Coup Review

2-6 Players
10-15 Minute Playing Time

Brief Overview:
Coup is a fast paced card game of hidden identities mixed with bluffing and deduction.  Set in a future world that reminds me of something out of the Hunger Games, your mission is retain your influence while destroying and eliminating the influence others have under their control.

To start each player is dealt two cards at random - which will be either the Captain, Duke, Ambassador, Assassin, or the Contessa. Having the Captain allows you to steal two gold from any player, or block an opponent from stealing off you.  The assassin is able to pay three coins to assassinate another player's influence, which can be blocked if they have the Contessa.  The Ambassador allows you to exchange for new cards from the draw pile and can also block a Captain from stealing off you.  Lastly, having a Duke grants you the ability to collect tax and take three coins from the treasury and allows you to block the foreign aid player action (always available regardless of your influence cards), which allows players to take two coins from the treasury.  On your turn. depending on what influence cards you have will grant you any of the listed actions, or you can always draw income of one coin (can never be blocked), and when you have seven coins you can pay to perform a Coup which removes one players influence.

Where the game becomes less about luck and what cards you draw, is the fact that cards remain hidden from other players (unless eliminated), allowing you the freedom to bluff and use deception to claim any of the character cards abilities regardless of the cards you have.  There are three of each character type in the deck making it difficult for players to know whether you are bluffing or not, but every action that requires a certain type of influence can be challenged by any player.  If challenged you must show the card you have claimed or lose one of your influence cards.  If you can stand up to the challenge and show the correct card, your challenger will lose one of their influence and allow you to draw a new card from the draw pile.  Through assassinations, coup's and challenges, players will slowly lose their influence until the last player with a character card still in play wins.

My Thoughts:

I find Coup to be an interesting game. It's a game of deception, but it's actually a lot easier and better for you if you don't deceive at all and only claim the cards you have.  You'll be safe from any challenges and can sit back and watch as your opponents slowly eliminate themselves.  But that doesn't always work.  What if your opponent tries to assassinate you when you don't have Contessa, steal your coins with no ability for you to block, or keeps claiming tax and will have enough for a Coup before you do.  Most of the time, your forced to bluff which will often be challenged and you'll find yourself quickly eliminated. There'll be a time when your bluff will work, and its those moments when your deception does fools an opponent that make the reward worth all the times you tried and failed.  That's where the fun of Coup lies, not so much in the winning because you had the right cards the whole game, but when claim victory through smart play and deception. 

As I mentioned, claimed abilities are challenged often, quickly eliminating players influence.  Each turn players will try keep track of the cards being claimed by each player, but even when the third card is claimed, it's impossible to know which card was the lie and usually the third one is legitimate. It's all mind games and for the ten minutes you play, you'll be second guessing every players move. Another strategy can be to allow your opponent to steal off you, even when you can block it with a Captain.  Once they think they can steal your coins, you know they'll come back and try again the second time. Claim the Captain the second time, wait for the challenge and laugh as they lose an influence.  Coup is filled with bluffing strategy's like this, but it always comes back to what cards you actually have.  The best bluffs can be thwarted if your opponent has the right card, and I find it makes it so there isn't really a way to actually be good at Coup.  You can have the best strategy of deception and be good at deceiving your friends, but if the cards are against you sometimes you will lose anyway.

The randomness and luck of the cards doesn't detract from Coup too much as it features a quick play time with virtually no set up that begs for multiple plays in one sitting.  After three or four games I'm normally ready to move on to something else, but always enjoy those few games.  There is player elimination, however you won't be out for long making the effects of an early elimination minimal. With a small box, a few components, easy to learn rules and fun gameplay - Coup is most likely worth having in your collection.  It was stated earlier that the fun of Coup lies in the ability to win with smart play and deception, but on the other side, when you play clever and lose because you didn't have the right cards and your opponent had them can be frustrating.  Basically, anyone can win even without playing well. As Coup is designed as a quick filler, the lack of return on your well played out bluffing strategy isn't so bad.  Deal the cards again for a new round and the results will almost always be different.

My Verdict:
Quick, easy and fun card game filled with bluffing
Lacks winning satisfaction as isn't always about how good you actually play