Specs: 2-6 Players · 5-15 Minutes · Ages 12+
Components: Cards & Tokens
Mechanics: Alliances, Bluffing, Card Draw, Deduction, Hand Management, Hidden Information, Income, Negotiation, Player Elimination, Unknown Information
When playing Coup, each player’s cards represent who they influence in a strange dystopian government of the future. The purpose of the game is to eliminate the influences of your opponents to gain absolute power; it’s a rapid game of deduction and player elimination. You can bluff your way through, acting as though you have any card and can use any action. Just be sure to back some of those claims up as your opponents can call you out, challenging you to reveal the relevant card.
At the beginning of the game, the deck is shuffled, and each player is dealt two cards. It’s interesting to note that the cards are a slightly different size than traditional playing cards (and the cards used in most games), measuring in at 2.5”x3.75”, providing a little extra height. It’s subtle, but a nice touch, and they come off feeling like mini tarot cards. These cards are intended to remain face down in front of each player (peeking as needed), but the game has the same effect if players want to hold them in their hand. A helpful component that players receive is the summary card used throughout the game to reference all the different character’s actions and counteractions. Players also start the game with two coin tokens.
The coins are powerful as essentially all actions in the game revolve around their use. All players can use the most basic action, called Income, to earn a single coin. This process is slow, so often the Duke is utilized, whether players have the card or not, to earn three coins in one turn. Anyone could use Foreign Aid to earn two coins, but the Duke can block that through counteraction. The Duke is a valuable card.
All players can also initiate a Coup, which costs seven coins, to eliminate a player’s influence (and it cannot be blocked). While the Assassin’s action to Assassinate is far less expensive, a player can simply claim to have the Contessa and block it. However, this is a tricky move because it can result in losing both of your influences if someone challenges your bluff. If you aren’t bluffing, and your opponent’s challenge is unsuccessful, then they must lose an influence, and you swap out the contested Contessa card for a new one. It’s too bad you end up losing a card, but you don’t want your opponents to know what you have. If you’re lucky, you could draw the very same card you are swapping out (or pretend you did).
Players are free to negotiate and create alliances, but nothing is binding. Plus, you can’t give away coins or reveal cards. You can offer to avoid one another, block as needed, and unite to target someone else. But, be careful; the winner is the last survivor. There is no second place, so alliances can only last so long. The same goes for the length of the game, which can sometimes feel like a blink. Games can last anywhere from mere moments to 10 minutes or more, making Coup a great simple game to play at any get-together with minimal commitment and rules to learn.