Chronicles of Crime Review

Released 2018
Designer David Cicurel
Publisher Lucky Duck Games (Website)
Players 1 – 4
Playing Time 60 – 90 min (depending on the scenario)
Category Mystery Solve
Narrative Mystery
Augmented Reality/VR
Campaign Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

An incredibly immersive yet streamlined mystery-solving experience

The satisfaction involved in solving a mystery is the basis for many types of game. Escape rooms and Mystery games are trendy, but many players find them too easy, too challenging, and/or incredibly complex. Chronicles of Crime from Lucky Duck Games adds a unique twist to the genre, making it accessibly to many new players.

So what is Chronicles of Crime?

In the base game, players become detectives from Scotland Yard and investigate crimes around London. So far, sounding pretty standard.

What makes Chronicles of Crime stand out is a fantastic amount of immersion in the world. Rather than reading some text describing things you find, you actually have to find items and discover their importance yourself!

This is incredibly well implemented, but I need to talk about the mechanics in much greater detail to explain why.

I have the original expansions thanks to Kickstarter, so this box is a little fuller than just the base game

I heard this uses an app and VR. Isn’t this a Video Game?

I did think a lot about adding the Video Game category to this review. Some modern games have really blurred the line between Video and Board games. Sometimes it makes the distinction difficult, especially if you look at particular criteria.

Think of the VR aspect as a gimmick. Nice if you can use it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it. This brings us to the mandatory app.

You need to use a mobile app to read the cards and inspect crime scenes. But the app is a tool, Chronicles of Crime is most definitely a board game. I understand that many players don’t like app-driven board games, but Chronicles of Crime is a game I would suggest you give a go. Doing all this with only physical cards would be a nightmare!

Instead of a deck every scenario, the app lets you resuse components over and over

So how does all this work?

Like many board games, there is a central board. When you first set up the game, it will look very bare and potentially confusing. This is a false first impression – this style makes Chronicles of Crime one of the best group mystery implementations, in my opinion.

Sit people around this, and people are understandably confused

Everything looks pretty blank. You have experts available to call for help, Scotland Yard, your first crime scene, and many empty spaces. Everyone sits around the table, and the first question is almost always “What now?”.

If you were playing Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, you would be told what text you could go to. If this was more like other Mystery board games, you would be told what card to draw.

In Chronicles of Crime, you choose what your next move is. The difference is you don’t go to a page or read a card – you scan the QR Code with the app.

Once you have the main components, the app opens a lot of scenarios for you

From here, you follow the points of the story as you progress. The most significant change to the ‘Choose your own adventure’ style path is you can go anywhere at any time.

Why is that such a big deal? Like it sounds OK, but it’s still a set path.

One of the main advantages of using an app for reading the cards is that the card content can change. Not just for updates/corrections, but for different campaigns as well as times within a campaign.

You don’t need to worry about going to the wrong text block or dealing with 40 stacks of cards. Everything is handled by the app for an incredibly smooth experience.

You not only get location text, but can investiage the scene 'first person' style

Here is a modified example of how this works within the game. You know that a suspect lives in the west side apartments. They work as a dentist in rooms north side.

You decide to go talk to them, but it’s 9pm. If you go to their office, they won’t be there – out of hours. You need to remember to go to their home. This is all you need to remember. You don’t have to take a specific path to get there, or only get the one chance to find the text reference to follow. You just need to remember where to talk to the person, just like in real life.

That sounds interesting. But I see lots of items and clues – wouldn’t they be fixed?

To a degree, yes. But not as much as you would think. Like locations, items and such are just QR codes, so a letter can be one thing in one case, something else entirely in another. Items are not re-used within a scenario, so once you know about it, that’s it.

But finding them is also very immersive. When you go to a location, I can’t think of any times I was told to grab an item card by the app. This may be misleading though, as finding items the ‘normal’ way is so much more fun.

When you investigate an area, the phone becomes a viewfinder showing you what is around you. People assume everyone just searches a photo – this is not the case.

