Coup is a free-to-play diplomacy and espionage-themed, hidden information and bluffing strategy card game. Banana & Co, the development team, have adapted the massively successful tabletop card game The Resistance: Coup into a delightfully devious app on the iOS platform.
With a whole new look and the ability to play anyone, anywhere, the digital version makes this game far more accessible than ever before. Winning doesn’t come easy, or cheap, in Coup — I guess that’s okay, because we’re all about to become as honest as politicians!
Will the lies and deceit catch up with Coup, or does it make it far more fun? Read on to find out…
Coup is all about deception, lies, espionage… and a little bit of truth. The objective is to outlast all the other players by being the last person who hasn’t revealed both of their cards. This might seem like a simple task, but when every player is playing the exact game, using the same misinformation and bluffing tactics, it gets a little bit tricky. Information is limited for all and the rules help maintain that balance — but if you choose your plays carefully, you just might be able to pull off an amazing Coup.
Each player is dealt two role cards from a 15 card deck. The deck will have 3 copies each of the following cards: Ambassador, Assassin, Captain, Contessa, and Duke. Each one has their own unique effects that can be used throughout the game. However, you do not need that card in your hand to be able to play it and gain its effect… Oh no, we can simply claim that we have that card, as you don’t need to reveal your card to prove you have it. That is, until somebody challenges you to prove your claim – Who, me? Lie? Never!
If you told the truth and you did indeed have that card in your hand, you can reveal it to the challenger and they will have to lose a card of their own (losing one of their two “lives”). You’ll gain the benefit of the card you played, but it does now become public knowledge and is shuffled back into the deck before you draw another.
If you did lie, you will have to lose (and reveal) a chosen card in your hand instead, as well as being denied the action you were attempting to take. Sometimes your play will go unchallenged, and this is when you can chuckle to yourself when you have successfully pulled off that little white lie. Nothing beats the rush of deliberately cheating and getting away with it!!
Most of the actions revolve around using Coins: either gaining 3 using the Duke, stealing 2 using the Captain, paying 3 to cause someone to reveal and lose a role through Assassination, or paying 7 to cause a Coup (an unblockable Assassination). Most of these actions can be blocked by another role (except the Coup). It’s a sure-fire way to finish off an opponent if they only have one card. The only actions that need no Coins to perform are swapping your two role cards using the Diplomat, and blocking an Assassination attempt using Contessa.
You can elect to not play a card at all in a round and instead earn one coin from the bank (the action called Income). This will leave you open to other plays from your opponents, but does secure the fact that your information remains hidden (as well as giving you a Coin that no player can prevent you from getting). We all want to keep that information as tight as we can. It will make your opponent think twice before they challenge your play.
During online play you can try and build a fragile, short-lived allegiance with another player in order to take somebody else out. Sadly, communication is limited to a few stock phrases you can click on. You can buy more if you wish, but these are more for humor than extending the gameplay. You were obviously going to be loyal and honorable throughout, though, right?
MODES AND FEATURES
Coup has had to make a few adjustments in order to work in the digital world. The fact that the game is played over a digital interface means that you cannot read a person’s facial expressions or body language when they play a card, one of the most important aspects of playing this game in its physical form. The developers have introduced a Spy mechanic to the game to help compensate for this, but it doesn’t come for free. It is one of the few in-app purchases that isn’t solely cosmetic.
The Spy feature allows you to see some basic stats about the people you’re playing against. These can include how often they lie about their plays, how many challenges they make, and how successful they are at these. This is all very important information that will aid in your decision making when deciding whether or not to make a challenge, or if you’ll be caught lying your pants off! However, it just doesn’t quite seem enough to compensate for the missing human element of the game that makes it so much fun to begin with.
There are no campaigns or story modes within the game and I’m glad they didn’t add either in, as it would have soured the game’s identity as a multiplayer, person-to-person experience. What we do get instead is a plethora of achievements that can be unlocked in the course of playing regular matches, including badges that can be worn with the player picture. These show your opponents just how good at the game you are.
We also have an in-game shop that, aside from the Spy, has cosmetic purchases. The new app version was gifted with some colorful new artwork for the cards and you get these in the free version. However, you can purchase and unlock the original artwork and a couple of alternate artwork versions for the role cards. The prices are reasonable throughout the shop. There is also a premium purchase to be had here too, the Reputation currency.
Reputation is what you need to use in order to play other people online in Ranked mode. Think of it as a bit of a gamble or an ante. You put your Reputation on the line in order to play against other people and if you win you get your stake back, plus a little extra. You can then use the Reputation to play more games, or unlock new badges to wear. If you don’t have enough Reputation then you can buy some from the in-game store. You’ll start off with some for free though, so don’t worry about being locked out from the beginning if you don’t plan on putting any money into the game.
Multiplayer is only online and there is sadly no ‘pass and play’ feature. You can play in a 1 vs. 1 game or against a group of up to 3 other players in a semi-asynchronous mode. The more players, the more interesting the game becomes. Each player is allotted two minutes to make their plays (in Ranked mode — casual can have longer turn times). This keeps the games relatively quick and free from downtime. Winning will yield Reputation and some experience that’ll go towards your Rank. When you progress through the Ranks, you will unlock new badges to be purchased using your Reputation.
Casual games are played via inviting your Facebook friends (though it is iOS only, not on the Facebook platform itself). The game will follow the same rules as a typical online game, except there are higher time limits on the turns. Like most games tied to Facebook, you’ll be notified when that friend makes a move. I found this to be extremely irritating at times because when the game is not real-time, it can really, really drag out, so I recommend only playing with people who are online and want to respond quickly.
Coup places all of the strategy on the players themselves. Using the information you know about a player and the cards they have, as well as the total number of role cards in the deck, you can make a smart guess as to the possibility of another player having the role card they say they do. You will have to keep a track of what has been played, revealed, or even blocked.
There is a lot of skill involved in making the right choices, but sometimes you will be stuck between a rock and a hard place if you’ve been dealt a dud hand and are up against other skilled players. I hate it when I would open with two Contessa cards and would need to lie in order to make any decent plays. If a player challenges me, I’d be dead very quickly.
Sadly the game has lost a lot of the negotiation that would have to be used when playing the tabletop version. You can communicate with the other players during an online ranked match in order to kill off another player. However, I found myself playing a solo game against others most of the time, as negotiation doesn’t translate well to an app, especially with such limited communication options.
I am a huge fan of tabletop card games that use information and misdirection as core mechanics. I have played several Love Letter and Resistance-styled games and find their method of gameplay somewhat addictive. So it comes as no surprise that I found Coup to be just as entertaining and was excited when the digital version finally arrived.
There was a worry that Coup would not be able to translate well to an app because of how much human interaction is involved. It does so rather well, but makes it harder to guess when a player is bluffing. Instead you need to rely more on memory and information gathering, a little bit like Clue.
I feel a little bit sad that the character of the game has changed somewhat when it was translated over into the digital sphere, but it’s still the same game. I think the best way to play it is to get some people into the same room and talk as you’re playing the game. “I’m going to play the Captain and steal two Coins!” “Hah! I don’t believe you. Challenged.” “Dang!! OK, you got me.” That kind of thing.
The game has lost some important features from the tabletop counterpart, but it has made up for this in other areas with its flexibility of play and customization options. I have really enjoyed playing Coup and will keep playing it when I fancy something a little different from the usual TCGs I play.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go assassinate somebody!
For more screenshots, click here.
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