Victorian Hotelier’s Dilemma
It is opening week and everything has been running rather smoothly…Until now.
My staff was ready for them. Every room was cleaned and fresh linen put on every bed. The kitchen was stocked with the finest food this side of Old London Town. The competition wouldn’t stand a chance. I had an excellent set of guests coming. There was even a nobleman renting one of the top floor suites! It was to be an exciting week, indeed.
The rumors started rolling in and everything fell to ruin. My nobleman was apparently caught beating a servant, the esteemed inventor that came for the week was supposedly covered in grotesque boils, and my first floor is now filled with criminals! My staff likes to make things up, interesting stories about the guests to keep themselves entertained. Somehow, their outrageous stories have reached my competition and some of the crazy things they have said have even made it into the papers!
The guests are in outrage, because their reputations are being tarnished. So much damage has been done… What am I to do?
- 2-6 Players
- 15-45 Minutes
- Age 8+
In Top Hats and Treachery, players take on the role of a hotel owner in Victorian era London. Their hotel’s success is dependent on the types of rumors spread about their guests in addition to their guests’ social status. Players want their hotels to be filled with famous and interesting people. In a style similar to Gloom, players can use cards to spread positive rumors about a guest or spread negative rumors about the opponent’s guests. If it looks like a guest of an opponent appears to be getting an over-inflated reputation, you can use a Grim Reaper card to bury them for good. The same is true if one of your own guests is seeing a little too much negative press.
The game goes through three phases, which vary in length depending on whether or not you decide on a short or long game. You can also choose between two modes of play: Dead Simple or Simply Deadly. Dead Simple offers an easy, standard form of play, while Simply Deadly offers more variety and more opportunity to interact with your guests and your opponents. At the end of the three phases, the players will tally up their guests’ scores and the winner will be the player with the most points.
The Setup (done by phases):
Before starting the game, decided whether or not you want to play a short game or long game, as this will determine how many turns you get in each phase.
The main setup for the game is done in Phase 1.
At the beginning of the game players will receive a guest from each social class: One upper (purple cards), one middle (blue cards), and one lower (orange cards). These guests will be arranged in a column, descending from the upper class guest to the lower. This arrangement also represents the floors of your hotel. Each row of the column is class specific. For example, an upper class character can never be placed on the bottom row, unless a card in the game causes their status to change. There are only nine available rooms in your hotel, with three on each floor. So, players may never have more than three of any class type.
Once players have their guests, each player will receive a hand of five Rumor cards. When all players have their cards, make a draw pile for the Rumor cards and a separate draw piles for each guest type. Now depending on what mode you are playing, setup may have one extra step in each phase. Dead Simple rules will add no extra steps to your setup. If you are choosing to play the Simply Deadly rules, at the beginning of each phase, you will roll a die. The number rolled will determine what you are allowed to do on your turn.
In Phase 2, players will revert their hands to the five-card hand limit. Players may discard down or draw up to do this. More rooms will also become available in the hotel. Players will each roll the 6-sided die and the number they roll will determine which type of new guest stays at their hotel.
- Roll of 1-2: Lower class
- Roll of 3-4: Middle class
- Roll of 5-6: Upper class
If a row of guests is filled, a player must re-roll the dice to acquire a different type of guest. If you are playing the Simply Deadly rules, you would again roll the die to determine how you will play for this phase, otherwise play will continue as normal.
Phase 3 is just a rinse and repeat of Phase 2 and it is the last phase in the game.
Whispers In the Servant Quarters
How To Play
For the purpose of teaching, I will explain the Dead Simple rules, as it represents the basics of the game best. After the Phase 1 setup is complete and the first player has been chosen, play can begin! The rules for Dead Simple play are just that, dead simple. On their turns, players will play a card then draw a card.
There are five different types of Rumor cards (designated by color):
- Green: Positive Rumor cards.
- Played underneath guests, so the +point value at the top can be seen above the guest
- Can affect all classes or types of guests; or will target specific class or type
- Could change class of guest
- Red: Negative Rumor cards
- Played underneath guests, so the -point value at the bottom can be seen below the guest
- Can affect all classes or types of guests; or will target specific class or type
- Could change class of guest
- Split: Choose whether to use the Red or Green side.
