The Bloody Inn
- Designer: Nicolas Robert
- Players: 1-4
- Ages: 12+
- Time: ~60 min
As has become my usual pre-Essen routine, I am trying to do as much research as I can on the new Essen releases to see what is worthy of valuable convention time while at the show. Over the past three or four years, I have been given a chance to take a look at rulesets to a number of highly anticipated games.
The first sneak preview for 2015 is the newest release from Pearl Games. If you are familiar with this blog, you’ll know that I’m a pretty big fan of Pearl Games, and previewing the new Essen release from the company is one of the first signs of the Essen season starting.
This year, The Bloody Inn is the new release. At first glance, it appears to be a little bit of a departure from the “usual” Pearl style – it appears to be a little lighter in weight, and the artwork clearly stands apart from the previous games. Oh, and the theme is a little different than Troyes or Bruxelles…. As the story goes, you and your fellow players are greedy farmers in a small French 19 th Century town. Rather than grow crops and sell them, you guys have figured out that it’s easier to join in, buy an inn, attract guests to said inn, and then kill them and steal the coins out of the pants pockets. As you would expect, the winner of the game is the player who has the most coins.
But before we kill them, let’s discuss the possible guests – they come in a deck of 78 cards. There are 6 different types of guest cards, each with their own background color which could have a rank from 0 to 3. Each guest also has a special ability at the bottom of the card. Four of the types have a “particular aptitude” noted at the top. Finally, the amount of money in their pockets is listed on the card as well. On the back side – which is used to show a dead guest – only the rank of the card and the money in their pockets is listed. When you play the game, you decide whether you’d rather play a short or long game and set up the deck accordingly. There is one type of guest, the Peasant, that always have a rank of 0. These are always placed in the Bistro of the Inn (whereas the Guests are always in the rooms). At any point in the game, you can always access the Peasants in the bistro in the same way that you access the guests in the rooms.
The gameboard is a long rectangular affair with the scoretrack dominating the center. The inn’s bistro is also seen in the center – depicted as a humongous table. The doors of the 8 rooms of the inn are shown around the outside of the board. When someone enters a room, their card is simply laid to the outside of the board next to the door. Each player has Key tokens in their color – at the start of the game, each player gets to place one Key token on an unoccupied room and the rest are covered with neutral pieces. The deck of guest cards are shuffled and placed alive-side-up at one end of the hotel. If guests manage to come to the inn and survive their trip, they will be discarded in a pile at the other end of the hotel. The game lasts through two trips through the Guest deck.
The Bloody Inn is played over a variable number of rounds. Each round follows the same three phases. First, the Bloody Inn fills up with guests. The start player takes the top card of the deck and then places it in any open and unfilled room – i.e. a room that has a key token in front of it and does not already have a guest. This continues until all such rooms are filled.
Then, in the second phase, players get the chance to take two actions – there are 5 different possibilities
- A – Bribe a guest
- B – Build an Annex
- C – Kill a Guest
- D – Bury a Corpse
- E – Pass (Launder Money
There are two rounds of actions – starting with the start player, each player gets to take an action of their choice. Then, play goes around the board again and players can take a second action.
To bribe a guest, players can take a Guest card from any room in the inn and add it to your hand. You must play a number of cards from your hand to match the rank number of the Guest you wish to add to your hand. This Guest now becomes an accomplice to your murderous ways. You then get to keep any played cards which have the money icon on them; the other played cards are now discarded and placed in the Exit stack.
To build an Annex, you use one of the Guest cards in your hand that has an Annex icon on it. You must play a number of cards from your hand to match the rank number of the Guest you wish to make an Annex of. This Guest now becomes an annex, granting you special abilities – you now also have somewhere to bury your unsuspecting victims. The card is placed alive-side-up in front of you on the table. You then get to keep any played cards which have the shovel icon on them; the other played cards are now discarded and placed in the Exit stack.
