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Colt Express

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Colt Express is a card-driven, action/movement programming board game that looks like a famous scene straight out of a classic Wild West movie. Here players are rival, caricatured bandits on board a locomotive, attempting to become the richest outlaw during a good old-fashioned train robbery. There’s no board in Colt Express – instead, the action takes place within physical 3-D …
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Awards

Spiel de jahres
Exceptional Components

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Learn in five minutes.
  • Brimming with theme.
  • 3D Train.
  • Laugh out loud fun.
  • Good game length.

Might Not Like

  • Too random for some.
  • Very light gameplay.
  • Lack of strategy.
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Description

Colt Express is a card-driven, action/movement programming board game that looks like a famous scene straight out of a classic Wild West movie. Here players are rival, caricatured bandits on board a locomotive, attempting to become the richest outlaw during a good old-fashioned train robbery.

There’s no board in Colt Express – instead, the action takes place within physical 3-D train carriages that sit on the table. They look delightful and get players excited straight away (we estimate 10 seconds before you hear the first ‘Yee-haw!’). But these are not just a gimmick from Ludonaute – instead, they quite literally set the scene.

A variety of loot, in the form of $250-$500 purses and $500 gems, is placed within the carriages, and the honourable Marshal Samuel Ford, the one honest man on board, starts in the locomotive car. He’s guarding a briefcase worth an eye-watering $1,000. The bandits – with asymmetrical player powers – start in the caboose, and they have five rounds to scheme and steal as much of this loot as possible.

Each player has a deck of ten cards, with actions that range from:

• Floor Change (onto the roof or down into a carriage).
• Moving (along one carriage or across multiple carriages if you’re on the roof).
• Shooting (a rival bandit and giving them a useless bullet card, which clogs up their deck for the next round).
• Punching (a rival bandit into an adjacent carriage and causing them to drop a piece of loot).
• Robbery (picking up a piece of loot in your current carriage);
• Moving the Marshal (who can also shoot bandits if they’re in the same carriage).

Players deal themselves six cards. One at a time they can play an action card into the common deck; sometimes they’ll have to play them face-up for all to see and memorise, sometimes face-down. Once a set number of cards have been played – these differ, round to round – they are then activated in chronological order, which is when the madness begins… Bullets, fistfights and the dropping of loot occur all over the place, and not always the way players intended them!

Colt Express won the Spiel des Jahres award (the Family Game of the Year) in 2015, and it’s certainly a family-friendly game that players shouldn’t take too seriously. Since you can only see a percentage of the programmed actions, you need to calculate the odds of your perfect move being achievable. However, more often than not, the laughter comes when your plans go out the window and you have to suddenly adapt. If you’re a fan of other program-movement titles such as River Dragons, Robo Rally and Lords of Xidit, then Colt Express is the rootin’-tootin’ ride for you.

Player Count: 2-6
Time: 40 Minutes
Age: 10+

 

Colt Express Review How many times have you watched those old style westerns where the bandits rob a train? Have you not also secretly thought “ooh that looks cool. Wish I could do that”? Well now you can courtesy of Christophe Raimbault’s Colt Express. It's 1899 and the Union Pacific Express is heading north to deliver its payroll and 47 passengers. Suddenly the train is attacked by a host of thieving bandits! You and your fellow players will take on the role of hardened bandit outlaws. Shooting, Punching and Stealing. Trying to collect all the loot you can from the train. Watch out though there is a Marshall on this train, and can you really trust your fellow bandits? Of course you can’t. They will do their best to steal more and will even steal from you given half a chance. This is a no holds barred train robbery with every bandit out for themselves. After all there is NO honour among thieves.

What do I get?

Inside your Colt Express game box you will find:

  • Six Bandit pawns (One in each player colour).
  • 30 Bullet cards (Six in each player colour).
  • 60 Action cards (10 in each player colour).
  • Six Character cards (One in each player colour).
  • One Marshall pawn.
  • 15 Neutral bullet Cards.
  • Three Train station cards.
  • Seven Round cards for 2-4 players.
  • Seven Round cards for 5-6 players.
  • Two Strongbox tokens value $1000 each.
  • Six Jewel tokens value $500 each.
  • 18 Purse tokens value between $250-$500 each.
  • 10 Terrain elements.
  • One Locomotive, 3D, card self assemble.
  • Six Train cars, 3D, card self assemble.
  • Rule book.
  • One Set of Train assembly instructions.

