Colt Express – Review

Type: Area Control / Programmed Actions

Time to play: < 1 hr (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 4-5 players

Firstly, I have put Colt Express as an area control even though there is no benefit to controlling the various carriages of this three dimensional train. Why? Well because the small treasure tokens that are picked up (and dropped) during this game represent the limited points available in the entire game – it’s a scrap for control of these mobile tokens that is key to winning the game. The other interesting element of this game is that you programme your actions before they resolve – more on this to follow in the short rules summary.

The game takes place over 5 rounds each different due to the cards randomly selected at the start of the game. The rounds vary with a special action at the end of the round and with a different number (and rules for) of cards played in that round. Some rounds will have every player take 4 actions, others 3 or 5. Some rounds will have a specific point where all players cards are played face down so their moves are hidden. Some rounds will send the turn order in reverse. All this matters, because this will help you make that important decision to jump between carriages, punch an opponent or even move the marshal when no-one expects it!

The game has an element of take that, with cards being played from the hand and impacting your own mini on the train and others. Punching a player and sending him in one direction can void most of the actions he has planned for this turn. Similarly moving the marshal the other direction to what people anticipated can leave them standing on the roof of the carriage unable to do anything!

It’s this open planning with a regular take that element that makes this game interesting (even though I typically don’t like that style). You can see what’s coming, you can see if your opponent has jumped in there before you, and you can see if your opponent has just punched you as soon as you picked up the goods!

If you were struggling to pick up the goods, the game offers you a second way of making big money – being a gunslinger. If you can shoot the most bullets then you will be rewarded with $1,000. The other impact is that the bullets fired fill the decks of your opponents and when they draw a new hand they may have to skip a go to pick up more cards.

Be aware though, being gun slinger or getting the stock box are the only two $1,000 rewards ad you are extremely unlikely to win without one of these. So you will need to think about which is possible for you and which you will focus on.

Now, whilst I hear the recent expansions to this game transform and improve the game, this review is solely on the base game. Expansions are great – but that merits a whole separate review and I couldn’t do that without having posted the base game. After all, buying a game for the expansion is a big cost!

The pros of this game then are a quick play time, a comic setting (of robbing a 3D train infront of you), and a great combination of programming moves which all players can see. It’s great to be able to plan your moves and see what your opponents are planning. It’s also fun to work out who is on the roof at the third move of the round and whether you can shot them from the other end of the train! Plus there’s that moment where 1 player picks up the loot only for the other player in the cabin to punch it off him!

So the cons – well, there’s not actually a lot of choices. 10 different cards capture 6 different actions. Shooting your gun gets you very little until the end, which feels disappointing.  Lastly, it really needs 4+ to play well which can mean it’s difficult to get it to the table amongst some gaming groups.

It’s a fun party style game which serves as a good introduction to programming movement. In another practical plus the components slot back into the box without being disassembled.

Last notes:

  • If you play lighter / party games with bigger numbers then this is a fun light weight game that will still throw up challenges.
  • If you want to build your engine and hate passing a turn just to draw more cards then this is not going to be one for you!
  • If you win at this game then you have done well to get one of the key $1,000 prizes, but chances are this success rests also on the failure of the other player going for the $1,000 prize. There will be a big gap as well to third and below!

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