If you’ve ever played the games Werewolf or Sheriff of Nottingham, you’ll know the gist of Coup: lie, misdirect, and become victorious by defeating your friends.
In the world of Coup, players are wealthy people living in a nation-state with a corrupt government. You control certain people within the government circles, symbolized by role cards.
- The Duke can claim three coins from the treasury or block someone else from taking foreign aid
- The Assassin can pay three coins to assassinate another player’s character and remove their influence
- The Contessa can block assassination attempts against a player
- The Captain can steal two coins from another player or block another player from stealing coins from him
- The Ambassador can draw two character cards from the court deck, choose which to exchange (if so desired) with their existing character cards, and block other players from stealing coins.
The setup is simple: everyone starts with two face-down influence cards, a role explanation card, and three credits.
Each player then takes an action. They can:
- take an income, drawing a single credit (which no one can block);
- take foreign aid and take two credits (which a Duke can block);
- perform a card-specific action;
- or stage a coup, spending seven credits to force a player to lose an influence.
Here’s where the fun part comes in.
Whether players have specific cards or not doesn’t really matter. The goal of the game is really to misdirect and get in each other’s heads as you attempt to make other players lose influence (flip over a card) by assassinating, staging a coup, or forcing them to call you out on a card that you actually have.
This last bit is the trickiest and most delightful part of the game.
As I said earlier, players can say they have any cards they want—but rewards come with risk. If an opponent thinks you’re lying about having the Duke for instance, they can declare that they think you’re lying.
If they’re willing to stick to their guns, you either show that you do in fact have the Duke—losing him from your court—or reveal that you do not have the Duke, and your opponent who called you out will lose an influence.
There’s no real way to become great at this game and win consistently, because every time you play (even with the same group of players) the game will go differently based on who is squabbling, who doesn’t trust the way another player is grinning, and how inebriated the players are.
The game is very light sci-fi and has actually been rethemed in other countries in a beautiful and interesting variety of ways. The visuals are entirely for flavor, but not every game night is suited to Twilight Imperium or Star Trek Ascendency; sometimes people need a bit of lighthearted, backstabbing fun.
This game is delectably simple, but still has enough nuance to have extensive replay value.
The only hang ups I’ve encountered in this game come from the step between where a player accuses another of lying, and when a player loses influence. The first instinct when you’re accused and you truly have that card is to whip it out and show everyone, but then there can be confusion on whether or not the accuser loses influence.
For all players, especially new ones, I recommend taking a breath after a player accuses to ask, “are you sure?” or “you’re challenging me?” so that everyone is aware that someone is going to lose an influence now.
Otherwise, the game is quite streamlined and flows from player to player fairly quickly.
The player sheets help immensely when it comes to teaching new players or just remembering what’s happening and what you’re allowed to do.
Since it’s such an open-ended game, it has lots of room for house rules, storytelling, and tailoring to the players.
Sometimes simpler is better!
Coup has very straightforward rules, but the interplayer dynamics are where things get interesting. I have never played a boring game of Coup.
It’s super quick to learn and there are dozens of ways to win.
Oftentimes it’s the new player who doesn’t make enemies and claims to be unsure how to play who wins by taking a single coin every turn until everyone else has killed each other and then staging coups on the remainders.
Sometimes it’s the player who’s the best at lying about what cards they have, keeping people on their toes and unsure enough to avoid calling them out and risking their own influence.
There is so little surplus in the actual game that it leaves it wide open for players to insert themselves into the experience, and it’s a fun game even after playing it a hundred times.
This game has a single component: cards.
The artwork is lovely and thematically appropriate with a nice cast of ethnically diverse characters who populate the space confederation.
They tell you pretty much everything you need to know, and anything you can’t find on your actual player cards, there are some handy reference cards that lay everything out perfectly.
I do wish the cards were slightly sturdier—there’s no real shuffling throughout the game, so it would have been easy to make them a thicker, more durable material, and that wouldn’t have hampered gameplay.
The edges of my deck are scuffed and a little jagged, mostly from us flipping them dramatically when we catch our friends in our web of lies.