Friday, 14 July 2017

Board Game Corner: Colt Express

Hot on the heels of my last boardgame review about a train based game, comes another one. mainly because I thought that as they shared a theme I would write them both into one blogpost, but then realised that it would be a hell of a long post, so decided to give each a post of it's own after all...


It must be borne in mind that, while I have linked these two games by the fact they both involve trains, that is about as close to a link as these two get. From that tentative link onwards, they are entirely different games.

Colt Express includes a twee little cardboard train to act as your "board" and this did have me sceptical at first, but trust me it's worth getting past your reservations. If you're introducing new people to the game, it's up to your discretion if you think the little cardboard scenery may be going too far... it's a neat use of otherwise useless corners of the cardboard punch sheet, but utterly irrelevant to the game.



You also get a little wooden meeple to represent your character. Each character has a card and a deck of cards. Your cards are 6 bullet cards (to give to other people) and 10 action cards (that determine what you do each turn)



Every character has an identical deck, the only difference is in the character special ability declared on the card (in brief symbols, the rulesheet explains all) For example, the lady in purple cannot be targeted for attacks (shooting or punching) if the player doing the attack has anyone else they could possibly target.

The action cards are two each for change level up/down change carriage side/side pick up loot and fire your six shooter. There is also one card to punch, and one to move the marshal.

At the start of the game you deal a hand of six cards, and that is what yu have to choose from on each step of that turn.



So, the running order for this example game will be Red, White, Purple, Black... they all have character names but I'm trying to keep things simple here, and don't want you to have to constantly be referring back to which name is what colour. Each game consists of four journey cards and a final station card, an example of a journey card is shown above.

Each square represents an action card that a player can place. The tunnel square means that the card is played face down, so the other players don't know what you are up to. The reverse arrow means the final round is played in reverse order. And the final symbol means that anyone on the roof of the marshals carriage at the end of the round will get shot by the marshal.

To keep things tidy, I haven't put the loot tokens down, but suffice to say there are bags of money and gems around each carriage that the players are all trying to get... it's just they might get in each others way, in fact, in my experience, the winner of the game is usually the one who quietly got on with grabbing loot while everyone else tried to beat each other up, but still, up to you what tactics you use...




The meeples are in their starting positions in the rear two carriages of the train. So, starting with red, each player contributes a card into the action stack. These will be played out in the order they are submitted, but all actions happen at the end, meaning you can lose track of where things are and end up taking the wrong action... especially if someone did something during the face down phase that completely screws you over.

In this example, red opens by climbing up - fairly unequivocal about what is happening here. But then White uses his ability to always play his first card facedown to leave everyone else guessing about what's going on. In their unease and panic, purple shoots someone, and black throws a punch.


All hell has now broken loose... following on from Black throwing a punch, Red then White draw guns and shoot, Purple throws a punch, and Black shoots too...


As this is the stage where we are going through a tunnel, any vague grasp you may have had on where the meeples probably are, is almost certainly lost...


Finally, in the strange reverse order round, Red (still first player) moves along, Black then Purple fire their guns once more, and White moves along.

So, with all the carnage prepared, we then start from the bottom of the stack pulling out the action cards and resolving them. Note that you MUST resolve an action, even if it is no longer favourable for you to do so...



So, we recall most of step one. Red climbed up on the roof. White, as it turns out, saw the rare opportunity of Purple being isolated to shoot her (normally you can't if you have a choice... you can't shoot someone on a different level to you and you can't shoot someone in the same carriage, Purple is Whites ONLY target) White gives one of his six bullet cards to Purple. Purple, as we may recall, also shoots. She can choose White or Black, but is probably feeling a little bit vindictive towards White right now, and gets her revenge. Then Black swings and punches White. A punch has two effects... one, it makes you drop an item in the place you are punched (all bandits start with one money bag) and two, it knocks you along a carriage... in this case, Black knocks White into the rear carriage with Purple.


Bullet tracker thus far...


 
 
Red then pulls his gun. His special rule is he CAN fire between levels. In the carriage below, are White and Purple. Owing to Purples special rule that if you could target someone else, you must, Red must shoot white...




In the rest of this turn, White shoots his only eligible target, Black. Purple then punches White back where he came from... which has the unfortunate effect of clearing her "bodyguard" just as Black draws his gun, so Purple get's shot again for her trouble...


This is the round everyone was secretive... Red once again shoots down into Purple, giving her another bullet... White and Purple both played the Marshal card... clearly he has heard all the commotion and is coming to investigate. Meanwhile Black finally does what the game is all about, and grabs some loot.

The marshal is a tricky proposition. He will shoot you, giving you a bullet. You then scramble onto the roof. There is NOTHING you can do about the Marshal, apart from avoid him, or use one card to move him. I have seen entire gameplans go wrong, after someone moved the marshal. Suddenly, you aren't on the level you thought you were. Your plan to climb up out of the way, suddenly becomes a suicidal attempt to re-enter the carriage the Marshal JUST chased you out of. Your plot to climb down and grab the loot suddenly becomes a search along the rooftops of the train for, what, your contact lens?



In this final step, red makes a run for the front of the train, where the extra value strongbox is normally guarded by the currently wandering marshal. The advantage of being on the roof is it's a lot quicker than pushing through crowded carriages.

Black shoots once again, he has no choice but to shoot Purple...incidentally Blacks special ability is his shots knock you back like a punch does, but if you're already in the final carriage it gives you nowhere to go.

Purple shoots, she can choose Black or White, and finally White runs along... not wanting to put himself into the carriage with the marshal, where he would get shot, then find himself on the roof of the carriage for the end of round result of getting shot again, he decides to rejoin Purple in the rear carriage.


Now so far this has been something of a bloodbath, apart from the Red player, who has left everyone else to it. But what effect those bullets you ask? Well all those bullets you've been shot with are added to your discard pile, and your unused cards, and shuffled together to make your deal for your next hand of cards...


In this case, Purples next hand of cards has a couple of bullets in it, severely reducing her options. You can skip an action step to draw three more cards, but of course that gives you less actions on the board.

Oh, and in case you're wondering if I faked this deal, you're right I did... when I shuffled and dealt naturally I got all four bullets in her deck in the hand of six. Go me. Figured that was too unbelievable so toned down the draw a bit...

And that's how the game plays. Five rounds of carnage where you the more you get shot the less you can do as you effectively drag your bullet riddled body along the roof of the train as your lifeblood trickles down from you, marvelling as your fellow gang members walk on by, perhaps pick your pocket, or even put a shot into you while you're down, just in case...

Seriously though, it is a hilarious game with a great capacity for carnage, and is again, a simple game to pick up. Everyone has the same deck, there is a tiny bit of variation from character to character to keep things interesting, but there are very few rules to learn. This is another game I picked up to be family friendly, as opposed to serious tactical depth. I am most pleased by this purchase, as it has provided some great laughs, even amongst those who get a look of dread in their eyes when someone suggests playing a board game. In their defence, they probably grew up with monopoly...

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