My first experience with Coup by Indie Boards and Cards was during a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina where I met up with an old friend and his wife. The friend and I ended up hanging out at his acquaintance’s apartment where we also played Wiz-War. Wiz-War is a fine game but that’s a topic for another time. The thing I noticed immediately about playing Coup with my friend is how good he is at it but not for the reasons you may think. Coup is a social deduction card game full of bluffing, second-guessing, and outright lying. It’s reasonable to assume one needs an excellent poker face to be successful at this game.
Coup by Indie Boards & Cards
Designer: Rikki Tahta
Artist(s): Luis Francisco, Stephanie Gustafsson, Andrew Higgins, Alexandr Kiselev, Prapach Lapamnuaysap, Tomasz Larek, Jarek Nocoń, Guillermo H. Nuñez, Alejo Vigliani, Uros Vuckovic, Weberson Santiago
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
Prominent Mechanic(s): Player Elimination
The rules for playing Coup are pretty straightforward. Each player, up to six, starts with two cards and chooses a single action on their turn. You can use an action to take income (one coin) or foreign aid (two coins) from the communal pool of coins. If you already have seven or more coins, you may coup another player (you MUST coup someone if you have ten or more). Or you can claim a particular card and do the action associated with it. Some of these cards/characters have counteractions which allow you to foil your opponents’ plans.
Characters’ Actions and Counteractions
take 3 coins
pay 3 coins (to assassinate)
exchange cards with court deck
steal 2 coins from another player
block foreign aid
Players continue playing until only one player has a card (or both cards) left. It’s really as simple as that. Where the intrigue of this game comes in is the bluffing, deception, and deduction. You don’t have to tell the truth in Coup. You don’t have to have a stony poker face to be successful. My friend is a formidable opponent not because he’s great at lying. It’s because he’s so terrible at being honest. We all generally assume he’s always scheming, like Loki working to his own ends even while helping you out. He knows we think he’s always lying to us and he uses that to his advantage.
Lying in Coup is only bad if you get caught. If you bluff and someone calls your bluff, you lose a card (the game refers to the cards as “Influence”). But if you corner someone into calling you on a bluff yet you were being truthful, then your accuser forfeits a card instead. And therein lies the fun. You can lie your way to victory or you can play it straight. From my experience, no single approach is superior.
Do I have to lie/bluff?
As I was browsing the internet for information about this game, I found this review of Coup by Tony Mastrangeli. All in all, it’s a well-written and thoughtful review. Tony contends that an introverted player doesn’t make a good Coup player. I have to say, he’s dead wrong. Being personable and outgoing is the last thing I’d add to a list of things that make you successful here. While it doesn’t hurt to be given good cards, you can still win while being lowkey and unassuming. Especially in larger groups. Let them attrit themselves and then strike. The introvert can slowly build up their coin collection and then eliminate a player with the unblockable coup action. Or they can use their reputation to their advantage and bluff with the Assassin card. A note on challenging someone claiming the Assassin: if you accuse someone of bluffing and you’re wrong, you lose a card for losing that challenge and then you lose a second card because the assassination attempt succeeds.
I think Scott Bogen nailed it in his review when he said, “your inherent duplicity is appreciated”. Being duplicitous will certainly give you an advantage. You don’t have to be a blatant liar to win. However, you may want to follow my friend’s style and make people think you could be lying. If you’re predictable, you’ll spend most of your time on the sidelines.
Coup is fast-paced and accessible. But it doesn’t have to be a raucous game that forces introverts to cower behind their cards wishing it would all end quickly. Many different personality types can find ways to excel in this game and a quick and accessible game that appeals to many types of players is a sure recipe for fun. But for all my talk about the possibility of still doing well while not bluffing or deceiving, my preferred method of winning is to “lie, cheat, and steal!” Actually, I let Maynard’s lyrics get the best of me. It’s not cheating, as per the rules.
- fast-paced and easy to learn
- dystopian theme doesn’t detract from the fun for those who don’t love that genre
- players can come and go since a round plays in minutes…great filler game for bio breaks and snacks
- its brevity can be a double-edged sword, some players may wish for more substance
- not for players who don’t enjoy a little contention or who take offense easily if they feel targeted