I usually don’t review solo games for Smorgasboard because...well, I don’t know why, actually. I play quite a few of them. I guess because I imagine most people who click here are looking for games to play with others.
But sometimes, whether due to circumstance or mood, you find yourself looking for a diversion and don’t want to just muck around on the latest level of Bejeweled or whatever. Actually, solo games are great when you want to play at your own pace without worrying about pissing off other people with your analysis paralysis. You can take your time leisurely figuring out your next move.
Arkham Noir is a perfect example of this kind of game, which also has the virtue of a compelling theme which Ottawa designer Yves Tourigny (Blueprints; Expedition Northwest Passage) has brought to life with some simple hand and deck management mechanics and some excellent black-and-white artwork (some of which he did himself).
As you would guess from the title you’re a gumshoe in a Lovecraftian world who starts the game with two open murder cases and not a lot of leads. Your job is to amass enough clues from those murders (and others which will inevitably occur during the game) to tie everything together into a compelling enough Big Picture to, one assumes, call in the investigators from Elder Signs to finish off the job.
Every turn you must take the leftmost card from the evidence row and either tossing it, adding it to your hand (and playing a different card to the table), or using it to solve a case. Each murder victim has its own row, and you can only add a card to a row if its left-hand icon matches one of the right-hand icons on the previous card. Add enough cards with enough different clue types and you solve the case. Of course, it is never as simple as that. When you play a card you usually must also perform the action at the bottom. Sometimes that action is helpful, allowing you to shift cards around between table and hand, or allowing you to pick up extra cards. Other times, it’s something Bad, like a Sanity check. You must avoid accumulating too much insanity (this being Arkham and all) or by taking so much time that the bodies pile up.
Arkham Noir is simple to learn but challenging to play and endlessly replayable. Other cases are going to be released which will allow you to play a campaign of sorts which gives your detective extra powers as they solve more cases. It’s portable, doesn’t take up too much table space, and the artwork is spot-on for theme. Click here to order your copy of Arkham Noir Case #1.