Posted Sunday, 19-Jul-2015
A compilation of reviews for Colt Express.
Colt Express from designer Christophe Raimbalt (Sandwich, Hacker, Chef Cuckoo!) and published by Asmodee (7 Wonders, Abalone, Abyss) is a movement programming and hand management game released in 2014.
In Colt Express, players take on the role of a train robbing outlaw, with the goal of being the richest bandit in the west. To do this, players must do whatever they can to rob a train that just left Folsom, New Mexico but only the one with the most loot makes it off the train. Will you become the richest Outlaw in the west?
In Colt Express, players move meeples along a three-dimensional train to represent a group of old west bandits each with the goal of making off with the most loot in a train robbery. Divided into five rounds of two phases, Colt Express revolves around playing action cards that program your moves for that turn. However certain action cards like being shot can impede your movement giving your opponents a chance to grab more loot.
The first of these phases is the “Schemin’” phase in which players discard their action cards as a way to “program” their movement for the following phase known as the “Stealin’” phase. Once the “Schemin’” phase is over, the “Stealin’” phase has players flip over their discard pile and go through each of their action cards. Dale Yu from Opinionated Gamers explains the “Stealin’” phase of the game:
…the card played first in the round is now on the top of the deck. Then, one by one, the cards are revealed and the action on the card is performed by the owner of the particular card. The actions are obligatory – if you are able to perform the action on the card, you must do so.
The strategy in the game comes from deciding the order in which you discard your action cards since once the “Stealin’” phase is in place player’s options are already in place. However strategist beware, once the “Stealin’” phase begins the game becomes much more chaotic especially when face-down action cards come into play.
Derek Thompson from Meeple Town described the chaos in Colt Express commenting, “…the fact that the game’s fun is dependent on the game going horribly wrong is sort of a double-edged sword here. It can be quite funny when plans go awry, but also quite frustrating.” In other words, while players are given some way to adjust their strategy during the “Stealin’” phase of the game gameplay is more or less decided during the “Schemin’” phase.
While the game may be at the mercy of a well-planned strategy, the action cards make for some rather chaotic gameplay. Jacob Coon from Whose Turn Is It Anyways? gives us a rundown of two of these action cards:
The punch action allows you to punch someone in/on the same car as you and force them to drop loot… If you shoot someone you then give them one of your bullet cards and the player with the fewest bullet cards remaining at the end of the game receives a $1000 bonus.
As you can see action cards can seriously derail another player’s strategy making it very difficult to come up with an optimal strategy, however planning your moves out is the only way to win. While everyone’s hands start off identical to one another, player’s hands are modified throughout the course of the game. So in essence, while there is some chance to adjust your strategy accordingly, most of the gameplay follows a predetermined pattern once all the cards are in play.
Colt Express is a light, family-friendly game, and its chaotic nature makes the game a lot of fun if not a bit wacky and random. However, players looking for a heavily analytical game to test out their strategic mettle are probably better off keeping Colt Express on the shelf.
Craig Massey from Opinionated Gamers explains, “This is a game that has a high fun and silliness factor. If you want to be serious and strategic, then you’re better off looking elsewhere. But get into the spirit of the game and its very enjoyable.”
Furthermore, while the game is accessible and easy to play once the rules are understood, picking up the game can be a bit difficult at first. Derek Thompson of Meeple Town explains:
This game relies on a programming mechanic similar to Robo Rally or Lords of Xidit, but it’s not easily explained to casual gamers. However, I found that if we just played a practice round with people just randomly throwing cards down, it suddenly clicked and made much more sense.
Colt Express is also a great game for gamers with a keen eye for unique components. Dale Yu of Opinionated Gamers commented, “The 3-D board is really neat – definitely a conversation piece. Every time that I’ve taken it out, gamers have come around to ooh and aah about the bits.”
Overall, Colt Express ideal for fans of programming movement games, the outlaw theme and strategy games (just so long as you don’t your plans flying off the rails). Ideally, the game serves as a great closer or opener to game night and it’s something you can play with the whole family.
FutureWolfie from Islaythedragon commented: “Colt Express is a very enjoyable game to play, and it certainly captures the theme of an adventurous train robbery… but the system could have used some tweaks to really make this game special.”
Meanwhile Meeple Town’s Derek Thompson gave the game 3 out of 5 Meeples; “Colt Express looks great on the table and delivers a lot of chaos-fueled laughter, but don’t expect a very deep experience.”
Guild Master Gaming writer Daniel Yocom defended the game’s replayability: “There are enough variations in the characters and the train cards to allow for back to back gaming without having a game seem like a repeat.”
Dale Yu from Opinionated Gamers enjoyed the game despite being overly-random at times:
There’s a bit more randomness and chaos than I’d prefer in a game, but the overall duration is short (30-40 minutes). And even if you can’t pick up your own loot, it can be satisfying in its own way to score points by shooting everyone else and punching them – to pick up their loot and to hopefully screw up their plans in the process!
Colt Express is a great game for players looking for a quick opener to game night that are okay with seeing their “perfectly laid plans” crumble in a way that’s random, wacky and chaotic.
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