Coup Card Game Review (Indie Boards & Cards)


Bluff your way to the top in Coup, the game about power and influence. In Coup, each player holds influence over two role cards, which they then use to commit dastardly deeds: assassination, theft, and even taxation. Players take turns attacking each other, bluffing against each other, and calling each other's bluff. Once they've massed enough wealth, they can launch an unblockable coup against their foes. A fairly simple card game, the end goal of Coup is to be the last man standing. Up to six players can compete in this compact, 20 minute filler game. 

Coup Card Game Details

Players: 2 to 6

Game Time: 20 Minutes

Age: 12+

Genre: Bluffing / Hidden Role

How Is Coup Played?

Coup isn't an intuitive game: there are a few things that players need to learn from the start that can feel a little overwhelming. However, once the game has been learned, it's very fast to play, and variants are learned quickly. At the beginning of the game, every player is dealt two secret role cards. Remaining role cards remain in the shared court deck. In the base game, there are three cards each of the following:

  • Duke, which can take 3 income every turn.
  • Assassin, which can attempt to assassinate for 3 money.
  • Contessa, which can block assassination.
  • Ambassador, which can exchange 2 cards with the deck (swap out cards) or block stealing.
  • Captain, which can steal 2 income from another player (or block stealing).

The two role cards are the player's influence. During their turn, players can take the action of one of their role cards, or take 1 income (cannot be blocked), or take foreign aid (can be blocked by any player with a duke). If the player has 7 income, they can launch a coup against another player, which automatically loses them one influence. Coups cannot be blocked by any means: they are unavoidable. If you let someone get to 7 income, you pay the price.

Each card has a Role and its Action written on it, but you'll want to memorize the actions -- otherwise it becomes difficult to bluff. 

Players take actions by claiming they have a card and then performing the action: "As an assassin, I will pay 3 to assassinate you [other player]." At that point, the other player can call a bluff if they want. Otherwise, they would need to attempt to block the assassination ("As a contessa, I block it."), or they would need to lose one of their influence cards. Players take one action per turn until all the players but one have lost all their influence. 

How Does Influence Work in Coup?

In Coup, player have two role cards in front of them face down. When a player "loses influence," they flip over a card of their choice. They can no longer use the abilities of that card. (Of course, they can bluff and pretend that their other card is an identical card, if they so choose.)

If a player loses two influence (both cards), they are out of the game. Because players only have two influence, the game moves very quickly. 

How Does Bluffing Work in Coup?

Anyone, at any time, can lie about which role cards they have. Players have some knowledge of what is statistically possible and this knowledge grows throughout the game. Players know that if four players claim to have the duke, one person is lying. They know if someone only has one card and has performed different actions each turn, they are also lying.

As cards are flipped over (once influence is lost), players may see three dukes revealed, and consequently know that anyone who claims to have the duke is absolutely lying. (Of course, this would be a very poor bluff.)

Each of your face down cards represents influence. Once you have no influence left, you've lost the game.

During a player's action, any other player can call their bluff. When this happens, the player taking the action must reveal their card. If they were not bluffing, then they get a new card from the court deck, which will also go face down in front of them. They don't lose any influence. Instead, the player who called the bluff loses influence.

If the original player was bluffing, then they lose influence. Bluffing can be called during any player's action and by anyone. If Jake attempts to assassinate Gina and Gina claims to block with the Contessa, Amy can say that she doesn't think Gina has the Contessa. 

Here's the beauty of Coup,though: if you're a horrible bluffer, you never have to bluff in this game. In fact, acting shady as hell while not lying is a completely valid strategy. If you bait people into calling your bluffs, and you're not bluffing, you cause them to lose influence. 

Is Coup Replayable?

Coup is almost infinitely replayable, but not in the same session. You play Coup once between games and then you're done. That's because the second playthrough on Coup almost invariably leads to everyone killing the last winner immediately, and then the person who went out second, and so forth. All vestiges of diplomacy are gone.

And that matters, because it's an elimination game. The first game of Coup will play out slowly, with everyone whittling each other down, and then going out one by one. The second game of Coup will see half the table gone right away, and then the last three maneuvering for an irrational amount of time. 

It's the same wth any type of social deduction, hidden role, or bluffing game: subsequent games steadily get worse because people take their assumptions from one game to the other. You lied to me in the last game, so you're lying to me now. You were Hitler last time, so now you're double Hitler. You killed me, and now I'm killing you.

It's not wrong. A winner probably is the biggest threat. But it's also not necessarily fun, or, at very least, there are diminishing returns.

However, there's one exception -- when you play with variats.

What Version of Coup Should You Buy?

There are multiple versions of Coup currently available, and the newer ones come with variants. You can definitely play Coup multiple times if you're swapping out variants, because they change the game just enough that those past biases and aggressions don't linger. The Inquisitor adds an entirely new role type: a character that can interrogate and swap cards with another. Loyalty cards add another layer to the game, as only players with different loyalties are able to attack each other, and players are able to swap each other's loyalties. 

The original art style is probably still the best.

If you have the classic version of Coup, you can purchase the expansion to add these variants. The Mobile Art version of Coup comes with the variants included. 

At $15, Coup is one of the games that easily becomes a staple on someone's shelf. But that doesn't mean that it's perfect. It does take a moment for people to learn, as the gameplay is unique in a few ways. Bluffing successfully requires that you know the cards well enough to do so, which means the first couple of games a person plays are likely to be very difficult. And the cards are a non standard size, which is continuously frustrating.

Still, if you're looking for a 20 minute game that you can play with both casual and serous gamers, Coup isn't a bad buy. Coup delivers a lot of value, and in most groups will become omething that is frequently pulled out.

Coup Card Game Review
  • PRO: Fast-paced, unobjectionable gameplay make Coup the perfect filler game, with non-bluffing options for the bad bluffers.
  • CON: Coup offers 20 to 40 minutes of game time each session and not much more, as it's difficult to play it multiple times in a row.