Inside the box are 132 game cards, wooden bandit-shaped counters and a Marshall, a press-out cardboard 3D train and scenery, 26 loot tokens and a rulebook.
The train once assembled has a locomotive and 6 carriages. A different number of carriages are used depending on the number of players. We played with 3, so used 3 carriages.
In a stroke of pure genius the Colt Express box is decorated inside and split into compartments to store the entire assembled set safely. It makes a really nice feature from something that is actually incredibly useful.
10 items of scenery are included. They aren't really used in the game, but are just a really nice touch!
The loot is in purses of various values (written on the back) and rubies, plus 2 strongboxes. Loot is placed around the carriages as directed at the beginning of the game, and collected by the bandits (players) during the action phase. It can also be lost or dropped if you are shot!
The Marshall (yellow wooden bandit) begins in the locomotive with a strongbox, and is not controlled by an individual player. He moves whenever an action involving him takes place.
Players stay on the train throughout the game, you can never leave. If an action would move you beyond the train then it isn't played.
Each player chooses a character and takes the corresponding card. Each character has their own special skill or move e.g Django moves forward with every shot. Colt Express requires a lot of strategic thinking, so the age range of 10+ is right. It's simply unfair on younger players before that age.
How each round is played is determined by the drawing of cards. Firstly each round has a random Round Card drawn from a pack. Each player has several Action Cards drawn from their own small deck and players also have a set of 6 Bullet Cards, which you pass to opposing players who you have shot. When all 6 are played, you can shoot no more. Finally the Marshall also has 'Neutral Bullet Cards' for when he has shot you.
You don't 'die' when you are shot, but you take damage and the bullet cards are added to your Action Cards pile. When you draw cards for the next round any Bullet Cards in your hand can't be used, so cripple the player and reduce their moves. This can be harsh if you have a lot of bullet cards, making you effectively 'miss a turn' and have to stand still while everyone else moves around you.
Once set up is complete you begin the 'Schemin' Phase' where you all, in turn, lay down action cards in the order you hope for play to proceed, bearing in mind other player's actions may well affect yours. You can move along the train, move to the top of the carriage from inside, or vice versa, punch or shoot another player, take some loot or move the Marshall.
Only by being caught in the same carriage can the Marshall shoot you, but other players can shoot anyone in eyeline (as long as they have played the right card). You can only punch someone who is in (or on) the same carriage.
After the Schemin' Phase is over, it's the Stealin' Phase, where the actions placed earlier are played out in turn. This is where you find out what any hidden moves were, and how your actions interact with the other players. It's a really clever and different way to play a story-based game, and it works incredibly well.
The winner is the player with the most loot.
By the end you actually have a feel for your character, and you get drawn into the little scenario as it happens in 3D in front of you. It never pans out as you expected, but it can be hilarious watching another player set up a move to take some loot or shoot someone and their plan go horribly wrong. The unexpected happens regularly.
In one of our games one of the players managed to win by being repeatedly shot, but in their hand they had played lots of Robbery Cards, and were able to keep grabbing loot as they were forced through the train. There's an element of luck, but it's really what you do with the cards you are given which makes all the difference.
Colt Express is tons of fun. We love this game and it's one of our family favourites. It's easy to see why it's award-winning, and it suits almost any style of board and family game player. Each game takes around 40 minutes, so it's very handy for a games night warm up or a spare hour. Perfect for different generations to play together.
Colt Express is distributed by Esdevium Games and available to buy now at all good games retailers instore and online, including Amazon rrp £27.99.
We were sent our copy of Colt Express for review.