Full disclosure: A review copy of Chronicles of Crime was provided by Lucky Duck Games.
Alright, here’s one I’ve been meaning to get written up for a hot minute; Chronicles of Crime! I first played this one with Netters (a wonderful person who makes great content that you should check out immediately) at her place, and really wanted to dig a bit more into it, so here we are. Like puzzles? Like mysteries? Then maybe you’ll find both in Chronicles of Crime.
In Chronicles of Crime, players work together as police officers in London to solve a series of brutal, nasty, and occasionally deadly crimes across town. Solve some murders, prevent catastrophes, and unravel a massive conspiracy! Or solve some puzzles and interrogate a few randos. Whatever you want to do with your state-granted power. Will you be able to catch the culprits and be a force for justice?
Not a ton of setup. You’ll need the app, first off, so download that if you need to.
Once you’ve done that, set out the board:
I usually set up the Forensic Contacts at the bottom of the board:
Place the Locations nearby, and put Scotland Yard (that’s British for police station) in play below the board:
It likely helps to divide the Evidence cards up among players; you can also set them out near the board, if you prefer:
You can just leave the Special Items in a pile:
Same for the Characters:
Once you’ve done all that, pick a game and you should be ready to start!
Weirdly enough, there’s not much to say here. Generally speaking, you’ll scan a person or a location using the app on your phone.
If you scan a location, you go to it. If you scan a person, if they’re at that location, you’ll enter Interrogation Mode. You can use that to scan other people, locations, and items and get information from that person about that (if they have any).
If you’re looking for additional information, your Forensic Contacts (Forensic Friends) can tell you more about specific things. The Doctor primarily deals with the human body and medicine, the Scientist deals with physical evidence, the Criminologist can analyze profiles and determine things about people, and the Hacker can hack pretty much anything electronic. Use their skills to gain valuable information about your various cards.
At certain locations, you can Search for Clues by using your phone to basically do a VR-style look through at a scene, which is cool. You should be naming evidence types so that your co-players can search for them and lay them out. Rattle off everything you see; you have a time limit! Once that’s done, you can scan the cards to try and enter them into evidence, if they seem relevant to the case. Not everything is!
Once you feel like you have plenty of information, go back to the Police Station and attempt to Solve the Case! Be careful, though, because you’ll need to be able to answer some questions if you’re going to put the right person behind bars! Once you’ve done that, check your score and see how you did!
Player Count Differences
I’d say there aren’t many, which is a bit unfortunate, here. Unlike, say, the EXIT games, you can’t operate that independently in this game beyond discussing things with other players and arriving at a group consensus. That’s not the worst thing, but it may lead to some players being more engaged and some players being less engaged. Also, one player has to effectively donate their phone to the game the whole time, and not everyone’s super down for that. To me, that means this is better set up as a solo game, but if you want to, you can have a player who’s already completed a case sit in and provide hints or play the game with younger folks (just be careful; it can be graphic) and let them team up to try and figure out the solution. I’ve played it at a few player counts and enjoyed them, but I still think solo might be the best way to go unless the players are really good about taking turns with the phone and components.
- Be thorough. You should look carefully at various things as they are presented to you. Take in evidence. Search for clues. Look at what people are telling you. The game isn’t particularly forgiving if you’ve missed something major, so it’s up to you to make sure that you don’t.
- Remember, you have limited time. This one is key! You really want to try and optimize, since you’re going for points, but it’s a bit better to be right than fast. The thing that kills people in this game is repeating conversations, especially if you have to change locations to do so. That’s essentially 25 minutes burnt for that particular interaction, which is terrible.
- Try to think through the narrative. I hate to say it, but some of the scenarios are a bit tropey, which means you might be able to metagame it a bit. I’m not saying they all are, though, so be careful with that! I assume they’ll start trying to use that to throw you off in subsequent cases. Either way, try to come up with a plausible narrative; that will help you a lot when you try to solve the case, since you can establish motive, find a weapon, and identify the primary suspect. Those are all good crime-solving things.
- Don’t try every combination. This is just good logic. Again, it wastes a ton of time, and some combinations aren’t useful. Don’t show the doll to the hacker; he can’t hack that. Rotary telephone? Sure, but a doll is where he draws the line. As you would expect.
- Remember to scan Evidence Cards after you search for clues. This was something that threw us off when we first played (our bad for not doing the tutorial). Once you’ve searched for clues, you need to scan all the cards to see if they are valid pieces of evidence that you’ve found. Otherwise, they just kinda sit there and do nothing useful.
