I don’t think you really have the Duke…
Coup is a game I have played a few times in the past, but only recently got my own set. It is a game of bluffing and deception and I wasn’t going to suggest it to Miss B, but she got hold of the box and was very taken with the artwork (particularly that there were so many female characters, once you had looked at all the bonus alternate art cards) so wanted to play. The game isn’t really aimed at being a two-player game, but it does work as such, so we gave it a go.
So, a brief outline of how the game works… There are five different characters in the game, each of which allows you an action and/or a way of blocking another player’s action, and three copies of each card in the slim deck. For instance, the Duke is good at getting money and at stopping other people getting money, the Assassin can be paid to do a hit, and the Contessa can foil the Assassin’s plans. Each player is dealt two cards (which may, on occasion, be identical) and these are placed face down in front of the player, who may look at them at any time. Players take it in turn to use their character’s actions (and the characters can change in play) to gain money and attack other players. If you are successfully attacked by an assassination or an expensive, but unblockable, coup, you lose one of your cards. Lose both cards and you’re out.
That’s the basics apart from one small detail, which is that you can lie about the cards you have and can attempt an action that you don’t really have available. Anyone can then call your bluff, and if they are correct, you lose a card, but if you weren’t bluffing after all, they lose a card instead. So if I use the Captain to steal your money and you don’t have a card that can block it, you have to decide whether to challenge me and say that you don’t think I really have a Captain, to claim that you do actually have a blocking card and hope nobody challenges you, or just suck it up and hand over the money.
Coup is really a game for more players, but Miss B and I have now played it a few times, mostly with just the two of us, and it worked OK. In fact, Miss B really enjoyed it. Played with her, the game feels a little like Love Letter with additional, explicit fibbing — with more people you can kind of build up a bit of a picture of what people are doing, but with two there is rather more guesswork. But that is fine, and it turns out that she is better at it than I expected. Disturbingly so, it turns out.
Being a game of bluffing made me a bit nervous about playing Coup with Miss B. Is playing this teaching her to be a better liar? Is it confusing her about ethics? It’s difficult to know, really. She definitely seems to understand that it is OK to tell fibs in a game like this, but not in real life, but whether it is giving her better skills in the art of deception… Well, maybe it is, and I’m going to need to learn her tells and pay more attention. Playing games like this with her may help me in that respect. I’m seriously torn, but playing Coup with her is a lot of fun, so I’m going to roll with it and I’ll have to live with the results.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “I really like the idea that you should not have to be the right character to play the same action. I think it’s a really good bluffing game and I recommend it. At first Daddy thought that I wouldn’t like it because there was lots of bluffing but I insisted on playing it, so we did and I really liked it. So I’d give it 9 out of 10.”
The game: Coup (Indie Boards and Cards), 2 to 10 players aged 10+.