Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Reviewed: USPS The Great American Mail Race Board Game

 USPS The Great American Mail Race Board Game was gifted to our family this holiday season and we've had a chance to sit down and play a couple games.  Here are my thoughts on the game.

 The first thing I noticed about the game were the components.  Mail trucks, an eye pleasing board, package/letter/postcard cards, and best of all: the postage slips and stamp!

 To fast forward to some final thoughts; the components make the game.  The game itself is simple and after a few plays the strategy is limited.  But the satisfaction from stamping your slip when you complete a delivery?  It feels awesome.  Every. Single. Time.

 Components aside the game itself is easy to understand and teach.  It plays quickly (~30m now that we know what we are doing) which makes this a great holiday game to play with family.  We are looking forward to playing with my brother-in-law who is a true blue USPS mailman but doesn't play games; that is approachable the game is.

 The game play is straight forward and comparable to Ticket to Ride.  You get letters/packages that need to go places and you can draw cards that let you move across the board to get them to those places.  Postcards are on the board and once passed they are gained by the player.  The board is split into different regions and delivering packages from/to different regions gains additional points.

 Best of all as players complete the deliveries and actions on the board they get to stamp their little postal slip and that is so satisfying it has brought my family back to the table multiple times.  I personally love the stamp!

 There is a bit of player on player competition as well in the game.  If you are passing another mail carrier you can either take one of their deliveries or give them one of yours.  Have a long haul package destined for Alaska?  Drop it on another carrier!  Have the travel cards to grab a package from another player and delivery it?  Then sneak in for the steal.  The only downside is newer players will get picked on by experienced players, but it is one of the most fun aspects of the game. Without "assisting another mailman" this game would be far too basic.

 My biggest complaint about the game is that there is not variable rewards as far as distance for a delivery.  A delivery that requires you to go from coast to coast is worth the same as one you can complete in the same turn.  This is OK if you have the stronger travel cards such as planes or trains, but if you don't... well you either have to swap mail with other players and try to stick them with the stinker package or you need to spend your turns trucking it out to its destination; either way its the same reward.

 Another nitpick I have is that the next letter/parcel/postcard that will replace a delivered one is visible to all players.  This is too much information for players to plan moves.  Having the "next up" be hidden somehow instead of face up would add some much needed randomness to the game.  With that said the cards being face up does allow a bit of skill in chaining deliveries together.

 My last comment will be on the rules.  They are well laid out for the basic game but they offer nothing for the scenarios or questions that pop up regularly.  For example: what does "passing through" really mean?  If I stop on a spot but don't end my turn there is that passing through?  Or is passing through just when I move through it?  Does the hot air balloon count as passing through or not because it says "go over"?  What happens if a postcard appears on the spot I am already at?  Do I just get it?  Questions I am not alone in asking as evidenced by Board Game Geek's rules sub-forum for the game.

 Over all the game is a gem and far too good considering it is literally licensed by USPS.  Have you played it?  What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment and I'll assist you with delivering it!

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