The Bloody Inn is about as soothing as it gets. Set in a quaint village in 1831 Ardèche, it’s about operating a pleasant little countryside inn, providing room and board for passing travelers. Eventually, you might add new annexes for your guests’ comfort and edification or have comical run-ins with passing law enforcement officers.
Then you single out your wealthiest guests, murder them, stuff their lifeless bodies beneath the annexes you’ve built, steal all their money, and launder it until you’re filthy rich.
Okay, so that took an unexpectedly grim turn. I suppose the “bloody” in the title should have been a tip-off.
When it was first announced that The Bloody Inn would be about murdering and robbing the travelers staying at your inn, there were some who protested that the whole thing made them a little queasy. Perhaps it was the game’s connection to real life (link, though be warned that the contents of that Wikipedia page are distinctly not-fun), or because every game really ought to be about turning resources into other resources to please a Medieval baron. Maybe there were other reasons. I can’t remember, because I absolutely love killing the endless newsboys who always rent my rooms but spurn the food service. I tend to bury them beneath the neighbor’s brewery.
To ameliorate this unsettled state of affairs, I once gave an honest effort at playing the game “straight.” I would be an honest innkeeper, provide an honest service, and honestly not kill a soul. Consequently, I earned maybe seven francs before I enlisted a band of peasants to assist in the murder of a marquis and the entombing of his mortal frame beneath the workshop. Minus expenses, that slight detour to the dark side earned me around 25 francs. It pays to be bad.
There are five possible actions in The Bloody Inn, and all but one of them — the “launder money” option — work in much the same way. Whether bribing guests into your hand, building annexes for bonuses and as places to bury bodies, murdering guests, or burying the resulting corpses, the process is identical. Each guest has a “rank” from 0 to 3, and you must spend that number of cards from your hand to bribe/build/kill/bury them. Nobody will miss a field worker or care if a church novice decides to stay in your service, while enlisting the help of a major or bumping off a bishop will be harder to cover up. You can make this easier by holding the right sorts of accomplices in your hand. The construction of a stable, for example, requires you to discard three cards, but revealing a Mechanic and a Landscaper (both of them builders) would mean you only have to discard one. In this way, you can pull off big moves for relatively little, provided you planned ahead and employed worthwhile accomplices.
Then again, it’s never quite that simple. First of all, it isn’t ever quite possible to only focus on one thing at a time. Even if you were content to spend a few rounds on bribery and the next on murder, storing up bodies for burial, something always gets in the way. For one, your fellow innkeepers are also busy little bees, snatching up or killing the guests you want. Sure, you could stuff some low-ranking bodies beneath their annexes, splitting a meager handful of francs and possibly forcing them to inter a wealthy Grocer under your Parlor, but this is a tenuous proposition at best. Worse, the periodical appearance of law enforcement might force you to pay the town gravedigger a sizable fee to get rid of any incriminating evidence. With only two actions per round, The Bloody Inn is a game of careful timing, opportunism, and the occasional sacrifice.
The result is pleasantly heady, especially for a game that’s so simple and quick. Rather than being a throwaway filler, there’s plenty to consider with each new batch of guests. Should you kill that visiting Archbishop to plunder his purse of tithes? Or perhaps you ought to put him on burial detail or have him build a Crypt — there’s no better place for bodies, after all. Or would laundering money into untraceable checks be a better use of your last action this round?
It isn’t exactly game of the year, and some will be put off by its ghoulish premise, but The Bloody Inn is a bloody good time, slight but enjoyable, and generous with its possibilities without ever becoming overwhelming. Oh, and the stark portraits of the inn’s guests are certainly easy on the eyes, doing a fabulous job of setting the mood. When a game lets you work with an accomplice to murder someone, then for that accomplice to head on their way, return the next season, and find themselves the victim of your next plot, you know you’ve got something special on your hands.
In short, for a filler game, it’s killer.