Coup d'Etat for Two Players

Contributed by Andrew Fischer

Introduction

In this two-player variant of the Parker Brothers game Coup d'Etat there are six hands, each of which is different, and each of which must be played to complete a round. The number of rounds to complete a game is two. Enhancements to the original game include a “Bastille,” the elimination of money and the “hidden coup,” and a normalized ranking of the cards.

Equipment

A deck of cards having four suits (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs) with eight cards in each suit plus one Joker. In each suit the Ace is highest in value, followed in order by the King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7.

A pen and scoresheet.

Preparation

After the 33 cards have been shuffled, each player cuts and shows a card from the deck. The player drawing the card higher in value becomes the Prime Minister (dealer) for the start of the first round; the other player is called the Peasant. The Coup card (Joker) is the highest card in the deck. If the players tie for high card, they draw again.

Play

The Prime Minister deals 12 cards to each player, face down, and places the last 9 cards in the center of the table, also face down, as “the Bastille.”

The players sort their cards by suit and by rank without exposing them to the other player. If the Peasant holds the Coup card (Joker) he may announce it, and if he does he must then try for a Coup, thus attempting to overthrow the Prime Minister and become the Prime Minister himself for the ensuing hand. If he tries for a Coup, he chooses one of the hand-types from the Coup Chart which has not yet been played in the current round.

If a Coup will not be attempted, the Peasant announces “no coup,” and the Prime Minister chooses one of the hand-types from the Prime Minister’s Chart which has not yet been played in the current round.

Prime Minister's Chart

(Note: neither player may discard the cards indicated when exchanging with the Bastille.)

Hand-Type Goal: To Succeed You Must No One May Discard You May Not Lead
Marie Not take Queen of Hearts Queen of Hearts A Heart to the 1st trick
Siege Not take the most Spades* Any Spades A Spade to the 1st trick
Waterloo Not take more than 1 Jack Any Jacks     - 
Guillotine Not take the most tricks*    -     - 
Touche Not take 1st and last tricks    -     - 
Dominoes Not be last out of cards    - (NB: Joker = rank of 6)

* Ties win.

Whenever the hand is Marie, each player peeks at one of the leftover cards (more if necessary—alternate starting with the Prime Minister) in the Bastille to ensure that the Queen of Hearts isn’t there. If it is, re-deal the hand; Marie need not be played.

The Bastille

Whether or not a Coup will be attempted, after the type of hand is chosen, the Prime Minister sets aside, face down, any 1 to 4 cards of his choosing from his hand and then replaces them from the Bastille. (This will almost always be four cards.) The Peasant then sets aside any 1 to 3 cards from his hand (almost always three cards) and then replaces them. The remaining cards in the Bastille are set aside face-down and are not used in the hand. A player may look at the cards he set aside later in the hand, if desired. (Note: if the Coup Card is drawn during these exchanges, a Coup cannot be attempted.)

Using the Prime Minister's Chart

Let's assume that, in the first hand of the game, the Prime Minister was dealt the Coup Card. Since he cannot attempt a Coup against himself, after studying his cards he decides which of the six hands listed on the Prime Minister's Chart he wishes to play. He announces his choice to his opponent and records it on the scoresheet. He then discards four cards from his hand and replaces them from the draw pile; his opponent discards three cards and replaces them. The Prime Minister then starts the round by leading a card to the first trick, face up. He may play any card that he wishes, except as noted in the Prime Minister’s chart.

The opposing player then plays a card from his hand. He must play a card of the suit led if he has one, but if he does not, he may play any card in his hand. This completes a trick (except in Dominoes, see below). The player who played the card of higher value in the suit led takes the cards played and leads any card that he wishes to start a second trick. Play continues in this manner until all twelve tricks have been played. The Prime Minister wins the hand if he successfully completes his goal for the hand, and this is recorded on the scoresheet.

The Coup Card (Joker)

The Joker is always used as the highest card of the suit led (but higher than the Ace only if it is led). If you lead the Joker you must announce which of the suits it represents at that time. Exception: when played in Dominoes, the Joker has a rank of 6 in any suit.

Dominoes

The object of the game of Dominoes is to force your opponent to play the last card. The player who chose to play Dominoes plays any card from his hand, face up, in the center of the table. His opponent then must play a card that is a) next higher or next lower in value of the suit led, to the left or right of it, or b) a card of the same value in a different suit, above or below it.

If you can play, you must, but if you can make none of these plays, you must “pass.” The players continue in turn playing a card next higher or next lower in value on the suits already started, or they start new suits with cards of the same value as the card originally played by the Prime Minister.

