Full disclosure: A review copy of Chronicles of Crime: Noir was provided by Lucky Duck Games.
Alright, let’s dig into another game this week. This one’s an expansion to Lucky Duck’s super-successful Chronicles of Crime series, and it’s Noir-themed! Unfortunately, it’s a bit more serious than my personal favorite Noir: Spider-Man Noir from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but what can you do? Let’s dive right in and see what hardboiled PI stuff we need to solve.
In Chronicles of Crime: Noir, it’s noir times and you’re a regular gumshoe, pitted up against the worst this city has to offer. Honestly, even writing Noir isn’t my specialty and that felt weak, so I’m just going to transition off of it to something a bit more straightforward. Look, you’re broke. You need some work, and the city is literally full of crime. People will pay you to solve some of them, which is great because, again, you’re broke. Can you put your smarts to the test and crack a few cases? Or will you end up running afoul of the wrong people?
Just like the base game, you’re going to want to download the app, but this time you’ll hit the Noir menu:
Very noir. It even has its own soundtrack! You’ll still want the board from the base game:
You’ll also want the previous game’s Evidence Cards and Special Items.
This time, set the actions nearby, instead of the Forensic Friends:
These allow you to Bribe, Shadow, Intimidate, and Break In! Very noir. There are, of course, new Locations:
New Special Items, which I’ve not photographed for Spoiler Reasons, and new Characters, but you can punch them this time! Very noir.
Choose a game, set your starting location below the board, and you should be ready to start!
The game plays pretty similarly to the base game. You’ll essentially spend a lot of the game scanning cards with your phone:
You’ll do this to talk to people, move to locations, ask people about other things, and get evidence into your purview. Unfortunately, since this is Noir Times, you don’t have access to things like a hacker or a fancy blood testing kit; you’re just a hardboiled PI with some Very Reductive Views of Women. Again, very noir.
At certain locations, you’ll be able to search for clues by going into a gyro-controlled 3D mode that allows you to look around and have other players throw Evidence Cards near you so that you can scan them in once you’ve been able to look thoroughly. That’s the same as the base game.
I mentioned your actions previously, but there’s one important one that bears digging into a bit: Bribe. You may find that some money can loosen lips for you, but money is a finite resource for you; once it’s out, you can’t Bribe anymore! That’s definitely a bummer.
One thing I have noticed is that there’s more of an event structure in this game than the base game; shops have open and close times, characters move around a lot more, and random events tend to pop up. As with many things, keep an eye out! Also, your actions can open a lot of doors, but they may also close some, permanently. Make sure you don’t get in with the wrong people, or you could pretty easily end up dead! Very noir.
Once you think you can solve the case, go back to your office and crack it! If you can solve the case, you win!
Player Count Differences
There aren’t that many differences, given that, like the base game, one player controls the phone at all times. Everyone not holding the phone is, in a sense, an adviser that the player holding the phone can wholly disregard, if they so choose. Wouldn’t recommend that, but being a loose cannon that doesn’t play by the rules is also, very noir. What I would suggest is passing the phone clockwise every time you change locations, so that no player is getting to monopolize the whole being a hardboiled PI scene. That said, I’d probably still max this out at two or three; there’s not a ton for other players to do when they’re not holding the phone.
This is again, going to be pretty similar to the base game, but it’s still worth going through the newer bits of strategy.
- You’ve got new actions. Make use of them. This is pretty much the most important piece of advice I can give you in the Noir expansion. There’s a lot of new content, but the most important thing is that the way you interact with the world changes now that you don’t have a department-authorized forensics team backing you up. Instead, you may have to bribe people if you want them to talk, so you should try to never have less than $20; if you do, you can’t bribe and you might miss your window. You can intimidate people physically if you want to get something out of them; just make sure you don’t try to intimidate the wrong people or else the wrong person might get beaten up. Shadowing someone is a useful way to figure out if they’re lying, but, it also takes way too long to do so; only use it if you’ve got a bunch of time to spare, otherwise you’ll rapidly fall behind the power curve. The last one is breaking in, and breaking is is a super useful way to figure out where things are and what’s going on, but, also, it’s a very good way to get murdered by the person whose place you just broke into. Be smart about your actions and you’l usually be fine.