-Six Bandit pawns (One in each player colour).
-30 Bullet cards (Six in each player colour).
-60 Action cards (10 in each player colour).
-Six Character cards (One in each player colour).
-One Marshall pawn.
-15 Neutral bullet Cards.
-Three Train station cards.
-Seven Round cards for 2-4 players.
-Seven Round cards for 5-6 players.
-Two Strongbox tokens value $1000 each.
-Six Jewel tokens value $500 each.
-18 Purse tokens value between $250-$500 each.
-10 Terrain elements.
-One Locomotive, 3D, card self assemble.
-Six Train cars, 3D, card self assemble.
-Rule book.
-One Set of Train assembly instructions. Colt Express - Box Contents

Self Assemble?

Yes you read that right. Before you can even think about playing a game of Colt Express you will first need to build Colt Express. Don’t Panic! This is nowhere near as hard as you might think. The instructions are clear and concise. No glue needed. All the parts are well designed and once assembled you will discover that the train is nice to look at, sturdy and the locomotive and carriages all connect together nicely.... choo choo. There are also some nice little extras with the terrain pieces assembling to form rocks and free standing cactus. These terrain pieces are not needed for the game but add so much theme it would be a shame to miss them out. What is nice to see is that the game box is designed in such a way that after play the carriages and locomotive store in their own individual sections. Separate from the cards and pawns. Thus protecting them from damage and storing everything nicely.

OK Stick-em-up!

Right you have built the train cars and the locomotive. So just how do you play Colt Express then? You start off by choosing the deck of round cards based on the number of players. This will define the number of actions each round. Each player chooses their preferred character (you can random deal or draft it is your choice). It is worth noting each character has a special ability which ranges from extra cards to choose from to stronger punches to shooting further.

Once all players have their character they take a deck of bullet cards and a deck of action cards for their character. You will all draw a hand of six cards (abilities might alter this number) from your action deck. These will form your possible actions this round. The round card is turned over. You then move onto the first of the two main phases of the round.

Schemin’This first phase is like pre-programming your bandit to perform a set series of actions. All players, in turn order, will select a card from their hand to place in a central pile (usually face up). Yes this will allow others to see what actions you are planning. You will also see what they are planning. The number of cards played is determined by the round card. Once the correct number of cards has been played the central action pile is turned over. This moves you onto the second of the main phases.

Stealin’ → In this phase you will get to see your best laid master-plan go completely wrong with hilarious results. The top card from the central action pile is revealed and the relevant character takes the action revealed. These will consist of:

  • Floor Change - Move up or down to the roof.
  • Move - Either move your bandit one car left or right (up to three cars if on the roof). Or move your bandit up or down to or from the roof.
  • Fire Gun - Shoot a bandit in an adjacent car (on the roof line of sight allows for longer range) This is resolved by you giving the player a bullet card from your bullet deck which they put into their action deck (more on this soon).
  • Punch - A bandit in the same car as you can be punched allowing you to steal loot from them and knocking them into an adjacent car. That is one hard punch.
  • Robbery - Take a piece of loot from your current location.
  • Marshal - Move the marshal one car left or right (he does not go onto the roof). Any bandits he encounters are immediately knocked up onto the roof and are given a neutral bullet card for their action deck.

All actions in Colt Express are obligatory and must be performed if possible.

Then all players collect their deck of action cards along with any bullet cards they have been given (not their own) and shuffles them together. They deal themselves a new hand of six, face down cards. A new round card is revealed and you begin again.

Once the train station card is revealed it signifies the end of the hold-up. Most loot wins, with a nice $1000 bounty to those trigger happy enough to unload all their bullets.

