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Subject: Coup vs HOAX: The reckoning rss

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Tim
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Coup was one of the surprise hits of Essen 2012 from an unknown independent publisher. It's a simple bluffing game that will appeal to fans of Liar's Dice, Skull, or Cockroach Poker. Due to it's minimalistic design, Coup been compared favorably to Love Letter, another unexpected hit of 2012.

It's pretty clear, however, that Coup can trace it's lineage all the way back to a game called Hoax, released in 1981 by a team of intrepid game designers who had already made quite a name for themselves with their first release, Cosmic Encounter. As far as I know, the designers of Coup have not specifically credited HOAX for the premise of their game, but I would be shocked to find out that they had never heard of or played the original. That said, there are enough differences here to make the two games play quite differently, and while there are strong similarities between the two games, Coup is certainly no cheap ripoff of HOAX. It's more of a re-interpretation.

Having played both, I was asked to write up a comparison of the two games in another thread.

HOAX was published by Eon in 1981. In HOAX (as in Coup) gameplay revolves around being dealt a number of role cards. Each role has certain abilities that you can call upon during your turn. The catch is that you may are encouraged to lie about which role(s) you hold and which abilities you are allowed to activate. The name of the game is careful bluffing and well-timed accusations. To win the game, you must be the last man (or woman) standing when the dust finally settles.

Both games feature player elimination, but both games are over in ten minutes so it's really a non-issue. Watching the game unfold from the sidelines after being ejected can be just as fun as playing.

- Coup has a single resource: Money!
- HOAX has three resources: Gold, wine, and grain.

- Coup has five roles, with three copies of each role in the deck (15 cards)*.
- HOAX has six roles, with two copies of each role in the deck, plus an additional set of six role cards which make up the suspicion deck and are kept separate from the other role cards (18 cards).





* Coup has three generic actions that players can always take, for which there are no matching role cards.

- In Coup, players are dealt two roles at the beginning of the game and these roles will change constantly throughout the game.
- In HOAX, players are dealt a single role at the beginning of the game and retain that role throughout the game.

- In Coup, a player may spend three coins to assassinate another player. The assassinated player reveals one of their two face down "influence" (role) cards and is one step closer to being eliminated from the game unless they correctly accuse the attacking player of not holding the assassin, or thwart the assassination attempt by claiming that they themselves hold the Contessa.
- In HOAX, a player may spend a complete set of three different resources to "buy information" from another player. The target player must privately reveal a card from the suspicion deck (the deck from which no roles were dealt) that they do NOT hold. Thus, the attacking player now knows that his target is lying if they attempt to claim that role at any point in the game.

- In Coup, a player may spend seven coins to launch a Coup. The target player immediately reveals one of their face down "influence" (role) cards, and is one step closer to being eliminated from the game. There is no way to counter a Coup action.
- In HOAX, there is no similar action.

- In Coup, any player may, at any time, publicly doubt that someone holds the role being claimed. The loser must reveal one of their face down influence cards and are one step closer to being eliminated from the game.
- In HOAX, any player may, at any time, privately doubt that someone holds the role being claimed. He or she takes the suspicion deck and passes one card to the target player that depicts the role which they are being accused of holding. The loser is out of the round. They do not reveal their role card.

- In Coup, when a player is eliminated from the game, their money is returned to the bank.
- In HOAX, when a player is eliminated from the game, their money is transferred to the player that knocked them out.

- In HOAX, any player may, at any time, call "HOAX!" when they suspect that a player is lying about their role, and put it to a public vote. If the vote succeeds, the target player simply acknowledges whether or not they are actually the role that they claimed. If they admit that they are not holding that role, then they may not use the power of that role for the rest of the game. If, however, they are holding that role. They reveal the card and win the game.
- In Coup, there is no analog for the group vote.

So which is better? I don't know! I like them both, a lot. They each have subtle differences. I love that you get two roles in Coup so there's some leeway before you're instantly out of a round, and I like that the Ambassador role can be called upon to change roles as needed. This is key in games with fewer players, as it means you have some choice over what roles you go fishing for. It adds even more to the bluffing element, as well as the strategy.

But I also really like the private accusations in HOAX. I like getting that little bit of information about a player and being able to lord it over them turn after turn. The public accusations in HOAX are great too. It's fun to start limiting player's actions through proper accusations... but the consequences are too steep if you accuse incorrectly: They win, game over.**

Which game is right for your group? Well, Coup has the added benefit of being sort of "hot" right now. You can pull it out with a group of hardcore gamers who probably heard some of the buzz during Essen this year, and they'll probably be down to give it a try. HOAX, with it's punch-out cardstock cards and dull, early 80's print quality isn't going get modern gamers salivating when you open the box. HOAX is also slightly harder to teach. There's more going on and the various powers interact more. Chaotic chain reactions can unfold and you might forget who even started the turn. That's fun to me. Coup is more streamlined, and more straightforward. You can teach it in under two minutes... Though to be fair, you can still teach HOAX in under five minutes. It's not a difficult game to teach, just more difficult than Coup.

