Board Game Night: Coup

I previously wrote about a social interaction game filled with deception called The Resistance. That game involves a group of spies infiltrating a group of resistance fighters that is attempting to overthrow a corrupt, overarching government. Coup takes place in that same universe, however, you’re playing from a completely different viewpoint instead of a member of the resistance. Instead, you’ll be playing from the perspective of a powerful government official that is seeking to become the absolute ruler of the overarching political entity. You and the other players will lie, manipulate, deceive, and kill in order to become the most powerful person in the government. The resistance fighters are but a small pawn in your overall game as you take any steps necessary to become the most powerful.

Coup is for 2-6 players, takes approximately 15 minutes to play, and is for ages 14 and older.

The setup for Coup is quick and easy. Put all of the money in the middle of the table where everybody can reach the pile. Deal two cards to each player and then each player should place them face down in front of him or her. Give each player a player aid reference card. Each player takes two coins. Now it’s time to play Coup!

Coup’s gameplay is simple yet very complex when it comes to the social interaction. Your goal in Coup is to eliminate the cards of all other players and be the last remaining government official with a card in front of you. You do this through an action that you can take on your turn.

Your face down cards are the influence of people you have at court. All of the cards have characters on them, as seen in the picture above. The characters have abilities on them. Here are the characters and their corresponding abilities:

Captain
Ambassador
Duke
Contessa
Assassin

Captain
Steal two coins from another player. If they only have one coin, then you steal the one coin. The Captain can also block other people from stealing.

Ambassador
The Ambassador allows you to exchange him for another card from the deck. The Ambassador can also block other people from stealing.

Duke
The Duke can tax the people for three coins. Take three coins from the money pile in the middle of the table. The Duke can also stop people from taking foreign aid.

Contessa
The Contessa can block assassination attempts.

Assassin
The Assassin can spend three coins and assassinate another player’s card. This can only be blocked by a Contessa.

When it is your turn, you may take an action that you can afford and/or want to take. Here are the actions you can take:

Income
Foreign Aid
Coup
Tax
Assassinate
Exchange
Steal

Income
On your turn, you can choose income by taking 1 coin from the money pile. This cannot be blocked.

Foreign Aid
You can choose to take 2 coins as foreign aid, but a Duke can stop you from doing this.

Coup
If you have 7 coins, you can pay all 7 and choose a player to lose one of their cards. This cannot be stopped or blocked.

Tax
You can choose to take 3 coins as a Duke.

Assassinate
Like mentioned above, you can pay 3 coins to assassinate another player’s card.

Exchange
Like mentioned above, you can exchange your Ambassador for another random card in the deck. When you take this action, you draw a random card from the deck and then put your ambassador back in the deck.

Steal
Steal two coins from another player. If they only have one coin, you steal the one. Other players can claim they have a Captain or an Ambassador to block your attempt to steal from them.

Now, up to this point, it may feel like you’re just claiming the actions of your face down cards and trying to assassinate people. But here is where the game has amazing social interaction and deception.

Regardless of what two cards you have face down, you can claim any action you want. Let’s assume you have an Ambassador and a Contessa in front of you. On your turn, you can do ANY of the actions of ANY of the characters (or the general actions of taking income or foreign aid) as long as you can afford it. The only problem is, one of the other players can try to block you with their cards or call you out to prove you’re the character for the action which you claimed.

Example:

I have an Ambassador and a Contessa. I say, “I’m a Duke, and I’m going to take tax.” I take 3 coins and put them in front of me. At this point, ANY player at the table can say, “I don’t believe you. Prove you’re a Duke.” At this point, I have to prove I am a Duke. I must turn over a card of my choice and leave it face up in front of me. Since I did not have a Duke, I only have one face down card now. However, if nobody chooses to contest me, I can take my 3 coins and the turn goes to the next player.

Any player at the table can challenge another player to prove their character.

As another example, if I decide to try and assassinate another player’s card, any player at the table can say, “I don’t believe you. Prove you’re an assassin.” If the player I’m trying to assassinate says, “I have a Contessa!” (which ultimately blocks my assassination attempt), any other player, including myself, at the table can say, “I don’t believe you. Prove you’re a Contessa,” to the player that tried to block the assassination attempt.

If you challenge another player to prove their character, and that player DOES have that character, you lose a card instead. Challenging is a risky venture because you put your own card at risk in case the other player was telling the truth.

When you are challenged and you do have the card that you claimed, you return that card to the deck and draw a new one. You now have a new character card, but you still have two face down cards. The one that challenged you lost one of his or her cards.

You keep going clockwise around the table and taking actions until only one player has one or more face down cards remaining. The player with the remaining face down cards wins the game!

A few hints to help you in your playthrough:

Any and all negotiations with other players is allowed, but nothing is ever guaranteed or binding.

You can not loan, give, or take coins from other players except through the actions you are allowed to take on your turn.

You are not allowed to reveal your cards to the other players at any time unless challenged. You can say out loud what you are (whether it’s a bluff or truth), but you can never turn it over to show them unless you’re challenged.

If somebody claims an assassin and tries to kill one of your cards, and you challenge them saying they are not an assassin, and they are an assassin, you lose both of your cards. You lose the first one because you lost the challenge and they really did have an assassin so you lose the second card because it was successfully assassinated.

Coup is a fantastic, quick game that really puts your deductive skills to the test. Playing with only 2-3 players can make the game seem too short and lacking any substance. However, 4 or more players really puts your ability to bluff and deduce to the test. There is no overall strategy that works every time. In fact, your strategy will change every single game based on what two cards you get, what the other players continue to claim at the table, and how the actions claimed by each player affects the feel of the game. It’s a fun game that really showcases your ability to lie and deceive in the face of danger.

Board Game Geek: Coup

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.

Out of the oppressed masses rose an underground band of partisans fighters focused on overthrowing these powerful rulers. The valiant efforts of these rebels have created discord, intrigue and weakness in the political courts of those nouveau royal, bringing the government to the brink of collapse.

But for you, a powerful government official, this is your opportunity to manipulate, bribe and bluff your way into absolute power. To be successful, you must destroy the influence of your rivals and drive them into exile. In these turbulent times there is only room for one to survive.

Coup Rulebook

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