Reviewed by: Sitting Duck
When it came to crime in the Wild West, train robberies were far more common than bank robberies. Banks had the problem of being within (literal) shooting distance of the sheriff’s office. Not only was this not a concern with trains, but there was the added advantage of it often being uncertain in which jurisdiction the crime occurred. Colt Express applies an action programming mechanic to this scenario.
From the rulebook:
“The Union Pacific Express has left Folsom, New Mexico, with 47 passengers on board. After a few minutes, the sound of rapid footsteps is heard, coming from overhead; and then, gunshots. Heavily armed bandits are mercilessly robbing honest citizens of their wallets and jewelry.”
Gameplay consists of two phases; Scheming and Stealing. After everyone draws a hand of six Action cards, players will take turns either playing an Action card face up or drawing three more cards, with the number of turns being indicated on the current Round card. Some turns may be marked as having a special effect, such as the player order being reversed or requiring that cards be played face down. Once Scheming is done, the cards are then resolved in the order they were played. Possible actions include moving to an adjacent car, switching to the roof or interior as appropriate, punching a rival bandit who is in the same location, firing at a rival bandit who is in an adjacent location, claiming a Loot token in your current location, or moving the Marshal to a car adjacent to his current location. Some Round cards will also have an event which occurs once the Stealing phase is over.
Both forms of initiating player conflict have their own advantages. Punching employs superhero physics, as it sends the targeted bandit flying into an adjacent car. In addition, he’ll leave behind one Loot token of the attacking player’s choice. Firing has more long term effects, where the attacking player adds one of his Bullet cards to the target player’s deck. A Bullet card is unusable during the Scheming phase, effectively limiting the range of actions the player can take. Another source of Bullet cards is the Marshal. Should the Marshal enter a car occupied by a bandit (or vice versa), the bandit’s player adds one of the Neutral Bullet cards to his deck.
A common trope in Westerns is to have one or more characters walking on the roofs of the train cars while they’re in motion. Colt Express employs some incentives to encourage this. While up top, the Move and Fire actions have a range of three. Since the Marshal never goes up top, it’s also the best way to get around him (especially if you don’t want him filling you with lead).
From the website:
“Each character has his own personality but, at the end of the day, they all have the same goal: to get the biggest slice of the pie in robbing the passengers.”
One of the more distinctive aspects of the game is how, instead of a board, the action takes place in a three dimensional cardboard model train. Assembling the cars is a snap thanks to the clear instructions provided. The different parts also fit together snugly, so there’s no need to apply glue. The only potential issue is that thick-fingered gamers may have trouble handing Loot tokens and Bandit pawns inside the cars.
Since the conflict elements work better with at least three players, some modifications are necessary for a two player game. In this case, each player controls two bandits. To avoid the awkwardness of handing two sets of cards, players use combined decks consisting of one Marshal card and one of every other Action type for each of their bandits.
In conclusion, this is an excellent game for introducing gamers to the action programming mechanic, as the chances of played actions being rendered useless (and the attendant frustration) are minimal. It also features one of the better two player fixes I’ve encountered.
Type of Game: Board Game
Game Design by: Christophe Raimbault
Cover Art by: Jordi Valbuena
Additional Art by: Jordi Valbuena and Ian Parovel
Game Components Included: Rulebook, 6 Train cars, 1 Locomotive, 10 Terrain elements, 18 Purse tokens, 6 Jewel tokens, 2 Strongbox tokens, 6 Bandit pawns, 1 Marshal pawn, 17 Round cards, 6 Character cards, 60 Action cards, 36 Bandit Bullet cards, 13 Neutral Bullet cards
Retail Price: $39.99
Number of Players: 2-6
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 40 minutes
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck