Coup is one of my favorite games for 2-6 players. It is well-worth buying, but it can also be played with normal playing cards, which is extremely useful if you're traveling and don't have a copy with you. It's easy to learn, but has depth.

If you know the rules and just want a quick reference, check out the Coup Quickref.


In a near future, the government is run for profit by a new "royal class" of multinational CEOs whose greed and control of the economy has forced most citizens into to lives of poverty and desperation.

The Resistance, an underground group, is focused on overthrowing these powerful rulers. As a powerful government official, this is your opportunity to manipulate, bribe and bluff your way into power.

To be successful, you must destroy the influence of your rivals and drive them into exile. In these turbulent times there is only room for one to survive.


Coup requires a 15-card deck:

  • 3 🂡 Ace (Assassin) cards
  • 3 🂭 Queen (Contessa) cards
  • 3 🂫 Jack (Duke) cards
  • 3 🂪 Ten (Captain) cards
  • 3 🂤 Four (Ambassador) cards

You can remember which cards are which character with a mnemonic: Aceassin, Queentessa, Juke, Capten, and Ambassafour. Silly, but it works well!

You'll also need a bank of coins. Pennies, counters, or even extra cards from the deck (face down) can be used.

Each player starts with 2 coins.

Shuffle the deck and deal 2 cards to each player. Players may look, but must keep both cards face-down in front of them.


Face down cards in front of a player represent who they influence at court. Every time a player loses an influence they have to choose and reveal one of their face down cards. Revealed cards remain face up in front of the player and no longer provide influence for the player.

When a player has lost all their influence they are exiled and out of the game.


Play proceeds clockwise. Each turn a player chooses one action only. A player may not pass. Other players can then challenge or counteract that action.

If an action is not challenged or counteracted, the action automatically succeeds. Challenges are resolved first before any action or counteraction is resolved.

General Actions

INCOME: Take 1 coin from the treasury.

FOREIGN AID: Take 2 coins from the treasury. Can be blocked by the Duke.

COUP: Pay 7 coins to launch a coup against another player. The coup is always successful and they immediately lose an influence. Players with 10 or more coins must launch a coup.

Character Actions

TAX (Duke): Take 3 coins from the treasury.

ASSASSINATE (Assassin): Pay 3 coins to the treasury to assassinate another player. If successful, that player loses an influence. Can be blocked by the Contessa.

STEAL (Captain): Take 2 coins from another player. If they have only 1, take 1. Can be blocked by the Ambassador or the Captain.

EXCHANGE (Ambassador): Take the top 2 cards from the deck. Choose which, if any, to keep. Return 2 cards to the deck.


Counteractions operate like character actions. Players may claim (truthfully or not) to influence any of the characters and use their abilities to counteract another player’s action.

They do not need to show any cards unless challenged. Counteractions may be challenged, but if not challenged they automatically succeed. If an action is successfully counteracted, the action fails but any coins paid as the cost of the action remain spent.

BLOCK FOREIGN AID (Duke): Any player claiming the Duke can block foreign aid. The blocked player receives no coins.

BLOCK ASSASSINATION (Contessa): The player being assassinated may claim the Contessa to block it. The fee remains spent.

BLOCK STEALING (Captain, Ambassador): The player being stolen from can claim Captain or Ambassador to block stealing. The blocked player receives no coins.


Any action or counteraction using character influence can be challenged. Any player can issue a challenge regardless of whether they are involved in the action. Challenges must be raised once an action or counteraction is declared. Once play continues challenges cannot raised.

Once challenged, a player can prove they had the required influence by showing the appropriate face-down card. If they do not, they lose the challenge. If they do, the challenger loses. Whoever loses the challenge immediately loses an influence.

If a player wins a challenge by showing a card, they return that card to the deck, shuffle, and take a replacement.

If an action is successfully challenged, it fails entirely. Any coins paid as the cost of the action are returned to the player.


When playing Coup with two players, the starting player receives only 1 coin at the beginning of the game.

Alternative Two-player Variant

Divide the cards into a 3 sets of 5 (each set has one of each character). Each player takes one set, secretly chooses one card and discards the rest. Shuffle the third set and deal one card to each player and then put the remaining three cards face down as the court deck.

These rules are adapted from the original rules for Coup.