St. Noire – Oldschool Detective Work in a Board Game

Can You Stop The Murderer?

The premise of St. Noire is fairly simple – a killer is on the loose and will be taking more lives if you can’t stop this person in time. What makes this board game intriguing is the use of Amazon’s Alexa skill which allows the players to interact with a randomized storyline.

When I read the description on Amazon, I knew I had to try this one out. Here’s what I’ve learned from my first two playthroughs.

Unboxing

The packaging for the game is sleek and inviting. You’ll see some smart color choices for the cover art and a simplistic design behind the game’s title banner. On the back of the box, the makers include a brief description of the game and a summary of the box contents.

When you lift the lid, the board rests atop the cutout which holds the game pieces: instruction manual/notepad, instruction card, character cards, weapon tokens, and a pencil. Everything is nicely displayed in its own section of the box. You get more of the same city design from the box cover.

Overall, unboxing this game builds anticipation for the murder drama and sets the tone for detective mode. I appreciate the small details in the game cards and the color palette of the board. A+ here.

Setup

Preparing the board is very straightforward. After laying out the board game, you group the weapon tokens by type (black side up). The character cards are placed ‘Suspicious’ side up in a layout that you can see each of them.

One thing I’ve already seen people complain about is the fact that you need an Alexa-powered device AND the board game. Apparently, you can install the Alexa skill on your device and then do an introduction to the game.

There will always be people out there who don’t read so I’m not sure how the developers can fix this. I’d propose having the player scan a QR code on the board game to get started.

Gameplay

There’s a hidden weapon at each location. You need to figure out which location has a weapon that matches the type that the victim was killed with (firearm, poison, bladed, blunt). Additionally, you’ll need to deduce who was in the location to find your killer.

Everyone starts out as a suspect and players will have a chance to clarify who is ‘honest’ based on the responses to specific questions (prefaced by saying ‘Alexa’ to start your interrogation):

  • Question [character] – bring someone in for questioning
  • Where were you? – hear the suspect’s description of where he/she was on the night of the murder
  • Who was at [location]? – ask the suspect about who they say at a neighboring location
  • Examine [location] – find a weapon at that location
  • I accuse [character] of murder! – a correct accusation solves the case | get it wrong and that’s game over
  • How was the victim killed? – get a reminder about the murder weapon
  • What night is it? – tells the player the current night
St. Noire Setup
St. Noire board game from Amazon

You can ask a total of three questions per night (asking Alexa to question a character, repeat the murder weapon or tell you the night doesn’t count towards these actions). After 7 nights, they either catch the killer and save the day or the murderer goes free to continue murdering. As an added bonus, the killer strikes a second time within these 7 nights!

The voice acting is exceptional and the characters sound exactly as they look on their respective cards. The game forces you through a tutorial mystery that helps explain how to play. I wish there was an option to skip this thought since the rules are intuitive.

As we made our rounds questioning suspects and finding murder weapons, it felt as though there was a good bit of luck involved in the game. If you start your questioning/searching in the wrong spot, it becomes very difficult to actually catch the killer within 7 nights.

Games go by quickly (each of ours was about 20 minutes) and you can start up a new mystery within minutes. The box says St. Noire is for ages 12+ but it seems more geared to a 20+ crowd.

Where the Game Needs an Upgrade

When you market something as an “AI murder mystery game”, I expect the AI component to be fairly robust, especially when the game is twice as expensive as some of the most well-reviewed games on the site. You’re limited by the number of stock questions in the game. It seems the AI piece is just the fact that you can interact with Alexa.

I’d like to have more options in terms of commands and types of questions to add to the complexity and replayability of the game. this would shift the dynamics to more of a sandbox mode from what I’ve experienced to be a linear story.

I also want to see random events happen within the 7 nights. The second murder is a nice touch and it’d be cool to hear Alexa talk about the ongoing suspicious activity as you play through the rounds.

While the devs are at it, they should fix whatever bugs are causing the Alexa skill to crash/freak out. In our second game, the ‘AI’ got stuck in an endless loop as though all the other responses had been deleted. While it was hilarious, it meant losing our progress in the game.

Final Verdict

St. Noire is an ambitious game, with a high ceiling given the upgradeability of Alexa skills. The game has a beautiful design. I think it can appeal to a wide variety of gamers. At times, I actually felt like a real detective while listening to the suspects’ alibis.

I didn’t see much value in having more than one person play the game at a given time. The team essentially agrees on a subsequent question and then needs one person to talk to Alexa. This is another area that could use improvement, possibly by giving each player a different detective bonus ability.

St. Noire delivers on the surface-level detective aspects with incredible cinematics but could use a boost in the depth department. I’ve enjoyed the first couple of playthroughs of the game and will need some game mechanic upgrades really recommend this to friends.

If you’re a mystery junkie, you should probably pick this up right now. Otherwise, wait for a price drop and some software updates. 

Ultimately, I’m glad I tried it but needs improvements: 3/5

Have you tried St. Noire? Thinking about picking it up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

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