Tabletop game Head-2-Head: Coup vs. Good Cop Bad Cop
Head to Head: Coup (Rikkii Tahta) Vs. Good Cop Bad Cop (Brian Henk, Clayton Skancke)
Social deduction has been a popular mechanic for designers of late. Themes surrounding this mechanic have included Mascarade parties, mine digging, knights in Arthur's court, werewolves, or the grandaddy of them all, Mafia.
Coup and Good Cop Bad Cop have floated to the surface in popularity with both gaining a sizeable cult following. Coup is a game that is part of the Resistance universe and places you in a dystopian political struggle for power. You are seeking to take control of a small Italian state by holding onto your influence while undermining your opponents.
You start the game with two coins, two character cards face down that will represent your influence in the state. The rest of the character cards will form the deck in the middle. In the game deck there are three copies of five different characters. Each turn you may choose to take income and receive two coins from the bank, seek foreign aid and take three coins from the bank, or activate a character's ability. The character abilities allow to influence the game in different ways. The Captain can steal two coins from an opponent and stop stealing from others, the Contessa stops assassinations which will come from the assassin, the Ambassador allows to exchange cards form your face down influence with the deck secretly and stops stealing from the Captain, the Assassin can pay three coins to cause a player to lose influence, or the Duke may take three coins as tax, and can block attempts to take foreign aid.
To activate a character power you simply declare that you are using it which suggests that you own that card. The power will take effect unless someone challenges the person using the effect. If the person using the character card is challenged they must reveal their card or lose an influence by turning one of the two cards in front of them over. If they do have the card they use it's ability, shuffle it back into the deck, and then randomly draw a new card. The challenger who lost a challenge must turn one of their influence cards over. You can force a player to lose influence by paying seven coins and staging a coup. A coup cannot be countered or stopped and if you start a turn with ten or more coins you must stage a coup that turn. If you are forced to turn over both cards in front of you, you have lost your influence and are eliminated from the game. Last person eliminated from the game wins.
Good Cop Bad Cop, who is who.
In Good Cop Bad Cop you are part of an internal investigation to eliminate crooked police. There are two teams each lead by boss figures. The clean police have an FBI Agent to protect while the crooked police must keep the Mob Boss alive. Teams win if they can kill their oppositions leader.
The player cards are complied of police cards that – when turned face up – will have either a blue 'good police' or red 'crooked police'. If you have 5 players you take the FBI Agent and Mob Boss and set them aside with three randomly dealt police cards. These are shuffled and dealt out to each player. The remaining cards are also dealt out to players until they have three police cards in total. Players must place their three cards face down in front of themselves and not move them. Having two of one team determines your affiliation. Two crooked police means you are crooked. The only exception is players who have a leader card. The leader card ignores all other cards. For example, an FBI agent with two crooked police still makes the player on the blue âgood policeâ team.
Everyone is dealt one equipment card and the rest are placed in the centre as a second card pile. There will be a number of cardboard guns that are placed in the centre. The Lead Investigator token is given to the first player and the game begins. On a players turn they may investigate an opponent by looking at one of their cards secretly and returning it to its place. They may take an equip card (you can have no more than one equip card at a time) and if you do you must turn over one of your cards. You may arm yourself and take a gun from the centre, but must again reveal a card in front of you. Finally you may shoot someone. Because taking a gun and shooting are two actions, you cannot take a gun and shoot in the same turn. Equip cards can be played at any time and do not count as an action. Once a player is shot they must reveal all their cards. If a leader is shot they receive a wound token and must be shot again before being declared dead.
Both games are easy to learn. They play quickly and I have never just played one game. More likely it will be three or four games before people even start thinking about moving on. Both have player elimination, but due to the speed of games this mean very little down time. A great quality of both is that you can win the game by being completely honest or by lying, which means there is no clear strategy that is best.
Good Cop Bad Cop is straight deduction. There is very little bluffing and most players are simply trying to track down one of the leader characters. Sometimes the fun can be foiled by players who choose to be silly and by turn two start killing people randomly regardless of team. The game does rely on strategic play and trying to use your equip cards wisely. If you are attempting to conceal your identity it does make certain plays risky and challenges the player to consider when to hold back and when to go all out. Best part is even if you are eliminated, you can still win if your team wins.
Coup on the other hand focuses on bluffing. Players who are reckless or silly only punish themselves. In the words of the immortal Highlander 'there can be only one', so if you are eliminated there is no shared victory like there is in Good Cop Bad Cop. Coup creates tension because even if players refuse to accuse or challenge each other the coin mechanic will eventually force players to coup and bring about a resolution. The tension in Coup is much the same as an 'all in' call in Poker. With one influence challenging someone is a risk and will either make or break you. With the bluffing and coin mechanics working there is always pressure to act and plan ahead.
Both games are elegant in design and rely on just the essentials making them slick and wonderful to play. Good Cop Bad Cop can feel like a race to hunt down the opposition. Coup has that bluffing 'all or nothing' tension. As someone who likes strategy with a bit of risk I am giving this one to Coup.
Coup is a great little social deduction game.
Replay value Head-2-Head!
As I stated earlier it is unlikely you will play just one round of either of these games. Coup is fast and requires only gathering up a few coins and shuffling the cards to begin play. It has speed and ease on its side. Good Cop Bad Cop takes a bit longer with the need to separate out the leaders and reveal the police cards and equip cards. In Coup there are some combinations that can leave you high and dry and force you to bluff, even when doing so puts you at risk. In Good Cop Bad Cop there is never a bad combination because all the cards do is tell you what team you are on. This means you never need start a round disappointed with your draw. This is a strong favour for Good Cop Bad Cop and means it will have favourable beginnings every time. Despite the game play being in favour of Coup, it is for the reason just stated that I am giving this section to Good Cop Bad Cop.
Number of players:
Coup plays 2 to 6 which is questionable. Two player is not advised and in reality it best suits 3 to 6 players. Good Cop Bad Cop plays 4-8 people comfortably. While you need more people for Good Cop Bad Cop both are not performing at their best until they hit four or more players. As Good Cop Bad Cop can get up to 8 players it has the better player count. Therefore this goes to Good Cop Bad Cop.
Both have great art work but completely different styles. Coup has gone with cyber fantasy stylings and very realistic characters. Conversely, Good Cop Bad Cop has utilised a comic book artistic style that is reminiscent of the sort of work you would get from a local indie artist. I have always enjoyed realism and just find the styling of Coup too hard to go past. It is gorgeous to look at and conveys the theme brilliantly. As an additional bonus the expansion now provides alternate genders for each character card. This one is going to Coup.
Game Build Quality
Both games have great components and it would take an overly picky person to complain about either game. I would have liked the character cards on Good Cop Bad Cop to be a little thinker due to all the handling you do of them when playing. It is also worth noting that Coup requires only 15 cards and 20 tokens. This makes for easy set up and pack down allowing you get into the action quickly with less to explain to new players. For this reason I will have to give this one to Coup.
It goes without saying that personal preference will always be a factor. Yet overall I feel Coup edges out Good Cop Bad Cop. I have both in my collection and love pulling out either to play on games night. But if push comes to shove I love the bluffing element slightly more making Coup my overall winner.