Dale Yu: Review of Coup

Designer: Rikki Tahta
Publisher: La Mame Games
Ages: 10+
Players: 3-6
Time: ~15 min

Times played: I claim to have played 4 times with Luke’s purchased copy

OK, so it’s not often that it takes me twice the length of a game to write a review – but this one will fit that bill.  Coup is a new game that was first available at Essen 2012, yet somehow I didn’t come home with a copy of it. First, I claim that I only walk through Hall 6 to cut thru between Halls 9 and 4.  Second, I claim that I hadn’t heard anything about the game until AFTER I got home.  I didn’t even know that it was at the show!  However, from all accounts, plenty of other people knew about it because the game was reportedly sold out before the end of the show.


So, what is Coup about?  Well, I claim that it’s a bluffing game.  Each player starts out with 2 face down personality cards (there are 5 different characters in the game) and 2 coins.  You win the game if you’re the last person with a face down card in front of him.

The game is essentially all about bluffing.  On your turn, you state that you’re taking an action.  Some of the actions do not require you to have control of a character (that means having that card face down in front of you) – and these actions generally cannot be blocked.  Other actions DO need a character – and you simply claim that you have that character when you use the action.

OK, so here’s how a turn could go with one of the more complex actions. This will cover most of the rules…

Step 1: I take the assassinate action (thereby claiming that I have the Assassin). I pay 3 coins to the bank and then pick a target, who will of course be Luke – thus, if I can successfully take the Assassinate action, Luke will have to take one of his personality cards and make it face up.   Before this happens though, Luke has the chance to challenge whether or not I have the Assassin Card – If he does, go to Step 2.  If he does not, go to Step 3.

Step 2: He challenges my card.  If I have the card, go to Step 2a, If I do not, go to Step 2b.

Step 2a: I flip over the Assassin to prove that I have it.  I then discard the Assassin to the deck of personality cards, shuffle them and then draw a new card.  I then go forward with the Assassination as planned in Step 3.

Step 2b: If I do not have the Assassin card, I then make a sad face, flip up one of my personality cards and am that much closer to losing the game.  My turn now ends.

Step 3: Now we try to execute the event.  But, the Assassination can be blocked by the Contessa.  Luke gets a chance to try to block the Assassination by claiming that he has that card.  If he tries to block, go to Step 4.  If he does not block, go to Step 6.

Step 4: Luke tries to block the Assassination (thus claiming that he has the Contessa).  But, before the block takes effect, I get a chance to call his bluff.  If I think he’s full of it, I can challenge his claim of having the Contessa – go to step 5.  If I believe that he has the Contessa (and therefore, I do not challenge), go to Step 6.

Step 5: I challenge that Luke has the Contessa.  If he has the card, go to Step 5a, If he does not, go to Step 5b.

Step 5a:  Luke flips over the Contessa to prove that he has it.  He then discards the Contessa to the deck of personality cards, shuffles them and then draws a new card.  The Assassinate action was blocked, so nothing happens there.  I lose one of my personality cards because I made an incorrect challenge.  If this is my last remaining personality, I am out of the game.  My turn is now over.

Step 5b: Luke does not have the Contessa card, and he then makes a sad face.  He has to flip over one of his personality cards and is that much closer to losing the game.  If it is his last personality card, he is out of the game.  If he still has a personality card left face down, I then go forward with the Assassination as planned (to step 6).

Step 6: Phew. We finally made it to the Assassination. There is nothing left to stop it now, and therefore it happens.  Luke now chooses any of his personality cards and flips it face up (and thus, it is out of the game).  If it is his last personality card, he is out of the game. If he still has a personality card left face down, he is still in the game and the next person gets to take his turn.

That’s how the game plays. Seriously – that’s about it.  If the above lengthy description of a turn did not scare you off, then you’ll probably love Coup.  It’s quick, and that might be it’s best quality for me – I claim that our games took about 10 minutes each.  Maybe.  At least once, I was out on the first turn by challenging an Assassin incorrectly and then being caught without a Contessa after trying to block the Assassination.

I generally dislike bluffing games – mostly because I simply suck at them.  I avoid poker for the same reason – because there, not only do I lose the game, I usually end up losing a lot of money!   Simply stated, I just don’t find the whole bluff/call your bluff mechanic to be overly exciting, and that’s all that is here in Coup.  I know plenty of folks that love this sort of game, and will play this one so much that the cards will be worn out from use. I’d rather play Love Letter which involves a little bit of bluffing, but there feels like a bit more strategic play trying to use the special abilities of the cards in that one than Coup.

Comments from other Opinionated Gamers:

Patrick Korner: I’ve played Coup once, and that was likely enough. There is a market for these sorts of games, but I’m not sure I’m in that market. I like Bluff / Liar’s Dice, I don’t mind The Resistance on occasion, but here the options you have each turn, and the information you can deduce from the actions of others, is too limited for my liking.

