The team just got back from Origins and are still recuperating. Before we get into Wasteland Express stuff, I want to take a short second to thank everyone who came out at Origins. We had a blast hanging out with a ton of great designers, artists and other publishers. There is a lot of very cool stuff coming out in the next 12 months that you should all be really happy about. Our little hobby is starting to grow up and the game designs I’m seeing are astounding. I also wanted to thank our amazing booth volunteers headed up by designer Ian Zhang who basically made our hanging out with designers possible. And of course, all of the fans who stopped by the booth to check out Wasteland Express Delivery Service and our other titles.
So, on to Wasteland. It’s time for a confession. I have not played Wasteland Express in about 3 months. This is pretty typical of the life of a publisher. You play the hell out of a game when you are deciding if it’s a fit. You then continue to play the hell out of it while giving design notes to the design team. You then make a decision on art direction and start working with artists.. and by this point you have more or less moved on to playing the next game or games and the next time you will play the game is right before it goes to final production to make sure that everything came together the way you want it. That isn’t to say that you aren’t super involved in a project, it just means the “playing the game” several times a week phase is over.
Halfway through a game of Wasteland on Thursday night at Origins, I leaned over to Molly (who had just returned with a growler of IPA with Mr. Gilmour) and whispered in her ear “good news, the game is still f*&^*&^ng awesome”. See, I had this memory that the game was great, but I hadn’t actually experienced that greatness in a while. Similar to how I can say matter of factly that NiGHTS into Dreams is my favorite video game of all time, even if I only dust of the Sega Saturn once a year to actually boot it up. Then I remember how much I wanted to by a Nightmaren when I was in High School. As you can tell, I was suuuuper cool in high school.
So it was with Wasteland Express. Even though we were playing a whiteboard copy without art I was immediately transported to a world where I was driving through abandoned highways in search of food and water so that I could buy a bunch of missiles and go kill the Grand Lord Emperor Torque (who we have not shown off yet, but will at the end of this post). There are games out there that are good, but fiddly. And there are games out there that are fun but sort of broken in some fundamental way. Then there is a class of game that just works perfectly in its design. The game doesn’t feel too abstracted, but still balanced. The decisions you make are thematically sound, but still exude fun without ever feeling like one choice is obvious.
It was also nice playing the game with designers who I trust (in that we are publishing their games) that are not involved in Wasteland Express, and getting good feedback from them on the game as well. Guys, strap in. It’s going to be so much damned fun.
The rest of the con was also great. We hung out at Pikachu’s butt (long story). Hung out with Matt, Ben and Jon more than they probably wanted to. Handed out some hats and showed the game off to The Dice Tower and BGG on their live streams (as soon as they chunk up those videos we will blast them out as part of Wasteland Wednesdays). We’ve also got a lot of art in on the game in the past few days and are expecting a ton more as we march towards the finish line for Wasteland Express.
Without further ado, I present to you the leader of the Raiders. The Lord Grand Emperor Torque. His body is a car and he is really damned hard to kill. This guy will show up randomly in certain games, and will show up in ways that you would really prefer him not to in the narrative game. He is a car/man who is to be both feared and can lead to a super cool path to glory.
Our game actually ended in a race between one player attempting to outrun a pack of Raiders he had just stolen an artifact from as they moved it across the map while another player loaded up 4 one-use RPGs to take out the Lord Grand Emperor Torque. It was a super tense moment as player A was flying across the desert trying to kill off the Raiders attacking him, while the other player unloaded all of the goods and upgrades they had made to their truck all game long to add RPG launchers and go kill the big boss.
It’s these sorts of decisions that make Wasteland both really fun. You can choose to load up and go big on deliveries early in the game, knowing that you are particularly vulnerable to Raider attacks. Or you can arm yourself to the hilt knowing that you are going to wipe out lots of Raiders but won’t have much room on your Rig for storage. Or you can switch your strategy mid game if one or the other isn’t working for you, or try and strike a balance between the two. The best part is because the game winning conditions will be different each time you play, your method of play is going to vary wildly from game to game. In our case we had two win conditions that required pretty heavy weaponry (Kill the Lord Grand Emperor Torque and the steal an artifact and drive it across the desert while fighting off Raiders) and one that was more economy based (deliver one of each type of good to a particular city). It really made me change up my baseline strategy for the game and pick up some weaponry in order to compete as best we could.
You can also pick up private game-end conditions (the game ends when someone meets three such conditions) through the faction decks. So, it’s also possible to totally ignore the publicly available end game conditions and heavily focus on making one (or all) of the three factions happy with you. These missions are gained either by driving your rig to the capital of one of the factions (draw three missions, keep 1), or by heading to the Depot (the HQ for the Wasteland Express Delivery Service) where you can draw 1 job from any faction. I wound up actually going hard after this strategy and came within 1 point of winning. At the end of the 4 player game, pretty much everyone was within a turn or two of either completing or having a good shot at completing their 3rd end game condition. So, super close game with 3 first time players that took less than 90 minutes including set up, talking about World of Warcraft, Rule Explanation and Growler delivery.
We’ll have a lot more to share with you over the next few weeks, and a lot more to talk about regarding GenCon and what we will have to show there. But for now, enjoy some photos of all of us hanging at Origins.