- Played as a positive rumor or negative rumor, player’s choice
- Yellow: Special cards with unusual effects
- Counter: Played instantly to prevent an opponent from playing a negative effect on one of your guests
- Protect: Played on a guest– will protect them for 2 rounds
- Played vertically for duration of the first round
- Turn horizontal for duration of the second round
- Blood Is Thicker Than Water: Adds a new guest to your hotel
- Roll the d6 and take a guest following the same number rules for the room openings in Phase 2 and 3
- Some yellow cards have other effects, like rumor swapping
- Black: Grim Reaper cards
- These will kill a guest off
- Some can target any guest and others can only target guests of a certain class or type
- Can be played on your own guests
On your turn you will play a Rumor card, following the directions for its specific type and then draw a new card from the Rumor deck. In general, you will want to play Green cards on your guests and Red cards on your opponents’ guests. If a card were to change the class of a guest, the player must move that guest to the appropriate floor of the hotel. Yellow cards can change the course of the game by adding guests, swapping rumors or even protecting your guest from the attacks of others. There are fewer of these cards in the game, so use them wisely.
Grim Reaper cards are used to kill off characters. If used to kill an opponent’s character, they will get a new guest to replace the one that was killed. However, this will be the only the time that guests have a cost to obtain. Instead of rolling a die to get a new guest, the player will have to discard a certain amount of cards to obtain a guest. If they choose a lower class guest there is no discard cost; they may take a lower class guest for free, providing there is room for them on the bottom floor. If they want to take a guest from the middle class they will discard one card to the player who killed their character in the first place. If they want to get an upper class guest, they will discard two cards to the player who killed their guest and that player will choose one to keep and discard the other. If you use a Grim Reaper on one of your own guests, you would discard cards to the discard pile instead of another player. Again, the guests you obtain this way must be able to fit on the floor of their class.
There is one other choice players may choose on their turn. Instead of playing and drawing like normal, a player may discard any number of Rumor cards from their hand and replace them from the Rumor deck. If the Rumor deck runs out, just shuffle the Discard pile.
After the last round in Phase 3, players will count up all of the points on their guests and the player with the most points will be the winner.
Does the Queen Approve?
If you are a fan of games like Gloom, then this will be right up your alley. The style is similar enough to learn quickly and it offers some funny rumors and flavor text for story tellers to work with. It plays a little faster than Gloom, making it perfect for in between larger games. This is also a good game for people who like the “take that” element. It is rather enjoyable to Grim Reaper an opponent’s well-off guest. Sometimes it works out that they aren’t willing to part with any cards, so they choose to take a lower class guest instead. It’s got a quite a bit of back and forth with the negative rumors, so it keeps the competition lively. I find that, to get the most out of the game, it is best played with more than 2 players while using the Simply Deadly rules. There’s more opportunity for “take that” using those rules and in general it is just more fun.
I will say, however, that there is nothing super exciting about the game. It’s simplistic format keeps it interesting enough to play, but it isn’t super deep. The hotel theme fits with the game mechanics well enough, but I think it would have been cool to actually have a character card that represents the hotel owner or a hotel card. They wouldn’t necessarily have a functional ability, but it would give players a little more to connect to. Just some thoughts I had. However, I do like the use of real and fake people for the guest cards. I thought this was a really nice way to keep true to the time period that the game is supposed to take place in. Plus, when we played our first game, we got a real kick out of the fact that on the guest cards featuring real people, it actual says, “(Real Person).” I’m not sure why this was so funny, but at the time, we were cracking up. I also really loved the flavor text for the guests and the Rumor cards. Some of it is down right silly, so it’s always fun to read what happens to your guests out loud.
Mechanically, the game is pretty sound. I really like how the game is divided into phases, especially in combination with the Simply Deadly rules. Rolling to get guests during the beginning of the second and third phases is okay, but it is random. I think that the mechanic to get a new guest after one has been killed is better. It brings some choice to the game to offset the randomness of the die roll for guests.
The rule book could use a few more tweaks, but it is still being worked on. As far as components go, I can’t comment too much, because I only had a PnP copy. Besides cards, the only other real component is a d6, which any would work. The final card art is okay. The text is a bit hard to read, the white colour mixed with the font was hard on my eyes. But the designer is working to improve that. Also, I just have crappy eyesight, so it could just be me. Looking back at pictures on BGG, I actually prefer some of the earlier iterations of the card art, but the current design is very clean which I can still appreciate.
Overall, the game is fast, easy to learn, and a fun game for in between the larger games. It’s quick play makes it perfect for that slot and it will compete well with other games in the same category.
The game will hit Kickstarter in late September, so keep an eye out for Top Hats and Treachery!
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