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Bluffing & Bribing in Coup – A Board Game Review by Brent Gladney

Posted on December 15th, 2014

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Game: Coup

For: 2 – 6 Players (best with 3+)

Designer: Rikki Tahta

Publisher: Indie Boards and Cards

Rating 9 / 10

I am doing my best to get back into board games and hoping to slowly transition my friends into nerdier and more in-depth, complex and lengthy board games. But to do that, I needed an accessible ice-breaker. A couple of more experienced board game friends and shopkeepers alike suggested the game Coup. I am happy to report the experience was a rousing and unanimously well-received success.

Coup initially began as a Kickstarter project in 2013, designed by Rikki Tahta and put out by Indie Boards and Cards. It got a lot of hype to begin with since it’s in the same universe as the popular board game The Resistance. Its initial Kickstarter completion goal was $5,000. It ended with a whopping $166,390. So armed with this knowledge, the sense that it was easy, fast-paced and accessible, I had high hopes. I was not disappointed.

Image from Kotaku.com

Image from Kotaku.com

What It Is

To paraphrase the official description: Coup is about a powerful for-profit city state, being brought down by a new rebel movement called The Resistance. Seeing an opportunity to take control, you (and your character cards) are hoping to overthrow the existing government and seize the reins of power. You must do this by using your powers of ruthlessness, bribery, manipulation and assassination.

The Set Up

Everyone starts out with two influence, which is represented by two character cards. When your influence is gone, you’re out of the game. Each turn you are allowed one action, selected from a number of actions that are either neutral (everyone can do) or card-specific (must have the card). Of course, since nobody knows what cards you actually have, you can do whatever you please. But since it’s all a bluffing game, the choice of how and when (or if) you decide to be radical is up to you.

You take turns going around either amassing coins, stealing coins, preventing coin acquisition, assassinating or committing a coup. Each character card allows you to uniquely perform or prevent an action. This round-table of actions continues until someone amasses 10 coins and is forced to launch a coup–an unblockable attack that removes one influence from a player. The last one with influence at the end is the winner.

The characters in the game are The Assassin, The Captain, The Duke, The Ambassador and The Contessa.

Image courtesy of Coup's Kickstarter page.

Image from Coup’s Kickstarter page.

How It Plays

Coup is all about bluffing. This type of game is easy to learn, almost impossible to perfect (this is a good thing) and can be played by everyone, no matter how good/bad their poker face may be. It’s always cautious and safe at the start, while the end is a maelstrom of braggadocio, calling bluffs and hoping to hang on for dear life.

The game is a minimalist board game and comes in a tiny box for the price of around $12. There’s no huge board or imposing amount of pieces or set up required. It only comes with cards, tokens and “crib sheets,” so you may look at them as a reminder of what character cards do what. The game total takes about 20 – 30 minutes, but you’ll likely want to have another couple rounds it’s that fun.

Image from the Board Game Geek.

Image from the Board Game Geek.

Final Verdict

Coup is extremely fun, quick and a great party game for sober or drunken players. Given the bluffing nature of the game, it’s very difficult for someone to “master” this game, meaning it’s fresh and fun each time you play it, even if it’s with the same group of people. I would recommend it for any collection, alongside games as classic as Monopoly and Risk to newer ones like Dominion. Everyone will get joy out of both feeling like they are in control or hanging on by a thread. It’s all a bluff, so anything can happen!

Review by Brent Gladney

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