Colt Super Express is a speedy reimplementation of the action queue and hand management board game Colt Express, published by Ludonaute. Designed by Cédric Lefebvre and Christophe Raimbault, featuring artwork by Jordi Valbuena, 3 – 7 players will be once again trying to outwit their opponents in the wild west. Loot is no longer the aim for these western bandits, instead they just want to stay on the locomotive! So, is this a super version in speed and design? Let’s find out!
Setup is almost as simple as placing a few cards in the center of the table and letting each player choose the bandit they wish to play as. This sees the locomotive and a train car card per player plus one lined up and players claiming a meeple and the 4 cards of their chosen colour. Randomly choosing a player their bandit meeple is placed on the second train car from the back. Each player around the table, going clockwise, then adds their meeple to the next train car – with each subsequent player being closer to the locomotive.
The direction faced is important as is the location on the card, with a train carriage and roof area depicted on each card. Meeples start in the train cars, with the meeples on the back half of the train facing towards the locomotive, and those on the front half facing the caboose. With a maximum number of rounds equalling the player count plus two, each round is split into 2 phases: schemin’ and shootin’.
In the schemin’ phase each player will choose three of their four cards to play, and what order to play them. The common actions are to flip, change floor, move and fire. Flip sees the player swivel their bandit meeple around but 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. Changing floor sees the bandit meeple moved from the train car to the roof of the same card or from the roof into the car. Move sees the bandit, unsurprisingly, moved from one wagon to the next in their direction of travel, including off the train itself, while fire sees the bandit shoot the first bandit in line of sight.
The key element, as with the original Colt Express, is that players have pre-chosen what actions they will do, in what order AND they must be performed. Moving onto the shootin’ phase the cards get played and the events of the round unfold. Starting with the first player they flip over their first card and perform the action, followed by the second player and so on. Once everyone has performed their first action the first player flips over their second action card are so on.
While it might be easy to work out what you think will happen, the other bandits can throw a spanner in the works. If a bandit gets shot they are moved to the next car in the direction they are shot, and they are stunned. A stunned bandit’s next action is voided, instead they simply stand back up but the action card is still spent. Bandits can be shot off the train and even walk off it themselves – with both of these events causing the player to be eliminated.
At the end of the round the backmost train car is uncoupled and all bandits on it still are eliminated. Of those still in the game, whomever is the closest to the caboose at this point wins the uncoupled card – flipping it over as loot. The player who manages to be the only remaining bandit on the train at the end of a round wins. If this isn’t yet reached and there are still train carriages then another round is played. If only the locomotive remains then the player with the most and then highest value of loot cards wins.
With the four standard cards there is at times a sense of predictability and helplessness. After the initial round, if you are late in the turn order a player already lined up can easily shoot you off the back of the train. Included are two additional cards for each character, Horse and Reflex, which take the game to the next level. When played Horse sees the player jump off the train onto a trusty steed and enter the locomotive facing forward. What makes the Horse card special is that this effect still occurs if it is the next card played by a bandit on their turn following running or being shot off the train. All of a sudden players believed to be out can reboard the train if they have literally played their cards right.
Reflex has a similar logic to reacting to what another player has done. If a player is stunned when Reflex is played they instantly get up, facing the same direction as before, and shoot the first player in line of sight. However, if played when not stunned the bandit effectively shoots themselves in the foot – stunning themselves. Both of these add to the chaos and make it harder to predict where players will be and what they will do. The standard four card experience doesn’t have much of this mystery of what others will do. It’s good to have a simple set of cards for the initial play and when introducing the game to people but you’ll soon want to play with all six cards!
Colt Super Express is a game that handles player elimination well. With the Horse cards there is always the possibility to not be eliminated but more importantly the game is short. Whether a player goes out on the first or the fifth round they won’t be stuck twiddling their thumbs for long. Entire rounds take under a minute and games can be over insanely quickly. Combine not waiting long with the fun of watching others shoot it out, shooting midair and others running accidentally off the train and the game is fun even after being eliminated.
Part of the allure of the original game is the cardboard train that snakes its way across the middle of the table. While the locomotive and train carriage cards of Colt Super Express do a fine job, making it clear where players are located, there is something much more visually pleasing about having a meeple standing on top of a 3D cardboard train. This trade off has been made for the small box and limited components, allowing Colt Super Express to be much more portable – perfect for a fast paced game such as this. It’s a shame that half of the box is air, as this portability could have been even higher – though it’s still far from a big box.
It took a couple of games for the fun of Colt Super Express to shine through. Part of this was due to the game suggesting not including the Horse and Reflex cards from the beginning. Once everyone has the full range of cards in their hands, the chaos and unpredictability of what others are doing on their turn is supercharged. Player elimination is often an annoying sidelining mechanic. The short playtime though means even if instantly eliminated you won’t be watching the comical events of the other bandits’ fates unfold for long. It may not have the eye-catching 3D train of the original but for a fast paced filler, Colt Super Express captures enough of the chaos to help it hit the table time and time again!
(Editor’s Note: Colt Super Express was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)