Hector Vargas, the Lord of the Vargas manor has been met with an inglorious end when a champagne cork shot into his windpipe and choked him before anyone could come to his aid. In Hoax you will take on the secret identity of a member in the Vargas family. Be it a petty ex-wife, the bashful butler or the smug son-in-law, one thing you do have in common is the thirst for the Vargas inheritance.
Hoax was initially published in 1981! It set the standards for bluffing games and in 2016 it had a major revamp in design as well as a new lavish theme. If you’re into bluffing games such as Coup, that completely breaks trust, then this is the game you need to throw into your group dynamic.
Each player is after the shady empire that Hector Vargas built, to do so you need to put into practice of what you learnt from Hector and attempt to discover the other players’ identities while keeping your identity a secret. To eliminate other players, you will need to perform actions based on the character you are - or claim to be. Collect resources and use those resources to gain valuable information on an opponent's identity, in the hopes of screaming HOAX in their face whilst flailing your arms around.
Tread carefully though, because making a false accusation will take you out of the game and you can say goodbye to that multi-billion dollar empire … and the giant cat mansion you so desperately wanted.
Separate the tokens by type (cash, prestige and evidence) and place them in the centre of the play area. You will also need to place the suspicion and hoax cards in the centre of the play area.
Hand out Reference Sheets
Give each player a reference sheet. You’ll be familiar with these if you’ve played Coup. This sheet lists each character potentially in play, it will describe the privilege (claim) of that character and what they are immune to. This is extremely helpful to have during game play so always have it in front of you!
Distribute Character Cards
Shuffle the character cards and deal one face=down to each player. Return all remaining character cards in the box face-down, it’s important for players to realise that if any cards are returned to the box then these are characters not in play, so there is always that element of surprise. (Unless you play a full party!). Players can look at their own character card - do not reveal to anyone else.
Determine First Player
In the rulebook it states that the youngest player takes the first turn in Hoax.
Gather Starting Resources
Each player may take one resource; be it cash, prestige or evidence. Players will need to place it in front of their play area.
1. Claim (Mandatory)
The active player must make a claim, to do this they simply announce who they claim they are (might not actually be their character) and perform the privilege set out on the reference sheet. Be careful though - you could get caught lying by other players. The aim for players is to gather enough resources (cash, prestige and evidence) using the character's abilities to be able to make an investigation on another player.
Example - Amy’s secret identity is The Ex - she has one cash and one evidence currently. In order to make an investigation, Amy needs a Prestige. Amy claims she is The Lover and goes to take one prestige. Before she placed it in her play area, Callum suspects she’s not The Lover and calls “Hoax”!
Then, everyone has a chance to talk and vote on whether Amy is lying or not. If they believe her, it doesn’t matter whether she’s telling the truth or not - she can go ahead and claim the prestige. If they don’t believe Amy, she must confess, losing both the chance to acquire the prestige and the ability to impersonate The Lover in the future by placing an impostor token on the reference sheet where The Lover is. If Amy had actually been The Lover and the group did not believe she was, then Amy would have immediately won the game.
Nearly each character has an immunity, these are listed on the reference sheet and can be activated if another player targets you.
Example - Callum claims he is the Gardener, he targets Amy and goes to take two resources from her. Amy does not want this to happen and claims she is The Chef, she then exhausts her character card 90 degrees to show this. The Chef is immune to The Gardener, therefore Callum cannot take the resources. Callum doesn’t want to call Hoax on Amy’s claim and so he does not take the resources.
If someone did not believe Amy, they could have shouted “HOAX”! The rest of the players would vote on whether she is telling the truth or not, if she is not telling the truth then an impostor token would be placed on The Chef on her reference sheet. If Amy was telling the truth, then she immediately wins the game.
Before players go shouting “HOAX”! at one another, it’s a good idea to do some deduction by investigating other players. To do so, you will need to spend one of each resource (cash, prestige and evidence) to instigate an investigation on a chosen target.
The target player will then hand you four suspicion cards with one out of the four matching their character card, with the rest being randomly selected to mislead you. As with other deduction games, this is not a sure-fire way of knowing who’s who. Our group likes to jot notes of which cards were given to them and what the target player has claimed to be thus far.
3. Accuse (Optional)
If you feel you have enough knowledge on another player, you may directly accuse them. To do this you will search the suspicion cards, select the character you believe that player is and slide it over to them. That player will then look at the card and say either Yes or No. If you are correct, they will state so and be eliminated from the game, be sure they do not reveal who they actually were to everyone else as it will only give them clues.
If you are wrong, then you yourself are eliminated from the game, again do not reveal anything about the specifics of this accusation - it ruins the fun for everyone else.
Fantasy Flight Games have always treated gamers to high quality artwork and components, and the same can be said for Hoax. Everything fits into the box neatly and the artwork absolutely fits in to the game's theme.
The tokens are kind of “meh” but they’re not a vital part of the game, and I think they’ve just given those icons to add to the theme. You could easily use plain coloured wood cubes in place of them, it would have been nice to have a deluxe version of the game for people like myself that like shiny things.
Final Thoughts on Hoax
I must admit, it took our group a little while to understand Hoax as we’re so used to how basic Coup is, Hoax has extra elements in the game. There is so much more depth to Hoax in comparison to Coup - you can’t just throw accusations left, right and centre as you would in Coup. You must utilise character abilities in a more strategic manner and gather information on other players by investigating.
Although we still play Coup, we do enjoy Hoax more as replay-ability isn’t as stale. If you play with the same group over and over, you begin to notice patterns in how everyone plays which can make a game of Coup quite stale. Almost everyone will claim to be the Duke in the initial rounds because he is the most overpowered in the game.
With Hoax, it’s a very risky game to make the same claim as the previous player as there is only one of each, and not four like in Coup. There is also the deduction element which is a nice change from similar games, players are encouraged to gather resources and make informed accusations.
As much as we enjoy Hoax, it would be the sort of game we play to fill time between the better ones, as our group is generally three players, we don’t get to play it as much due to the flat gameplay that can happen with a small number. This game is definitely one to bring out during a dinner party!
You Might Like
- As with most Fantasy Flight Games, you’ll be rewarded with nice artwork on the cards.
- A step up from Coup.
- If your group is up for it, role-play can be added to make it more fun.
- Deduction games with more to them.
- Neat little box.
You Might Not Like
- Games can end within minutes.
- Only enjoyable with four or more players.
You Might Like
As with most Fantasy Flight Games, you’ll be rewarded with nice artwork on the cards.
A step up from Coup.
If your group is up for it, role-play can be added to make it more fun.
Deduction games with more to them.
Neat little box.
You Might Not Like
Games can end within minutes.
Only enjoyable with four or more players.