Full disclosure: A review copy of Ugly Gryphon Inn was provided by Button Shy.
This is it! The last of the Button Shy games that I had around the house. I’m pretty sure, at least; there’s always another one or two somewhere. The nice thing about wallet games, I suppose. They just kind of turn up. I’ve been pushing through a bunch of Button Shy titles, and I think this is the last of the ones I got last year! This is one of the Simply Solo series they’ve been creating lately, like Unsurmountable and Food Chain Island! I enjoyed a fair number of those, so let’s see how Ugly Gryphon Inn stacks up!
In Ugly Gryphon Inn, you run one of the most, uh, “prestigious” inns in the entire land! Depending on your definition of both inn and prestigious. Unfortunately, your riches are limited to the abundance of patrons you have, not really your material wealth, since debt collectors are now breathing down your neck for things like “not paying them”. You’ll have to work twice as hard to keep yourself afloat, especially since the patrons are so … weird. Will you be able to stay in business?
Not a ton! You just essentially need to shuffle up the Patron cards:
Then place four of them face-up to make the Bar. Leave some space to the right for the Inn, and you’re ready to start!
A game of Ugly Gryphon Inn takes place over one evening at the eponymous inn. As patrons come in, they’ll hang out at the bar until they move to the Inn. However, if the bar gets too rowdy, the various quirky patrons might become a bit rowdy themselves. See if you can fill up the Inn for the night so that you can pay off the Ugly Gryphon’s various debts.
A given turn has two phases: the Inn Phase and the Bar Phase. Let’s go through them.
The Inn Phase is pretty quick. Essentially, you take a single patron from the Bar and add them to the Inn, creating a vertical line of patrons. When you add a patron to the Inn, place them above the other patrons.
After doing that, you’ll evaluate their irks! Starting with the top patron in the Inn, evaluate their Inn Irk and resolve its effect. After doing so, move down to the next patron and resolve their quirk.
After completing the Inn Phase, add a new patron to the bar! There may be fewer than four patrons in the Bar, so if that’s the case, refill the bar up to four patrons (or try to, if the deck runs out of cards). Each patron in the bar has one or more quirks on their card. If any single quirk (fighting / smells bad / noisy) appears three or more times, it irks all the patrons in the inn with that Bar Irk on their card. Just like the Inn Phase, resolve any Bar Irks from top to bottom in the inn. If more than one quirk appears three times in the bar, resolve all the Bar Irks from top to bottom in a single pass.
End of Game
If the deck is empty after finishing up the Bar Phase, the game ends! Or if eight or more patrons have left the Inn at any given time. In the latter case, you immediately lose. Otherwise, if you have seven or more patrons in the inn, you win!
If you’d like to make the game more difficult, try finishing the game with more patrons in the Inn!
Player Count Differences
None! This is a solo game.
- Think about ordering! There are a lot of patrons that do best at the bottom of the Inn, and others that do well towards the top. There are a few characters that randomize characters below them, irk characters below them, check for things below them, or leave if they’re too high in the Inn; it may be best to place them towards the bottom. Other characters, their position doesn’t really matter, so it’s probably fine.
- The thing you need to very much watch out for is cascading effects. Sometimes it’s not just one person leaving, it’s that they also irk a ton of other people on the way out, which then changes the configuration of the Inn so much that other patrons leave. That cascade can really mess up your inn, especially late in the game when you have so many quirks and irks to try and keep track of. Be careful! Sometimes it’s better to lose a complex guest than to keep them and risk them taking a ton of other patrons with them.
- Also keep an eye on quirks in the Bar; that can really mess you up. Those are how you get messed up. I try to keep the food and beer in the Bar pretty balanced, when I can, and if I see one quirk starting to become more prevalent, I usually try to shuffle them to the Inn as quickly as I can. The problem is, if you have one of every quirk in the Bar, any Goblins you get will really mess you up, but more on that later.
- Even if you manage to get eight patrons in the Inn, you have to still have them when the deck runs out. So keep an eye on patrons who leave on their own or have relatively low-impact effects. You can get to eight patrons in the Inn pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean you win. They have to be there when the game ends. So I tend to look for patrons that don’t do a ton when they leave (like the Teetotal Nun, who just … leaves) and fill my Inn with them pretty early so that when something inevitably drives out half of my Inn, the frustrated patrons don’t take everyone else with them.
