Chronicles of Crime

I was following a hunch, nothing more; I’d come up against a brick wall and had nothing else to go on. I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was, and how they’d pulled it off, but I had no motive and it would appear that they never had the opportunity!

But my hunch says they weren’t where they said they were; now all I have to do is prove it – not as easy as I first thought!

Chronicles of Crime
  • Designer: David Cicurel
  • Publisher: Lucky Duck Games
  • Year Released: 2018
  • Players: 1-4
  • Playing Time: 60-90
  • Ages: 12+
  • Recommended Retail Price: £29.99

In Chronicles of Crime the players use their deductive skills to try and solve the crimes. Using an App to drive the story, they can investigate the scene of crime, interrogate suspects, or even ask for help from a team of forensic experts. Are you the next Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or Miss Marple? Or are you more of an Inspector Clouseau?

This review is totally spoiler free – the less you know about the cases, the better they’ll be!


What’s in the box?

Chronicles of Crime
  • 1 Evidence board
  • 17 Location boards
  • 4 Forensic contact boards
  • 55 Character cards
  • 37 Evidence category cards
  • 15 Special item cards

How does it play?

If you’re familiar with how the game plays, then feel free to follow your instincts to, ‘So, what do I think?’

The first thing you need to do is download the App, which is currently available for Android and Apple devices.

Set-up is really simple:

Place the Evidence board in the centre of the table, and the character and special item cards face down off to one side.

Chronicles of Crime -Evidence board
The Evidence board

The evidence category cards should be placed face up within easy reach of all the players.

The forensic contact cards can either be distributed amongst the players, or placed within easy reach of everyone.

Place the home location at the bottom of the evidence board.

To start a game simply enter the App and choose the scenario you would like to play. You will be given an introduction where you maybe introduced to some characters, new locations, or given some evidence to check out.

Chronicles of Crime
Choose your scenario.

From here it really is up to you how you wish to proceed.

You could move locations by scanning the Q code through the App, likewise you can speak to characters, learn more about evidence, or ask your forensic contacts for their opinion.

When you speak to a witness/suspect, after scanning in their code to initiate the conversation, you can then scan evidence codes, or even other characters codes, and they will tell you what they know (or maybe they won’t!).

On occasion you’ll be given the chance to search the scene. To do this one person takes control of the device and enters search mode. Here, they have 40 seconds to take a good look around the crime scene, calling out to the other players what they see – moving the device moves the view around, so make sure you have a good look!

When you think you’ve gathered enough evidence and are sure you’ve cracked the case, then enter the home location and press ‘Solve The Case.’

You will then be asked a series of questions; to answer them you need to scan in the appropriate card. You’ll then be given a score based upon your answers, and the option to read the full solution.

Some scenarios contain multiple episodes, and though they can be played independently, they are best experienced in order.


So, What do I think?

Components

The artwork on the box cover really sets the scene; evidence all strung together, with an officer trying to make sense of a complicated case – If ever there was a piece of cover art that perfectly reflects the game, then this is it!

All of the components are very minimalistic – the evidence board has no fancy artwork, just slots to place things; the character cards each display a face and their Q code; the evidence cards contain just a few words; the special item cards just a simple picture – but the thing is, it works!

Chronicles of Crime - Special item cards

This minimalistic design helps to keep you focused on the things that matter, and with just a glance at the board it is possible to take in all the evidence and leads you have – there’s nothing to distract you away from the goal of the game, and I like that.

The location and forensic contact cards (they call them boards, but they really are just cards) contain the only intricate artwork of the game, and are very nicely rendered, though to be honest you’ll get so absorbed into the game you’ll barely notice!

The evidence board is linen finish, whilst everything else has a standard gloss finish, which does mean that some of the cards do become stuck together occasionally, but this really isn’t a hindrance.

The character images are varied, and will often make you laugh out loud when you reveal one that doesn’t meet your preconceived idea for someone fitting that role!

Chronicles of Crime - Character cards

One thing that I really do like though, is the plastic insert! Everything has its place, and there are also slots for the expansions, but the best bit is the little plastic cover that holds the cards in place – what a great idea!

Theme

If you’re expecting a game that throws you deep into the role of a crime busting detective, having to piece together little strands of evidence, find out motives and track down killers, well, you’re not going to be disappointed here!

You really do feel the weight of responsibility bearing down on your shoulders, especially as time plays a crucial role in the proceedings. Investigating evidence, talking to witnesses/suspects, and travelling from one location to the next, all take up your valuable time, and things won’t stand still and wait for you; the next person on your suspect list may not live long enough for you to get around to them, so you’d better get your priorities in order!