I have both. And I plan on keeping both. If you plan to play with more than 6 players, then HOAX is your choice for sure. If you like sheer chaos and shouting. HOAX is for you. If you want a fun light-hearted bluffing game to close out a long night of gaming or kill a few minutes while waiting for people to show up, then you can't go wrong with either game (in my ever-so-humble opinion).

EDIT:
I should note availability of each game. Coup was done as a small print run for Essen 2012, but based on the popularity the designer has ordered a second run. There were plenty of copies for sale at BGG.CON and Passport Game Studios (http://passportgamestudios.com/) still had a few copies on hand at the end of the con. HOAX is long out of print, but shows up on eBay all the time for a reasonable price. I think I paid $25 for my copy a year or so ago.

** I should note that there was another edition of HOAX published in Germany called Die Erben von Hoax, which attempted to transform HOAX into a more Euro-centric game where players score points over multiple rounds. It's not worth it. If you're trying to make a meaty game out of this, then you should probably just go play a meaty game. HOAX (and Coup) is the very definition of beer and pretzels game. Emphasis on beer.
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Clyde W
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Fantastic comparison. I too own both and would simply say that Coup is a tad easier to teach, but Hoax has a tad more replayability. Both are great.
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Tim
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clydeiii wrote:
Fantastic comparison. I too own both and would simply say that Coup is a tad easier to teach, but Hoax has a tad more replayability. Both are great.


That's pretty much exactly how I feel. Right now Coup is still actively being requested by my game group. When I start to hear groans, I'll try switching it up with HOAX. It could be the subtle difference that re-kindles interest -- Similar to how my excitement over The Resistance started to wane after nearly 40 plays, but The Resistance: Avalon changed the game just enough to get me excited again.
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Rikki Tahta
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this is a great article - thanks

I had never heard of HOAX until people started making comparisons. How extraordinary. I now definitely want to get my hands on a copy !

I used to describe Coup as a cross between Citadels and Liar Dice - as the two influences we enjoyed but were a little too long for their depth. We started playing it as a family with playing cards and reduced the rules down constantly to make it as simple as possible to encourage non-gamers to play with us.

But the comparison to HOAX is so extraordinary I guess there is nothing new under the sun....
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Pat Wilz
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Hi, Tim, nice summary.

I played Hoax quite a bit back in college, and it was a lot of fun. When I sat down to play my first game of Coup, I immediately remembered Hoax, and I had to own Coup immediately.

I like both games, too, but Coup does a much better job balancing out the powers of the various roles. I feel like in Hoax, some roles, the Wizard in particular, are much more powerful than other, like the Peasant.

I agree that Coup would be well served with some kind of group accusation like there is in Hoax, perhaps some kind of variant.
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~Ryan McSwain
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Thanks so much for going into such detail. I was thrilled to finally play my copy of Die Erben von Hoax with my group, and it didn't go over well. Recently someone brought Coup, which several people raved about, and I could think of was, "Hey, this feels like Hoax."

It does speak well of Coup that it could use a more streamlined idea. I won't be getting rid of Hoax anytime soon, though.
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Just a Bill
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pwilz wrote:
I like both games, too, but Coup does a much better job balancing out the powers of the various roles. I feel like in Hoax, some roles, the Wizard in particular, are much more powerful than other, like the Peasant.

That was an intentional feature of the design. Kings and wizards are supposed to be more powerful than peasants. The game was never intended to make all roles equal.

Can you win as the Wizard? Can you win as the Peasant? Then carry on. If you get a weaker role and don't win, play again. Maybe you'll get a better role next time, or (even better) maybe you'll improve your skills of subterfuge.

Anyway, the real reason I necro'd this thread was to note here that Fantasy Flight has produced a new edition of Hoax.
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Lee Fisher
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Bill Martinson wrote:
pwilz wrote:
I like both games, too, but Coup does a much better job balancing out the powers of the various roles. I feel like in Hoax, some roles, the Wizard in particular, are much more powerful than other, like the Peasant.

That was an intentional feature of the design. Kings and wizards are supposed to be more powerful than peasants. The game was never intended to make all roles equal.

Can you win as the Wizard? Can you win as the Peasant? Then carry on. If you get a weaker role and don't win, play again. Maybe you'll get a better role next time, or (even better) maybe you'll improve your skills of subterfuge.

Anyway, the real reason I necro'd this thread was to note here that Fantasy Flight has produced a new edition of Hoax.


Does the new Hoax seem more Coup-ish? It appears as though the "Declare Illegal/Punish/Repreive" actions may be dropped?
 
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