Pick-up & Deliver games just suit me! My mind can generally look at the map and layout the shortest and most efficient ways to meet the needs requirements of the multiple missions or contracts that I have in my hand. I guess in some ways my mind is like GPS software! At least it is good for something.  What is Pick-up & Deliver all about? This mechanic usually requires the players to pick-up an item or good at one location on the game board and deliver it to another location, usually for some form of monetary payment that can then be used to purchase upgrades for their ships, acquire new skills or abilities. The games are usually won by the player that reaches a certain pre-determined goal of cash on hand or points. There are dozens of Pick-up & Deliver games out there that I have not played, such as Merchant of Venus, Hansa or Merkator. The games that I chose for my list were those that I have played and that I feel integrated the mechanic extremely well while adding in new elements to keep the drudgery of delivering to a minimum. So, without further ado, here are my Best 3 Games with…Pick-up & Deliver!

3. Xia: Legends of a Drift System by Far Off Games (2014)

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Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a 3-5 player sandbox style competitive space adventure where each player starts as a lowly but hopeful captain of a small starship. The game uses tile placement and exploration to build the known universe with various planets that offer markets to buy or sell goods, asteroid fields where you can mine resource cubes, nebulas that steal your energy, gates that allow quick travel across the map and stars (which will kill you immediately if you blind jump into!). The neat twist on this game is that missions or contracts you might draw in the first round may not have their origination or destination points visible yet on the map as those specific tiles may not have been discovered yet. This lends the players to have to determine how they wish to proceed to be effective. The players have a limited amount of energy that will be consumed in driving their ships including the various functions that have been obtained through the purchase of upgrades such as better engines, lasers, missiles and shields. The game also allows players the option of becoming a bandit and gearing their ship toward being able to hunt and kill other players, rather than worrying about shipping goods or ferrying passengers. There is a price with this less than savory line of work though as you will acquire bounties that will eventually make you an inviting target for other players to collect your head and the bounty money! With amazingly well sculpted and painted ship miniatures, beautifully designed space sector tiles and many different and unique abilities for each of the ships (I really liked the space harpoon that allowed me to attach to a passing ship, even when it was not my turn, and then move with them when they moved), this game is a Pick-up & Deliver dream that will remain playable for a long time.

2. Firefly: The Game by Gale Force Nine (2013)

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I was never really a rabid or true fan of the Firefly television show from 2002 that lasted only one season but I have to admit I love it now as I have played Firefly: The Game and have been able to dive into the characters and setting for this cancelled too soon show! With that interest, I have purchased and played the game several times and really enjoy it’s take on Pick-up & Deliver. The game is designed for 1-5 players who are in charge of a Firefly-class ship and travel around the ‘Verse from planet to planet, hiring crew, purchasing ship upgrades, and picking up cargo or passengers to deliver (jobs) all in the form of cards. Some crew and cargo are illegal, and can be confiscated if your ship is boarded by an Alliance vessel but can pay off very handsomely if you are willing to get your hands dirty and misbehave. I really like the method in this game to mitigate risk and randomness. Each crew member hired has a set of skills denoted by icons. Some are good at mechanics rolls, some are good with weapons and some are good with diplomacy. Each of the symbols on the crew cards give a bonus to rolls so even hard tasks can be accomplished with the right mix of crew skills. The true luck aspects of the game are the events as you travel from planet to planet looking to complete jobs. The flight cards are drawn and there is not much you can do when one tells you that you have to stop. Some are able to be avoided by using spare parts in your hold or burning more fuel, but you can get stopped, while the luck of the draw can allow your opponents to have smooth sailing to their locations.  Overall, a great thematic Pick-up & Deliver game that is fun to play, although a little bit long.

1.  Merchants and Marauders by Z-Man Games (2010)

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Merchants & Marauders lets you live the life of an influential merchant or a dreaded pirate in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. 2-4 players can seek their fortune through trade, rumor hunting, missions, and of course, plundering. Players can also modify their ships through purchasing upgrades discovered at ports such as better sails, improved cargo space, long range cannons or faster speed in evading.  I also really like that you can buy special ammunition that can be used in certain situations to improve your chances of boarding (the grappling hook) or to thin the enemy crew out before boarding for melee (swivel gun) and I love the specialist crew members. The goal of the game is to be the first to achieve 10 “glory” points through performing daring deeds (by completing missions or seeking out rumors), crushing your enemies through ship to ship combat, amassing gold from skillfully trading goods in ports where they are demanded, performing an epic plunder or pulling off the trade of a lifetime and buying a grand ship. I really love the narrative aspect of this game with the missions and the rumors being central to that. There are some really great stories that are shared through the cards and help you to get into the role of a Pirate captain.  I have found that in the end, nearly every player turns to piracy as it is slightly easier to achieve the needed 10 “glory” points, although the game can be won as a merchant who has upgraded their cargo hold, their maneuverability and defense with a thicker hull or more cannons to fend off the Pirates! I also really love the custom dice and the combat system is very well done, although it can take a few tries to get the complex system down. I love Merchants and Marauders and will play it at anytime with any player count.

-Grant