- Remember what your Forensic Friends’ jobs entail. If you try to go to the wrong Forensic Friend for a task, you’re just wasting time. The Criminologist is best for people. The Scientist is best for things. The Doctor is best for bodies. The Hacker is best for electronics. That heuristic alone will save you a lot of time if you’re looking for help while you play.
- It’s worth repeating; read carefully. Make sure you read what everyone tells you. It costs time to talk to them, and even if you think you’ve seen the card they’re referencing before or you already know who they’re talking about, it’s worth it to double-check. If you miss even one card, it might be the thing that’s keeping you blocked from advancing further in the plot (and that might ultimately cost you the game).
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cool concept. I like games a lot when they try to push the envelope, and I’ll be honest; not every app integration is particularly strong or interesting. Some game “apps” are just glorified timers. But this is easily one of the best game companion apps I’ve seen since the One Night series. The development of the app seems solid, also.
- The app integration is really neat. I like that you have to scan QR codes to trigger events; it’s a smart way for the app to save state and to allow for discoverability, since you may not have all the clues to ask the questions you need to ask. It’s a very sharp little product. The VR thing is a tiny bit hokey, but not in a bad way; I just have occasionally missed things because it’s not particularly high-definition rendering, there.
- I appreciate that the components are reusable. I actually like this a lot. My biggest overall gripe with the EXIT series is that once you’re done with it, you’re just done. Here, you can put everything away and try again a different time and a different way, and you can even download additional scenarios for your existing sets of cards! That’s a super cool way to reward players for having your game, and I like it a lot. It’s also more sustainable, and in this climate, that’s nice, too. Overall just a nice move.
- Really enjoy a good puzzle. And this has some challenging bits. I wouldn’t say figuring out the puzzle is ever that hard, but finding the correct pieces and asking the right questions so that you can define what the puzzle is can be pretty challenging, which is neat. It’s definitely another way to think about the idea of a puzzle game.
- I like that the box comes with a cover for the cards. It’s a particularly thoughtful touch. And it’s got room for expansions! That’s a bit ambitious, but they’ve already released one and announced another, so what do I know? I can respect the hustle, there.
- The game can take an aggressive tone with you, sometimes. Really don’t love some of the in-game messaging. I get that it’s thematic, though, so I’m not that bothered, but it’s probably fine to tell us that we missed a clue without the chief going full berate on us.
- Real drain on your phone battery. I think I lost like 50% over the course of one game? I need to have my backup battery handy if I’m going to play this one, I think. Worth noting.
- It can occasionally be a bit unclear what you need to do. I think the game suffers a bit due to the lack of a clear hint system; instead, after too long, the game kinda yells at you if you’re not making quick enough progress. That’s definitely one way to do it, but it’s not my favorite. I’d rather have hints that I can pull (especially given that the game knows my current state, so it knows if I’m missing something particularly huge).
- There’s not always things for a player who isn’t holding the phone to do. Currently, their job seems to mostly be handling the Evidence cards (and you just need to take turns). That’s all well and good, but it’s not like they get a lot of hands-on experience solving the puzzles, as you might in an escape room game. I think I prefer those sorts of things for multiple players, since they can kinda work independently. This feels more like Planet of the Apes or Batman: Gotham City Under Siege, where you’re basically a single committee trying to win cooperatively. That’s fine too, though.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, though, I think Chronicles of Crime is a lot of fun! I think what would really bring it to the next level, for me, is if it had a more robust hint system (sometimes I’m just stuck and I need to know what I’m missing) and if they upgraded the app so that everyone could use their phone as part of a shared state. That takes the emphasis off of one power user (which will prevent some quarterbacking), and you could present it as a team of cops all being in different locations and checking in with each other. Not saying that hidden information will help solve a puzzle, but filtering the information through multiple players can increase their buy-in to the experience beyond just them holding cards while one player monologues. It may also be nice to develop out a kid-friendly version of this (if they’re not already), as this one has some pretty graphic depictions and some definitely-not-family-friendly content. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but it is going to make the game hard to play with your family or something. Either way, though, it’s a very clever conceit for a game and the reusable components are nice since it makes gameplay a content problem, rather than a production problem. Additional modules can be created just by creating new links between cards and providing text (not to discount the incredible amount of work that goes into it by any means; just noting that you don’t have to do cycles at a factory to do that). I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the concept when I first played, but it’s a smart game system and it definitely won me over. Yeah, overall, I’m a fan of Chronicles of Crime, and if you’re looking to solve some mysteries, sleuth some clues, or try your hand at some pretty challenging puzzles, I’d definitely recommend you consider checking it out!