Can you lie? Can you look those around you and tell them a clear cut lie? Can you break every moral code you have and lie through your teeth to gain victory? Well, even if you can’t, Coup by Indie Boards and Cards is an amazing game. Paranoia will run high, tension will be visible… Even when you aren’t lying you’ll be suspected of everything, which can be very advantageous in itself. The game is short, sharp, and forces itself to end… But you will definitely find yourself playing round after round, becoming more and more confident in your ability to deceive!
The Core Game
Coup is a social deduction game and is based around holding onto influence in an unstable political climate. There are no friends here. You only have two allies, your influence cards. All players start with two influence and a player wins when they are the only one with any influence left. Play goes around the table with every player taking one action. As a non-influence action you can claim income (one coin), claim foreign aid (two coins), or pay for a coup (seven coins). Your influence however gives you a lot more choice… You can steal, tax, block foreign aid, assassinate, change influencers, block assassinations, or block steal attempts. Each influence card has a character associated to one of these abilities, and they are kept secret until lost.
Sound simple so far? Well… The game is based around players trying to hold onto their influence whilst trying to remove other players’. Influence is removed by assassinating, causing a coup, getting caught lying or falsely accusing someone of lying. Of course, the money you have is the only thing visible to your competitors so they’ll always be ready for the inevitable coup… What they won’t be ready for are your influence abilities! You can choose to use the abilities you have, or you can do what ever you want! (Just because you don’t have a specific character, doesn’t mean you can’t utilise their ability!) Now, you’re not immediately going to get away with it… Players can allow it and let you do as you please, or they can challenge you and force you to reveal your influence or back off; if you were you lying you lose an influence, if you were you being honest then the challenger loses an influence and you swap the influence card in question for another from the deck. Remember though, if you’re on your 4th new ability you’re going to raise questions… But with instability caused by everyone’s distrust, you’re unlikely to be noticed for long!
There is the possibility to start the game with two of the same character, and we have found this to be endlessly advantageous. Should you lose one of your influence, you will still have your ability and will raise a tonne of questions… Or, you could use that to lie through your teeth and claim any ability you fancy with little fear of challenge the second time around! Coup is less about fooling those around you and more about convincing everyone you are fooling them.
The Reformation Expansion
The expansion is a small addition to the game, adding factions, the treasury reserve and replacing the Ambassador character with the Inquisitor. The Ambassador would allow you to exchange a card from the deck and block stealing. The Inquisitor is the Ambassador on a power trip. You can change an influence and block stealing, like the Ambassador, but you can also look at other people’s influence and force them to swap that card should you not like it! As useful as the Ambassador is, since getting the expansion we’ve never used him and always used the Inquisitor instead!
The factions are a brilliant addition as well. At the start of the game, everyone is either a Reformist or a Loyalist (distributed equally around the table) and their allegiance determines who they can affect. Any negative abilities cannot be used on players of the same faction, meaning you’ve got to plan way ahead to ensure you’re targeting the opposing faction. (Negative abilities are indicated with a * next to them on the player reference card.) Your faction isn’t set in stone though, nor do you have 100% control over it! You can spend a coin to change your faction on your turn, or another player can spend two coins on their turn to change your faction for you – the perfect move if the next player is ready to coup! The only time you can attack someone else within the faction is when everyone is that faction. With the faction changes, all money spent doing that is added to the Treasury Reserve card. This card holds any money linked to changes in faction and stacks money really quickly. As an action, a player can choose to Embezzle and take that cash for themselves. The only character who can’t do that is the Duke, but he can already tax 3 coins on his turn so realistically that makes sense. (But whose to say he can’t lie and do it anyway!)
The game is anarchy, chaotic, and wild, but at no point do you not have a plan! You’ll always know your next move and always know who to watch for… But it’s easy to get wrapped up in a vendetta between yourself and whoever has stolen from you, and that can be advantageous as you’ll slip under every other players’ radar, but don’t lose sight of the end game. Taking someone out for pride won’t win you any favours! The endgame of this is inevitable. Any person who has 10+ coins must coup, however you’re unlikely to want to be taken out by a coup… It makes sense to use your own abilities reservedly and to make use of abilities you’re claiming to have until your called out on it. There’s nothing wrong with it so long as you don’t get caught! And when being taken out, you will always feel the need to challenge the final opponent on the off chance they aren’t who they said they were!
This game is the definition of a filler and is a gorgeous one at that. We’ve played it as a party game and as a main focus game and both worked excellently. It’s not a game people sigh at when they see it on the table, and with the amount we have it out, that says a lot! The artwork is beautiful, the mechanics work fantastically, the concept is simple and the weight of the game is non-existent… And you’ll still end up playing this game again and again. But somehow, you’ll always end up playing at the Duke and getting 3 coins, just like everyone else!