by Ben McGuinness, Peak Associate
The addictive game Coup is part of the growing catalog of inventive, and sometimes conniving, games available. It joins the ranks of other modern classics like The Resistance and Secret Hitler due to how quickly it can ruin friendships. So, if you find joy in embracing your dark side by plotting attacks on your friends and lying through your teeth, then this is the game for you.
A game of Coup goes like this: each player receives two character cards that no one else can see. Those cards are their two lives in the game, and each have different abilities players can use on their turn. For example, if you draw the Duke you can take three coins on your turn, while you can spend three coins to murder another player’s character if you have the Assassin. But the most basic action that can never be contested is to take one coin from the pot. Once a player reaches seven coins they can perform a coup which allows them to murder another player’s character without being blocked.
Most moves are more complicated than that, however. The complicating factor is that you can lie through your teeth about everything you do — and you can be called out on it. For example, it is common for people to lie about having the Duke card when they don’t, simply because you can wrack up more coins and be the first to attack.
But any claim can be contested. If someone calls you out on claiming to have a card that you don’t, you will lose one of your two cards. At the same time, calling someone out when they weren’t lying will lose you a card. Once you lose two cards, you’re out of the game. Sometimes the boldest players might not look at their cards at all, making it easier to lie about any card that suits their strategy. Other players might choose to make you nervous with their unseemly honesty.
Coup is the type of game where the action happens fast, and you’ll probably spend a few minutes dissecting how you won or lost. For example: Jane attacked Tom out of revenge, but didn’t notice that Harry had so many coins to finish her off with! Peter lied about having the Duke just long enough to get the coins he needed to use his assassin. Hopefully your friend group has more diverse names than these examples.
What makes it a staple in my game nights is that it’s engaging yet very accessible, with the right balance between complex backstabbing opportunities and simple gameplay. With two cards per player and a small pile of coins, setup and takedown is easy. Although there are many nuances in the abilities on the cards and the lies or strategies they warrant, it isn’t hard for a new player to understand the basics within a few rounds. Each round should only take 5-10 minutes.
Coup easily contends for my favourite game, and any fan of a good old-fashioned game night should try it. Just make sure to warn you friends there will be no Sorry! or Scruples.
Coup is widely available at local comic book, game, and toy stores. It typically retails for about $20 CAD.