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.
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.