Asmodee Games seems to be jumping into the digital board game market with both feet. They’ve released a slew of board games onto our tablets already and have shown no signs of slowing down. We’ve seen Ticket to Ride, Splendor, and Small World 2, just to name a few.
Their latest game to make the digital jump is none other than Colt Express, one of the absolute best action programming games on the market. Winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year award and a pretty big deal), Colt Express has players assuming the role of train robbers trying to get away with the most loot in a railway heist.
Was this another successful board game that is equally good on our tablets? Time to find out!
In Colt Express, players are trying to acquire the most loot over the game’s five rounds. Each round is divided into two phases: Schemin’ and Stealin’. During the Schemin’ Phase, players take turns playing cards into a communal pile, one at a time. Different actions include: moving, shooting, punching, looting, and moving the Marshall.
Once all the appropriate number of cards have been played, the Stealin’ Phase takes place. During Stealin’, the cards that were played in the Schemin’ phase are revealed, one at a time, with their action being carried out. As some of the cards during the Schemin’ phase will be played face down, a player’s plan will not always go smoothly.
That’s the basics of how to play Colt Express. If you want a more in-depth review of the game play, you can read our full review of Colt Express here.
Colt Express is one beautiful looking app. From the six-shooter themed loading screen, to the actual gameplay graphics, everything about the app looks stellar on both our iPads and iPhones. The developers at Asmodee Digital clearly knew what they were doing when it comes to the visuals.
The actually “game board” is a moving train that your character will move in and on top of. You can see the background zoom by as the game progresses, and the train even actually enters a tunnel when cards are played face down (signifying entering a tunnel in the game). It’s nice touches like this that help to make the app enjoyable.
The controls during the game are fairly simple. During the Schemin’ phase, a player simply drags the card they want to play to the pile on the upper left. There is also an option to skip playing a card and draw three new ones.
The app tells you who the first player is, and who the current active player is using player icons on the top of the screen. My only complaint with the Schemin’ Phase is that there is no undo button. A couple of times, my fat finger clicked the wrong card to play. It didn’t happen often, but as it was a single player game, I don’t see a reason not to have an undo button.
The Stealin’ Phase also ran equally smooth. The game chugs along, revealing cards one at a time, and only pauses when input is needed from a player: such as where to move to or who to shoot. Overall, the interface was very polished and gave me minimal complaints.
The Colt Express app offers both online and offline play. For offline, players have the option of either classic or story mode. Classic is just what you’d expect. Play a game of Colt Express vs an AI.
For Story Mode, players will choose one of the 6 Colt Express characters and play through a series of scenarios. Each completed scenario will unlock another page of the characters backstory, in comic book format. Story was surprisingly fun and many missions felt like a puzzle, waiting to be solved. The app will also provide a guided tutorial for players who have never played Colt Express before.
Unfortunately, that’s where the love ends with Colt Express. I had more than a couple of problems with how the rest of the app was designed. First, there is no option to speed up the game. When I play solo, I typically like to kick up the speed to the highest setting, as watching the computer player take a turn is usually pretty boring. While the app isn’t horribly slow, I constantly found myself doing other things while the computer players were taking their turns, especially in a game with a high player count.
But the bigger issues come with multiplayer. First, there is no local play. If you don’t want to play online, it’s basically vs the AI or nothing. And as much as I enjoyed the modes vs the AI, there is still no excuse to not have local pass-and-play. I should add that the AI seems to have been improved some via patches since launch. While I can still routinely beat it, it’s not the cakewalk it was before.
While multiplayer has also been improved thanks to the patches, it’s still not very good. I have yet to get in an online game. Rarely have I seen more than 20 players online. The latest patch did, thankfully, add a multiplayer lobby, but it’s rare to actually see a game in there. And there isn’t a way to request to join a match and go on to do something else. You have to leave the matchmaking running if you hope to play. It would have been nice for the app to send me a notification when my match was ready.
I’m not sure the exact reason why matchmaking is so hard in the app. It could be due to the small player base, or to the way it’s coded. But the main issue is that it’s just not that easy to get a game online.
I usually prefer to wait a few weeks to review any digital board game app. Invariably the app gets patches soon after being released into the wild. Beta testing is hard and some things are bound to be missed. Thankfully, most developers are on the ball with patches, so I feel comfortable posting a review after the first patch or so comes down.
So for me, Colt Express seems like it’s balancing on the cusp of being a really good app. The graphics are spectacular and the actual gameplay is very smooth. However the app is also missing some crucial features, such as local pass-and-play, the ability to speed up game play, and easy online matchmaking.
While I do expect the Colt Express app to get better over time, as it stands right now, it’s hard to recommend snapping it up right away. If you are fine with just solo play vs the AI, it’s worth grabbing on sale if the price is right.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A beautiful looking app with some nice touches, but it really only works well if you are a decided solo player.
• No pass-and-play
• No AI speed options
• Extremely difficult to get an online game