TABLE GAMES REVIEW: Colt Express

I was introduced to Colt Express  last year by a friend and former Geek Syndicate contributor when he was staying over at our house for a literary convention. It’s an introduction that I’m pleased occurred. If you fancy being a ruthless bandit taking part in an Old-West train job, or just want a quick but extremely fun game, then this is the game for you – here’s the official lowdown:

Colt Express is a board game of schemin’ and stealin’ for two to six bandits aboard a three-dimensional steam train. You play as one of a group of ruthless bandits, dead set on grabbing as much loot and shooting as many bullets at your former companions as possible. Every round, you must determine what actions your bandit will take, whether you’re grabbing loot, firing bullets, punching another bandit, or running along the roof of the train car. If you can predict what your opponents will do, you can respond to their actions and stay one step ahead, but if you’re knocked off-track, you’ll find your shots flying wide. Only the richest bandit can claim victory on the Colt Express when the train pulls into the station!

  • Publisher:
  • Number of Players: 2–6
  • Play Time (Approx): 40 mins
  • Ages: 10 +

Despite having a 3D train, wooden meeples to represent the bandits, several card decks and a number of tokens, Colt Express is quick to set up which is a massive bonus in my mind. Once built, the train fits perfectly into the box with the other components – indeed, like Lords of Waterdeep, this game comes with a box that is designed to take its components. Six slotted sections hold the train carriages, then the locomotive, cards and tokens are placed in two other compartments. I like thought out packaging. I’m sorry.

Colt Express Components

The Game Components – 3D Train, Meeples, Cards and Tokens

The train itself is made from a thick cardboard and is relatively straight forward to assemble before being used for the first time. Once assembled, the locomotive and six carriages are pretty sturdy and will take a moderate level of abuse. The other components are similarly fit for purpose. The game even comes with some robust “scenery” to scatter around the train – although I don’t like using the various Cacti, rocks and skulls because it makes it seem like the train is standing still when it’s meant to be steaming along the tracks. But points for thought and effort!

To play, each player picks one of six bandits. They take a play board, two decks of cards – one for actions and one containing their six bullet cards and the appropriate meeple – coloured to match the artwork on the cards. Bandits all have a unique special ability, which can be used or ignored as the players see fit. I’ve never ignored special abilities – even when playing with my parents who sometimes struggle knowing their “hand” from the “deck”. Each bandit is aiming to end the game with more loot than their compatriots.

Carriages are picked and the loot indicated on the carriage floor is placed within. Loot consists of two types – purses and gems. Gems are usually more valuable than purses – though not always. Each loot icon has a value on its underside which will be totalled at the end of the game. At the front of the train is a strong-box containing the top prize – $1,000. This is guarded (initially at least) by a Marshall who seeks to block the bandits’ actions.

Once set up, the game plays quickly and intuitively with a refined set of rules that allow the game to progress differently each time without being overly complicated. This simplicity of design is the game’s core success. It’s genuinely quick to pick up the rules and the rule book is slim and well laid out. Each round, a card is drawn to show how many actions are performed and in what manner. Cards can be placed face up (so everyone knows what every-one else is doing), face down (hidden when in tunnels), the order of play can be reversed or two actions could be carried out simultaneously. Each player draws six cards into their hand. Players take turns performing the number of actions indicated, one at a time. Once all actions are played, the actions are carried out – by revealing the cards again in the order they were played.

Colt Express Cards

The Six Bandits and a set of action cards

This is where a lot of the fun comes into play as hidden actions (those placed face down) or the unexpected movement of the Marshall can completely ruin any plan conceived during the “scheming” phase. By the same token, a well-thought-out series of actions being flawlessly executed allows the player a certain deserved level of smugness.

As well as the random “which six cards will I draw” element, a player’s turn can be complicated by them being shot by either the Marshall or another player. When shot, a player receives a “bullet” card which is added to their deck of actions. Drawing a bullet into the player’s hand means that they have one less potential action to perform. A player can skip an action to draw three more action cards to hopefully give more favourable options. Last game I played, I did this twice. Drawing FIVE bullet cards in addition to the two already in my hand. I got shot a lot!

After the first game or two have been played, a game of Colt Express can shoot by like a steam locomotive with a mission. With three players, a game can be completed in around twenty minutes which – combined with the speed of set up and putting the game away – makes this an ideal addition to a games-night. More time can be spent playing games. For the level of fun contained in the box, Colt Express is a bargain at the price – around £25. I highly recommend the game to beginner table-top gamers and experts alike.

Rating: 5 / 5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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