain requirements for example the "Range 3" upgrade that allows all players to upgrade the move of one truck on each of their playmats will cost the player a demand 3 package from the delivered row. This will take you further from winning and is needed to get to the point where you can win.


Playmat
Playmat

The very end of each players turn they will add a package or 2 to the board. The demand tracker is divided up into 3 sections green, yellow and red. Managing this is key to not losing. The different sections have different rules on how you will place packages. For example if you are in the green section you will place 2 new packages onto the board then replace them with 2 low demand packages on the phone bank. When the packages are added to the board their value is added to the demand track. The low demand packages range from 1-3 and the high demand range from 4-6. The track you use to choose the new packages entering the board starts to get high demand packages when you get to the yellow section which is possible after the second players turn. Players will feel the pressure that Express Route is designed to give.


Choosing the right upgrades at the right time will help players keep the demand low by being able to get the packages delivered quickly. Using the delivered packages will put players farther from winning but it will enable player to add efficiency into their system. This balance is what keeps the game interesting throughout.


Solo

The game plays exactly the same single player as it dose for 4 players. Playing solo is just deciding how many playmats you want to manage. A solo player will play through each "player" as you would if there were that many people sitting there. Normally I do not think that it is a solo mode if you are just playing all the players. For Express Route it works because its one big logistical puzzle.


Thoughts

Express Route is a hard game to win. It will have you coming back for more to try and win it. This game is super puzzly with lots of variables that will have you second guessing the thing you did 3 turns ago. I enjoyed the simplicity of the rules and game play, this allowed me to focus on solving the puzzle more. I played the game at various player counts to get a feel for how things change with a higher player count. It gets a bit easier the more players you have as you add in the extra specialist powers.



Espress Rout Board
Express Route Board

Have your friends over for a logistical adventure in Express Route from The OP. This game plays fast and will keep everyone involved and on the edge of their seat trying to figure out how to get the packages delivered before the demand tracker runs out on them. Playing the game solo is a great option too, you can get a game in on your lunch hour or after you get the kids to bed. Also there is a Tabletopia version of the game available, we haven't tried it yet but its out there. Happy Trucking.


Players: 1-4

Year Published: 2023

Recommended Ages: 10+

Time to Play: 60 minutes



A review copy of Express Route was provided to Bert's Tabletop Games for this review by The OP.

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