This top-notch product is one of the better player's guides for one of the better Savage Suzerain lines. Let's break it down.
For just about as long as there have been RPGs with GMs and players there has been a division between player and GM material. This division supposedly existed to keep players from thinking about the game outside the mindset of their characters; for me, this helped about as much as learning to play chess by really trying to get into the mindset of the rook. It makes a lot of sense when you're smoking weed.
Or maybe there were business reasons. There's a lot more players in the world than GMs and so it makes sense to try to sell things to them. So let's put "Player's Guide" on the front of the book we're trying to sell to everyone.
Eventually I got tired of this. How am I supposed to know how to play the game when what the creative director, the GM, is supposed to do in the game is hidden from me? And the same was true for me as the GM. Games began to be more open with their methodologies and my games benefited for it.
However, after the development of open and relaxed game licensing in the early days of the 21st century, player's guides made a resurgence, since they no longer had to get across a whole new methodology of play. Instead, they instructed players on how to use their familiar tools and mechanics in order to achieve a new or more specialized goal. You didn't need to know how to play D&D3 all over again, but learning how to play this cool new class in this cool new fantasy world was worth talking about.
Into this new tradition comes the Noir Knights Player's Guide. I should note straightaway that the Noir Knights is my favorite of the universes of the Suzerain Continuum, a cross-worlds setting in which science fiction heroes can contend with mysterious fantasy wizzards, I mean wizards. As with many such cross-worlds settings, it doesn't quite bring together the reasons people might want to play a fantasy game or a sf game, but that's a review for another time.
Suffice to say that the reason I like Noir Knights the best is because it quickly and effectively establishes a style and communicates it well to the players. The world of the Noir Knights is like the American Depression, though dark forces are at work and the player characters are the only ones that can stand in its way.
I was very excited to see the Bonus Army march of spring 1932 as the catalyst for the beginning of the game and an emphasis on WWI veterans as a core membership of the player characters' Mysterious Group. And with the other significant faction of the game being based on a strange-science immigrant's work in a small town in Florida, the stage is set for a unique type of game. The player characters in most X-Files-esque supernatural-investigation games are backed by (say) a faceless government organization, they are often Company Men or active military with the best at their disposal, necessary against the weirdness right outside their doorstep. Night's Black Agents is a typical example of this.
Noir Knights is different. In Noir Knights player characters are run down to nothing, gassed by their own government for asking for fair pay, or for a widow's share. They are outcasts from normal society and may ride the rails or be the creepy old guy in a shack outside town who runs a huge metal pole out of the top of his homestead every time there's a lightning storm. The government has taken them on not because they're so thrilled with them but because if they don't the communists might get them; and besides, the authorities really are helpless as to what's going on, and the "ruizologists" and the "railwalkers", the thrown-away scum on the bottom of America's boot are the only ones that seem to be able to figure out what's going on.
In this setup I can easily get not just a cool character concept, but I can situate that concept in the world firmly. I know what it's going to be if I was a fresh faced draftee in 1917 - I know what it's going to be if I'm a Negro barnstorming boxer in a railyard - I know what it's going to be if I'm a forward-looking woman aviator. It's going to be contempt from our superiors, who are helpless against the real threat. I absolutely can't wait.
In fact, if there was anything that can be improved in the Noir Knights Player's Guide is that I feel like this core story needs to be brought to the fore more explicitly. There should be something - perhaps in the introduction, or in the gazetteer section - explicitly laying out why it matters to me, the player, that it was Bonus Army veterans and not Army regulars that are in this organization, why it matters that it's rail-riding castoffs that recognize the magical patterns of America and not President Roosevelt's technocratic educated elite. I think this is the key to why Noir Knights appeals to me so much, and the more it was explained and put both-feet-forward in the text I think the better it would be.
In general, this is a really solid Player's Guide, one of the best of this new era of player's guides based more around individual expression than mechanical explanation. It's highly recommended.