Running an inn can be tough  -- and in the game The Bloody Inn from Pearl Games, players supplement their income by murdering the inn's guests, burying them, and taking the money from their corpses.

Set in France in 1831, The Bloody Inn lets 1-4 players act as murderous innkeepers.  Each player gets a color, five francs on the game board, a Check for 10 francs, one room key (which goes on the board), two Peasant Cards, and one Player Aid card (which also functions as a rank-2 annex).  A number of neutral room keys are placed on the game board (based on the number of players), a number of Guest cards are discarded (based on the number of players and whether everyone wants a short or long game), and the game begins!

At the start of each round (Welcome Travelers -- Evening), the first player draws Guest cards from the deck and places them in each room, one at a time.  Each Guest card has a type and color (merchant -- blue; artisan -- red; police -- grey; religious -- purple; and nobles -- green; and Peasants -- yellow), a rank (from 0-3), money, sometimes an annex, and sometimes an aptitude.  After the Guests are placed comes the next phase (Player Actions -- Night), when each player (starting with the first player and going clockwise) takes an action, then after everyone went takes a second action.
There are five possible actions.  To Bribe a Guest, a player "spends" cards from their hand equal to the Guest's rank.  The bribed Guest goes into the player's hand; cards with the Bribery icon are also returned to the player's hand, while all other cards are discarded.  (Discarded Peasants go to the Bistro, while all other Guests go to the Exit Stack at the end of the board.)  To Build an Annex, a player "spends" cards equal to the rank of a Guest in their hand with an Annex at the bottom of the card; cards with the trowel icon are returned to the player's hand, while the others are discarded; there may be immediate or long-term benefits from the Annex.  To Kill a Guest, a player targets a Guest in a room (or Peasant in the Bistro) and spends a number of cards equal to the Guest's rank; cards with the gun icon are returned to the player's hand, while all other cards are discarded; and the guest is flipped over (becoming a corpse) and placed in front of the player.  To Bury a Corpse, a player discards cards equal to the corpse's rank (getting back those with a coffin symbol back and discarding the rest) and places the corpse under an Annex with space (an Annex can hold a number of bodies equal to its rank).  If a player Buries a Corpse in their own Annex, they get all the francs on the corpse; if they bury it in another player's Annex they split the francs with that player.  And if a player passes, they either do nothing or exchange 10 franc amounts from the game board for 10-franc Checks.
After each player has their two actions, the final phase (End of Round -- Morning) happens.  If there are any police cards in a room, the investigate!  If a player has an unburied corpse, the player has to pay the gravedigger 10 francs (either by Check or off the board) for each body, which is they discarded without earning the player any money.  After that, the Guests leave, earning a player with a Guest in their room (indicated by their color key in front of the room) one franc; Peasants go to the Bistro and all other Guests go to the Exit Stack.  Finally, each player pays 1 franc for each accomplice/card in their hand; they don't take Checks, and if a player goes down to zero francs they discard any cards they can't pay for.

The next player clockwise becomes the new First Player, and new Guests are drawn from the deck and placed in rooms.  If the deck is out of cards, the discarded Guests at the Exit Stack are shuffled and become the new deck.  The second time the deck is emptied, the game ends, Checks are cashed in and become francs, and whoever has the most francs wins!

The Bloody Inn is a morbidly cheerful strategy game, revolving around murder, bribery, building, and burial.  There's a good deal of planning involved, whether it's selecting which Annexes to build, placing Guests so they'll leave your room in Morning and not be in opponents' rooms then, making sure your created corpses won't go to the gravedigger, or opting to murder low-rank Guests (easy to do, but little reward) or higher-rank Guests (who require a lot more cards but pay a lot more),  Also, having a lot of cards gives you more options for future turns -- but costs you a lot in paying accomplices.  While there's no humor per se in the game, the artwork has a slight edge to it that suits the feel of the game.  The Bloody Inn is an enjoyable, thoughtful, and challenging game for anyone with a slightly dark side.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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