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Coup Review – I’m the Duke and I’m…

Amongst the social deduction games on the market, there are a few that stand out as being slightly different, towing a line between card games and trying to understand what kind of game your opponents are playing. Unlike other games, where deception is necessary for a couple of players but an option for everyone else, there are a few games where it is more mandatory for everyone. Games like Spyfall, Secret Hitler, and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong are all one type of game, however, there is another, lighter version of social deduction out there. With that in mind, enter Coup.

The Premise of Coup

Coup is a bluffing, player elimination, take-that style card game, designed by Rikki Tahta, and takes place in the Dystopian Universe of other such games as The Resistance, Grifters and One Night Revolution.

In Coup, you are battling for influence in a dystopian world, keeping your power hidden and trying to gain an upper hand against everyone else at the table. You can do this by utilising the power of your hand, lying about the power in your hand and trying to get away with it, or by staging a coup to seize power from your opponents.

Coup: The Set Up

There is a stack of 15 cards in the middle of the table, comprising of five different types of card. Each player is dealt two cards and these count as the player’s influence. They are also given two coins.

How To Win At Coup

The goal in Coup is to be the last one standing. This is done by knocking out your opponents by either Assassinating them or staging a Coup. An Assassination can be done with three coins and the Assassin card. A Coup can be done with 7 coins.

Before we continue – I apologise for how dark and shadowy the images are in this post. Last time we played Coup we played it really late at night so light was not at its best.

IMG_20180526_223609-1129x846.jpg

How each player’s area looks like in Coup.

How Do You Play Coup?

Coup is a very simple game to play. The two cards each player is dealt have special abilities. They comprise of:

  • The Duke – You can take three coins and block Foreign Aid.
  • The Assassin – You can pay three coins to eliminate one card from another player. This counts as that player losing influence.
  • The Ambassador – You draw two cards from the Court Deck, look at them, and can exchange any number of cards from your hand with the cards you just drew. This is simplified to “Exchange cards with the Court Deck”. The Ambassador can also block stealing.
  • The Captain – Take two coins from another player and block anyone trying to steal from you.
  • The Contessa – Does nothing apart from block the Assassin.

There are also three special abilities that can be done by anyone.

  1. Income – Take 1 coin.
  2. Foreign Aid – Take 2 coins.
  3. Coup – Pay 7 coins to force a player to lose influence.
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The Ambassador and the Duke.

The key trick with doing actions in Coup, however, is that you don’t need to have the card to do the action. It is a game about deception, and thus you can claim to have a card you don’t have. Other players can try and call you out if you do, however, whoever loses the accusation ends up losing influence. This means you can claim to have the Duke, for instance, to take three coins. If I don’t believe you then I can challenge you, at which point, if you have the Duke you will reveal him and I remove a card. If you don’t have the Duke then you lose one of your cards.

The last player to have influence (cards) left in front of them wins. It is up to them to out-influence the other players, and out-survive them.

All the coins.

All the coins.

What is it Like Playing Coup?

“I’m the Duke and I’m going to take 3 coins.”
“I’m the Duke and I’m going to take 3 coins.”
“I’m the Duke and I’m going to take 3 coins.”
“I’m the Duke and I’m going to take 3 coins.”

Those four sentences can help sum Coup up in a nutshell. Everyone claims to be the Duke at the start of the game. It doesn’t matter who they are, everyone seems to want to be the Duke, and who can blame them? The game is ultimately about money and the Duke gets that money faster than anyone else.

Coup is ultimately a fun game. Its greatest strength comes from how quick it is to play. A round only takes around 10 minutes, meaning the take-that element doesn’t grow old or frustrating. This makes it a great filler game and a nice little sorbet game. It doesn’t have the substance to keep a group entertained for an entire evening, but it is a fine warm-up game.

Where I see Coup‘s biggest strength is actually not as a game for gamers, but rather an entry level game to help introduce people to the hobby. It contains everything needed as a game to showcase the hobby in its short form. It contains social interaction, a small amount of strategy, and what it more – it is nothing like Monopoly. It’s a short game, meaning that if it is enjoyed or if it isn’t enjoyed, it doesn’t hugely matter. Whichever way it goes, you can guide the next game with that knowledge.

So, is it a perfect game? No. It isn’t perfect. The need for money is a pain as it can become a race for cash with the last couple of players. This is a big downside. Is it a well-made game? Yes. It is, and it holds up well. There is a natural comparison to Love Letter. Looking at both Love Letter and Coup I think there is no need to have both in your board game collection. There are differences, namely in theme and style of discard, but the gameplay still feels pretty similar.

Sometimes Coup can feel a bit repetitive. There are only five different types of card, assuming you don’t have any of the expansions or promos, and where this keeps the game concise, it also means that if the game does stretch on then it can feel very old very quickly.

What I would personally like to see is a larger version of Coup, a bit like how there is a Love Letter Premium which allows the game to be played with more players. As such, cards could be added – not just more, but of different types. This would allow for the game to be a bit meatier, to have more strategies, and just more to it in general.

The box, reflecting all the light.

Conclusion: Coup Review

All in all, Coup is a good game. It exists within an interesting ecosystem of games that are definitely worth exploring. It works well as a good introduction to gaming; however, it may not hold serious gamers for long. It is a sorbet game, and probably won’t fill and evening, but it is a good accompaniment to other games – especially those set in the same Dystopian Universe.

So there we have it – Coup. Small and compact. What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy Coup? What are your thoughts on the Coup/Love Letter debate? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

If you enjoyed reading this
you may also enjoy:
Love Letter Review – An Anniversary Special

9 Comments »

  1. I like The Resistance, but wasn’t enamored with Coup. It could have just been the environment. With The Resistance and Secret Hitler, things are also a little less personal, as you often are working secretly with a group.

    Liked by 1 person

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