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Board Game Review: Colt Express

2015 March 6
by Michael Schroeder

A game that lets you run around a 3D train piques my interest, let’s see if it piques yours!

Colt Express by Asmodee Editions

Colt Express by Asmodee Editions

Designer: Christophe Raimbault

Number of players: 2-6

Age: 10+

Time: 30 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

On the 11th of July, 1899 at 10 a.m., the Union Pacific Express has left Folsom, New Mexico, with 47 passengers on board. After a few minutes, gunfire and hurrying footsteps on the roof can be heard. Heavily armed bandits have come to rob honest citizens of their wallets and jewels. Will they succeed in stealing the suitcase holding the Nice Valley Coal Company’s weekly pay, despite it having been placed under the supervision of Marshal Samuel Ford? Will these bandits hinder one another more than the Marshal since only the richest one of them can come out on top?

Basic idea in my own words…

Colt Express is a refreshing take on the traditional board game by having players actually jumping about train cars in the old west, on a 3D train! In Colt Express, you are an armed bandit that is trying to collect the most money from loot while at the same time, trying to avoid the marshal and avoiding the other bandits – or attacking them! The game lasts for 5 round. In each round, you play your action cards that enables you to move between cars, punch, shoot, pick-up loot and move the marshal. Colt Express is a movement programming game – you’re playing your cards down, and likely forgetting some of what you laid down, and hoping for the best outcome. The game can have a bit of chaos, but that’s all part of the fun.

Colt Express Game Play

Colt Express Game Play

Setup (summarize and not in a specific order):

  1. Remove the already constructed locomotive and attach x passenger cars, where x is the number of players.
  2. Each player chooses a character either randomly or by choice. Take the character card representing the character and place it in front of you. Also take the 6 bullet cards of your color and place them to the left of the character card, in sequence. Take the action cards in your color and shuffle; place the action cards face-down, to the right of your character card. Take the wooden pawn of your player color and place in front of you for now.
  3. Depending on the number of players, take all of the round cards for the respective number of players and shuffle. Take 4 of the shuffled cards and place the rest of the round cards in the box. Then take the ending round cards (that say stop) and shuffle these 3 cards; take 1 of them and place it on the bottom of the 4 regular round cards. You now have the round cards that represent the 5 rounds in the game. Place the remaining round cards in the box.
  4. Take the yellow marshal pawn and place him in the locomotive; also place one o the strong boxes valued at $1,000 in the locomotive with him
  5. Turn all of the purses (bags) upside down and shuffle them around
  6. Each passenger car has a key on the floor, which details which loot belongs in that specific car; place the respective loot that is illustrated in each car; making sure to keep the purses face down
  7. There are 13 neutral bullet cards, place them next to the train in a draw deck
  8. Choose a starting player and that player, along with any other odd numbered players will place their pawns in the caboose; all the odd numbered players shall place their pawns in the car next to the caboose. The game is ready to begin!

How do you play?

Give the stack of round cards to the first player. During each round:

  1. The starting player turns over the top round card and shows everyone what it is.
  2. Each player shuffles their action cards and draws 6 cards off the top, this represents the players hand of available actions
  3. Schemin’ Phase: Beginning with the start player, each player can either
    1. Lay 1 action card down in a central pile, face-up or…
    2. Draw 3 action cards from the top of their action deck
  4. Each player does this for the number of Schemin’ Phases represented on the round card. Each round card has a varying number of phases. When all phases are complete, the start player turns over the stack of cards and each card must be resolved in order.
Tuco, bonus character sheet

Tuco, bonus character sheet

Action Cards:

  • Move – Move your bandit one train car to the left or right, if you are inside the train, if you are on the roof, you can move between 1 and 3 cars
  • Floor Change – Move your bandit on the roof of the train or back down inside the car/engine
  • Marshal – Move the marshal one train car; for any bandits inside the same car as the bandit, they receive a neutral bullet card and place it face-down on top of their action draw deck; also that bandit must jump to the top of the train car they were in
  • Fire – you can fire your gun at an opposing bandit; when you decide whom you’re going to shoot, you hand that player a bullet card from your bullet deck; that player places the bullet card face-down on top of their action draw deck. The point of shooting an opponent is that the player that fires the most bullets, gets an extra $1000. In addition, any bullet cards in a players deck, clogs up that players deck, which will render them more useless. Firing your gun has special rules as well.
  • Robbery – The robbery cards lets you pick up any loot in the same train that you are in, if you are inside. When you take loot, place it on your character card. If the loot is a purse, do not look at the value, until you take it. Do not let your opponents see the value of the purses.
  • Punch – The punch action enables you to punch an opposing bandit on the same train car as you; the punched player must drop one of their loot tokens back on the train car where they stand; in addition, the punched player gets knocked over a train car

Besides the standard way to play the game, each player has a special ability that lets them break the games rules.

Ghost

Ghost

  • Ghost – Ghost can play his action cards face-down on the first turn of each round
  • Cheyenne – When Cheyenne punches another bandit, instead of that bandit dropping their loot, Cheyenne can take it; as long as it’s a purse
  • Django – when Django fires his gun, he also knocks the player 1 train car over
  • Belle – She cannot be the target of a punch or fire if there is another bandit that can be targeted
  • Tuco – Tuco can fire down or up through the roof of the train
  • Doc – Doc takes 7 cards in his hand instead of 6

Game End: The game ends at the end of the 5th round. Each player counts up the value of their loot, and if they fired the most bullets, they get an extra $1000. If there is a tie for firing the most bullets, those players both receive the reward.


Breakdown

Components: 7.5/10

The components are the first thing that attracted me to the game. The idea of a 3D train being the playing area is just awesome. There’s even some extra scenery pieces such as cactus and skulls too.

Theme: 8/10

The theme for Colt Express is one of my favorites. This also attracted me to the game. I love trains and the Old West is certainly more appealing to me than space or zombies!

Luck Factor: 8/10

There’s quite a bit of luck in Colt Express. You have to shuffle your action cards each turn and it can be very frustrating when you’re not getting the cards that you need. A high amount of luck is the nature of this game.

Strategy: 3.5/10

There’s a mid level amount of strategy in Colt Express. You choose your cards and play them out and you try to plan around what your opponents are playing. The round doesn’t always turn out how you want it though. The game can get quite chaotic, but that’s where a lot of the fun is. You will likely forget some of the cards you played in the round, which affects long-term strategy.

Overall Feelings: 6/10

While I enjoyed Colt Express, my enthusiasm was dampened a bit after playing the game. The game can feel more of an exercise at times, compared to being a game. The first time I played the game, we played it a bit wrong; we were playing each schemin’ phase separately, but when I played the game again, we realized that we were supposed to play the entire round card in one fell swoop, therefore potentially forgetting some of the cards you played earlier and this is where the chaos comes in. Playing the rules correctly made it a tad more fun but honestly, not a lot. There are many times when you simply can’t play anything effective and you have no choice but to throw out a card you don’t want to play – even after choosing the action to draw 3 cards.

All this being said, the game is still good and it provided some laughs but depending on the crowd you’re playing with, they could greatly effect the vibe of the game. I think the components are great (except for assembling the train and bending some of the card board), the theme is fantastic but the execution falls a little flat and the game feels more like an exercise.

Review copy kindly provided by Asmodee.

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