Our game was 6 player, which is probably too chaotic for the game to ‘work’ properly (I think 3-4 players is best, so there is a reduced chance of all roles being dealt out right from the beginning). The Ambassador also felt too strong (again, especially in a 6p game), since the person who could see two-thirds of the non-dealt cards had a huge advantage (that person now has effectively double the hand size of anyone else and can play accordingly).

Overall not terrible, and fun once in awhile, but all things considered I’d rather play Bluff.

Ben McJunkin:  Coup does exactly what it sets out to do: it provides an entertaining five- to ten-minute filler for a handful of players who find themselves stuck between games.  It is also a fun enough, and simple enough experience that most groups will have no qualms playing it several times in a row if necessary.

There is no question that Coup contains little in the way of strategy.  It actually contains little in the way of “bluffing” as well (as an avid poker player, I find it amusing to read Dale talking about being “bad” at Coup).  Yes, a skilled player is likely to notice a few common mistakes made by novice players (for example, neophytes who are dealt the Assassin are the only players I’ve seen who open with the Take Income action), and in theory a table full of skilled players could try to induce mistaken allegations by mimicking some of those very same mistakes.

But on the whole, this is a wild game of interplayer chaos and blind luck.  And that’s just fine.  Coup fills the same role on the gameshelf as things like Martian Dice or . . . you, know, idle conversation.  In that context, I don’t need deep strategy.  An inoffensive, highly confrontational laughfest will suit me just fine.

Mike Siggins: Quick, fun and not without some depth in reading people and the odds. Not a game one can really analyse because it will just fill in that last ten minutes at the end of a session. I liked it.

Larry:  Of course Coup is about bluffing.  It isn’t all about bluffing, because there’s a little strategy you need to employ (such as deciding the limited number of roles you will claim, based on how you expect your dealt cards to play out), but bluffing is certainly its principal element.  In general, I strongly dislike bluffing games, but this may be the only one I’m willing to play.

The game is strikingly similar to one of the old Eon games called Hoax.  Hoax has more scope for strategy, but Coup is a much faster paced game.  I think both are successful designs.

As Ben says, Coup accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, which is no small achievement.  The roles are well thought out and the pace is great.  My rating is “I like it”, but it would be more accurate to say I don’t mind it.  I doubt that I’ll ever suggest it, but if people want to play it while waiting for the other table to finish up, I’ll be happy to join them.

Ratings Review from the Opinionated Gamers:
I Love it!
I like it.  Ben McJunkin, Mike Siggins, Larry
Neutral…    Patrick Korner, John Palagyi, Tom Rosen
Not for me…  Dale Yu

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Coup

  1. lornadune says:

    Hm, I somehow missed this one so I’ll add my comments here. My good friend Jennifer S and I have been having a friendly argument over which is better Love Letter or Coup. I find this interesting as both are short games with minimal components and similar mechanisms but one appeals to me and the other does not.
    I prefer Love Letter and am in the Not For Me group for Coup. Jennifer compares Love Letter to Go Fish and Coup to Liar’s Dice and she prefers Coup.
    I’ve tried to articulate why but it still eludes me somewhat but I’ll give it a try here anywway. I prefer Love Letter, it’s a bit simpler no messing with money tokens and and the actions are on the cards so how much easier can it get for a filler? The theme is romance ;) I don’t find there is really as much bluffing involved.
    Coup is more directly confrontational, I attempt to assassinate you or do a coup on you. There is bluffing and counter bluffing, something I suck at. There is the whole group think, everyone take money for the first few rounds.
    At any rate I think it’s great to have a choice this year of 2 such popular games!

  2. Chris Linneman says:

    What’s with all of you referring to Love Letter as a “filler”? I was very disappointed by Love Letter because it contains almost no non-obvious decisions and yet takes a good 45 minutes to 1 hour to play.

    Coup, on the other hand, I found lives up to its supposed purpose. It’s short, can handle a variety of group sizes, and is different from the games we regularly play. I agree it’s not fruitful to put too much though into it (this is where the comparison to Love Letter comes in), and it’s hard to call it a bluffing game when you have so little information to go on (imagine poker with only one round of betting). But as a short, unique filler it does its job nicely.

    Patrick: In a game where you can claim to have any card, card imbalance should not be an issue.

    • peer says:

      Hm, just the other day we played 5 games of Love Letter in 40 minutes. Its the japanese game though.
      I havent played coup, but if its better to have a card than just to claim a card, cards can be unbalanced. Its not so bad though

      • peer says:

        As it happend someone brought the American Love Letter and coup yesterday :-)
        I guess the reason for the difference in time is that you play only one round in the japanese version and (with four players) until someone wins 4 rounds in the American. Well, there is an easy fix, if the AEG-version takes to long: Just play one round. Or until someone has won two rounds. Voila – Done!

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