Back in May, Ludonova made available the PnP files for Arkham Noir: Collector Case #2 -The King in Yellow to offer people some lockdown relief. JW has already written about The Real Leeds case (Eerie Broadcasts), but I wanted to have a go at this game as well. I printed the cards and began the investigation.
My first two tries went awfully bad. I only managed to uncover two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, when the goal is to uncover five. Every case comes with five victims. You start with two, and, as the time passes, more bodies will show up and you have to find out what befell these people. Finding out translates to matching symbols as you place cards next to each other. There is a central 'market' of cards, and you have to accommodate every one of them in order of appearance.
For example, Dr. John Archer the psychoanalyst, one of the victims, requires either an 'interrogation' or an 'eye' symbol to begin solving his story. If the first card in the top row has one of these symbols, you can attach it to the Doctor and start making some progress. Obviously, you won't always get the symbols you need. In that case, you have to discard the unwanted card which often makes you lose time.
To cut a long story short, I managed to find 4 jigsaw pieces on my third and final try for the day. Luck of the draw does play a part but the game also requires you to think. Sometimes you have more than one option in how to handle your cards. You can choose to keep up to 3 cards in your hand, and can even plan ahead a little, knowing that some jigsaw pieces have more difficult requirements than others.
In his post, JW concludes that 'you can totally play this like it's just another abstract Patience variant and connect the symbols. Or you can read the texts and look at the beautiful illustrations. Fill in some gaps in the story that unfolds'. The artwork is indeed amazing, even if some scenes are creepy, and really adds atmosphere to the game. A Jazz soundtrack might fit here too. Is there an emergent narrative, however? Barely. At least for me.
Yes, you can make up a story if you look at the pictures as they lay side by side next to the victim, but this is more likely to happen when you complete a case, not mid-game. Symbol-matching will probably absorb you more while you play. That said, I have enjoyed The King in Yellow a lot. I'm not sure if there is much incentive to play the other cases, considering that they will play similarly, only with different artwork. I do recommend playing at least one of them, though. If PnP isn't your thing, at least Arkham Noir comes in inexpensive small boxes.