In today's Let's Play article, we head out to the wild west as we take a look at Colt Express by Ludonaute!
In Colt Express you take the role of a bandit trying to loot the Union Pacific train. However, you aren't the only one who has had this bright idea. The game takes up to six players and only one bandit can win! How do you win I hear you ask? Well you take more loot than anyone else of course, though being trigger happy can also net you $1000. The game runs for five frantic rounds and the estimated game time is forty minutes and that is perfect. So strap on your boots and get your six shooters ready, its about to kick off.
Set up and the components
To talk about the setup for this game, we must first address the components, as there is no game board. So what do you play on? A train! That's right, the game comes with the pieces to build six carriages. As well as, a locomotive, and some scenery for the train ride. These are all made out of a thick card and look awesome when set up. The box contains space for all the carriages and the locomotive to be permanently put together. So there are no concerns over having to assemble and disassemble the parts.
When assembling the train you do have to be a little careful, as you can damage the pieces with too much pressure. This should really be the only chance it has to get disfigured. The other components are meeples for the bandits and sheriff, tokens for the loot, large character sheets, a set of regular cards which will form each players decks and a set of round cards which each have a different effect.
On to the set up. First each player chooses a character. I recommend randomly distributing these as some of the character abilities are stronger than others, or hand the weaker characters to new players. Upon taking your character's meeple, you take the character sheet, bullet cards and action cards that match your colour. There are six bullets representing your six shooter and 10 action cards. The bullets are placed on the corresponding space on your sheet. With the six bullet card on top and descending so the one bullet card is at the bottom. You then shuffle your action cards and place them in a pile face-down. You then each take $250 purse and place it on your character card.
Next, take the locomotive, along with as many carriages as you have players and place it in the center of the surface. Inside each carriage a number of loot bags and diamonds are shown. Mix up the boot bag tokens and place the correct amount in each carriage. These range from $250 to $450 and are placed face down. The diamonds do not need to be mixed before placement as they are all the same value. The Sheriff and strongbox, which contains a hefty $1000 are then placed in the locomotive.
The last steps are to draw four of the seven round cards and form a face down pile, making sure that the train station card is on the bottom. This deck will go in front of the first player, and all the neutral bullet cards placed next to the locomotive. At this stage in the set up we will now determine the first player for the first round. You do this by taking one bandit meeple at random.
Now how do you get on that train? Each player is given a number, the first player being number one and it proceeding clockwise from him/her. All odd numbered players will place their meeple in the caboose(rearmost carriage) and each even player puts their meeple one carriage up so only the end two carriages are occupied.
That completes the games set up, now to get into the game.
Playing the game
Upon starting each round each player should shuffle their action card pool and draw six. These actions are the options your bandit has during this round of play and the way they are played is dictated by the the next step, which is revealing the top round card. These round cards have a few roles. The first is that they show how many cards will be played this round, ranging from four to five. Also how those cards will be played. They could have to be played face down if you are in a tunnel or perhaps you must play two action cards back to back if the train is speeding up. Finally, the card may show an effect. This is a one time effect that occurs at the end of the turn and can be as good as spawning an additional strongbox or as bad as shooting players bandits.
Colt Express has two game phases, schemin'! which is where each player either plays their action cards into the common deck in the center of the table, or draws 3 cards from their action deck, and Stealin'! where that deck gets resolved. All players will complete a phase before play moves on to the second, so for the first phase this means that each player will have played or drawn three to four times before that deck formed is resolved.
There are six different action cards in each player's deck of 10, the actions are as follows:
1. Move along one carriage
this can be towards the front or back of the train.
2. Move on to the roof, or move down
You can take the loot token of your choice from the car which you occupy.
You choose a bandit and give them one of your bullet cards. This helps to slow your opponent down as they may now draw that bullet card on their turn instead of a more useful action card, and don't worry they can't fire your bullets back at you. There are some limitations to this action. If inside you can only shoot into adjacent cars but if you are on the roof you can shoot all the way down the train. Remember that the person who has fired the most bullets upon the game ending also gets an additional $1000.
You punch a bandit in your carriage. This also makes the recipient drop a loot token and pushes them into an adjacent carriage of your choice.
Enables you to move the marshal one car along the train. If this puts him into the same space as a bandit then that bandit is going to take some punishment. He/she receives one neutral bullet card and is immediately moved on to the roof of that car. This can put a serious spanner in the works.
The first four actions have two cards whereas the following two are only one of each. Timing is also important, as once you have been shot a few times, cycling your deck will become more problematic.
Phase two is simple. The first player takes the pile and turns it over so the first card played into it will be the first resolve and then proceeds to work through it, with each player performing the action on their card as it is drawn. Either your plans come together or you'll be scrambling to salvage your turn, reacting to what happens to your meeple and trying to guess what could come next!
After all the cards are resolved each player shuffles all their cards into a new deck. The player on the first player's left will now become the new first player and the next round will begin. Once you have revealed the fifth round card that will mark your final turn, at the end of which each player counts their loot and the player who shot the most bullets gets an additional $1000. If there's more than one player who's shot all six bullets then each player will receive the bonus. In my experience, this is quite likely to occur but perhaps not everyone is as keen to shoot other players as my group is. After the scores have been tallied the winner is declared. That's the whole game in a nutshell.
Thoughts so far
Fast and frantic are the words I would use to describe Colt Express and that is what you would imagine a train robbery would be - bullets flying and bandits trying to grab what they can before the train pulls into the station.
On that front the game is most certainly a success. The round cards are great and without them I feel the game would certainly not be as dynamic. Another element that can change the game, which I alluded to earlier, are the bandit's unique abilities - some of which are much stronger than others but each does have an interesting effect. These are a bit of a hit and miss for me as they can lend a considerable advantage such as always playing your cards face down. For me these stronger characters would always go to new players.
There is an 'expert' variant to the game. This version gives players more control such as discarding all bullet cards drawn in the scheming phase and keeping cards going into the next round. I profess to not really having an interest in playing the game this way as I like the more random elements, however it is always nice to have a game variant.
Overall I find Colt Express an enjoyable ride, one which I am yet to tire of, and in the second part of this deluxe review you will see why as I explore the Horses & Stagecoach expansion.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on January 6th, 2017. Updated on July 7th, 2021 to improve the information available.