Assume that the Prime Minister begins the hand with the 10 of Hearts. His opponent then plays the 9 of Hearts, and the Prime Minister plays the Jack of Hearts. The Peasant, having neither the 8 nor Queen of Hearts, plays the 10 of Spades. The hand continues in this manner until all cards are played. A player plays only one card per turn except when he plays an Ace onto a King. This entitles him to continue to play any or all of the cards in his hand that are playable. However, he is not required to play more than the Ace.

If neither player is able to play a card, then the winner of the Dominoes hand is the player who has the fewer cards left in his hand. If tied, the player who led to the first trick wins.

Coup Chart

(Note: neither player may discard the cards indicated when exchanging with the Bastille.)

Hand-Type Goal: To Succeed You Must No One May Discard You May Not Lead
Marie Take Queen of Hearts Queen of Hearts A Heart to the 1st trick
Siege Take the most Spades* Any Spades A Spade to the 1st trick
Waterloo Take 3 or 4 Jacks Any Jacks     - 
Guillotine Take the most tricks*    -     - 
Touche Take 1st and last tricks    -     - 
Dominoes Be first out of cards    - (NB: Joker = rank of 6)

* Ties lose.

Whenever the hand is Marie, each player peeks at one of the leftover cards (more if necessary—alternate starting with the Prime Minister) in the Bastille to ensure that the Queen of Hearts isn’t there. If it is, re-deal the hand; Marie need not be played.

Using the Coup Chart

Let’s assume that the Prime Minister shuffles and deals the cards for the second hand of the round, and his opponent is dealt the Coup Card. The Prime Minister's opponent must decide whether or not he wishes to try for a Coup. In making this decision he must remember that there are now only five different hand types to choose from, since one of the six hands of the round has already been played. Let’s assume that the player with the Coup Card decides to try for a Coup. He announces the hand-type he wishes to play and the Prime Minister marks this on the scoresheet.

In order to perform a successful Coup, the Peasant must accomplish what is required by the Coup chart for the hand he has selected. The player trying to perform a Coup has a few advantages. First, he selects the hand-type he wishes to play from the hands not already played during the current round. Second, he has the opportunity to lead to the first trick. Third, the Coup Card in his hand can be used as the highest card of a suit (but higher than the Ace only if it is led) or be exchanged with one from the Bastille.

If the player attempting to perform a Coup completes his goal for the hand, he is successful. This is recorded on the scoresheet, and he becomes the Prime Minister until: a) all six hands of the round have been played, or b) his opponent performs a Coup and takes the Prime Minister title away from him.

If the player attempting to perform a Coup is not successful, the Prime Minister is automatically considered to have won the hand in the hand-type of the Coup attempt. This is recorded for the Prime Minister on the scoresheet.

Important: The opponent of the original Prime Minister becomes the Prime Minister for the second round regardless of who was the Prime Minister at the end of the first round. Thus, each player will start a round as the Prime Minister.

After The Hand

Check the players’ discards after Marie, Siege and Waterloo hands. If it is found that a player illegally discarded the Queen of Hearts, any Spades or Jacks (see charts), his opponent is considered to have successfully completed the hand (if he hasn’t already). However, if both players discarded illegally, the result stands.

Winning the Game

After two rounds of play have been completed, the player who successfully completed the most hands wins the game. In case of a tie, the cards are shuffled and a Prime Minister is chosen to deal a hand of Dominoes, which is played to break the tie.

A Few Playing Tips

The Prime Minister chooses the hand-type to play which best fits his hand of cards, can exchange four cards with the Bastille to the Peasant’s three, and leads to the first trick. All of these are powerful advantages, but his problem is that his goal is always (with the exception of Dominoes) not to take cards. This is more difficult than trying to take cards, because cards of other suits can be dumped on him by his opponent when out of the suit the PM led. Therefore, as PM, you normally want to hold low cards in your hand, and let the Peasant lead as much as possible. Don’t get stuck with the lead in mid-game—you might not be able to get out of it!

Note that (with the exception of the few cards left in the Bastille, usually two) players can deduce what their opponent is holding (and what he probably discarded). Use that information to your advantage.

Since there are only eight cards per suit, and some of them will not be in play, a good rule of thumb is that only one or two tricks can be played in a suit before your opponent is out of cards in that suit. Be careful what you lead (especially if you’re the PM)!

If Prime Minister, always consider playing Waterloo if you are dealt one or no Jacks.

Play Dominoes when you have several runs (e.g., J-Q-K of Diamonds), especially if you have three or four cards of the same rank in different suits and at least one of them is in a run.

If playing as Peasant, seriously consider going for a Coup whenever you have high cards and are dealt the Coup Card, since you probably won’t get many opportunities to try. Marie, Siege and Guillotine are probably the easiest to accomplish.