Game Review: Pick Up and Delivery with “Express Route”

Express Route board game from the op publishers, game reviewCongratulations on your new MBA, you business expert! Now it’s time to test your logistics savvy by helping out over at Express Route Delivery Service, a low-budget startup aiming to shake up the freight delivery industry. Unfortunately, the company’s starting very lean with a fleet of only three trucks and a plane. Manage things carefully and balance upgrades with on-time deliveries, however, and you might just help them become one of the premier shipping services in the United States.

Express Route is a 1-4 player pickup and delivery game from designer Patrick Marino, published by The Op Games. For less than four players, you can choose 1, 2, or 3 specialists – quite similar to Pandemic – but after a few solo playthroughs, I would recommend that you always play four specialists regardless of actual player count. For this review, I have played solo games through with one, and then two specialists to up the challenge level.


All of the components are excellent in Express Route, though the graphics lack some pizzazz. You start with a central gameboard, a small player board per Specialist, and tiles that represent each of the vehicles that are part of the delivery service fleet:

Express Delivery board game - basic setup

The tiles on the left are the vehicles (three trucks, one plane), the track on the left is the Demand Track that monitors how many active packages are in the system, and the top tracks delivered packages: Deliver eight and you’ve won. But hold on, it’s not that easy because you’ll also need to spend the points earned by delivering packages to acquire upgrades.

The lower right portion of the board has the Event deck, one of which is drawn each round. They’re generally obstacles. Along the bottom of the board are the piles of packages to deliver (broken into two demand categories that correspond to their value in the system) including a small track that shows the “Active Callers” (the packages that are available to be added to the board and subsequently delivered). The lower portion has two player boards for this playthru.

It’s a lot to take in, so let’s look at these more closely…

You start the game by pulling out one 1-point, one 2-point, one 3-point, one 4-point, and one 5-point delivery request, then shuffle the remaining low and high-demand packages. My starting five look like this:

Express Delivery board game - starting packages

The top location is the starting city, the bottom is the destination city, and the number represents the number of points that the package is worth upon delivery. Deploy each onto its appropriate starting spot on the map. Every package on the map or in a vehicle counts towards your total demand: Start with 15 points as shown. The demand tracker is the green/yellow/red bar along the left side and when it reaches 35, it’s game over. You can extend that to a range of 40 (though eagle-eyed gamers will notice that it goes up to 45). If, for example, you deliver the package going to Orlando from Detroit you can subtract two from the demand score, but each round also adds new packages to the map, an inexorable increase in demand from the very first turn.

Notice that the 1, 2, and 3-point packages above have a black box icon adjacent, while the 4 and 5-point packages have a white box icon. The black box denotes low demand (e.g., low point value) packages, while the others are high-demand (and can go up to 6 points). This is crucial because you pick packages blind and once you’re into the game, picking two 6-point packages can quickly push the demand into the red zone. Two 1-point packages? No problem!

Here’s what the vehicle tiles look like, along with a portion of the demand tracker:

Express Delivery board game - vehicle tiles

Each vehicle is coded by color and corresponds to the vehicle meeples on the board. All three trucks start with an individual capacity of one package at a time, while the plane, Skylane Shipper, has two slots max without improvements. Upgrade them to have more capacity and you can discard the lock icons to indicate that the extra space is available. You cannot get more vehicles nor expand beyond the slots shown on the tiles.

Event cards are mostly obstacles, though occasionally you’ll get a “blue skies” card that denotes nothing bad happens for a round. No blue skies for my first round, however:

Express Delivery board game - event cards

Much of the complexity of the game is tracked by the individual player cards, each of which is managed by a Specialist:

Express Delivery board game - player tile with specialist card

This specialist is “Autodeliver” and has the immediate effect of unlocking the demand upgrade, allowing me to go up to a demand of up to 40, instead of 35, a huge benefit. Each vehicle has both a range denoted by a gas can chit and a load/unload capability of one or two. Turns are tracked by the use of the wooden battery tokens – Express Route Delivery Service is exclusively EVs – and while the first slot adjacent to each move is grey, note that the second is purple. Purple batteries prove important upgrades that allow much more flexibility of action, though are hard to acquire.

In a single turn one player can load a package and drive towards a destination, but even if the vehicle reaches the package delivery city, I couldn’t then immediately unload it unless I also had a purple battery to allow a second load/unload action. But it’s a coop, so all players are sharing control and management of the trucks and plane; one might load and move, the second might move further, and the third player might move to the destination and unload the package, for example.

Upgrades are critically important. Here are two examples:

Express Delivery board game - upgrade cards

They are hard to attain. The first upgrade gives all players a +1 range to one of their trucks but can only be obtained by successfully delivering a demand=2 package and then sacrificing it to implement the upgrade. The second requires the sacrifice of a package delivered to a city in the Central Region and expands vehicle capacity by one spot. You’re trying to deliver eight packages to win, but you also need to spend packages to get necessary upgrades to help your fleet stay on top of demand.

