In Coup, you start with two influence (people cards) and use your intuition, deduction and bluffing skills to ensure victory by robbing all others of their influence. The game is based in the same universe as The Resistance, a world in the near future where corporations are now the major powers but there’s little crossover bar the art in all honesty.
The game comes with 15 influence cards, a small summary card for each player and some paper coins. All contained in little box, ideal for taking to the coffee shop or pub. Set-up is pretty instant, it's simply a case of shuffling and dealing two cards to each player and giving them two coins.
The aim of Coup is straightforward – to be the last player with a character (or even two) left, but this is not as simple as it sounds. All cards are kept hidden from the other players, so you never quite know what anyone has.
On your turn, you can take one action. There are some actions that anyone can take, and others where you announce which character you have and use their power. The excitement in this came comes from the fact that you do not actually have to own the character you announce.
However. If you are challenged and you cannot reveal the character in question, one of your characters dies. To ensure that challenges aren't made on every single action, if you make a challenge and get it wrong then the person challenging loses one of their characters.
A typical game could contain the following:
- Player one takes a free action – income - of taking one coin.
- Player two attempts to take foreign aid – the other basic free action – but player four can block this by announcing “I block with the Duke”. Now, player two notices that player four took a long time to block him, and believes him to be bluffing. He challenges. Player four does not have the Duke and reveals one of his cards face up, leaving him with one character.
- Player three decides to use his assassin to kill player two by paying three gold. Player two claims to have Contessa – the card who can block the assassin. This time there is no challenge.
- Player four, now down to one character, honestly claims Captain, and takes two coins from Player two. Note this could be blocked by another Captain (or someone pretending to be the Captain).
- Player one uses the Duke to take three coins from the treasury.
- Player two uses the Ambassador to draw two more characters from the court (deck), and secretly chooses which (if any) to replace their own characters with. Note this character could also block the captain’s attempt to steal.
The final action not mentioned above is probably the most useful, and the reason why you want to collect coins – a coup. If you have acquired seven coins, you can (and if you have 10 coins, you must) use these to buy a coup and pick a player, who has to kill off one of their characters (their choice if they have two).
So is Coup any good?
Coup is fast paced with turns coming round thick and fast, and with the opportunity to challenge other players, you're always involved in the game. Even if you lose both your characters, games are quick enough that you'll soon be dealt in to another game, and it's actually good fun just to watch.
It will appeal to those who like bluffing and deception, but where this game differs from some of the other similar deception games is that you don't have to lie to win, you can just play the cards you are dealt, which might appeal to those who cannot lie with a straight face!
Coup does have a surprising amount of depth, and several layers of “If he really had that, would he have done that last turn, or was he then bluffing to set this up?” This depth also extends to whether and when to challenge.
As well as gut instinct and other “tells”, there are times in the game where you may be able to figure out that you're going to lose and therefore have nothing to lose by challenging. Likewise, if you figure your opponent to be in that situation you need to ensure you tell the truth to avoid getting caught out.
In summary, if the bluffing element appeals, this is a quick, portable card game that's not expensive and can be played almost anywhere, with anyone and comes highly recommended.