Rules

By the time you’ve waited for the App to install, you’ll have read the rules – maybe even twice!

Everything is pretty much self-explanatory, and to be honest you can set the game up and use the evidence board however you like – whatever works for you.

You can pretty much get away with only reading the first few pages before you dive straight in, the App takes care of everything else, all you have to do is place people in the right locations, just so you can keep tabs on them more than anything else.

Chronicles of Crime - Rules

There is a tutorial, which is helpful to a degree, but to be honest you could miss this out and go straight into the main scenarios.

Gameplay

The first things that springs to mind here is, is this really a board game?

There are no game mechanisms that aren’t controlled by the App; you’re pretty much just moving pieces of card around, and using the old grey matter to solve the puzzles.

Is this a problem? Hell, no!

Take away those pieces of card, and the game becomes impossible to play. Even if you were able to input the names of the characters and pieces of evidence manually, you’d soon become overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything; so you really do need those cards.

The way you use the Q codes works brilliantly; it’s really easy to move from one location to another, speak to characters, or examine evidence, just don’t try playing it with the lights dimmed down!

We had a few issues with our iPad trying to see the codes, but this was down to the lighting and as soon as we turned it up it worked seamlessly – in fact it worked too well! Word of advice here, don’t use the auto scan option; there were numerous occasions, when we were passing the iPad around, that it caught sight of a card and scanned it, despite being a few feet away – we soon turned the option off!

Also, and I don’t know if this is a technical issue, software based, or intentional, but we couldn’t get any sound, even though there is an option to turn it on and off!

The tutorial is quick and simple – it doesn’t keep you from the main game for very long, and is worth running through just to get a grasp on things.

Once into the scenarios you’ll realise that this is no simple whodunnit, and some of the cases are very complex indeed -I’d probably say that the game plays on the difficult side.

This, as far as my gaming group were concerned, introduced one of the few issues with the game – there are occasions where you really do end up stumped! It usually comes down to the fact that you’ve missed something, more often than not a piece of evidence when searching the scene.

Searching the scene entails one person using the device to look around, calling out to the others everything they see – blood on the floor, a knife, bullets, etc. – and the rest of the players fishing through the evidence category cards to find a close match.

Now, some of these evidence category cards are a bit ambiguous – flammable objects, tableware, and decoration items, just to name a few – so, you either end up with a large pile of evidence cards to scan in as you’ve tried to cover everything, or you miss something because you didn’t feel it fitted within a category; I mean, decoration items? This could conjure up all sorts of things!

Chronicles of Crime - Evidence category cards

Certainly, during the first few scenarios you may find yourself going from one character to the next and just asking them about every other card you have available, all because you have no idea that you’ve actually overlooked something, though at times you may receive a hint from another character, such as the Chief Officer.

Aimlessly scanning things in, and moving from one location to another, is costly; you’ll be eating away at that valuable resource called time, and before you know it another day is done and you’re no closer to finding the culprit(s).

You’ll soon start to get the feel of things though, and get to know what to keep an eye open for, and what to put on the back burner. You’ll become a dab hand at working the evidence and knowing who, and when, to ask for advice – the forensic contacts can be extremely useful here, it’s just a case of getting to know what you can ask them about, because sometimes it isn’t always that obvious.

Chronicles of Crime - Forensic contacts
Forensic contacts are there to help – use them!

The only real issue of this ‘learning curve’ is the fact that it eats into the number of available scenarios (I’ll come back to this shortly). As far as thematics go though, it’s right on the button – you start off as a bit of a bumbling newbie in the art of criminal investigation, but once you’ve a few cases under your belt you’ll become the old sweat who’s seen it all, done it all, and go about your business in a professional(ish) manner, nailing the criminals with one hand, whilst holding a large doughnut in the other!

The three included cases, which total five individual scenarios, are well written, absorbing, and above all, challenging – the only issues we came across were what we believed to be translation errors; a few sentences that just didn’t make sense, and we had to re-read them several times before coming to a decision on what they were actually supposed to mean!

Replayability

The learning curve I referred to earlier means that it will take a few scenarios to find your feet and get your mind working in sympathy with the writers. This means that you’ll have virtually written off at least the first game you play, as once done, repeating a scenario loses its initial appeal of venturing into the unknown.

There is the tutorial, but it isn’t enough to make you fully aware of what is expected of you, and you’ll feel like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end once into the game for real.

Originally, I thought a lengthier, more progressive tutorial could have avoided this, but having though about it a little more, I think the issues for us were that we started with ‘The Power Behind’ story line, which gets quite complex. My advice to anyone starting the game would be to leave this one until you’re fully conversant with the ins and outs of criminal investigation!