Almost ready for the gameplay. Let’s just have a glance at the Active Callers area:

Express Delivery board game - packages in the active caller area

This too has locked spots: Unlock them and you’ll be able to balance high and low demand packages much better. The packages in the queue show the starting location, but hide demand value and destination: Is Orlando’s package a 1-pointer or a 4-pointer?? You won’t know until they show up on the map.


Now that it’s all set up, each player has chosen their preferred Specialist from the stack of 11 possible, and the initial packages are distributed on the board, it’s time to play!

Express Delivery board game - starting packages near chicago

We’ve ended up with two packages in Chicago. The top package (which must be picked up before the one below it is accessible) is a big one, 4 points, and has to get from Chicago to Seattle. Look closely and you’ll see that Chicago has a different spot indicator: A plane. This means it has an airport and can be visited by our plane. The Skyland Shipper is powerful because it goes directly from airport to airport and Seattle has an airport, so this package can be delivered pretty quickly: One player flies the plane to Chicago and loads the package, the second player flies it to Seattle and unloads! The yellow truck, the Streamline Shipper Mach 3, is sitting in Kansas City, but, alas, there are no packages ready for pickup in the City of Fountains.

The Driver (whose starting ability is to add +1 to two of its vehicles) moves Mach 1 to a pickup destination within range 2, loads the package, and then moves Mach 3 closer to another pickup location On the player board, that looks like:

Express Delivery board game - first move player board

Each turn, however, begins with adding a new package (or two) to the map, which is alarming because each time you do that, the demand tracker increases by the value of the delivery. The tracker starts green, then yellow, and finally red. Here’s how that’s applied to the Add Package move:

Express Delivery board game - add package

In other words, since we’re starting at 15 demand points and in the green, we’re going to add two new packages at the beginning of the turn. Add two 4-point packages and you just jumped up 8 on a track that maxes out at 35 (if you haven’t included Autodelivery as one of your specialists). After each package is deployed, replace it in the Active Callers area as indicated by the current demand color (remember, the “!” packages are higher demand, up to a max of 6 points).

Once you’ve added the new package or packages to the map, draw an Event Card and apply its effect. Mostly these lock down a city, but sometimes indicate that a vehicle has mechanical problems and is emptied and stuck for a turn. Most frustrating if you’re poised to make an important, high-point delivery!

Since all these packages are in the greater Chicago area, our vehicles head that way to pick things up. That 4-pointer for Seattle is loaded onto the plane. Here’s how that region now looks:

Express Delivery board game - more vehicles near

Each Specialist has a different additional action they can take and it’s critical to carefully think through which you choose and what they will bring to the task. The recommended starting four are Autodeliver, Opportunist, Operator, and Driver. I chose Autodeliver and Driver for my two-specialist solo game.


A few rounds later and I’ve been able to deliver a fair number of packages and even used some to get much-needed upgrades, including spending my very first delivered package (that Chicago -> Seattle 4 pointer) to allow each player to add +1 to the range of one of their vehicles:

Express Delivery board game - upgrade: range

Well, saying “one of their vehicles” isn’t really correct since all players share the vehicles, so maybe the best metaphor is that each player has their own set of operators that move in and out of the vehicles; some players will have operators with a range of 3 while others might be stuck with a range of 1. Balance who moves what when and you can work fine in that scenario.

A few further rounds and I’ve delivered five of my eight packages (I’d delivered more but spent some on upgrades) when I draw a 6-point requested delivery from the Active Caller stack, pushing me over the max 40 demand that the system can support:

Express Delivery board game - end of game: lost

The result is that I have lost this game, even though I was poised to pick up and deliver some pretty big point packages that would have moved the demand track back quite a few spots. I might have a shiny new MBA but my logistics skills might need a bit more work. 🙂


I have played Express Route a number of times and haven’t yet won the solo scenario with either one or two Specialists. I surmise that it requires four Specialists just to balance out the starting setup. In fact, like Pandemic, this might be a better multi-player game than a solo game. Multi-player would also give you the ability to discuss logistics and tactics to help stave off the inevitable and inexorable demand track increases. There might be some house rules that could make this a bit more manageable as a solo game too, perhaps having a 50% chance of not needing to add a package on each turn, for example. As is I would say this is quite a solo challenge unless you want to play all four Specialists to add more to the starting setup and gain more extra capabilities.

This doesn’t mean that it’s not a fun and interesting game, however! I am really enjoying Express Route and keep finding it on my table ready to try a different strategy or different mix of Specialists. This is a good pickup and deliver game with some intriguing additions to add both challenge and complexity, yet it’s still surprisingly easy to understand and get started. Have you won solo mode? If so, please do share which Specialists you played!

Express Route, 1-4 players from The Op Games, designed by Pat Marino with illustrations by Marian Berlin and graphic design by Mark Soraci. $39.99 at

Disclaimer: The Op Games sent me a copy of “Express Route” in return for this candid review. I also use affiliate links to help pay for my own board game purchases.


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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