There is nothing new under the sun. History repeats itself. What has been will be again.
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Factious nondescript medieval city-states have come and gone, paving the way for the factious dystopian city-states of the future. And the same shady characters are ready to lend their influence as you seek to ascend the throne.
How It Works
The Resistance: Coup works just like Coup (see my explanation of the first edition here).
The Kickstarter edition came with an additional role, The Inquisitor (which will be available as a promo later, presumably in the BGG store), which can replace the Ambassador in the court deck. The Inquisitor has the Ambassador’s actions with one additional choice: he may, instead of exchanging a player’s own cards with cards from the deck, force another player to show him a character, and the Inquisitor can decide if the player must take a new character from the deck.
New and Improved or Same Ol’ Same Ol’?
My opinion of the first edition of Coup was very high. I enjoyed the fast pace of games, the fun of bluffing distilled, the feeling of getting away with something when no one challenges your Duke. So what’s my opinion now that the second edition is out?
This game has only gotten better with age, and everything about this new edition is an upgrade (with the possible exception of the art).
My only complaints about the first edition’s were component complaints: that the cards were not a standard size, that the box was too big for what the game is, and that the coins were flimsy. The cards are now 7 Wonders-sized (that is, a standard size), and even if you don’t sleeve them, they have a linen finish and are much higher quality than the original game’s. The box is now smaller, although not perfect: it can be difficult to fit everything back in the box with the cards sleeved, and that’s without including the Kickstarter bonus alternate art cards. Still, I’d rather have this problem (everything still fits) than have the game’s box be too odd to carry around. And the plastic chips have been replaced with thick, shiny cardboard chits that feel great to play with, and there are plenty included in the box. All in all, like I said, everything here is an improvement.
The one place where others may not agree with me is the art. The Resistance: Coup pulls Coup out of its original setting (a medieval city-state) and transfers it to the dystopian futuristic society of The Resistance (another great social game). The art has been described as the sort of neo-fashion you might see in The Hunger Games, and whether you prefer this or the original art is more a matter of taste than anything. When I backed the game on Kickstarter, I wasn’t doing it for the new art; I wanted the upgraded components. But now that I have the new game, I don’t know what my problem was. The new artwork is fantastic. Several of my friends and coworkers who have played the game in both incarnations have commented that the new art a big improvement over the original. I don’t know if I’d go that far (seems more a step to the side than a step up), but it’s certainly not worse. (Note: The Kickstarter version of the game came with extra character cards with alternate art on them. While it’s cool to have more character cards, if you missed out on the Kickstarter, don’t be deterred from the retail version: the alternate art is uneven at best. I’ve left these cards out of my games because I prefer the original art.)
As I mentioned in the rules summary, the Kickstarter version of The Resistance: Coup included a bonus character (The Inquisitor) who can optionally replace the Ambassador in your games of Coup. While currently unavailable, this character should be released in the future as a promo. The Inquisitor is nice to have because he eliminates the trapped-in-a-corner feel of some end-game situations. The problem is that I really only want the Inquisitor in the game when those situations arise, and you don’t know at the beginning of the game whether you’ll encounter those situations. During the game, the Inquisitor gives players more information than they would usually have, as he allows a player to examine another player’s character card. This removes some of the uncertainty of the game (and thus the tension). When I pulled out the Inquisitor role and explained it to my coworkers, at first they said, “Why would you ever play with the Ambassador?” But after using the Inquisitor, we’re all on the fence about him. Similar to Colonies and Platinum in Dominion: Prosperity, the rules suggest varying the game setup, including the Inquisitor sometimes and not other times. I know some players will take the initial approach of my coworkers and want him in every game. For me, I wouldn’t mind either way if the Inquisitor makes another appearance.
Okay, so now that I’ve reviewed the differences between the two editions, why has my opinion of the game improved? The reason is that Coup is a game that gets better with experience, and especially so with experience of the same group. You can sit down and play Coup with just about anyone, and it will still be fun. But what’s the most fun is learning other players’ tells, or at least thinking you’ve learned them. It’s great fun to lead another player to believe one thing about the characters in front of you and to shock them with what you’re really holding. And this kind of learning takes time.
Well, sort of. A game of Coup, depending on how many people are at your table, can take 5-15 minutes. That’s not very long at all. In the time you could play one game of Airlines Europe, say, you could play five long games of Coup or fifteen short ones. Easy peasy: learn your opponents in one go. But the thing about Coup, and about most microgames I’ve played, is that they really can’t sustain that length of play. One lunch hour is about the max for back-to-back games of Coup, and even that’s a little long, at least with only three or four players. Coup is best when it’s played several games in a row and put away. It can be tempting to have too much of a good thing, as it was tempting to eat ice cream with every meal once I was in the dorm at college. But that’s not a wise decision. Coup (and ice cream) are best enjoyed in moderation (as the freshman fifteen teaches). So, if you play Coup in moderation, discovering others’ tells takes more than just one session. I don’t think one game of Coup closes out a session, because there is discovery from game to game, and that’s fun to develop. But the best kind of experience gained in Coup is with a group over a longer stretch of time.
I still think Coup is a brilliant design because it packs lots of great choices and options into a short playtime, and every decision has weight. Bluffing a character is a weighty decision, and you have to do your best to hide the gravity of the choice from your opponents (easier for some than others). But calling another player’s bluff is weighty too: losing a character is a hefty penalty for being wrong. So players must carefully consider bluffing themselves or calling other players’ bluffs. This could result in a too-friendly game of live and let live were it not so short. With a game lasting only a couple of minutes, while, yes, it is weighty to lose a character, being eliminated is not the end of the world, or probably even the lunch hour. You’ll be back soon enough to have your revenge.
As I said in my previous review, Coup is the bluffing game distilled. It’s light on components and easy to teach. It’s Poker without the hands. It’s Cosmic Encounter without the alliances and ridiculous asymmetry. Coup is a game of telling the truth and knowing when to lie. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s not for everyone. And even if it’s not a very filling meal, it makes for a delicious appetizer or snack. If you didn’t get a copy of the first edition (and maybe even if you did), get the new one. The components are better in every way, and the gameplay is the same ol’ tried and true.
Note: Coup is a hard game to keep on shelves, at least online (the reason being that the cheap pricetag makes it an ideal game to push you over that free shipping threshold). It appears that the game is currently between print runs. My advice is to check your local game store if you’re looking for a copy. Often games that are impossible to find online are readily available right where you live. (Such, at any rate, was the case when I was looking for Hanabi.)