Just a Flesh Wound

Bullet cards can really cause you problems. This is because whenever you draw one as one of your six cards it is effectively a dead action. This gives you less cards to choose from, making life much more difficult. So as you can see getting shot too often is really bad for your wealth. If your draw is particularly bad you can mitigate it a little by spending an action to draw three new cards. In 2-3 player games you probably wont get too many bullet holes in you. At 5-6 player numbers however those bullets will be flying around the carriages. You have been warned. Colt Express - Playing Cards

Heist Planning

This is the moment when Colt Express is either a bullet to your heart or leaves you feeling robbed. If you like to plan ahead, calculate your every move, deduct your opponent's plan and out manoeuvre them to predict the final outcome, you will find yourself on the wrong train. Yes there is strategy in Colt Express but not in the “long game” sense, but much more in the immediate adapt and think on your feet sense of the word. No plan is fool proof in this game. Invariably you will not be where you thought you would. Oh you can try to plan alright. “I will move here, punch him, steal that, jump onto the roof”. Then a rival moves the marshal all of a sudden you on the roof. “Oh my! I will run along the roof, swing my arms to stay warm (it is not a punch honest), inspect the roof, drop down into a carriage”. Usually cards are played face-up and you can get a general feel for what is going to happen and try to plan accordingly. Sometimes they are face down or two together or the order reversed. Think less of it as strategy and more like trying to find order in chaos.

My Thoughts on Colt Express

Colt Express is FUN it is as simple as that. We are talking light, fast, laugh out loud, screw you, take that, shoot him, punch him type fun. The visual appeal is top notch you set up a 3D train on the table with cactus and rocks all around, bandits and a marshal. You will find yourself surrounded by interested people wanting to give it a try. Chaos will ensue as nobody does what anyone else thinks they will. You will find yourself shooting at thin air and punching at nothing. When you do hit someone or steal some treasure you will not be able to stop the “Yeah take that” from escaping from your lips. Do what you think will be the best move, and figure out how to best use it when that move is resolved. Oh and did I mention it uses a 3D train model. If I can stop grinning at the thought of another game just for a moment, there are some flaws. Picking up loot tokens can be fiddly especially if you have larger fingers and knocking pieces flying can and will happen. The random chaos that ensues during a game will be off-putting for the strategy purists (bah humbug). If the train had been made as a flat board the game would have lost a lot of its appeal, as it is the visual aspect that really sells this to gamers.

In Short

Colt Express is a game that soars high or falls flat depending entirely on the mindset of those playing.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy of Colt Express in order to write my review. This in no way affected the review above.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to rob a train? Well, Colt Express has the answers, assuming you meant 'what would it be like to rob a train whilst fending off attacks from your fellow bandits, unruly passengers and an unhappy Marshall'.

In Colt Express, players take on the roles of competing gang members, each trying their hardest to steal the most loot over the length of a train journey. You'll be re-enacting classic Western tropes (a carriage rooftop shoot out, robbing the strongbox at the front of the train) and ruining your friends plans, all while trying to stay out of harms way.

This game uses a 3D cardboard train in place of a board, so the first step is to assemble each carriage using the instructions in the box. Once that's complete, you're ready to learn how to play.

Setup

Take the locomotive and one train car per player (at random) from the box. This will form the train you're robbing this game.

Set aside $250 for each player and then place loot in each train car, according to what's printed on the floor (this will be either loot bags, gems or both). Loot bags should be placed face down so that their value is hidden. Gems are always worth $500.

Place the Marshal meeple in the locomotive with one strongbox token (these are always worth $1000 so it can be face up or face down). Then place the neutral bullet cards (yellow outline) nearby.

Each player now chooses a character and takes their deck of 10 action cards and 6 bullet cards. Shuffle the action cards and place them face down in the middle space indicated. The bullet cards should be organised in descending order from 6 bullets to 1. Each player should now also take one of the $250 loot bags that were set aside and place them face down on their character sheet.

Note - Each character has a special power that should be taken into consideration when choosing who to play as. However, if this is your (or any other player's) first game, it is recommended to ignore these powers.

Pick a random meeple to decide who is first player and then, in turn order, alternate placing players meeples in the last two cars of the train.

Finally, take the Round Cards that correspond to your player count, shuffle them and deal 4 face down. Then take the Train Station cards, shuffle them and add one to the bottom of the pile. This way, the Round Deck tells the story of your train journey, ending at the station.

Note - If this is your first time playing, it is recommended to ignore the Train Station cards and just deal with 5 Round Cards.

Schemin' & Stealin'

The game takes place over 5 rounds and each round consists of two phases - Schemin' and Stealin'.

