Chronicles of Crime: Investigating Game Changing Brilliance
It isn’t often that a board game is released that changes game mechanics in a dramatic, noticeable way. These games are exciting, remarkable, and iconic. They often capture the essence of their predecessors but with unique twists that leave players wanting more. Chronicles of Crime is one of these games.
Chronicles of Crime is a narrative detective thriller for 1-4 players ages 12+. Game length is listed at 60 minutes, but we’ve found it takes a little longer depending on team size.
At first glance, the unique hook of Chronicles of Crime is the need for the download of a mobile app. The free app is available on iOS and Android and worked for us on both iPhone and iPad. This is a required app, so make sure to download it before beginning your first play session.
Setting up the physical game is simple. Place the evidence board in the middle of the table with the Home Location (usually Scotland Yard) at the bottom. Place the Character cards, Special Item cards, Evidence Category cards, and the other Location cards in their own respective piles. Share the four Forensic Contact cards (the Criminologist, Scientist, Hacker, and Doctor) between the players.
The first thing players will notice when setting up Chronicles of Crime is the presence of QR Codes on every card. These codes drive the narrative game play through the smart device app.
To begin, players select the case and scenario they want to play in the app and start it. The narrative begins there, giving the players the necessary components to begin their case investigation. In the first few scenarios this happens in Scotland Yard with the Chief Officer. The scenarios begin with a case summary and initial Location for the players to travel to.
Players start conversations with People in their Location by scanning the QR code on the Person card. This puts the app in Interrogation mode. While in Interrogation mode players can scan any other non-location card to ask the person about that item.
Players can also scan the Forensic Contact cards to call the respective contacts about Evidence they’ve found. Be sure to find the right expert for your evidence!
Players can also travel to different Locations by scanning the QR Codes on those cards. As players travel from place to place, the app narrative introduces the scene.
If the location is a crime scene, the app presents the players with the opportunity to Search for Clues. In this timed mode, the player looks through the phone at a 360 degree picture of the crime scene. The player lists everything they see and another player pulls cards from the Evidence Card stack that match. Lucky Duck offers an optional VR module that clips onto the phone, making the view three-dimensional for a more immersive feel. Players can scan these Evidence Cards after they’ve searched the room to learn more or discover it isn’t relevant.
As players search Crime Scenes, find Evidence, and Interrogate People, they’ll begin to piece together the details of the crime they’re investigating. Players can scan Evidence while in Interrogation mode to attempt to ferret out additional information.
Once the players believe they have pieced together the case, they return to Scotland Yard to provide their report. After clicking “Solve the Case!” in Scotland Yard, the app presents the user with a series of questions to determine how much they actually learned. Players gain points by answering these questions correctly. Each case has a point threshold for success.
Although the game is entirely turn based each step the players take takes in-game time. Traveling from one Location to another takes twenty minutes of game time. Assessing a piece of Evidence or Interrogating someone takes five minutes. Some scenarios have shorter time limits than others.
Chronicles of Crime is an impressive cooperative adventure. Borrowing heavily from the narrative mechanics of games like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Lucky Duck Games has built a system in Chronicles of Crime that is in many ways more immersive, but definitely more expandable.
For example, in one scenario, after we left the location of one of our contacts, we received a call from Scotland Yard informing us the contact’s location had exploded and the contact killed. This kind of immersive game play simply wasn’t available in this kind of game before now.
The app has worked perfectly for us, with no issues picking up the QR codes via the scanner and no problems with the fluidity of the application. The combination of Lucky Duck Games with their digital partner EVERYDAYiPLAY is evident here with solid programming, exceptional digital art, and seamless integration from game execution to in-app purchases.
Surprisingly, the physical game doesn’t include any of the actual narrative elements. Lucky Duck Games did an incredible job crafting a flexible game system that can support many different cases. London’s Forensic, which comes with the base game, has three scenarios, each of which with a number of cases. Players can unlock five more scenarios via in-app purchases. Without forcing users to buy more cardboard, Lucky Duck Games can make more cases available immediately. A successful case investigation could lead to impulse purchasing new content, instantly and without leaving the table.
There are also empty spots in the box with icons we haven’t yet seen. This suggests physical expansions are planned as well.
Chronicles of Crime represents a sea-change in the collaborative investigation game genre. Whenever this level of change happens, there will always be room for growth. When playing, the game felt a lot less collaborative than it should, since everything focused on the single player who was scanning with the app. We had to pass the smart device around to make sure we all felt included. This was the most significant detractor to the game. Instead of a truly collaborative adventure, it felt like each person was taking their turn being the singular hero.
Expansions that enabled the synchronization and use of multiple devices at the same time would be fascinating, enabling the team to split up, perform investigations, and come together later.
Chronicles of Crime is a game designed to be consumed by more mature audiences. Without spoiling anything, the scenarios we played included kidnapping, murder, fraud, and drugs. It’s up to parents to determine what they are comfortable with their children seeing, and so the 12+ rating on the box is definitely subjective to the family.
This is actually one of the benefits to the narrative being limited to a single device – parents can edit on the fly if there is content they want to control.
Should the content not be an issue, Chronicles of Crime is a fascinating detective romp through the seedier sides of London. The minutes melt away as you dig deeper into the mysteries of why certain events took place and how the dominoes fell. I am incredibly impressed with the craft displayed by David Cicurel and the staff at Lucky Duck Games.
Pick up Chronicles of Crime for under $40 at Amazon, or ask at your local game store.
The Family Gamers received a promotional copy of Chronicles of Crime for this review.
Chronicles of Crime
Number of Players: 1-4
Age Range: 12+
Playtime: 60-90 minutes