Repeating scenarios, especially if you’ve viewed the solution, just isn’t the same, and I wouldn’t want to repeat one again for quite some time, if ever! This calls into question the replayability of the game, but it’s one that really shouldn’t be an issue.

At the time of writing Lucky Duck Games have already released two physical expansions – Noir and Welcome to Redview – and if I open up the extra scenario section of the App, I find five more downloadable scenarios for the base game (£4.99 each), so the game appears to be well supported.

Chronicles of Crime - DLC
Plenty of DLC

The simplicity of the game’s components lends itself to being expanded, and this is a big plus of the game – the characters are just a face, a number, and a Q code, so they can become anyone you want them to be when writing a story; characters aren’t tied to being a certain person, carrying their history from one scenario to another. This is a clever bit of marketing, and makes the production of downloadable content the way forward in terms of expanding the game, so expect it to be playable for some time yet.

Fun?

It can be a little bewildering at first; once you’ve moved on from the tutorial and are attempting your first scenario, you may find yourself at a loss for what to do.

But once into the game it’s like watching a crime drama unfold, only this time you’re the ones making the decisions. Tensions can run high as time starts slipping away, but this just adds to your immersion into the role. You also experience a joyful buzz when you finally link a piece of evidence to a character – more so when you get them to crack and confess to everything!

As you unfold the plot you feel a growing sense of achievement and satisfaction, though this is often dashed when it comes to final scoring.

We’ve seen this method of scoring before – Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective springs to mind – where you have to answer a number of questions relating to the case; the App then gives you a final score.

We found this all a bit deflating: On one occasion we failed to figure out who the perpetrator was, but we did manage to answer a few of what we thought to be secondary questions, and we ended up with quite a good score.

The next game we played we pretty much wrapped the case up nice and tight – suspect, check; motive, check; evidence, check – but missed the answers to two seemingly innocuous questions, and we barely scored anything at all!

There must be a better way of scoring these types of game – or maybe it would be better to do away with it altogether, and after you’ve finished and looked at the solution, you can pack it all away with the satisfaction that you were right all along, or, most likely, argue amongst yourselves on how you missed that blindingly obvious clue!

The game also lends itself to being taken over by the animal that is the ‘Alpha Player!’ If you let this happen then your enjoyment of the game is going to wain. Chronicles of Crime is wonderful fun when you’re all working together, bouncing ideas of each other, and of course, at the end there will always be one who says, ‘I told you so!’


Can I play it… all on my own?

The right type of person will find this a great game to play solo, where you can sit and think things through without other people breaking your line of thought.

However, If you’re the type that gets frustrated to the point of giving up whenever you hit a dead end, then you’re probably better playing in a group, where different eyes see different things, and different minds jump to different conclusions!


Recommended?

I brought this game with my wife in mind – she loves crime drama, and is always trying to work out whodunnit as the story unfolds – and it turned out to be a very good buy indeed.

Anyone who likes to watch these types of programmes and films, is going to naturally take to this game, and before you know it you’ll be scrawling notes on pieces of paper, trying to replicate those crime boards you’ve seen in your favourite show – it really is the best way of doing things!

It is a game that stretches the grey matter, and you do have to try and follow a logical course of action – in a group there will be lots of discussion as you try to fathom things out, and it can get a little frustrating at times when you know you’ve missed something, but are blowed if you know what! So, it isn’t going to be for everyone.

But if you do like games such as Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, but want something that plays faster and is more streamlined, then this is definitely worth closer inspection.

A word of warning if you’re going to play with children – the graphical/gore content isn’t really anything to worry about, but there is some swearing. If you are going to play with children then it may be wise if an adult reads out the text, that way they can be inventive with certain words! It is a personal thing, and each parent will have their own views; the box says 12+ but there is no warning about what to expect.

Overall, it’s fast to set up, plays in around 60 to 90 minutes per scenario, and though it is simple to play, it offers a very good challenge and looks like it will be well supported. The stories aren’t overly deep in terms of narrative text, so there isn’t too much reading to do – certainly there isn’t the depth here that Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game offers, but without all that reading it plays a lot quicker.


Extras

Official site – Lucky Duck Games

Recommended video review – With Tom Vasel

BoardGameGeek page – HERE


In pictures…

3 thoughts on “Chronicles of Crime

  1. Nice review! Judging by the pictures, the locations are all in London?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.
      Yes, the locations are all in London.
      The Welcome to Redview expansion moves the action to Maine, USA, and is a more family friendly experience.

      Like

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