Retooling COUP for two players

It is the future. And with the Resistance steadily gaining a foothold against the ruling forces, it is a time of much turmoil. Into that turmoil YOU step – head of a wealthy corp-family. If you can use your wits to cast off your rivals’ influence, you can rule it all when the dust finally settles.

Nothing says future like elaborate shoulderpads.
Nothing says future like elaborate shoulderpads.

Not quite war, but regardless – what is it good for?

COUP’s provenance lies in a long line of bluffing and social games: the sort full of hidden information and unstable alliances. What is particulary good about this design is that there is no need for one player to facilitate the game in the way that Mafia or Werewolf or any of their italian-lupine children require: there are no overt teams, which means that the game can play with as few as two. This is rare for a bluffing game, where normally you require more players to enable the bluffs.

What’s up?

Although even a five-player round of this game is quick, playing the game with two players is lightning-fast. Too fast to allow the meat of resource-progression.

A huge part of the game is the ability to lie about your influence and use the traits of characters you might hold. However, in a two-player game, being called on your bluff is tantamount to suicide. That in turn is likely to turn you away from bluffing – which should have been a big reason you’re playing this game.

What nobody knows is I've another assassin beside the lost one.
What nobody knows is I’ve another assassin beside the lost one.

How do I fix it?

My houserule for two- or three-player rounds of COUP is a simple fix. It doesn’t add any intellectual complexity, but it allows for greater tactical (and statistical) depth. Each player begins with three cards of influence. This also promotes the ability to bluff and call people on theirs: by removing the immediate death that can come from a false call, you are less wary of playing in that shadowy realm of mistrust.

Which is why you’re playing COUP over dice games in the first place.

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Retooling COUP for two players

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