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Review: Noir: Automata is a tabletop card game you can quickly pick up and play

Who fancies a game of cops and robbers?

noir automata box and killer versus inspector rule sheet
Image: Ste Knight / KnowTechie
The Good
Great looking cards
An easy game to pick up and play
Four game modes included in the box
The Bad
Some of the actions can be a little difficult to understand
7.5
Overall

If you are interested in embarking on a tabletop gaming journey, then it is always best to start with something uncomplicated. Unlike myself, who started with something that was incredibly detailed in terms of rules and gameplay. A baptism of fire, if you will.

Now, we’re going to look at Noir: Automata from Level 99 Games. Automata is a variation on the original Noir game, which features noir-ish illustrations and characters (as you might expect…). This version features characters from the Automata comic books, published by Penny Arcade and created by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the game from a beginner’s perspective.

What’s in the box?

noir automata box contents and box

Image: Ste Knight / KnowTechie

Before we jump straight into the game, we need to discuss what you get in the box. This is a fairly short card game, once you get to know the rules, with minimal parts and pieces to get your head around. The box contains 25 suspect cards and 25 evidence cards with which you play and four sets of rules. These cover the four different styles of the game you can play.

Each card features a character from the Automata universe, with familiar faces such as Carl Swangee and Same Regal present. The illustrations by Charlie Bates capture the Automata characters perfectly and the cards are a delight to behold and play with.

The games are between two and four players and have different play styles. This means you can select the game type that suits the number of players around your table. This is a detective-style game and so deduction and logic is your best friend here. The rules suggest starting with the easiest two-player game in the box and then playing from there.

Game modes in Noir: Automata

spy hunter game mode

Image: Ste Knight / KnowTechie

As discussed, the game features a total of four game modes. They are all quite similar in terms of the actions you can complete with the cards. However they increase with difficulty and you can play with two, three, or four players depending on the game mode you choose.

Killer Vs Inspector

Players: 2
Difficulty: Easy

Players go head-to-head as the killer and the inspector in this version of the game. Both players can fool each other by donning a “disguise” (basically picking another character card to use as their disguise). The idea is that the killer will move around the deck of cards (laid out in five-by-five formation) and pick off characters while trying to remain hidden.

It is the job of the inspector to hunt the killer down and stop them in their tracks before they wipe out the entire board! If either player discovers which character is the opponent’s, then they win.

Spy Tag

Players: 2-3
Difficulty: Easy

In Spy Tag, players must avoid being caught by their opponents. All participants play as a different spy faction, with the idea being to sleuth out your opponents before they find you first.

The game works in much the same way as Killer Vs Inspector, save for one or two slight changes to the rules. This is a fast-paced, fun game, especially when you have three players involved.

Buddy Cops

Players: 3
Difficulty: Moderate

Buddy Cops is very similar to Killer Vs. Inspector, only this time there are two cops on the hunt for the killer. However, each player will have a different action available to them, so cops must work together if they want to be successful.

Players can use disguises to throw cops off the trail. The killer could strike at any time and may even kill the cops themselves, so it can be a real game of cat and mouse!

Dragnet

Players: 3-4
Difficulty: Moderate

Dragnet is the only game in the box that can be played by up to four people. In this version of the game, all players act as investigators in order to try and solve the case, with cooperation and information sharing being the key to success.

What do we think of Noir: Automata?

the winning hand in a game of Spy Tag

Image: Ste Knight / KnowTechie

We (myself, and my two gaming buddies Helen and Sam) really enjoyed playing Noir: Automata. It is a simple game to set up and start playing and, for the most part, the rules are easy to follow. I say “the most part” as I felt that some of the rules could’ve been explained a little bit better. As it stands they are a teensy bit hard to get your head around as they don’t always spell things out for the player.

I get that this is a detective game, but I shouldn’t have to try and “detect” what some of the actions in the game are actually for. Several of the games include an action called “shifting”, which is essentially moving a row left/right, or a column up/down. In none of the rules does it state why you should perform this action and it took us a while to figure out that this is how you evade capture or find your target.

However, once we were over that hurdle we really enjoyed playing all four of the game types included in the box. The fact that you have several styles of gameplay improves the longevity of the game and means that you can shuffle and play again, without the game being the same as the last, even if you select the same game mode.

The pieces are good quality, laminated cardboard and they feature really nice illustrations. In all, it was great fun to pit our wits against each other and actually use our brains to play. If you’d like to have a go at a couple of tabletop games before you splash out, then you can try a wide variety of board games over on Steam.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite board games? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

Editors’ Recommendations:

Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. It’s one of the ways we keep the lights on here. Click here for more. A sample unit was provided for the purpose of this review.

The Good
Great looking cards
An easy game to pick up and play
Four game modes included in the box
The Bad
Some of the actions can be a little difficult to understand
7.5
Overall
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