Game at a Glance
- Big Potato Games
- Ages: 10+
- Players: 2-4
- Time: 45 minutes
- Availability: Retail
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher; however, my opinions are my own
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You are now a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service (USPS) and it’s your first day on the job. You’re on a mission to deliver as much mail as you can while earning bonus points by performing same-day deliveries, handling fragile parcels with care, picking up postcards, and more!
Players take turns traveling around a map of the USA, visiting some of the most bizarrely-named towns the country has to offer. Transport Cards are used to travel about, and feature actual methods used by the USPS at some point in history. Every turn players have 3 action points to spend that allow them to take and/or use Transport Cards.
The map is divided into four regions, each with a depot where parcels can be picked up. Carriers will pick up mail by landing on a depot with the mail cube, placing it in their delivery truck, and taking that region’s delivery card. After this, the player will work to deliver the mail cube to its destination. Each carrier truck can hold two cubes at a time, but be careful – your competition just might get a little too “helpful” and swipe a cube to deliver it on their own!
Achievements are tracked by stamping your delivery slip, and the game ends when the Transport Cards run out. The player with the most points wins the game!
USPS: The Great American Mail Race is a pick-up and-deliver game with a healthy dose of “take that” and plenty of charm.
The main board is a map of the USA featuring ridiculously-named cities (yes, they are real) connected by various routes – roads, trails, water, etc. All actions in this game revolve around the Transportation Cards – either procuring them or using them. Each allows a certain amount of movement over a specific pathway. A seaplane allows travel over water, the Pony Express uses trails, etc. Much of the strategy in the game revolves around finding the right travel combination and timing movement to complete objectives. Efficiency is crucial in The Great American Mail Race.
There are many ways to score points. Players will deliver letters and/or parcels – each delivery grants a better point payload than the last. Picking up postcards is a quick way of grabbing additional points. Each group of letters, parcels, and postcards grants a set collection bonus. In addition, players will earn bonus points for regional, same-day, home-town, and fragile package deliveries. It is impossible to do everything (at least it seems to be the case for a four-player game) so players will need to be careful in choosing how to maximize their points.
The game is very tactical and players should make the best from the situations that arise. Hovering near a depot when a new Delivery Card and mail cube pop out makes sense. Alternately, players may hang out near delivery sites hoping to poach mail cubes from their rivals before they can unload them. Being flexible and finding new directions is important.
The game combines ease of play with light strategy, making it a welcoming experience for newer gamers and families with older children (at least 8 years old, in my opinion). Despite being on the lighter side, USPS: The Great American Mail Race has plenty going on to keep adults engaged.
The rulebook is straightforward, as are the rules of the game. It is easy to learn, teach, and get moving. There weren’t any rules that seemed confusing or unnecessary, although I did have to double-check a few things on our first game. The setup is fairly simple, and I wouldn’t say any more time-consuming than other similarly-weighted family games.
The game map never changes, but the sequence of cards available at any given time will change game-to-game. Interactions with other players add to variability, as well. Replayability in this game comes from the experience of enjoying it with friends and family, not from the depth of strategy.
Theme / Aesthetics
For the most part, the game mechanics are in alignment with the theme. There are some oddities, such as the mixing of eras with the Transport Cards (You could use the Pony Express and a rocket in the same turn), and the delivery “assistance” doesn’t make complete sense. Despite these tiny nitpicks, there is a lot of attention to detail in this game that makes the theme shine.
The designers attempted to infuse the theme into every aspect of the game. Even the rulebook presented itself as a letter, the pages folded neatly into an envelope. I found this format charming, but a little annoying to flip through when searching for the occasional clarification. It’s hard to be too frustrated when the design goes to such great lengths to bring the theme to life, though.
The game’s tone is lighthearted and evokes nostalgia. This is emphasized in the art, but also in the components. The plastic delivery trucks feel like they came from a classic family game (The Game of Life, anyone?). Everything about this game screams “retro family game night” – in the best way.
Fun is infused into nearly every high-quality component. The shiny board is full of the oddest town names you could imagine – it’s near impossible not to smile when delivering a package to Booger Hole, WV. The postcards are full of jokes and puns that delighted my children. But the star of the show is the ink stamp. Fashioned in the style of the iconic blue collection boxes, this rubber stamp was functional and irresistible to all at the table. My kids had struggled to resist the urge to stamp red checkmarks all over their bodies.
I have a few small issues with the components. I find the muted colors pretty and in line with the game’s retro look; however, the blue and green delivery trucks look too similar. My cards came slightly warped, as well but this has not affected gameplay for me.
Interaction / Fun
With a shared map, competition for contracts, and the ability to steal mail cubes from each other, USPS: The Great American Mail Race is very interactive. With only four mail cubes on the board at any given time and the ability to carry up to two cubes, “take that” comes into play heavily. The game has the potential to feel mean, but at the same time turnabout is fair play – that has a tendency to balance things out a bit. I have not tried the game with two players but considering there is no scaling (on the map, with the cubes, etc.), I suspect too much of that tension would disappear at that count.
Meanness aside, the “helping” of your opponents can lead to some fun table moments with the right group. Especially when a player delights in their revenge by stealing their cube back. The fun baked into the components shone through, as well. My children loved the postcards and went out of their way to collect them so they could read the silly jokes aloud. The rubber stamp and funny town names were popular with the kids, too. I enjoyed finding clever ways to use my actions to safely deliver my mail cubes without theft. It is so satisfying when everything comes together and you can stamp a new achievement onto your Delivery Slip.
With just three quick actions, turns move quickly. Downtime has not been an issue for us. There are never empty turns in the game – simply drawing three cards might not be terribly exciting, but things move quickly enough that you will have the chance to play them before you know it.
USPS: The Great American Mail Race is a great pick-up-and-deliver game – for the right group. It’s important to note that stealing is present – this will make it a rough experience for some families.
Games utilizing a map and limited resources often benefit from scaling rules, which are not present in this game. I have not experienced this game at a two-player count yet, so this is all speculation on my part.
That being said, this is a fantastic production. I think the dedication to the theme is admirable. So many details in this game brought smiles to our faces. Of course, that rubber stamp is a big highlight, but there is joy to be found in unlikely places, such as the postcard puns.
The ease of play makes this game incredibly welcoming to newer gamers and younger players. The action point system is simple, yet still provides the player with the flexibility to craft plans. It feels good when you’re able to pull off a same-day delivery or sneak your package past a group of thieving delivery vans. The turns are fast and the game plays quickly – great for those with short attention spans. This is a fantastic gateway game.
I would recommend it to families that don’t mind their games tinged with a bit of “take that.” USPS: The Great American Mail Race is good fun, full of charming details, and worth a look.