Motel 666

The good priest should have known better than bring a black light to a cheap motel.

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.

"4½★. Good service. Not crowded. Knocked off half a point because a peculiar stench emanated from the greenhouse. Other than that, very pleasant; would visit again."

Welcome to our inn. We’ve never had a rating of fewer than four-point-five stars!

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.

Them and entire bags of lime.

I get by with a little help from my accomplices.

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.

Posted on December 22, 2015, in Board Game and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m not staying at a hotel ever again.

  2. A priest with a black light… that made me laugh!

    Thanks for linking to the historical backstory on this game, I missed that when this was taught to me at BGG.CON. My group of friends quite enjoyed the game play on this one; though we’ve heard discussions of a few game-end scoring cards being a bit unbalanced. I’m not sure if that was just group think or not, but I thought it worth mentioning. Still, what a great game!

    • You know, I can see how people might think certain cards are a bit too powerful, but I don’t believe that’s the case. If we’re talking about the same cards (the rank-3 ones that score 4 francs for each card of their color in the exist stack), they can be worth a lot of money, but only if a number of conditions are met. A player would have to:

      1. Not kill them. Since they’re rank-3, they’re worth 26 francs if you kill and bury them, which in my experience is the most efficient way of earning their cash.
      2. Bribe them. This is tough due to their rank.
      3. Build them. Same as above.
      4. Launder money directly prior to the end of the game, since the francs these annexes earn are capped at the usual 40. Any remainder would be lost.
      5. Then, in order for them to be worth more as annexes than as buried corpses, there would have to be seven cards of their color in the exit stack at the end of the game. If everyone is playing actively, they should have given priority to murdering cards of that annex’s color, which makes it unlikely that there will be too many left over.

      The upside is that by building these annexes, you’re also getting three burial plots. Which is to say, these cards can be fantastically worthwhile. But I wouldn’t call them unbalanced.

      There are some really powerful cards, however. The Priest, for instance, builds the Chapel, which lets all cards in your hand act as burial cards. Then, nabbing a bunch of murderers and then using them to murder/bury everyone in the inn is rather easy, provided you have room for all those corpses — which, of course, is the key to undermining a player pursuing this strategy.

      One of the things I love about The Bloody Inn is that we’re even able to have this conversation! There are nuances to explore and strategies to undermine.

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