Solitaire games are an easy sell for me these days. Anything I can pick up and play without having to arrange schedules and gather comrades and teach them how to play is a win. A solo game about inns? Flawless victory
Therefore, Ugly Gryphon Inn, by Button Shy Games, has been on my table a lot lately. It’s quick to learn, to pick up and play, and it’s absolutely tiny — wallet-sized to be precise. So it ticks a lot of boxes!
In the game, you are in charge of the Ugly Gryphon as well as its patrons. They are not easy to please; in fact they’re a pretty rugged bunch. Each one has their quirks and those quirks bother the sensibilities (or “irks”) of the others. The patrons arrive, plop themselves down at the bar, then after a bit they go up to the inn for bed. Irk them and they leave, taking their business elsewhere and possibly harassing other patrons on their way out!
Play is simple: you draw your four barflies, send one to bed, then check to see if they’ve been “triggered” by the quirks of the others or by some other situational problem. If so, they leave, possibly setting off other effects. The strategy comes in when you decide who goes to the inn from the bar next. The food that next patron brings up could trigger the Fasting Monk; leaving too much beer at the bar could activate the Drunken Dwarf who is going to cost you two guests. Once seven guests leave, it’s game over.
It’s super fun with the right balance of complicated (but not too complicated) board state management and random chance. The immersion is there somehow. With minimal aesthetic (literally just the wonderfully illustrated character cards) you still feel like you’re managing a fantasy inn, trying to arrange who will sleep where so that as many guests as possible get a good night’s rest. You feel like you’re bustling here and there around the inn, tending to your people.
Ugly Gryphon somehow strikes the bullseye of excellent, puzzle-ish gameplay and wonderful thematic richness that isn’t as commonplace as it should be in the gaming sphere.
$15 to run your own fantasy inn? Order it right now!