Kevingston Boardgames. Cambridge, England

Review: Special Delivery

Paul Ibbs

[Editors note as the editor is the game's designer!: This is verbatim from copy also supplied by Paul for the Mensa magazine Boarderlines (sic) except for a couple of numerical corrections, text in square brackets, and removing names]

Special Delivery is a parcel delivery game for 2-16(!!) players, where rival courier firms race to collect and deliver parcels around the English countryside. It is best played with 6, 8 or 9 players, in teams of 2 or 3.

Each player chooses one vehicle - a motorbike is speedy (rolls three dice to move) but can only carry one parcel at a time, whereas a van is slower (rolls two dice) and can carry two parcels. Each team randomly selects a home town and their vehicles start from here.

To begin with four parcels (represented by little brown plastic counters) are ready for pick up and throughout the game more parcels appear whenever a six is thrown on the dice. Their point of collection is determined on the turn of a town card, as is the delivery address when a parcel is picked up.

To reflect the problems delivery frms encounter, and to introduce the tactical element to the game, there are the following traffic problems: 3x roadworks, 3x speed traps, 3x diversions. Roadworks can only be passed with a throw of 9 or more, speed traps can only be passed with a throw of 9 or less, and diversions cannot be passed at all. Therefore, speed traps tend to slow motorbikes and roadworks tend to slow vans.

The topology of the board is of four areas, each containing nine towns and approximately eight villages. These areas are linked in a ring by a single road with the corners linked again by a single road. These single roads are critical sites for placing impediments as the alternative route is a long way around. However, this tactic should be used with care as it will affect your movement too.

The blockages start on certain designated roads but can be moved as a result of a successful delivery. So, when you've picked up a parcel, found out it's destination, avoided the blockages, and reached the delivery address, it is then by the turn of the card when you find out whether your delivery was successful. A combination of lost or incorrect paperwork, vehicle trouble and damaged or lost parcels can affect that particular delivery or any future deliveries. This was the main aspect of the game I didn't like. I felt that the delivery cards, without any chance of a rejoinder, were a little too much to do with luck. So the Next Day variant (see later) was a bit of a godsend.

However, even with this in mind, I think this is still a cracking little game, and probably one of the best family games around. The rules are so easy to learn that the non-board game guinea pigs with whom I played it, were telling me when I did something wrong. The game carries along at a good pace (thanks to the simple rules) and the game end is always a close run thing. The pieces are of a good quality and I particularly likes the cards which feel nice and smooth (but that's just a personal issue). I also liked the nice touch of providing two sets of rules, which shows a certain knowledge and understanding of gamers needs.

Next Day [a free alternative set of rules] can just about be described as diceless Special Delivery, but the game is considerably changed.

Next Day is restricted to 3 or 4 players. Each player works on their own and has a van and a motorcycle. each player allocates four contract to one other player, who will then be paid on completion of these contracts. Long distance deliveries are lucrative but take longer to do. the aim this time is to end the game with the most money. You can even outbid other players contracts from under their nose, but then you run the risk of making it easier for them to finish and thus end the game [before you get any income from those contracts].

This is a much better game altogether, for me. There is no luck involved and it is a strategic minefield. The roadworks etc. can now only be moved by paying for it (you can club together with another player) and the movement is better considered, with the size of the place you aim to move through being reflected by the movement units needed to move through it. Unfortunately I have not played this version enought to go deeper into the mechanics but I think you can get the general feel for it.

Overall, this feels like a game for all reasons - whether you want a quick, easy and entertaining game with your nieces and nephews, or whether you seriously want a challenging strategic game, Special Delivery has the lot.

Paul Ibbs