"That's a small box."
[Yes, I reply]
"About the same size as an old double cassette tape box, like my much loved Status Quo double album used to be in."
[Did you have to share that? Let's move on...]
Coup is a card game which - as we have now established - comes in a fairly small box. You'll almost certainly be underwhelmed by the contents when you lift the lid, but don't let that put you off: Coup is a superb piece of game craft.
First up, there are various versions of Coup, each with its own theme or setting. Mine has a late medieval/renaissance theme and the artwork is charmingly rustic in a wood-cut kind of way; it's called Coup: City State (published by La Mame Games). No matter what the setting, the goal of the game is the same:
TAKE POWER! BE THE LAST SURVIVOR! WIPE THEM OUT! WIPE THEM ALL OUT!
Sorry, I got carried away there. Composure has now been restored. Read on.
As I was saying, you must attempt to take control of the government, and you achieve this through card play. The (Status Quo double cassette-sized) box contains just 15 cards, 50 plastic coins, 6 summary cards, and the rules (which really aren't lengthy). There are five characters in total, and you begin the game with a random selection of two in your hand.
Keeping your hand hidden, when it's your turn, you may take a coin or boldly state that you hold a certain card - a Duke, for example - and if no-one challenges this, you take the action of said character (a Duke acquires taxes for you). However, other players can challenge you, calling you out as a liar ("You don't have a Duke!") or counteracting your action by claiming they have a character that blocks your action. Remember, no-one knows the cards in each others hands… unless they have a good memory or a nose for deduction.
If you're found out to be lying about your hand, or if someone calls you out incorrectly, the loser must discard one of their cards. Lose both of your cards and you're out of the game. Acquire seven coins and you're able to launch a Coup, also making a player of your choice lose a card. Money is power, eh?
Trust no-one. Lie through your teeth. Look innocent. You're bound to win. (Or lose.)
Conclusion: Coup is a bit tricky to explain to new players (as it relies so much on hidden info), but after a couple of turns most people are into the swing of it. Once you know what's going on, this is a superb and quick game for a group of 3 to 6 players.