04 June 2016

Board Game Review: Coup

Here we go with another example of a misnomer: Coup is not actually a board game, but a card game. No matter, though; I shall review this amazing fun and easy (and very quick!) game. Prepare for political upheaval: we're going into the world of The Resistance again to take a look at a truly enjoyable game called Coup.

As always, we start with the numbers:
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 15 minutes

This game is set in the world of The Resistance. I've not reviewed that game here yet, but it's the basis for The Resistance: Avalon, which I have. However, unlike in The Resistance, this game has you playing a member of the evil totalitarian government that Resistance members are trying to overthrow. The object of the game is to eliminate all your political rivals by destroying their influence with the government agents.

This game is very much a bluffing game. Players take actions, most of which require you to have a specific card in your hand, but you don't play that card when you take the action. Instead, your opponents must decide whether to believe you when you say you have that card, or else challenge you to prove it, running the risk of losing their own influence.

Here's how it works:

The game consists of fifteen cards, player action cards to help players remember what actions they may take, and tokens to represent currency. There are three copies each of five cards, each representing a government agent. These include the Duke, the Captain, the Contessa, the Ambassador, and the Assassin. Each card grants you a specific action.

Players receive two cards. These represent their influence, the amount of control they have over politics, as well as granting them their abilities. They also start with two credits.
four players sitting around a table, looking animated at the current events of the game, playing Coup. There are cards and tokens on the table, with a bowl of spare tokens in the centre.
This image by Josh Freeman (Board Game Geek username ObeyMyBrain) made available under a CC by-nc-sa 3.0 license.
On a player's turn, he may take one action. There are three actions that any player may take which do not require you to have a specific card:
  • Income - take one credit token from the bank.
  • Foreign Aid - take two credit tokens from the bank (this action may be blocked, however; see below).
  • Coup - spend seven credits to cause a player to lose one influence.
When a player loses influence (i.e., through the Coup action listed above), he turns one of his cards face up in front of him. That card is out of the game, and can no longer be used by any player.

In addition to the three free actions, there are four actions that can be granted by a card in your hand:
  • If you have the Duke card, you may perform the action Tax, which allows you to take three credit tokens from the bank.
  • If you have the Captain card, you may Steal, which allows you to take 2 credit tokens from any player (this action may be blocked by the Ambassador or another Captain).
  • If you have the Ambassador card, you may Exchange, which allows you to draw two cards from the deck and mix them with the cards you currently have. Choose which one(s) you want to keep, then return two cards to the deck, which is then shuffled.
  • If you have the Assassin card, you may Assassinate, which means you spend three credit tokens to cause another player to lose one influence (this action may be blocked by the Contessa).
As has been mentioned, some of these actions may be blocked. A player with the Duke may block another player from taking the Foreign Aid action; a player with the Ambassador or Captain cards may block another player from taking the Steal action, and a player with the Contessa may block another player from taking the Assassinate action. In none of these cases do you have to be the target of the action you are blocking; that is, a third player may block the action of the first player against a second player. So if Johnny were using the Assassin to Assassinate Susan, Thomas could choose to use his Contessa to block Johnny's action.

Here's where the game gets interesting. As mentioned above, you don't reveal your cards when you take an action. Thus, it is entirely possible to bluff! If a player is taking the Tax action, the other players may choose to challenge that action. So you have to decide, in most cases, whether to believe that the acting player actually has the card that he's claiming to have which will allow him to take his current action. If someone decides to challenge an action, then the acting player must reveal the appropriate card. If he has that card, then the challenging player loses one influence (the acting player, now having a card in his hand that everyone has seen, must replace it with a new one from the deck, so that nobody know what cards he has).

If he does not have that card, however, he loses one influence!

The same is true for blocking actions. If a player chooses to block an action, then another player can challenge that block! In the same way, the player must show that he has the correct card or lose an influence. So, for example, if Johnny uses the Assassinate action to cause Susan to lose an influence, and Susan announces that she will block with her Contessa, Johnny may decide to challenge Susan. If he does, Susan reveals her Contessa card (which she must then trade out for a new one from the deck), meaning that the Assassination action is unsuccessful, and Johnny loses an influence for his failed challenge. If Susan doesn't really have the Contessa card, however, then she loses an influence for being successfully challenged (and the Assassination action continues, causing her to lose a second influence as a result of the original action).

When a player has lost both of their influence cards, he is out of the game. The last player left is the winner.

This is, in my opinion, an awesome game. It's tense (which is part of what often makes a great game in my estimation), it's quick and easy, it falls firmly in the 'Social Interaction' category of my favourite games, and it's generally a lot of fun. I highly recommend giving it a try.

But, as always, don't take my word for it. Look at my ratings above and decide for yourself!

I will leave you with that for now. I'll see you here again next week, and remember as always to

Game on!

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