Crime and deduction games have been around for a good long while – larger narrative games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and the family favourite Clue, to more recent innovations such as Detective and Witness. I’ve dipped my toe into SHCD, and it’s great fun acting as detective trying to beat Holmes to the solution; but it’s always taken quite a lot of time based on the structure of the game and the amount of narrative elements. When I heard about Chronicles of Crime (henceforth CoC) at BGGcon in 2018, I was immediately intrigued, yet surprised it hadn’t been on my radar. So, you’ve likely seen more than one crime board in a drama/mystery series – you know the one, where there’s all sorts of images, maps and newspaper clippings and whatnot pinned up on a wall, elements linked together with red string. CoC brings that sort of feeling to the table, with a dash of a story-based game like SHCD thrown in.
I want to preface this with the fact that all the games of this I’ve played have been 3 players, and it was a pretty decent size but I think 2 would be the absolute sweet spot (it’s always good to have a couple of pairs of eyes on the crime!). It is similar to many escape room games, where too many people can confuse things and decisions to follow certain leads aren’t easily made – so bear this in mind when sitting down to play. So let’s take a look at what grabbed my attention with CoC.
While you’re working with a physical product – a board, cards and the like – the main driving force of the game is the fabulous app. When you select a scenario, it will guide you through certain locations you’ll be at and then kick you off into the narrative. I played through the first story of the “London Forensics” stories, which has three scenarios – the first starting you off easing into the game, and the others quite a bit more challenging with a lot of mystery packed in and leads to follow. As you progress through the stories and scenarios, you will scan QR codes on pieces of evidence, on suspects or other people you encounter, and on locations – this provides a smooth way of asking folks about things or places without having to flip through a lot of pages, like you would in something like SHCD. This is where the feeling of the “murder board” comes in as you have evidence all lined up on the board and surrounding it are locations and people and you’re trying to tie everything together with metaphorical red string.
Whenever there’s a crime scene you encounter, players are able to view it in a “VR” mode to look at the scene, and hopefully find clues that will later be investigated further or folks at the location to question (this feeds into the decks of cards of people and things). I have to say I really, really didn’t love the goggles that come with the game and attach to the phone – things were just too blurry – so I preferred the mode where you look around the screen and scroll/zoom in that way. There’s a lot to see in there! You don’t want to miss out and fail the case due to skipping over that one thing that really helps.
Sometimes when you do find something or someone it can be tough! You always have your helpers on hand, too – a nice touch that mirrors the diversity of roles in a police organization and those that support them. Your forensics expert, doctor in the morgue, hacker and criminologist can look into specifics of the crime (body, evidence, suspects and the like) and give you a leg up with your investigation. I thought this was a nice touch. But don’t forget – checking in with your specialists takes time, as does a lot of your investigating – and your bosses will call upon you to check in with them every so often; make sure you’ve progressed and gotten yourself some answers.
For the London Forensics “The Power Behind” story arc, I loved that over the three scenarios there were all sorts of things, people and places that were intertwined. It allows you to unravel the story and intrigue and try and get to the bottom of what’s going on in this particular scenario. While you’re not getting stuff like “cut scenes” similar to a video game, the narrative is still pretty strong and the pieces of writing really build up the overall story really well. Having lived in London for a little while in the late 2000s, I also appreciated the setting and how familiar it made things for me. And, well, there’s a lot of great mystery that’s come out of London and England to be fair!
This first story for the London team isn’t all – there’s another couple in there (including a mystery at the British Museum which I am stoked for!) as well as scenarios that can be unlocked by purchasing their VR goggles, or just a straight up in-app purchase. This has me quite excited for the future of the game, much more than something like the expansions for Time Stories. A bit more bang for your buck with the base components. Of course there’s other physical expansions that Kickstarter backers could opt in for, and it looks like the Noir expansion is coming to retail shortly – providing a whole new setting of Hollywood and LA for more scenarios.
I’m so glad that Kickstarter backers got their copies around BGGcon, because I’d really have missed the boat if my friend Ace hadn’t said it was something he wanted to get played during the convention. And luckily for me, the publishers had a retail booth at the convention so I came home with my very own copy to get back to the investigation as soon as I could! Kudos to the Lucky Duck Games team on a fabulous product (the app, the component quality and the art) that brings a co-operative mystery investigation game to the market that is quick and fun – a dash of Sherlock, but a fun modern take on the experience.
Chronicles of Crime is a cooperative murder mystery game for 1 – 4 players that plays in approximately 60-90 minutes. Designed by David Cicurel with art by Matijos Gebreselassie, Mateusz Komada, and Katarzyna Kosobucka, it is published by Lucky Duck Games.