Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 9 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Can't Stop Express

Game: Can't Stop Express

Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games

Designer: Sid Sackson

Year: 2017

Can't Stop Express is a roll and write game which funded on Kickstarter in March 2017. It seems that roll-and-writes are a booming genre, gaining lots of popularity with gamers who enjoy something light and Can't Stop Express came out at just the right time with a very low price point. It also has a good pedigree - being a sequel of sorts to the original Can't Stop from Sid Sackson - first released in 1980 - a game that is still talked about  now as a staple of the push-your-luck genre.


To start a game of Can't Stop Express each player will be handed a score sheet and a pen. The score sheet has a list of all the combinations on 2 6-sided dice (2-12) and assigns them a points value based on their rarity, common numbers like 7 are worth a fraction of the points as a 2 or 12. Beside each number is a tracker in 3 columns, the first column represents failure, if you have only checked up to this point by the end of the game then you lose 200 points. Should you reach the middle column you break even and score nothing, finally the last column acts as a multiplier, every time you have marked this column you get the number of points listed by that number. At the end of the game all players add up thier points, subtract points for thier failures and the player with the largest point score wins.

Can't Stop Express takes place over a series of rounds, each round a player will roll the 5 dice, then every player must decide how to use them. You decide to make 2 pairs with 4 of the dice, add the numbers of the pairs together, then check off one box in each of the corresponding tracks. The single dice you choose not to use must be written on a separate tracker. This tracker tracks is a timer for the end of the game. There is room for 3 dice faces here with a series of  8 boxes. During the first few rounds the die face you don't use will be written here and one section of the track filled in until you have thrown away 3 different die faces. At this point every round you *must* chose one of these 3 faces as your wasted dice, limiting the choice of numbers you can make for your pairs. Occasionally you will have a roll with none of your 'bad' numbers on it, essentially giving you a free turn. Once you fill any one of these 3 columns the game ends for you. It's possible that the other players still have a few more turns to go depending how lucky they have been with the dice.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

At it's core Can't Stop Express is a game of probability and risk taking. Sure, there's a high return on betting on 2s or 12s, but there's also a much higher risk that you don't score them at all and lose those precious points instead. So, you get to decide what risks you want to take and which to leave behind. The problem with this is often the game forces you, through a combination of a bad roll and your choice of numbers, into taking these risks. In fact, there is very little decision making to be made in the game. The biggest tactical choice you make is which of the 3 numbers you assign as your discards, once that is picked the game might as well play itself. Oh sure you decide how to pair up the numbers, but the best move is usually obvious and only gets more so as the game progresses.

Can't Stop Express is a small game, and as such I always have lower expectations - of course Catan is a better probability and risk managing game, but it's a far longer game and doesn't fit in my pocket. The problem is that Can't Stop Express isn't a just inferior to it's bigger counterparts, it's simply bad. Dice rolling isn't fun when only one player gets do do it, and games where everyone have the same opportunity aren't fun when the results of your decisions can be totally swayed by luck. Can't Stop Express made a bad first impression as soon as we opened the box. For the life of me I can't picture any other game with disposable playing sheets that immediately tells you that it is illegal to reproduce them! Telling people they are criminals for wanting to play more times than you have provided for is insanity! Fortunately, I don't want to play the game until you run out of pads, I don't want to play the game at all! 

Fi’s Final Thoughts 

I was the unfortunate person who had to work through the rulebook. Once I'd struggled with the text, I turned over and fortunately found some examples which helped to explain the game. Once I'd digested the rulebook, it took about 30 second to explain so the must be a better way that rulebook could be written. Initially it was fun to work out what to do with the dice rolls and at the start of the game, everyone has an equal chance to win because everyone is working from the same dice pool. However, once you've made you 3 decisions for single 'bad' dice luck can definitely swing in your favour or otherwise.

I've never played the original Can't Stop, but my understanding is that it's a push your luck game with lots of dice rolling. Can't Stop Express is more of a betting game, there will not be much variability in the number of rounds you play, so you have a pretty good idea of how many numbers you can bet on, so you're not pushing your luck much at all. I enjoyed this game more when we got the rules wrong on our first play. What really ruins it for me is that you have to take a dice you roll into your 'bad' column if you can. Quite often this leaves you with no choice but to, not only add something to your bad column, but then start betting on another row for your pairs too!

I imagine people who enjoyed the original Can't Stop, which seems to have pretty cool pieces, will also be disappointed in this production quality. The box is poor quality, the dice are poor quality and there's no pencils in the box. It was a really cheap Kickstarter (for those shipping in the US) and you can see why. When something like Love Letter has the same price point and great quality, I'm not sure the price is a good enough excuse for me.

The Good
  • The game will be familiar to families who have played games like Yahtzee.

The Bad
  • Meaningful tactical decisions drop off and almost stop by halfway through the game.
  • Bad luck can completely ruin your game.
  • For such a simple game it has a very bad rulebook.

The Verdict

Can't Stop Express was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

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