Kevingston Boardgames. Cambridge, England

Review: Special Delivery

John Harrington

[Editors note as the editor is the game's designer!: This is verbatim from Take That You Fiend - John's PBM zine]

I must admit that the prospect of playing a game based on parcel deliveries did not thrill me. Then again, I have, in my time, designed a game based on slug racing so I am aware that the subject matter can belie the true worth of a game.

Special Delivery is a family board game produced by Kevingston Games, a one man independent games company. Aside from the qualms about the subject matter, initial impressions are favourable.

The game comes in a proper box with a colour printed lid, and the board is mounted on thick card and is cross-cut in the style of Avalon Hill's fold-away boards. Components consist of standard pawns and tiddley wink dobbers but a quick trip to Toys R Us could easily yield some more evocative counters, such as motorbikes and delivery vans.

Also included are two decks of cards: the first deck consists of town cards, which determine the origin and destination of deliveries, and the second deck consists of Delivery cards, which determine the success of delivery attempts.

Inclusion of the latter could have put the game firmly in the "game of luck" category but the hazards and benefits even out, and add flavour to the game.

Out on the town

Special Delivery is a game for 2 to 4 teams, with up to 4 people per team.

Each player has to choose whether to use a delivery van (slow but can carry more parcels) or a motor bike (fast but can only carry 1 parcel). It's not a bad idea for a team to have a mixture so that parcels can be swapped according to who is best placed to deliver it. Bikes are nifty at getting past roadworks (of which more later) but are susceptible to speed traps (ditto).

Roadworks, diversions and speed traps are placed in pre-ordained positions on the map, but these can be moved about later on by players if they draw a suitable delivery card.

The map consists of 36 towns and a similar number of villages. The town and village names are, unlikely as it seems, real. I say unlikely, because all of the names are unusual - for instance, Wigtwizzle, Great Frenchbeer and Matching Tye. The names of these places may be real but their locations relative to each other are not. They are arranged alphabetically with Askham Bryan in the top left corner and Zeal Monachorum in the bottom right, to make it easier to find them. This is the sort of elegant design feature that indicates this game has been more than adequately play-tested.

The towns and villages are connected by roads. Moving along a road to a town or village uses up one movement point - i.e. the route from Yelling to Sheepwash via Exning and Sheepy Magna costs 3 movement points (as does the alternative route via Yardley Gobion and Simonsbath).

I like to move it, move it

Teams take it in turns to move, and movement allowances are determined individually by throwing dice. Motorbikes roll 3 dice, vans 2. Any time a 6 is rolled, a town card is drawn and a parcel counter is placed on the corresponding town on the map. The first team to get to the town claims the parcel (if it has capacity to carry it), whereupon another town card is turned over to determine where the parcel has to be delivered.

Once a parcel has been delivered, a Delivery card has to be drawn to determine the success of the delivery. Some times it turns out the parcel is lost or damaged, or you've gone to the wrong place. Or maybe you find you've successfully delivered the parcel but your vehicle is knackered.

The best result is to get a successful delivery and an invitation to move a roadwork, diversion or speed trap. This not only gives you the opportunity to help out a partner who might be trapped in a dead end by some roadworks but it does, of course, give you the opportunity to stuff your opponents.

Roadworks and speed traps can be circumvented, either by taking alternative routes or by rolling less than 9 to get through a speed trap or more than 9 to get past roadworks. Diversions can never be "jumped over" - you always have to take an alternative route.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Victory is achieved by being the first team to deliver a set number of parcels. Although the game has an element of luck, all games seem to be closely fought thanks to the opportunity to gang up on the leader. Unlike some games, however, this ganging up does not cause the leader to move backwards so that ultimately he or she (or they) can battle through to victory.

The game takes about 90 minutes to play in a crowded noisy pub with a bunch of blokes who don't know the rules, but could probably be played in about 70 minutes in a suitable environment, even by non-gamers.

There do not seem to be any obvious glitches in the rules, the down-time between turns is minimal and there is some interaction in the form of racing to pick up parcels and also in the more enjoyable form of strategically placing hazards to knacker opponents.

The luck element is probably a bit too high for it to become a gamer's classic (a less luck dependent variant has been designed by the designer but I have not had a chance to try it yet) but it serves very well as a game you can get your non-gaming friends to play that you will also enjoy.

John Harrington. Originally published in Take That You Fiend!