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Friday 14 August 2020

Friday Filler: Super Colt Express

Published in 2014, Colt Express is a super fun game of bandits raiding a train in the Wild West, which would go to be the 2015 Spiel des Jahres Winner. It has been supported by a handful of expansions, such as Colt Express: Horses & Stagecoach, including even a Delorean! However, as good as it looks and as fun as it is to play, it can be slightly fiddly to set up, being played as it is, on a cardboard train along which the players move their bandits, grab bags of loot, punch and shoot their rivals, all the while avoiding the US Marshall protecting the local mine’s payroll. This of course, is done through pre-programmed movement and then resolved in a chaotic slew of actions. The latest addition to the Colt Express family is designed to counter all of that—it is a pocket-sized, pocket-friendly, time-friendly game in which the bandits race up and down a Union Pacific train, guns blazing at each other as the train crew uncouples Train Car after Train Car. Which bandit will be the last standing on the speeding train and so be the one to get away and win Super Colt Express?

Published by Ludonaute, Super Colt Express is designed be played by between three and seven players, aged eight and up, and in just fifteen minutes. Inside the little square box can be found seven Bandit meeples—one each for Belle, Cheyenne, Django, Doc, Ghost, Mei, and Tuco, eight Train Cars and one Locomotive card, a First Player card, and six sets of Action cards, one for each Bandit. The Train Cards have a Loot value on their reverse which is only revealed when there is a tie between the Bandits—the highest Loot value wins! Each Bandit meeple holds a revolver in his or her hand, and whichever direction the gun is pointing, that is the direction in which the Bandit is facing. Apart from the artwork, each set of Action cards is identical, providing four manoeuvres. ‘Flip’ changes the direction in which a Bandit is pointing his or her gun—up the train to the Locomotive or down the train to the last car or caboose. ‘Change Floor’ enables a Bandit to climb up to, or down from, the roof of the train. ‘Move’ enables a Bandit to move to the adjacent Train Car in the direction he or she is facing. ‘Fire’ enables a Bandit to shoot the first rival Bandit in his or her line of sight. Any Bandit who is shot, is knocked back one car and onto his or her back, stunned. If a Bandit is shot and is knocked off the train, then he or she is out of the game, but if not knocked from the train, a player can use any Action card to do a ‘Wake Up’ Action and get up.

Game set-up for Super Colt Express is simple. The Locomotive card and one Train Card per player are placed on the table in a line with the Locomotive at the front. Each player receives his Bandit meeple and four associated Action cards—‘Change Floor’, ‘Flip’, ‘Move’, and ‘Fire’. One player is randomly determined to be the First Player and his Bandit is placed in the penultimate Train Car, and then the other players place their Bandits in the next Train Car, one-by-one. The Bandits in the rear half of the train face towards the Locomotive, the other facing away from it towards the rear of the train.

From Round to Round, Super Colt Express is played out over two phases. In ‘Phase 1: Schemin’!’, each player chooses three of his Bandit’s Action cards and places them face down in stack. These will be played in order from the top down, so a player needs to be careful to get the order right to reflect what he wants his Bandit to do in a Round. In ‘Phase 2: Shootin’!’, beginning with the First Player, each reveals his topmost Action and carries out that Action. So the Bandits will move, shoot, change direction or ‘Flip’, and climb up or down from the roof, or ‘Change Floor’. At the end of the Round, once all Action cards have been resolved, the last Train Car in the train—the Caboose—is unhitched and left behind by the train. If a Bandit is aboard this Train Car, he or she is out of the game. The Bandit furthest towards the front of the train is awarded the lost Train Car for its Loot value on te back of its card.

A new Round then begins with a new First Player. Super Colt Express ends when the last Train Car has been unhooked and only the Locomotive remains. If the one Bandit survives, then he or she wins and gets away. If there are multiple Bandits on the Locomotive, then the Bandit with the most Loot—as determined by the value of the Train Cards in their hands, is the winner.

In addition, Super Colt Express comes with two expansions. These are optional and can be used with each other or on their own with the core game. ‘Extension: Horse’ gives each Bandit a ‘Horse’ Action which enables him or her to ride to the Locomotive at the front of the train, whilst ‘Extension: Reflex’ allows a Bandit who is stunned to get up and shoot the first bandit he or she sees. If not stunned, a Bandit instead shoots himself or herself in the foot and consequently, is stunned! Neither expansion increases the maximum number of Action cards a Bandit can play—they are still limited to three per Round.

Physically, Super Colt Express is very well presented. The artwork is excellent, much of which players will recognise from Colt Express. The rules are easy to read and grasp, and Super Colt Express can be played almost out of the box, with no more than five minutes preparation. The cards are of good quality and the meeple Bandits sturdy and attractive.

Super Colt Express plays quickly and easily as intended. However, the fewer number and similarity of actions in the game when compared to Colt Express does mean that some of the flavour has been lost from the original game and thus less scope for table talk and interaction between the Bandits and the players. Certainly, anyone who has played Colt Express will miss that.

On initial play, the temptation is to try and blast away with the ‘Fire’ Action, but the ‘Move’ and ‘Flip’ Actions quickly become as important as Bandits closer to the rear of the train need to move forward to the front before a Train Car is uncouple and lost and Bandits closer to the front of the train need to turn round if they are to move away from the soon to be uncoupled rear of the train. As the Bandits move from Train Car to the next and climb up or down from the roof, then there is room for more chaos and random results. Once issue though, is if a stunned Bandit gets up after a ‘Wake Up’ Action has been played and is then shot again, effectively meaning that not only does the Bandit lose his or her current action in getting up, but his or her next action too because another Action card has to be played as ‘Wake Up’ Action—and that is no fun. Thankfully, this does not last as there are only three Actions per Round and it is quickly over.

Super Colt Express is a quick-playing, fun blast ’em sort of game. However, it gets better later in the game as there are fewer players—their Bandits having been knocked off the train—and becomes a bit more of a ‘cat and mouse’ game of trying manoeuvre into the right place, at the right time to keep your opponents from the front of the train, as Train car after Train Car is lost from the rear of the train.

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