- The game will give you a bunch of information around times. Make sure you keep track of it. This is one that I usually end up forgetting. It will tell you things like what time stores open and close, what time people are home, and what time people’s restaurant reservations are. Those are all pretty crucial to getting information, so don’t forget them! Also, people will ask you to call them back at specific times; do that also.
- Similarly, events are going to pop up a bunch during the game; pay attention to what activates them and make sure you avail yourself of them. These are just helpful to keep track of (or sometimes critical; there’s definitely one where a car will explode if you hang out in one place for too long and, while your character would say that his weaknesses are like, “dames and booze” or something Vaguely Okay At That Time Of Society, he’s definitely weak to car explosions. They’ll just kill him dead.
- There’s often more than one way to accomplish your goals. I mean, in addition to being good narrative game design, this kind of makes sense. The more people you help, the more likely they’ll help you. You may just need to help them with money, or by beating them up. I haven’t tried beating up everyone but it seems like it would definitely be A Move.
- Don’t die. I haven’t figured out how to do this yet, but I’m really excited to try it in the game.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, the music was a fun touch. Very noir.
- I like the additional actions as a way of interacting with the game. I think it makes it feel a bit more authentic, as though your character has an unhealthy relationship with violence and crime and solves all his problems with toxic masculinity and it generally works out for him because that’s the time period. Very noir.
- The events and timing make your personal journey through the game feel more authentic. I like that — I think they did it in the original Chronicles of Crime, but it feels more fleshed out, here. Even though you’re only interacting with the game’s world through small vignettes, they feel very vibrant as characters move around and state changes occur.
- The expansion fits in the main game box! I’m always a big fan of that. The next one will, too.
- Having the game set in an earlier time period does force you to think about the puzzles in a different way, which I appreciated. You can’t just call your hacker to break into everything, and since you’re not a cop, you don’t have access to basically any forensics. You can occasionally make friends with a police officer, but you have to be a lot more independently resourceful if you want to get the case solved.
- It’s not particularly diverse. I think they justify it somewhat in the rulebook by saying that this is reflective of the time period, but it’s still almost tokens, essentially, which is surprising for 30’s LA.
- The app has a number of weird text display bugs. It’ll occasionally have characters interrupt themselves with unintelligible strings of Unicode characters, which is an interesting distraction. It seems like the text wasn’t sanitized properly, and that can really kill the flow of the app.
- It can lean a bit too heavily into “Noir tropes”, often to the detriment of having a surprising narrative. I once did an escape room that was Alice in Wonderland-themed, and one of my coworkers who was also participating was stuck on a puzzle and needed three characters to solve it. I went to the lock, set it to M-A-D, pulled the lock and it opened. That was dissatisfying. It’s fun to play around in certain spaces, but you shouldn’t rely too much on those kinds of winks and nudges, lest it make your puzzles less interesting to solve.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Chronicles of Crime: Noir is pretty solidly fun! I think where it succeeds is presenting a new spin on the now-classic formula; now, events and actions dominate your scope as you try to use your limited resources (and your $20 starting money) to solve some pretty big crimes. I almost appreciate that you operate independently from the police, as it allows for more interesting (and less legal, unsurprisingly) interactions between characters. That said, I’m not the biggest Noir person, and this is pretty standard Noir by anyone’s metric, at least in the games I’ve played. It makes me want to play Automata NOIR, where the Noir elements are interspersed with robots, or some spin on it that mixes two genres, which is generally more up my alley. The app scenarios also could have used another round of QA, based on the weird Unicode dumps I keep getting when I play. Thematically, I’m probably most looking forward to the next expansion, since it reminds me favorably of Spy Club, another “kids solve crimes” game that I really enjoyed previously. If you’re a big fan of Noir, though, or you just want to expand your Chronicles of Crime experience (and I don’t blame you; I quite enjoy the game), I’ve pretty solidly enjoyed Chronicles of Crime: Noir! I’m looking forward to what’s next for the series.