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USPS: The Great American Mail Race

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) are the official sponsors of The Great American Mail Race: a family game from Big Potato where players are racing to pick and deliver letters and parcels between various locations on the board. The board includes some silly sounding locations but they are all real place names. Locations are connected by roads, trails and waterways, plus there are railway stations and airports.

The 2-4 players all start off with a bicycle card that allows movement of 1 along a road. This card is retained and can be reused. On your turn you have three actions and these can be any combination of drafting and playing cards; so, for example, you could draw a travel card from the face-down deck or one of the three displayed, you can play that card as a second action and draw another card as a third action. The cards represent different types of transport using specific routes so, for example, Pony Express moves two spaces along a trail and the train travels to any station. You'll be playing cards to move to try to get to locations where you can pick up and deliver letters and packages (cubes) but you need always to land exactly on a location; you can't use only part of your movement and you can't pick up or deliver a letter or parcel just by passing through a location.

On first look at The Great American Mail Race you might be put in mind of Alan R Moon's Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder) but, with its different transport types, the game has perhaps greater similarities to Alan R Moon's Elfenland (AMIGO) series of games. Ed Naujokas' design and Zoe Lee's artwork have their own charm, however, and The Great American Mail Race makes for an entertaining family game. One standout feature is the inclusion of an ink stamp that players use to mark off deliveries on their individual score sheets. All the family will find this fun to use and there's no danger in this game of anyone forgetting to keep track of a delivery - you'll be keen to use that ink stamp! In addition to the deliveries themselves, there are set collection bonuses to be collected and marked off for deliveries to the different regions on the board, and you can earn extra points too for delivering parcels marked as 'fragile' provided you don't use any air transport.

Some of the wording on the cards could be clearer (for example, the train cards say you can travel to any station but don't specify that you must start on a station) and the iconography showing roads and trails isn't wholly consistent. These are minor niggles, however. You're more likely to find players irked by the 'take that' element involved in the 'assist' action whereby when you pass over another player's delivery van you can transfer a letter or parcel between the vans. That's mostly going to mean you stealing a cube from their van. You probably won't find much 'take that' 'assistance' in a two-player game but it's bound to be significant in a four-player game; there are only ever four cubes on the board and players can carry two cubes on their van, so there may very well be occasions when the only way you can get a letter or parcel to carry is by stealing a cube from another player. There's a final turn for each player after the transport cards run out so you can also find players using the 'assist' action to dump undelivered items on another player as any cubes left in your van will incur a 3-point penalty in end-game scoring.

Big Potato have delivered a light, appealing family game with USPS: The Great American Mail Race.

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