To Kill a Guest, you choose one of the guests in a room. You must play a number of cards from your hand to match the rank number of the Guest you wish to send to his Maker. This Guest now becomes a corpse. Play this card dead-side-up in front of you – there is no limit to the number of corpses you can have in front of you. You then get to keep any played cards which have the gun icon on them; the other played cards are now discarded and placed in the Exit stack.
To Bury a Corpse, you choose any of the corpses from your personal supply. You must play a number of cards from your hand to match the rank number of the stiff going into the group. This card is then placed underneath any annex on the board. Each of you annexes can hold a number of corpses equal to its rank. The money in the corpse’s pocket is then split between yourself and the owner of the annex – advance your marker on the track by the appropriate sum. Note that you cannot have more than 40 francs on the track. You then get to keep any played cards which have the coffin icon on them; the other played cards are now discarded and placed in the Exit stack.
You could choose to Pass and optionally launder money. You are allowed to freely exchange 10F of cash from the track on the board for a 10F check. You can never have more than 40F on the board.
Once all players have had the chance to take two actions, you move to the final phase of the round. First, you check to see if there is a police raid. If there is a Police guest in a room at this time, the Police raid the inn. As you don’t want the police to find your incriminating corpses, you must pay 10F for each unburied corpse in front of you to the local emergency gravedigger. These hastily buried corpses are discarded from the game. Next, all the remaining travelers leave. Players earn 1F for each guest that leaves a room of his color. These surviving Guests go to the Exit stack. Finally, you must pay wages to your accomplices. For each card in your hand, you must pay 1F to the bank. Move your marker backwards on the track. If you do not have enough money to pay your accomplices, you must discard all unpaid accomplice cards.
The game now continues onto the next round. The start player rotates around the board and new guests are taken from the Guest deck. If the deck is exhausted (for the first time), you take whatever cards are in the Exit deck and shuffle those to make a new deck. If the Guest deck is exhausted for the second time, the game ends. You can finish this last round as long as there are more Guests in the Bloody Inn than the number of players.
At the end of the game – each player must pay 10F for each unburied corpse. Then, you look at any Rank 3 Annexes that you own as each of these provide some money at the end of the game. You are still limited to only 40F on the board. Then, finally, you add the value of all the 10F checks that you hold to get your final score. If there is a tie, the player with the most corpses under his annexes wins.
Initial thoughts on the game
So, this is a fairly intriguing game based on my reading of the rules. Many of the Guests have special abilities that alter the basic rules, and it’s quite difficult to see just how these will affect the game until I try the game out. It’s unclear whether every card has a special ability or not. The rules give special abilities for 6 types of cards in each of 4 suits – but it isn’t clear how many of each card exist.
It seems like getting cards into your hand and then back into your hand is central to the game. You start the game with only 2 Peasant cards. You have to then acquire cards from the Inn as your accomplices. As you have to pay cards from your hand for each new card, it appears that players will need to either focus on getting cards with Money icons early on OR cards with special abilities that reduce the cost of bribing guests. Then, once you have a reliable method of adding cards to your hand, you need to still be efficient in how you use your cards to make sure you have enough in your hand to do all the things you want. Of course, you can’t hold on to too many cards – because at the end of each round, you have to pay 1F for each of those cards!
The other interesting concept here is the whole laundering money mechanic. You are limited to 40F on the board, so you’d obviously like to bank some of that cash into 10F checks whenever you can. However, it does cost you an action to do so – so you won’t do it all the time. Additionally, you don’t want to get too many checks because you still need some money to pay the emergency gravedigger and to pay off your minions each round.
The other thing which is fueling my interest in the game is the inclusion of a solo game in the rules. The game is set up with one room in your color and 3 in the neutral color. You play to get as high a score as you can. The one big change is that you automatically lose the game if there is a unburied corpse in front of you during a police raid or at the end of the game. I am a big proponent of solo games as this helps extend the life of the game for me.
Thus far, my anticipation level for the game is high – though I’m admittedly a Pearl Games fan boy. Can’t wait to see what this looks like in person!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor