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Game Rules

FOR 2 TO 4 Players


Gameboard with Election Countdown Arrow and Tax Cut Platform, four game pieces, and 200 magnetic Copout! Cards.


In Copout!, players called First-Termers vie for "reelection" as they deal with the ups and downs of their first four years. The First-Termer who has built the largest House of Cards (and thus has the largest War Chest) by Labor Day on Election Year wins a second term.


Spin the Election Countdown Arrow to determine first play. Play begins with the First-Termer farthest to the right from the final direction of the Countdown Arrow. Reset the Countdown Arrow to Inauguration Month. The Copout! cards go on the Tax Cut Platform with the copout facing down.


In Copout!, all movement is to the right. The Countdown Arrow is spun to the right and play passes to the next First-Termer on the right. Any movement to the left results in loss of turn. It is considered unseemly for the player to the left of the current First-Termer to comment on play. Play begins when the initial First-Termer draws the next Copout! card from the top of the deck and hands it to the player on his right, called his Pundit, who reads the Headline. The First-Termer must respond with the Copout phrase printed below the Headline. If the First-Termer provides the correct answer, he adds this Copout to his House of Cards. Cards are magnetized so that a First-Termer’s House of Cards will not tumble down before the election. Should a First-Termer’s House of Cards fall before the end of play, there is no penalty as long as he provides an appropriate exoneration phrase, usually “It was Clinton’s fault.” Any Clinton is acceptable, including Chelsea and Buddy. There is no additional penalty for providing the wrong Copout Phrase. Failure to provide any of the acceptable copout phrases results in forfeit of the First-Termer’s next turn.


There are six standard Copout Phrases. Exact wording is not essential, and it adds to the fun for First-Termers to use creative ways to express the Copout Phrase, as long as his Pundit can determine that the essential meaning is conserved. It is customary for Pundits to go easy on their First-Termers.

Following are the standard Copout Phrases:

  1. Taxes are just too high. Acceptable answers include any reference to payment for services and benefits provided by government. The answer is incorrect if reference is made to any non-government expenses – groceries, transportation, utilities, and so on. Thus, the Copout phrase “Highway taxes are too high” is acceptable while “A Lexus should only cost five grand is not.  
  2. I don’t agree with spending on _______. Considering the diversity of services and benefits that government provides, there is enormous leeway for a First-Termer to cop out. Note: the First-Termer must not show any deference to the notion that, in a democracy, decisions on the essential services to be delivered by government are made by consensus among parties with widely divergent views rather than one-party dictate, so that no one person could possibly approve of all government spending.
  3. It’s the people’s money. This is always a winner unless the First-Termer mentions that the multi-trillion dollar national debt also belongs to the people.
  4. People know better than bureaucrats how to spend their money. A common corollary is “My opponent wants to send your tax dollars to Washington.” An answer is incorrect if the First-Termer references any service or benefit provided by a private company as opposed to a government agency, for example “People know better than airline executives how to spend the money from airline tickets” or “People know better than oil executives how to spend the money generated at the gas pump.”
  5. There’s too much waste, fraud, and abuse in government. To expedite game play, the abbreviation WF&A is encouraged for this extremely common copout. The First-Termer may not mention that WF&A controls have evolved over a very long period of time, are quite similar from the public sector to the private sector, or that it is easy to invest too much in preventing WF&A so that controls end up costing more than WF&A would have. It also invalidates this Copout to mention that if the impossible were made possible and WF&A totally eliminated from government, the savings would only be a tiny fraction of total government expenditures.
  6. It’s class warfare. Answers like “Return fairness to the tax code” and “Stop penalizing our most productive citizens” are also acceptable. The First-Termer may not mention that progressive taxation was invented to equalize the “pain” of taxation across all income levels or that, before people who are now wealthy accumulated their wealth, there was never a point that they felt under-taxed.


Each Copout! Card in the First-Termer’s House of Cards has a value of $10,000,000 towards his War Chest. After each First-Termer has had the opportunity to provide the relevant Copout Phrase, the initial First-Termer advances the Election Countdown Arrow one month to the right and takes his next turn. This sequence continues through Election Year Labor Day. At that point, each First-Termer appropriates the Copout! Cards of the player to his left, if this player has a smaller War Chest. The First-Termer with the largest War Chest wins reelection. In case of a tie, the Election Countdown Arrow is spun again. The winner is the First-Termer farthest to the right from the final direction of the Arrow.


A First-Termer’s Pundit reads the Headline “Medicare Taxes to be Increased to Fund Prescription Drug Benefit.” The First-Termer adds to his House of Cards and War Chest with the response “Number One!” or “Taxes are already too high!” He forfeits his next turn if he responds “It’s a worthwhile use of tax dollars.” There is no penalty for “We could fund it by eliminating Medicare WF&A.” While “It’s the people’s money” might seem to have no relevance, it is also sufficient to avoid penalty.


Rapid Copout! First-Termers must respond with the specific identifying number of the Copout Phrase so that his House of Cards can be built all the more quickly.

TV Copout! This version is played without the Game Board, although the Tax Cut Platform and House of Cards remain essential components of the game. Players first tune to an appropriate broadcast. This is any broadcast featuring Fiscal Conservatives; an ample number of tax copout phrases can be expected. The first player to respond to a Fiscal Conservative’s use of a Copout! phrase takes a Copout! card. Play ends at the end of the broadcast or when all 200 Copout! Cards have been awarded. On a Fox News program this typically occurs within five minutes. 


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