France, 1831: Nestled within the verdant forests of Ardèche lies the inn your family has laboured over for years. Enjoying a rare moment of peace between the demands of business, you indulge in the beauty and tranquility of the unspoiled surroundings. You breathe in the crisp autumn air as a gentle breeze stirs the furling forest ferns. The air is rich with the scent of pine needles and damp earth. The cheerful chirping of birds ceases as a lone traveller approaches, conspicuous in the remoteness. Despite your weariness you welcome the trade. After all, you don't see much business from word of mouth. As you greet your guest you consider the accommodation and the work that lies ahead. Which rooms are ready and available and where you'll bury his body once you've murdered him. There's no rest for the wicked. And this fellow isn't out of the woods yet.
The Bloody Inn, by Nicholas Robert, is a game of murder, robbery, bribery, and burial - the challenges of making a living as a serial killing family in the hospitality industry. It accommodates one to four players for 45 to 60 minutes and is suitable for players aged 14 and over. The grim and macabre theme draws on the historic events of an establishment known as L'auberge rouge (The Red Inn), and the murderous family that amassed significant wealth over the decades they ran it.
A Grave Undertaking
Running an inn can be a lucrative business. If you know how to handle your guests you can make a killing. In the Bloody Inn players are greedy members of a poor farming family. Having invested in an inn, they undertake to make their fortune robbing and murdering guests but it's a lot of work, too much for one person. You'll need accomplices. Fortunately, everyone has their price. Travellers of various professions can be bribed to help you accomplice your unsavory activities.
Everyone has skeletons in the closet. But you have them in the barn, the vegetable garden, and the butcher shop too. Well, you can't just leave them lying around for anyone to find! Growing a business means expansion and diversification. Parlors, parks and gardens, distilleries, and workshops will all amplify the attraction of your inn. Each new annex delivers a competitive advantage. Not to mention a few more places to conceal a corpse or two!
Taking care of the rich and powerful can be a rewarding experience. Once you've disposed of the victims you can help yourself to their money. After all the work you've had to do you've earned it!
What better way to incentivise staff than a bit of friendly competition? In this family business, whoever adds the most to The Bloody Inn's coffers will reap the rewards. Each player manages different rooms, although players can kill and bribe a guest in any room. Any guests not pushing up daisies by the end of their stay pay their bill to the player controlling their room.
To profit from murder, you must first dispose of the body. You can bury corpses under any of the inn's annexes. Players control the annexes they build. If you use one belonging to another player you'll have to split the profits with them. It's better to deal with the richest guests in areas you control. But you can always undermine your opponents by stuffing their constructions full of low value victims!
If you can't dispose of the bodies you can't claim the ill-gotten gains. And corpses left lying around risk discovery. You never know when law enforcement might visit. If you have unburied bodies when they do you're in trouble. You'll have to recruit the help of an unscrupulous undertaker to bail you out. Unfortunately, they don't come cheap and handling corpses this way will eat into your profits. You'll also be unable to claim the rewards.
Any money you do make will need careful management. Unexplained wealth draws unwelcome attention. There's a limit on how much you can earn without laundering the cash. To do this you'll need to visit the crooked notary. But doing so takes time you could otherwise spend on more profitable pursuits.
The Bare Bones
The game plays over two seasons with a deck of cards that represents guests visiting the inn. Every guest card, except law enforcement, displays an annex that they can build. They also show actions guests have an affinity for, as well as their rank and how much money they have.
Each round of The Bloody Inn represents a single day in business. Welcoming new travelers during the evening while the real business is conducted at night. In the morning it's time to deal with any consequences (police investigations) and administration (departing guests and paying wages). Over the course of the day, players perform two actions, each in turn order. Bribing guests to become accomplices, killing guests, burying them, building annexes, or laundering money.
All actions except laundering money are performed using the same process. Play a number of accomplices from your hand equal to the rank of the guest (or accomplice) the action applies to. Return any with an affinity for the action performed to your hand and discard the rest. At the end of the day, you must pay each accomplice in your hand or they'll leave your service.
Players begin with a ten Franc cheque and five Francs in cash. Of course, none of your accomplices trust you enough to accept a cheque. So you'll need to earn some money or visit the notary to cash the cheque if you run low on funds. Earn too much money and you'll need to launder it before you can make any more.
The deck of guests scales for the number of players and length of game you want. Each play through the deck represents a season at The Bloody Inn. After two seasons the game is over. Then it's time to see who got ahead and who came dead last.
It's a little disturbing how gleefully I dispatched innocent guests. I'm not sure what that says about me. I hope it says more about how well this game is executed. How it draws you in, engrossing you in the action. I found myself genuinely excited at the prospect of putting an end to my wealthy patrons. And greedily anticipating burying them under the barn and claiming their wealth. I also experienced moments of real panic as police showed up while I had several corpses strewn about. Not to mention my dismay at losing the potential profits from the dead prince, as the undertaker carted him away before I could divest him of his heavy purse. These feelings of excitement, greed, and tension are exactly what you want from a game that has you acting as a ruthless money grabbing murderer.
With limited resources and actions, each turn promises your decisions will come at a cost. And mistakes can be perilous. Despite this, the mechanics of gameplay are simple and streamlined. This is an easy game to pick up and play but one that will provide challenge and mental stimulation. There are plenty of strategies to explore and opportunities to interfere with the competition. And if you don't have any bodies to play with there's a decent solo mode to enjoy too.
While it might be hard to identify with your role in the game, The Bloody Inn isn't gruesome. The murderous actions are tongue in cheek and are not glorified. The unflattering stereotyped presentation of characters extends this handling of the theme to reinforce the waggish humour and light heartedness. The artwork is excellent and befits the combination of humour and sombre context.
The Bloody Inn is bloody brilliant. A dead good game that executes a potentially heavy theme in an expertly light way to deliver a morbidly novel and fun experience. This grisly drafting and hand management game about maximizing inn-come presents a horribly enjoyable twist on economics. I highly recommend The Bloody Inn for anyone who enjoys the grim and macabre. It's perfect for Halloween and disquietingly thematic for remote getaways!