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Crime Hotel by Happy Baobab – Review

I can't stress enough how important it is for young minds to have something that makes it so easy for them to get lost in, whatever that is gets a big thumbs up from me. In this case it was Crime Hotel.

Theme and What is it?

Investigator Prahn picks up his phone. Even before he hears the voice on the other end, he knows who is calling. It’s John from the retreat up on the mountain. The name of the retreat has something to do with the Smoky Mountains, but everyone around the station calls it the Crime Hotel. John takes a slow breath then starts to let Prahn know that there has been a murder…another murder at the hotel, and he believes that the murderer is still somewhere in the hotel.

For some reason they always find a room to hide in. Investigator Prahn has been down this road before. He lets John know that he will send some officers and a few investigators up to find the killer. John thanks Prahn and hangs up. Investigator Prahn stands at his desk looking up at the building on top of the mountain.

The Crime Hotel. Prahn shakes his head and puts on his coat and wonders to himself why they always hide in some room at the hotel. So strange when there is a whole mountain to flee into. So strange. 

Crime Hotel is a trick taking deduction game for 3 to 4 players.

Gameplay Mechanics

Crime Hotel is played over three rounds. Each round a new murder happens, and you must find the murderer in one of the hotel rooms. At the start of the round, each player is dealt six room cards. Once each player has their hand, a room card is chosen at random from the remaining cards and placed in the lower right corner of the game board. This is the room were the killer is hiding.

The left-over rooms are placed on the board. The first player plays a room card. Each other player must play a room card on that same floor of the hotel. It has three floors. If they can’t, they play any room card they want. Starting with the highest played room card, each player places one of their meeples in the parking slots at the police station.

The highest card and lowest card will be able to pick either a room, a floor, or a column of rooms were they think the murderer is hiding. The other players will get assistance from the police station. They can look at other players cards, swap cards, move their meeples on the board and other things. The round continues like this until all the cards are laid out and the murderer is revealed. The players score points if they guessed the correct room, floor and column of rooms. After three rounds of play, the player with the highest score wins!

Initial Impressions

Trick-taking games can be a hit or a miss for me. I guess it depends on the theme and how the mechanic is used. Crime Hotel does a great job blending the mechanic and theme, and it also adds a fun deduction element to itself. The game played quickly and was easy to teach to my two kids.

Once we were familiar with the iconography in the police station, we stopped looking in the rulebook for help. We enjoyed it. Is it one that will make it to the table more than something else? Probably not. I think that is because trick taking just isn’t really my thing. But if it is something you really enjoy, then I am sure you will love Crime Hotel.

Game Build Quality

First thing to point out, the hotel “board” is not a board. It is a piece of fabric. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. My kids thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. You do play all the room cards onto the fabric and I was worried it would be weird, but it didn’t bother me. After a few rounds I didn’t even think about it. It worked and it allowed the game to be in a smaller box.

All of the other components are up to standard. Like I said, the box is nice and compact and a great design. Once I got past the fabric board, I had no problems with anything.

Artistic Direction

I really loved the box. It looks great and it sets the theme for the game. All of the artworks fits with the theme and lets the players become involved in the investigation. I wouldn’t say any of it is overly inspiring, but it performs its function well.

I also really like the police station board. It does a great job allowing players to interact with it.

Fun Factor

The thing about Crime Hotel that I enjoyed the most was getting to play it with my kids. They were working really hard to figure out what room the murderer was hiding in. It was tough to figure out until enough room cards had been played.

Having the assistance options from the police station allowed the game to be competitive even for my younger son, because it gave him options to learn more from other player’s cards or allowed him to make changes to his original guesses. It was a fun experience.

Most of the time gaming with my kids is great fun, but every once in a while, we play a game that is a total train wreck. Fortunately, Crime Hotel was lots of fun.

Age Range & Weight

Crime Hotel is recommended for 8+. My son is six and he did a great job keeping up with us. His deduction skills are still being developed, but he figured out that if he played mid-range cards, he could get great help from using the police station.

Both my kids got very involved with the game and wanted to make sure the murderer was caught. It stoked their imaginations and that made it even more entertaining. Crime Hotel is easy tot each and younger players can learn some really great skills and mental processes from playing it.

Conclusions

Crime Hotel should be beloved by fans of the trick-taking genre. It is much more than a trick-taking game, but that mechanic is at the heart of the game. It is a 3-4 player game, so you need to have the right size group to play it. I am lucky that I have a built-in gaming group any evening at my home.

My kids enjoyed Crime Hotel much more than I did, but trick taking is not my favorite genre. With that being said, I still had fun playing and watching my kids. The game did pull them in and made them use their imagination.

I can’t stress enough how important it is for young minds to have something that makes it so easy for them to get lost in, whatever that is gets a big thumbs up from me. In this case it was Crime Hotel.