This is a game with a difference, partly because it takes place aboard a train: the Union Pacific Express (Colt Express). The game arrives in its box with several sheets of press-out board, which assemble into a some nice old carriages and a delightful antique engine – as shown on their website.

And you can’t start to play until you’ve assembled them. Luckily, it’s not too difficult – and once built, they can stay that way forever. A few tiny blobs of wood glue to the internal corners will make sure of that.
Steer clear of superglue: you don’t want to get stuck to the train.

Anyway, so what? Well, one can almost hear the screams, as the train is boarded by a bunch of armed bandits. Their aim is to rob upright citizens of their purses (wallets) and their jewels: along with the case that contains the cash to pay the coal workers. But, like any half-decent bandit, they’re only in it for themselves.
Greedily, all want to be the most money-laden by the end of the journey, and the end of the game.

Each game-player takes on the role of a bandit, who each have different capacities and characteristics (as you’d expect). One, for example, can shoot through carriage roofs, and another can land a punch that makes the bruised bandit pass over some of their ill gotten gains.

All the banditry takes place on a train that’s being guarded by Marshal Samuel Ford, who can be a thorn in their side. And the reason why you’ve spent all that time building the carriages is that all have both a floor level, and a roof level. The actions undertaken by the bandits may be at either level: they are of course able to clamber up and down.

Aside from the unique game layout, there’s a pretty unusual structure to game play. It’s played over five turns, and within each turn there are two phases: which is where play starts to get a bit perilous.

Phase one is all about Schemin’
Players lay down action cards from their hand (shoot, run, rob, and so on), going round the table several times, adding to a growing deck of action cards. They don’t yet take their actions. They’re simply planning them: they’re all schemers!

Phase two is when they get down to Stealin’ and a few other things besides. Their actions are now carried out in the order they were played (by their action cards).
A bandit’s best laid plans may come to fruition. But possibly they won’t pan out to plan, because others saw what they were wanting to do, and planned their actions accordingly. Or perhaps the bandit simply wasn’t watching, or made a mistake (it has been known).

It’s pretty unlikely that all the bandits are going to do as well as each other, when it comes down to action. It’s extremely unlikely that any single one of them is going to have things go exactly as they’d schemed.

Who’s going to be the best bad bandit?

Expansions add variety and potential to the game.

  • can be learned quickly … but learning when to do what takes a bit longer
  • setting up takes a couple of minutes or so
  • replayable
  • strategic thinking needs to develop – or else!
  • not a lot of luck involved
  • player tactics matter enormously
  • combative .. decide now, act later .. hand management

Bandits? Bring ’em on!