Ugly Gryphon Inn

Spend a Night at the ‘Ugly Gryphon Inn’

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Welcome! Come in, come in. Find a seat at the bar and grab some mutton and an ale. Then, afterward, stay the night at the Ugly Gryphon Inn.

What Is Ugly Gryphon Inn?

Ugly Gryphon Inn is a solo-only card game for ages 8 and up, and takes about 15-20 minutes to play. Ugly Gryphon Inn was designed by Scott Almes and published by Button Shy, with illustrations by Ardhialh. It is the second game in Button Shy’s Simply Solo series and you can purchase a copy of the game directly from the publisher for $12.

Ugly Gryphon Inn Components

Like all Button Shy games, Ugly Gryphon Inn comes in a durable, vinyl wallet. And like most of their games, it only includes 18 cards plus a fold-out rules pamphlet. That’s it. In Ugly Gryphon Inn, each card represents a unique fantasy-themed patron who is visiting your establishment. You never know who is going to stop on by. Perhaps, the Bloody Barbarian or the Clumsy Wizard. Even the Bunny Prince stops by for a drink now and then. The quality of the wallet and cards are both fantastic. They are extremely durable, easy to travel with (just slip it into your pocket), and there is room in the wallet to hold additional expansion cards. I know because I bought some and will tell you about them later. In the meantime, have another drink while I tell you more about the Ugly Gryphon Inn.

Ugly Gryphon Inn components
Components | Image by Michael G. Pistiolas

How to Play Ugly Gryphon Inn

The Goal

As the innkeeper, your goal is to get at least 7 of the inn’s rowdy patrons comfortably settled into their rooms by the end of the evening (otherwise known as when the deck is empty). However, given the oddities of the clientele, this is not a simple task as you shall see.


Before beginning, it’s important to understand the card layout. In addition to the charming artwork for each character, the cards also list that guest’s bar preference, quirks, unique irks, and irk effect. The bar preferences and quirks are represented with symbology along the bottom of the card while the irks and effects are spelled out to the right.

Ugly Gryphon Inn card layout
Card layout | Image by Button Shy
  • Bar preference: Each character enjoys either food or drink. So what will it be? Do you want a turkey leg or a strong ale?
  • Quirks: Each character has one of 3 quirks—likes to start fights, makes loud noises, or emits strong odors. This isn’t an establishment you want to bring your mom to.
  • Irks: There are 2 types of irks. The first is checked when a new guest gets settled at the inn and the second is checked each time new characters arrive at the bar.
  • Effects: The effect is only triggered when a guest’s irk is met. These are thematic and often change the game state, causing characters to leave the inn or change floors.

To set up a game of Ugly Gryphon Inn, simply shuffle all 18 patron cards together and then draw the top 4, flipping them face up in a line on the table. This is your bar where you can get to know your clientele. Keep the rest of the deck at hand and have a clear space to the side to place guests that decide to stay at the inn.

Ugly Gryphon Inn setup
Game setup | Image by Michael G. Pistiolas


Rounds in Ugly Gryphon Inn consist of two phases: the Inn Phase and the Bar Phase.

Inn Phase: First, select and remove one patron to leave the bar, adding them to the inn, which is represented by vertically placing patrons to the side. After showing a patron to their room, you must check on all of your guests to make sure that they are still happy with their accommodations. Starting at the top of the inn, examine each patron’s inn irk to see if the conditions are met. If so, trigger their effect. Continue doing this until you reach the ground floor.

Bar Phase: During this second phase, more people enter the bar. Reveal cards from the deck until a total of four patrons are sitting there again. Then if three or more of the same quirk is represented, beginning at the top of the inn again, check each patron and if they have the matching irk, trigger their effect.

After the Bar Phase, if more patrons are waiting to enter, order up another round (put this one on the Time Mage’s tab).

Ugly Gryphon Inn game play
Play cards into your inn | Image by Michael G. Pistiolas

Game End

The game ends after you complete the Bar Phase and the deck is empty. At that point, if you have at least 7 patrons still staying at the inn, you win! Additionally, if anytime during the game, 8 or more patrons have left the inn, the game immediately ends and you lose. And the Ugly Gryphon Inn becomes known for miles around as a poor place to visit and eventually falls into disrepair and you wander the wilderness until the end of your days, wondering what went wrong.

Why You Should Play Ugly Gryphon Inn

I have recently discovered Button Shy’s wallet games and have been loving the few I’ve tried. They fill a niche in my gaming life that was previously empty. That is a small, easily transportable game that doesn’t take up much table space, and can be played solo and quickly. The fact that their games are stored in wallets makes them a must-grab any time I travel. I throw this game into my backpack or travel bag whenever I leave for a trip, knowing that if I get a few minutes to myself, I can quickly play a game.

Additionally, the small nature of the game also means that the rules tend to be simple and quick to learn. Even if it’s been a while between plays, it’s quick to remember how each game plays after a quick glance through the rules. 

In the case of Ugly Gryphon Inn, what initially drew me to this game was the fantasy theme and eccentric characters. Ardhialh’s artwork is just charming and each patron plays very thematically. There is a good variety to the cast of characters, ranging from a trio of pesky goblin brothers to a Teetotal Nun. Additionally, the graphic design is excellent and easy to follow. I find the artwork for the game simply clean and beautiful.

Ugly Gryphon Inn Indecisive Doppleganger
Image by Michael G. Pistiolas

Although there are only 18 cards, the game still makes you think. Every round, you have to make a decision for what is best, based on the current game state. The more you play, the more you will remember the specifics about each card and find yourself trying to play around certain situations. But no matter how good of a game you are having, the wrong guest entering the bar can completely destroy you, setting off a chain reaction of effects that depletes your inn as guests leave in droves.

And if 18 cards are not enough for you, Ugly Gryphon Inn has a couple of small expansions—More Patrons and Local Dragons. The first expansion adds 3 new characters to the game, the Thirsty Genie, the Weary Werewolf, and the Crabby King. These new customers are even more demanding than the other patrons. To use this expansion, just shuffle them into the deck; however, now you need to have 8 guests remaining at your inn at the end of the game to be successful. This expansion is a great way to ratchet up the difficulty without changing the rules or adding much time to the overall gameplay. 

More Patrons expansion
More Patrons expansion | Image by Michael G. Pistiolas

As if managing an inn wasn’t stressful enough, the Local Dragons expansion introduces elder dragons into the game. There is Fury the Black, Sleepy the Grey, and Nostrilius the Red. One of these dragons has come to reside near the inn, and if your customers disturb their slumber, beware! The dragon wakes and burns the Ugly Gryphon Inn to the ground, probably with you still inside. At the beginning of the game, select one of these dragons and place it next to the bar. Whenever a patron leaves the inn, if their quick matches the dragon’s quirk, place that card below the dragon. If there are ever 3 or more matching quirks, the dragon is angered and you are out of a place of employment. Each dragon has a standard side, requiring 3 matching quirks to trigger their wrath and a harder side that only requires 2 matching quirks. If playing with this expansion, manage your customers well, or risk the dragon’s wrath!

Local Dragons expansion
Local Dragons expansion | Image by Michael G. Pistiolas

All in all, I have really enjoyed this microgame. Ugly Gryphon Inn brings a lot of charm and fun packed into a wallet. I also admire Button Shy’s philosophy and am happy to support this small publisher. They focus on microgames that are simple to learn and quick to play, with great artwork and themes. They also hand-assemble every game, which is just impressive! They release a new game monthly, so they aren’t all going to be winners, but Ugly Gryphon Inn is one of their best in my book… or wallet.

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