Coup is set in the not-too-distant future, the government is run for profit by a new royal class of multinational CEOs. Their greed and absolute control of the economy has reduced all but a privileged few to lives of poverty and desperation.
However, out of these oppressed masses rose an underground band of partisan fighters and the discord they have sewn has brought the government to the brink of collapse.
Amidst this chaos, you, and up to 3 friends must play as powerful government officials. Each trying to manipulate, bribe and bluff your way into absolute control.
A Simple Setup
First, shuffle the deck of character cards and deal 2 to each player. Leave the rest in a face-down stack.
Each player should now secretly look at their cards and then place them face down in front of themselves. Whilst face down, these are known as your influence, meaning they represent the people you are influencing at court.
Next, give each player 2 coins and a summary card, which gives an overview of the actions available on your turn.
Finally, put the remaining coins within easy reach of all players.
A game of Coup is played over multiple turns and continues until only one player has any influence left.
On your turn, you must perform one action. There are 3 standard actions, which can be done by any player, and a number of character-specific actions, depending on your influence.
However, and this is the real heart of the game, you can lie about which character you have influence over.
This means that a player can take any action on their turn. The only problem is, other players can challenge you if they think you’re lying or block you if they hold certain cards themselves.
A Crooked Council
Income, take 1 coin (This action cannot be blocked or challenged).
Foreign Aid - Take 2 coins (This action cannot be challenged but it can be blocked by a Duke).
Duke - Take 3 coins (This action cannot be blocked).
Captain - Steal 2 coins from another player (This action can be blocked by a Captain or an Ambassador).
Assassin - Pay 3 coins to eliminate another player’s influence (This action can be blocked by a Contessa).
Contessa - Blocks assassination attempts (This action cannot be blocked).
Ambassador - Take 2 cards from the deck, return 2 cards to the deck, and then shuffle the deck. The returned cards can be the 2 you just drew, the 2 you already had or any mixture of the 2 (This action cannot be blocked).
Coup - Pay 7 coins to eliminate another player’s influence (This action cannot be blocked or challenged).
Note - If you begin your turn with 10 or more coins, you must launch a Coup.
Are You Up To The Challenge?
Whenever a player chooses to use a character-specific action, any other player can challenge them.
When you issue a challenge, you’re accusing that player of lying about who they have influence over and this challenge must be fully resolved before the action can continue. This can be resolved in two ways.
1) The player admits they were lying, in which case the action fails, and they have to lose an influence of their choice (by flipping the card face up). If this action costs money (Assassin), the money is returned to the player.
2) The player was telling the truth; in which case they reveal the relevant influence. If this happens, the action succeeds, and the accuser loses an influence instead. The player should then draw a new card from the deck and shuffle the revealed card back in. This way, their influences remain secret.
Another way to stop an action is by blocking. Certain character powers allow you to block others. For instance, if someone tries to steal coins from you using a Captain, you can claim to have a Captain yourself, thereby blocking their action.
However, just like any other action, you can be challenged on this by any player at the table. This works in the exact same way as above and needs to be fully resolved before play continues.
For example, It’s Mark’s turn and he chooses to take the Foreign Aid action, which will give him 2 coins from the supply. Lauren, wary of a Coup, decides she wants to block this action. She tells Mark he can’t use Foreign Aid because she has a Duke.
Ben, who currently has a Duke as one of his influences, decides to challenge Lauren, believing her to be bluffing. It turns out, Ben is right! Lauren was lying, so she must now lose one of her influences (flipping it face up) due to the successful challenge.
With the challenge now resolved, Mark can continue his turn and take 2 coins from the supply. If Lauren did have a Duke, Ben would have lost an influence instead (for a failed challenge). Mark’s original Foreign Aid action would have been blocked because Lauren was telling the truth. Lauren would then draw a new card and shuffle the Duke back into the deck.
Assassination Dangers In Coup
It’s possible to lose both of your influences in one turn if you unsuccessfully block or challenge an Assassin. This is because, should you challenge a player who is trying to assassinate you and they are telling the truth, you will lose an influence for the failed challenge and then they will assassinate your final influence.
This is also true if you claim to be able to block their assassin with a Contessa and are caught in a lie. Again, you would lose an influence for lying and then your final influence would be assassinated.