Express Route Review
As I’ve noted many times over the past few weeks, I’ve really been enjoying cooperative board games. I especially like when each player has their own character with special powers as it can reduce that feeling of an alpha gamer at the table. Express Route is a fantastic package delivery game that takes simplistic gameplay elements but adds a deep strategic element of planning. I wasn’t sure how much I would like this one, but after a few games, I’m pretty hooked!
In Express Route, players will be attempting to deliver packages around the United States by vehicle and plane. A number of packages will need to be delivered before the players win the game, but those same packages are also used to upgrade your vehicles to hold more packages, provide more movement to your vehicles, and more.
Players will have the constant strategic struggle of when to spend tiles to upgrade their capabilities, and when to stockpile packages so the team can win! Each package has a value on it from 1-6, and when packages are added to the board, the package demand track rises. If the track rises too high, the game will end. Fortunately, when you deliver packages, you will be able to lower the demand track, so there is a balance you are looking to strike as you play.
It’s crazy that I have basically just described the whole game in two paragraphs, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Each player has a player board in front of them which allows them, on their turn, to move a specific number of packages, move a vehicle a specific number of spaces, or fly and load a plane. With only a few actions per turn, choosing what to do is key to surviving the demand track and winning the game.
As we noted above, players can also use delivered packages to purchase upgrades, and those will be necessary. Upgrades might provide you an additional action each turn (and the ability to duplicate an action), they might allow you to extend the range of specific vehicles (how far they can move on your turn), and increase the number of packages one vehicle can handle.
I really loved discussing strategy with the other players at the table, and as each player described there specific player power, we often were able to piece together the perfect turn. In other situations, unfortunately, we were NOT able to put together the perfect turn, which caused us problems we had to mediate later.
The game comes with a good amount of challenge, and we only won on our third try. There is a bit of randomness in how the packages get displayed (you could get a lot of high demand packages in a row which makes things tough). Still, there are plenty of ways to negate these issues, but they will require varied strategies. This helps make each game feel similar in tone, but unique in strategy.
I was really impressed with the quality of the components in the game. All the vehicles are nicely detailed wooden meeples, and the batteries (which represent your actions) are good as well. The boards have holes punched into them to place the batteries when an action is taken. While I would prefer a dual layered board, this works almost as well and really isn’t a major issue. All of the cardboard pieces are clear and nicely detailed, and the thickness of the cardboard is on par with the average board game being pushed out in 2023.
Overall, Express Route is a fantastic game for cooperative game fans. It’s easy enough to get going quickly, but teamwork and strategic thinking will need to be at the front of everything you do. Each turn and action matters, so make sure to maximize them!