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The Game Mechanics: Hidden Roles

Hidden information in board games is popular mechanic and a wide scope. Games that implement this mechanic range from hidden movements, goals, and roles. In this post we are going to dial in on hidden roles and how and why they are implemented. The case study for hidden information: roles will be the game Coup. So lets dive into it and see who you really are.


In games featuring hidden roles some or all players are assigned secret roles at the beginning of the game and are not reviled until certain conditions are met or the game has ended. In most games this means that there is bluffing involved to protect your identity or you have some sort of ability or secret goal that you are looking to achieve.


Coup has an interesting take on this mechanic. The object of the game is to the last person with "influence". In Coup influence is the two face down character cards in front of each player. The character cards are one of five characters. So there is a known amount of information in the game (the five characters and which of those are in front of you) and an unknown amount of information (what the other players have in front of them).

During the game you also swap out cards if you have or bluff that you have the Ambassador.

In Coup rather than just taking on the role of specific character you take on the role of two characters. During the game you also swap out cards if you have or bluff that you have the Ambassador. This makes the deduction part of the game harder for the other players to guess your characters are. There are 3 ways to get your characters killed off in the game. If you have the Assassin it costs you 3 coins to flip over (removes it from the game) an opponents card. If you pay 7 coins you can preform the coup action and have another player flip their card you must do this if you ever have more than 10 coins on your turn. Lastly you can always stop someone from doing an action if you do not believe they have the card that allows the action. If you do this and the player reveals a the card that allows the action then you must kill one of your characters. Conversely if they do not have the character to do the action then they must kill one of theirs.

Midway through a game of Coup

You really have to be paying attention to a lot in this game to ensure that you are going to make accurate guesses and that you are not bluffing more than two characters. Some of them have the same abilities so it adds to the confusion. Being a simple game it sure keeps you on your toes. There was a lot of though put into making the game simple and still have a lot of depth. Hidden roles can add a lot of flavor to games. There are a few games out there that add hidden roles to CO-OP games where there may or may not be a traitor amongst the players. Whether you are looking to create a situation of uncertainty amongst the players or you want them to be pitted against each other, this mechanic adds a lot of tension quickly.


Also check out these other Hidden Role games.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong

Secret Hitler

Dead of Winter



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