In 2012, a tiny card game called Love Letter took the gaming community by storm. This unassuming micro game went on to win numerous awards and really was the catalyst that jump started micro game genre. Since then, there have been quite a few new micro games that have graced our tabletop. Today, we are going to look at a game of bluffing and deduction called Coup.
Originally published in 2012 by La Mame Games, it wasn’t until Indie Boards and Cards ran a $166,000+ kickstarter campaign for a new edition of Coup that the game really came to the forefront. Set in the world of The Resistance, Coup has players vying for power in a game of bluffing, bribery, and manipulation. Is Coup a worthy addition to the micro game genre or should you call its bluff? Read on!
Coup is a bluffing and deduction game for 2-6 players that plays in about 10-15 minutes. Coup plays best with 4-5 players.
In Coup, your goal is to be the last player standing. Each player starts the game with 2 influence, represented by facedown character cards. Each turn, a player can take an action from either a set list, or a special action based on what character cards they were secretly dealt. The key is, players can lie about which character they have. However, if you are caught in a lie, you will lose an influence (character card). Although if it turns out you weren’t bluffing, then the accuser loses an influence. If a player loses both of their characters, they’re out of the game. Whoever is the last player to have a character card left is the winner.
In its little box, Coup actually holds a good amount of high quality components. In the retail game (we’ll talk about the Kickstarter version later), players get a deck of 15 character cards, illustrated in a style to match Indie Board and Cards’ previous game, The Resistance. Since Coup is set in the same “world”, it makes sense to have similar artwork. However, even though they are in the same universe, don’t kid yourself, the theme in Coup is only skin deep.
Moving on, also included are 6 very useful player aids. Since this is a game of bluffing, it’s very helpful to have this information at the player’s fingertips. They last thing you want to be doing is asking what characters powers are when you are trying to fake it.
Finally, the game comes with 50 coins that will be used to launch a coup attempt in a game. My Kickstarter edition had metal foil coins that looks pretty slick. The only issue I had was getting the box to close once I punched out the coins. They didn’t all quite fit perfectly in my copy. I’m not sure if that was also an issue with the retail copy.
How to Play:
As is the norm with micro games, the rules in Coup are very simple to learn. Each player starts the game with 2 coins and 2 influence (face down character cards). The 15 card deck contains 3 copies of each character and there are 5 different characters, each with their own powers:
• Ambassador: Draw two character cards from the draw deck, choose two to keep (from among the 4 you now have) and return two. You can also block someone from stealing coins from you.
• Assassin: Pay three coins and to assassinate another player’s character.
• Contessa: Block an assassination attempt against your character.
• Captain: Take two coins from another player, or stop someone from stealing from you.
• Duke: Take three coins. You can also block someone from taking the foreign aid action.
Instead of taking your character action, you can take one of these three actions:
• Income: Gain one coin.
• Foreign Aid: Gain 2 Coins (may be blocked by the Duke)
• Coup: Pay seven coins and start a coup against an opponent. That player must lose a character. (If you have ten coins, you must take this action.)
On your turn, you will take one of the above actions and then the next player takes their turn. The bluffing aspect enters the game because you don’t actually have to have the character of the action you are taking. You can lie. I might have the Captain and the Assassin, but I can still take the Duke action. However, if another player calls my bluff, I have to reveal the appropriate character. If I can’t (or don’t), I lose an influence (flip one of my face down characters face up).
If I did have the appropriate character, the challenger loses the influence. I then shuffle that character back into the deck and draw a replacement.
When a player loses both of their influence, they are out of the game. The game ends when there is only one player remaining.
I think one of the reasons Love Letter was so successful was how accessible it was. Super easy to learn and the game will work with just about any group (gamers or not). One thing I’ve learned about Coup through my many plays is that you really want to have the right group of players. I you have a timid group of introverted players; Coup really isn’t going to be the game for you.
The majority of the fun I have in Coup is in the interaction between players. You want players who will lie, trash talk, challenge and pretty much be in each other’s faces. If you have a quiet group who just takes their coin each turn, the game is going to be very boring. However, with the right group of people, Coup can be a good amount of fun. Gather up a group of people that like to read other players enjoy social deduction and basically bicker with each other, and you have a winner on your hands.
Diving into the game mechanics, overall I’d say that the card powers work really well together and encourage interactivity. I think the designer did a great job of making each card feel useful in its own right, and also fit into the game as a whole. Sometimes one card will feel more powerful than another, but after you get used to the game, they all come into their own at times.
However, being a micro game, Coup will suffer from the usual flaws of the genre. It’s a game you will play a few times and then put back on the shelf for something else. For all but the most die-hard fans of deduction and bluffing games, you are not going to find a ton of staying power here. I found myself really loving Coup with my early plays, and then gradually getting a little tired of it. While the 5 cards work great together, there are still only 5 of them. So you will be seeing the same cards and same actions over and over again. This can cause Coup to lose some of its luster after repeated plays.
That being said, it is easy to teach to new players. The rules make sense and the actions are intuitive. However, I’ve learned that it usually takes players a few games before they truly “get it”. Most new players will take their coins, not lie much and just try and win. These early games can sometimes be fairly low key. However, once you get a group of experienced players together, this is where Coup really shines. I’ve had the most fun with Coup when we are bluffing, accusing and otherwise being a loud group of annoying gamers.
One final thing I wanted to bring up is that if you are a completionist, you might want to steer clear of Coup. Indie Board & Cards goes all on on Kickstarter exclusives and the retail version is a bit underwhelming in comparison. The Kickstarter version of Coup contains better components, twice as many cards and even a 6th role card. Comparatively, the retail version just feels inferior. To get everything for Coup, you are probably looking at the second hand market. I should also add that frequently Indie Board and Cards will require you to buy into unrelated Kickstarters for their other games to get cards for Coup. This can be a source of great frustration that I’m personally not a fan of. You’ve been warned.
Overall Coup is a clever game that will appeal to the more social gamers out there. For the strategy gamers out there who just want to keep their head down and think three turns ahead, this is definitely not the game for you. But if you enjoy a game of deduction, bluffing or ones with high social interaction, then I think you can have some great fun in Coup. My first thought after playing Coup was that fans of Poker would get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
Even if you are on the fence about if this game is for you, the nice thing is that it only costs about $12. At that price, it’s an easy purchase just to check out. Although it is a shame that you can’t get everything the Kickstarter backers got.
For me, Coup will probably hang out on my shelf more often than not. I think the game is fun to play every now and then, but I found it to get a little stale after repeated plays. I should note that there is an expansion due out in the future that might help with that, but for now I’ll probably go back to Love Letter for my micro game of choice. That being said, with the right group of players, I won’t hesitate to play it again.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, you can get it for $12.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A clever micro game that works well with very social people. Its lack of depth can cause it to stale after repeated plays.
• Quick game play that’s easy to learn
• Will appeal to the more social groups
• Well done components
• Portable nature fits its play style
• Lack of variety can shorten its life
• Feels like retail buyers are punished for missing the Kickstarter
• Needs the right group of players.