July 11th, 1899: 10 A.M. The Union Pacific Express leaves Folsom, New Mexico, with forty-seven passengers. Yet after mere minutes, the sound of rapid footsteps is heard from overhead, followed by the jarring staccato of gunfire. Heavily armed bandits have boarded the train and begun robbing honest citizens of their wallets and jewelry! Though the bandits attacked together, greed will quickly triumph over fragile alliances in the presence of so much money. After all, only one bandit leaves the train richer than all his former allies…
Colt Express is a board game of schemin’ and stealin’ for two to six bandits aboard a three-dimensional steam train. You play as one of a group of ruthless bandits, dead set on grabbing as much loot and shooting as many bullets at your former companions as possible. Every round, you must determine what actions your bandit will take, whether you’re grabbing loot, firing bullets, punching another bandit, or running along the roof of the train car. If you can predict what your opponents will do, you can respond to their actions and stay one step ahead, but if you’re knocked off-track, you’ll find your shots flying wide. Only the richest bandit can claim victory on the Colt Express when the train pulls into the station!
At the beginning of a game of Colt Express, each player’s bandit is situated at the rear of the train, near the caboose. Ahead of you lies the entire train, constructed from three-dimensional cardboard train cars, allowing your bandits to easily move through the car interiors and across the roofs. In each train car, there lies a certain quantity of treasure for you to seize—weighty purses of gold and coins, priceless jewels from the passenger’s jewelry, and a strongbox in the train’s locomotive that’s guarded by the marshal himself.
At the beginning of each round, a Round card is revealed, which determines how many turns there will be in this round. For instance, in the Round card shown above, there will be four turns. Then, you and your fellow bandits each draw six Action cards from the top of your personal deck and take turns playing these cards to determine the actions your bandits will perform and the order in which they perform them. For instance, if you want to first advance to the next train car and then hold up a passenger for some valuable jewels, you would play the Move Action card from your hand on the first turn, then play the Robbery Action card from your hand for the second turn. In between your two Action cards, however, each of the other players will have the chance to play their own Action cards, and any one of these could significantly disrupt your plans.
What’s more, you only draw six Action cards each turn, and there are ten cards in your deck—so there’s no guarantee you’ll draw the cards you want to play each round. You can always choose to draw three additional Action cards from your deck, but this takes up your turn, potentially losing valuable time as you race your foes for the treasure. You’ll often simply have to adapt to the changing situation as your heist unfolds, using your available Action cards to grab loot and inconvenience your opponents as much as possible.
Other circumstances in each round can make it much more difficult to determine exactly what your opponents have planned. In the Round card shown above, the second space shows the tunnel icon, which means that all Action cards must be played face-down during that turn! The fourth space on the Round card, however, reverses the order in which players play their Action cards. Keeping track of what your opponents plan to do will quickly become extremely difficult, and when you add in the events featured on some Round cards—such as a passenger rebellion or the train suddenly braking—you’ll never anticipate the chaos that can arise from simply trying to escape with the most gold.
After every player has had the chance to play an Action card for each of the turns indicated on the Round card, it’s time to determine the outcomes of the choices you made! The first player takes the stack of Action cards that the players created during the Schemin’ phase and turns it over. Then, the Action cards are revealed one by one, starting with the top card, which allows players to perform their actions in the order they were originally played.
There are six distinct actions that each player may execute when the corresponding Action card is revealed from the deck. Two of these Action cards allow you to change your position in the train to find better loot or line up a shot against another bandit. The Run Action card allows you to change position horizontally—moving one car forward or backward if you’re on the train’s interior or moving up to three train cars if you’re running across the roof. The Climb Action card, on the other hand, lets you change floors in the train, either moving from the roof to the train car’s interior or vice versa.
Movement is essential, but the only reason you’re on this train is to get the money and escape. The Robbery Action card allows you to choose one of the loot tokens currently in your space and add it to your collection of loot. At the end of the game, all of the loot tokens that you have collected are counted towards your final score. Just because you’ve picked up a loot token doesn’t mean it’s safe, though. If you play the Punch Action card, you may target a bandit in the same space as you, choose one of his or her loot tokens, and place it on the floor of your current space. Then, you can move the targeted bandit forward or backward one train car as your powerful blow knocks your opponent aside.
Almost inevitably in a robbery of this scale, bullets quickly begin to fly. By choosing the Fire Action card, you may shoot another bandit, giving your target one of your Bullet cards that he or she must add to his or her Action deck. When Bullet cards are drawn, they are discarded without effect, so they serve a valuable role in reducing your target’s options. For example, if you draw two Bullet cards and four Action cards when you refill your hand at the beginning of a round, you must discard the two Bullet cards, leaving you with only four possible Action cards at your disposal! There’s also a more lucrative motivation to fire your gun, beyond simply hurting your opponents. At the end of the game, the player who has fired the most bullets receives the Gunslinger award—which comes with a $1,000 bonus to be added to your score.
Finally, you can draw the attention of the marshal stationed on the train with the Marshal Action card. The Marshal is tasked with protecting the passengers and the company strongbox, and he’s not afraid to use his revolver to defend the train. The Marshal Action card allows you to move the Marshal one train car forward or backward. Any bandits in the same car as the Marshal must escape to the roof of the train, and they also take one of the Marshal’s Bullet cards to shuffle into their decks!
Ultimately, all of the bandits are battling to gain the most loot, by any means possible. At the end of the game, the value of all your stolen loot is revealed, the Gunslinger bonus is given to the player who fired the most bullets, and whichever bandit has the most money rides victoriously into the sunset!
All Anyone Thinks About Is Money
A train filled to bursting with priceless gold and jewels lies within your sights—the only things that stand in your way are your rival bandits and the marshal’s gun. Grab your six-shooter and climb aboard the Colt Express!
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