The text description depends on the scenario you are playing

Instead, one person stands up and explores a 360-degree image and shouts out to other players what they see. Items mentioned are then pulled from the Item deck for clarification later by the app.

This is a fun almost mini-game within Chronicles of Crime, but there is a drawback. Only one person can investigate a scene at a time. This is pretty easy to enforce – only one person has the phone and can move it around.

But if the person investigating thinks something was unimportant and didn’t call it out, important clues can be missed. This is great for immersion but can be frustrating to the group that the item needed to progress is missing.

Others can re-examine the scene – it just costs you in-game time. When playing again, you quickly learn to shout our EVERYTHING you see, but that first game can end in a downer if you don’t know it’s possible to miss items.

This is also where the VR element comes in.

When you are investigating a scene, you can get a 3D viewer that attaches to your phone. You can also send the scene to a 3D advice, such as the Oculus Quest.

These are nice touches, but honestly, I would only use the feature if you have the equipment. I wouldn’t go out of my way to use them or buy the ability to see scenes in 3D.

The scene with your phone always works well and is quick to jump into the action. Not having to attach the viewer or put on a VR headset keeps the pace going nicely.

They do come with an extra scenario, but I wouldn't call the viewer necessary

What about replayability? That’s always a problem with Mystery games.

Once you solve a mystery, it does make it hard to play again. Playing through to find missing info or beat your score is one thing, but the feeling isn’t there.

Even if you only have the base game though, there are many options available to you. Because the card content can be changed, one area or overall scenario comes with a few cases. This maximises what you get in the box before needing expansions.

There is also a scenario editor, meaning that people can create their own adventures that can be shared. Lucky Duck also adds their own scenarios, and these are accessed similar to in-app purchase for free.

Making the Scenario Editor open to the community opens the door to lots of adventures

Important note: As I backed the full level, I could be misremembering the cost. But the extras’ beauty is you don’t need anything new – you have all the components already.

The downside to the scenario editor is you do need a little bit of technical knowledge to make the most out of it. You also need to be able to create a 360 image, something that not everyone can do.

Even if creating your own is out of the question, you can get quite a few cases out of the base game before diving into expansions territory.

What do the expansions offer?

I am not delving into the expansions as this is just a review of the base game. That said, sometimes you want to buy a new game, and grab the expansions to be ready for the ‘full’ experience. You don’t need to do this for Chronicles of Crime unless you want to skip the base London based locations and go straight to a new area.

The expansions have new items, locations, and people. This allows you to go to new areas for a bit of variety. There are also some small rule tweaks to make the new cases stand out.

In the future, I may do a review on the expansions. I don’t think so though, as they are just new additions to the system described in the base game here.

I have recieved the new expansions, that play with Time!

Each expansion makes for entirely new scenarios, which is excellent for expanding the universe. It also means you don’t need to buy each and every one. You can enjoy the base game to it’s fullest, and then grab an expansion that sounds cool if you want to keep playing.

Chronicles of Crime

Overall Thoughts

Chronicles of Crime is part great narrative mystery game, part solid foundation for an amazing gaming system. Yes, the app’s use to drive the game can make some gamers overlook this great game. If you ever wished games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective had more choice, you need to try Chronicles of Crime.

Unlike many other adventure games, the clever use of QR codes allows you to play many more adventures than advertised on the box, and with some technical savvy, you can even create your own adventures.

As a narrative mystery-solving game, Chronicles of Crime is easily the standard that developers need to look towards as the system to beat.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • The layout of the adventure becomes almost a mindmap, meaning you don’t need to take detailed notes throughout a case.
  • Using VR style scene investigations adds both player challenge and incredible immersion.
  • Because the card contents change per case, players don’t have forewarning of information from case to case allowing great component reuse.
  • Players can make their own scnarios.

Cons

  • The game is app-driven, meaning that at some point you may not be able to play Chronicles of Crime.
  • Creating your own adventures does require technical knowledge.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
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