During the Schemin' phase, players will play cards (either face up or face down) into a shared pile in the middle of the table. During the Stealin' phase, this deck will be flipped over and the cards will be resolved in the order they were played.

To begin, the first player will draw a Round Card and show it to the table. Each card shows how players will be taking turns this round:

  • Face up, so that everyone can see the action you have chosen
  • Face down, so the action remains hidden
  • Two face up cards in a row, so that you will carry out more actions during the Stealin' phase
  • Counter clockwise, so that, after the first player, the player to their right plays the next card instead (face up).

Round Cards will also sometimes contain a symbol (printed in the top right). These symbols refer to events that happen at the end of the round and are explained in detail in the manual. It is recommended you don't use these in your first game but, if you choose to, it's worth looking them up at this point, so that players can take this into account.

Each player now draws 6 cards from their face down deck. This is your pool for the round and, as per the Round Card, you will use them to plan your actions for the Stealin' phase.

Each Player's Deck Consists Of The Same 10 Cards

  • Move (2) - If you are inside the train, you can move to an adjacent car (in either direction). If you are on the roof, you can move up to 3 cars away. Characters can never move off the train (front or back) for any reason.
  • Change Floors (2) - If you are inside the train, move to the roof. If you are on the roof, move inside the car you are currently standing on.
  • Shoot (2) - Take the top bullet card from your character sheet and put it on top of the deck of another player who's meeple is in an adjacent carriage. If there are multiple options, you can choose who to shoot. You can't shoot someone in the same car as you. If you are on the roof of the train, you can shoot any other character who is also on the roof, though players block line of sight (meaning you must hit whoever is closest). If no one is within range, nothing happens.
  • Rob (2) - Take one loot token from the car you're in, or from the roof if you are on top of the train, and put it on your character sheet. All loot remains face down for the whole game.
  • Punch (1) - Choose another bandit in your space (inside a car or on the roof) and force them to drop a loot token. You get to choose which token they lose but you are not allowed to see it's worth. This is the only way loot tokens can end up on the roof of the train.
  • Marshal (1) - Move the Marshal meeple one space. If any player is ever in the same train car as the Marshal, they immediately move to the roof of that car and place a neutral bullet card on top of their deck.

These cards are played into a shared deck in the middle of the table. This way, you can see what other players are hoping to do and plan your actions accordingly (apart from when cards are played face down, of course). However, it's important to remember that no actions are actually carried out yet.

In later rounds of the game, you might find that your hand contains bullet cards (either another players or neutral). These cards are useless and provide no action, other than to clog up your hand.

Therefore, if you ever don't want to take an action (or can't), you can draw 3 cards from your deck instead of playing 1. If the action printed on the round card was to play 2 cards in a row, you can draw 3 as your first action and then play a card, or draw 6 cards instead of playing any.

The Wild West

Once everyone has played their action cards for the round, the first player takes the deck of cards and turns it over. This way, the card at the bottom (that was played first) will be the first action carried out this round.

One by one, the first player flips over these cards and the matching player resolves their action.

As each card is resolved, return it to the relevant player. You will shuffle your entire deck between rounds (which is how bullet cards get mixed in), so there's no need to create separate piles.

Note - Due to the nature of this action programming mechanic, it's likely that some of your actions won't go to plan and that things you hoped to carry out will now be impossible. I recommend getting used to this and maybe even warning new players before the game begins.

After all of the actions for the round are resolved, the event that is printed on the card will take place (assuming you have chosen to play with this rule).

Now, the first player passes to the left and a new round card is drawn. All players shuffle their entire deck, draw 6 cards and go again!

The Winner Takes It All

After 5 rounds, players should flip over all the loot tokens on their character sheet and add them up. There is also a $1000 bonus for the player who successfully shot the most bullets (tied players all gain the bonus).

Whoever has the most money wins!

Note - I haven't explained character powers in this guide but each one is covered clearly in the manual. They all consist of slight rule-breaking mechanics (being able to shoot people on the roof of your car, drawing extra cards etc…). There is also an expert variant that involves more strict hand management (players don't shuffle their decks between rounds) which is also explained fully at the back of the manual.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Learn in five minutes.
  • Brimming with theme.
  • 3D Train.
  • Laugh out loud fun.
  • Good game length.

Might not like

  • Too random for some.
  • Very light gameplay.
  • Lack of strategy.