- Goblins in particular can be a bit messy; I generally try to add them to the Inn as quickly as possible so that their quirks don’t drive a ton of people out. Goblins have two quirks apiece, which will almost certainly set someone off in the Inn, but once they’re in your Inn, they’re relatively harmless unless all three Goblins are in there. This means that once the first Goblin gets driven out of the Inn by some other patron’s effect then the other two become much safer to have in the Inn. What you can’t have is the first two in the Inn and then, late-game, some other card’s effect places the third in there. That’s bad.
- Not all the patrons’ irks make them leave the Inn. The Ranger irks a different patron, for instance, and the Time Mage just messes with the Bar. The Satyr returns to the Bar, which I think counts as leaving the Inn. But keep an eye on the cards’ effects! Just because they’re irked doesn’t necessarily mean they’re leaving. They might just mess with other people, which is sometimes fine?
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art style is very pleasant! It feels familiar and welcoming in some way, which is nice. I’m not sure where I feel like I’ve seen it before, but since I’m not familiar with the illustrator (Ardhialh), I think I must have just imagined the similarity. Either way, I find the colors fun but not too intense, and the entire thing is a very pleasant color scheme. It looks like a fun fantasy world to experience, and I think the artist really helped get it there.
- It’s an interesting puzzle, given how the various effects and quirks of patrons can cascade. Avoiding that cascade is most of the game’s difficulty, so a lot of gameplay is figuring out where a cascade can occur and trying to tease out what the long-term consequences of choices you make will be. I find that fun; you’re essentially seeing outcomes and trying to untangle them to make better choices.
- The graphic design makes the game surprisingly intuitive, which I appreciate. Organizing the Inn Irk and the Bar Irk next to each other, leading to the effect makes the card make a lot of sense (and doesn’t require you to change the Bar Irk’s icon to be different than the Quirk icon). It’s all laid out to make the cards easy to process, which I appreciate.
- The game plays pretty quickly, as well. Sometimes a bit too quickly, as me making some hasty mistakes will indicate, but it’s a short game and I appreciate that.
- As always, portability is nice too. This one takes up a bit of table space (just because of the big vertical column you’re making), but it’s still easy to get from one place to another in that tiny Button Shy wallet.
- I’ve been enjoying this whole “Simply Solo” series from Button Shy. They’re definitely tough games, but fun. Sometimes you want a tough little solo game, and there’s plenty of them. I’m glad Button Shy is doing this set; it’s neat.
- I will say, among the solo games I’ve played, this seems the least complicated to keep track of things. Thankfully it’s mostly about icon and position management, which
- It would have been nice if the food / beer icons were different colors, just to make the Bar and Inn even easier to skim. The icons are different but the boxes are the same, so it’s still relatively easy to skim, but having them be entirely different colors would have made it even easier.
- Similarly, bolding the “leaves” term would have helped me out in my first couple plays. Just to disambiguate the patrons that leave from the patrons that don’t leave. I, at first, thought everyone left, which made things confusing.
- It would be interesting if the difficulty level changes weren’t just “try to have more patrons left in the inn”. It just doesn’t feel like it adds much more to the game in terms of drastically changing your strategy; it just makes the game harder and tells you to effectively beat your high score. That’s fine, but slightly underwhelming.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I enjoyed Ugly Gryphon Inn! I think there are three things that push me towards the other games in the Simply Solo series slightly more, and that’s honestly okay. I think this one is a bit more text-heavy than the other two, I tend to prefer the other two’s mechanics, and thematically, same. Not that I didn’t enjoy Ugly Gryphon, just that’s where my preferences lie. I do quite like the art style! It’s a fantasy game for sure, but I really like how the characters are approachable and drawn pleasantly, even if they do get a bit rowdy. It’s also a very interesting mini-management game, since players have to make sure that the Inn doesn’t cause guests to leave out of frustration and that the various quirks of the bar guests don’t drive patrons out, either. It’s a lot to balance and a lot to manage, especially since trying to keep everyone is a fool’s errand. Can’t work. So you need to figure out how to keep the right group of folks so that you can win the game, and that’s interesting! I enjoyed that experience. If you’re looking for a small-form fantasy inn-management game, you enjoy a solo puzzle, or you just, like me, tend to try everything that Button Shy makes, I’d say that you might enjoy Ugly Gryphon Inn! I had fun with it.
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