Every now and again, your group of friends needs a very specific type of game. Ideally, it’ll be something that’s easy to understand, with short round times and just enough mechanics. The first game of the night or the game you break out with drinks.
Coup: Rebellion is that game.
Coup isn’t exactly new. The original version shipped in 2012 and quickly became a favourite party game, with multiple themed versions launching in the years prior.
The basic concept remains the same regardless of version, though. Each player starts out with two coins and gets dealt two role cards, which function as a player’s lives.
Every turn, a player can do one of three things: take a free coin, perform one of the actions listed on the role cards, or — if they have at least 7 coins — they can coup a player to remove one of their lives. Coups cannot be blocked, and once you lose both your lives you’re out of the game.
The fun comes in the deception. Each turn, you can perform any of the actions from the five roles on the board, whether you have them or not. Similarly, other players can call bullshit. If you don’t have that character in your hand, you lose a life. If you do, the person who called you out loses a life.
You also shuffle the character back into the deck and draw a new one, which raises all sorts of questions. Did you draw the same character again? Or something new?
Very quickly, playstyles begin to emerge.
What’s neat about Rebellion is the inclusion of 25 player cards, rather than the original five that come with Coup.
While Coup is more built around players quickly understanding the interactions between the cards, and how they interact with each other, Rebellion is built more on variety. Players are encouraged to swap out character roles with each game, which changes the playstyles significantly.
In one round, your whole group might be all claiming they’re the Capitalist. That role lets a original player collect 4 coins — but they have to distribute one of those four coins to every other player that claims they’re a Capitalist, too.
In another round, players might be actively trying to avoid amassing a pile of money due to the Communist. The Communist takes three coins from the wealthiest player and gives it to the poorest player on the table. Other roles include the Lawyer, which can claim all the money from a player once they’re eliminated, or the Judge that takes a life off a player after you pay them three coins.
Once a player loses a life, they have to reveal the card face-up on the table. This gives information for the rest of the game, helping players calculate what roles players have been pretending to be, and the likelihood of what’s remaining in the deck.
Because everyone only has two lives, rounds are over pretty quickly. About five minutes is all you’ll need for a group of four, although Coup Rebellion will support up to eight players. Things can get incredibly frantic then, though, and leaving some cards in the deck makes late-game interactions more interesting.
It’s also not that difficult for new players to pick up the changing roles. If you keep two or three roles from the previous game, and just swap out the ones whose interactions weren’t used or enjoyed, it helps reduce the problem where people have to keep picking up a card mid-game to understand the rules. Most of the roles are also pretty straightforward to understand, although there are a couple that are noticeably more complex.
What makes Coup great in general is that it’s the perfect starter game for a board game night or a games night overall. Not everyone wants to start proceedings with a two or three hour marathon. Coup, and Coup Rebellion serves a similar role as Codenames in a way: it provides a platform for people to play against each other. Much like how Codenames is really a game about being on the same wavelength as your team, Coup is a game about reading the room.
Rebellion can drag on over longer sessions, mind you. Because the game encourages you to interchange roles in between rounds, not all of the roles are particularly well balanced. A change from the original Coup means that only a Judge can block a Judge, a Crime Boss can only block a Crime Boss, and so on.
If you’re playing Rebellion for the hundredth time, that lack of cross-card interaction might be missed. But for people who are just learning, it helps ensure variety without overcomplicating matters. It’s a perfect game for doing three or four rounds of in an evening, before moving to something more complicated. And while the box is larger than the original Coup, which was minuscule, it’s still reasonably small and easy to transport.
It’s also relatively cheap: you can grab it from Amazon for $44, or less if you’re prepared to wait for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales next month.