Colt Express Big Box Review

Colt Express Big Box has just been released by publisher Ludonaute, claiming to be the full Colt Express experience. This big box version of the game includes the base game, the Horses and Stagecoach expansion, the Marshal and Prisoners expansion and a brand new bandit called Silk. Designed by Christophe Raimbault, featuring artwork from Jordi Valbuena, Colt Express is a game that sees 2 – 9 players robbing a train and in true Wild West fashion they’ll be shooting each other and dodging the dastardly law along the way. However, is this the best way to play Colt Express? Let’s find out!

If you haven’t played Colt Express or the two included expansions before, here’s a quick overview of each: though for full details check out our standalone reviews of each!

Colt Express is an incredible board game. With a stunning 3D train down the middle of the table, players are aiming to play their cards right to move about the train, acquire more loot than the others, and shoot the most too! Chaos is at the forefront of Colt Express as it utilises action programming. While this sounds potentially dull it is far, far from it.

All players will draw a hand of action cards. Players in turn play action cards into a central pile, the number based on a round card. Only after all of the action cards for the full round have been played are those actions activated – in the order the cards were played in. This means you have to attempt to remember what you have done, what opponents have done and such – with plenty of ways to disrupt plans along the way. For example, you might be thinking of shooting someone in an adjacent train carriage. Perhaps the marshal is moved, sending you to the roof and you end up shooting a completely different fellow bandit. The base game alone is brilliant fun, and you can read more about it here.

Horses & Stagecoaches is full of what Colt Express is all about. It instils a splash of additional chaos, new choices are available and there are new routes to victory. The horses element of the expansion changes the start of the game, as well as adding a new action into the mix. Rather than players starting in the carriages on the train, in a predetermined order, players start on horseback. During play a ride action is then available, as one of the action cards players shuffle in. Played during the scheming phase, this sees a character jump from a carriage, inside or the roof, onto an adjacent horse – making it even harder to track where everyone is!

Colt Express Big Box

The Stagecoach side of the expansion adds, unsurprisingly, a stagecoach alongside the train. Each round the stagecoach moves backwards along the side of the train, always being lined up with a train carriage. An additional $1,000 briefcase starts on top of the stagecoach, guarded by a new shotgun character. Within the stagecoach are hostages ready to be taken. With one drawn from the deck per player these vary from one game to the next. As well as providing loot these have negative effects. These range from players being unable to use the ride action, to adding a neutral bullet card to their deck each round – even losing their bandits special power. For more details about the Horses & Stagecoach expansion read the full review here.

The Marshal & Prisoners expansion adds a prison cell train carriage to the back of the train (the caboose). Unlike the rest of the carriages with an inside and roof, the prison cell car has three sections: a roof area, corridor and cell. The cell can never be entered via movement, with the new bright ideas card used to free a prisoner – which are worth loot to whoever frees them. This isn’t the best part of the new card type though. Playing it anywhere other than in the prison car the bright ideas card has a special effect of mimicking the most recently played bandit action card. Not only does this allow players to use an action they otherwise might not have in their hand, but it often creates huge firefights with players mimicking gun cards.

As the name suggests this expansion also brings in a Marshal, though this doesn’t sound new. Well this allows him to be playable in an all against one style experience. Whoever takes up the role of the marshal must complete 4 out of their 5 objectives to win, with tasks such as shooting bandits a number of times whilst not being punched too much. Unlike the bandits the marshal has a unique deck which includes three guns cards, no punch card and has the ability to arrest. With the right group having one player as the Marshal can be a lot of fun, though some will find that they prefer everyone to be on the same level playing field as bandits.

Alongside the Marshal role comes Mei. She is a brand new character ready to be part of the competitive train heist. Unlike the base game bandits, Mei’s ability is all about movement. When doing a vertical movement she is able to move diagonally to an adjacent carriage. This might not sound like much. However, it can completely throw other bandits off your trail, allowing you to swoop in and claim loot. Having another bandit in the mix from the get go is great for variety and for players that like to play as the yellow meeple in all games. For more details on the Marshal & Prisoners expansion read the full review here.

Much like with Mei’s introduction in Marshal & Prisoners, Silk is a brand new character to the Colt Express roster. This new bandit breaks the mould, coming not with 1, not 2 but 3 abilities. To balance this Silk only has one of the abilities each game but can somewhat be seen as a 3 in 1 style addition. In one game Silk can always move 1 or 2 carriages, regardless of if in the train or on top. Dodging the law in the next the marshall causes Silk to move to the roof still but the neutral bullet is given to any other player. Instead, Silk can block the rear doors of a carriage. While it can still be shot through it interrupts attempted movements.

Each has its own qwirk. Not being able to sprint along the roofs of the train can be limiting. Jumping through and past a carriage with the marshall however opens up a lot of opportunities. Doding neutral shots means you can plan to use the marshall more safely than ever before. Blocking doors can increase the chaos of the experience for others. All of the powers are fun, with players agreeing which is to be the one used in that game. Of the three the blocking power introduces the most for new players to keep track of, though not keeping track of everything is part of the entertainment of Colt Express. Silk with the three new powers is a great little extra, being the extra bit of variety to throw into the mix. For those who already own all of the content in the Big Box it is great to see that the publisher Ludonaute is making Silk available direct from their webstore, as a standalone item.

There’s no doubt that the Colt Express Big Box provides both a neater and easier to use storage solution for the base game and the expansion content. Either fans had to keep the expansion boxes, splitting the content across them, or they had to ditch the helpful base game insert to cram all of the cardboard into the box. The Big Box has room for all the carriages and cards too. With the well laid out insert the setup time of the game is kept short, with the trains and carriages, stagecoach and everything can be left fully constructed between plays. Due to this approach it’s clear to see why the team decided to go with a longer rather than deeper box, despite it being harder to fit onto the typical gamer’s Kallax shelf.

There are a few ways that this Big Box lets gamers down. This is due to the Colt Express Big Box not being a complete package. Later this year a brand new expansion called Colt Express Conveyors & Armored Train is to be released, which will not fit into the Big Box. A range of Colt Express: Bandits mini expansions were released in 2018, none of which have made the cut, and neither has the time travel Back to the Future themed promo – which would have been a nice little extra for fans picking up the Big Box. 

For fans of Colt Express who don’t already own the game, perhaps playing it around friends or in game cafes, the Big Box is a phenomenal way to get almost all of the content for the game in one go. Having the expansions available from the very beginning is amazing, though brand new players may wish to drip feed in some of the content, so as to not be overwhelmed. It is disappointing to see the Colt Express Big Box be sold as the “full” experience whilst not being so, though there’s no getting around how much fun the game is. Colt Express is pure fun and chaotic, ideal for game nights aplenty, and this Big Box is a great way to jump in and get playing!