#698 – Chronicles of Crime: 1400 [Mini]

Base price: $30.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 60 – 90 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Chronicles of Crime: 1400 was provided by Lucky Duck Games.

Alright, we’ve been cracking a lot of puzzles, lately, and showing no signs of slowing down. We’ve seen EXIT games, we’ve seen new escape room titles, and now we’re looking at a brand new entry in the Chronicles of Crime series from Lucky Duck Games! This kicks off the Millennium Series, which gives players a thousand years of crime to solve in three time periods! There’s 2400, 1900, and 1400, which is what we’re covering now. I’m excited, you’re excited, so let’s dig in and see what this new entry in the series has going on!

In Chronicles of Crime: 1400, you play as Abelard Lavel, a knight of the king who has been blessed (/ cursed?) with visions of past and future crimes. Since it’s the 1400s, people are just … down for that sort of thing, so you take it upon yourself to do what any knight with Crime Vision Trademark would do, which is to solve these crimes. Which is exciting and all, because a lot of them are heresy and blasphemy and witchcraft and stuff. You know, 1400s crimes. What you lack in email and phones you make up for with family connections and a crime-sniffing dog, so, maybe that’s … better? Who’s to say? You’re going to have to solve all these crimes, so are you up to the challenge?

Contents

Player Count Differences

I would say that based on the way the game is designed, there’s not really a difference between various player counts. You don’t get additional abilities or penalties as you add more players, at least. The one thing worth noting is that it’s much easier to play this with a few additional players if you’re in person, specifically for the 360 scenes. When you’re playing those, you can shout out certain items and players can comb the evidence deck looking for them, whereas in a single-player game, you kind of have to do all of that yourself. Plus, having a few extra people makes the deduction / puzzle-solving a bit easier, for me, at least. My general group for these kinds of games is three people, anyways, but I’ve played it solo as well. If I had to pick between those, I’d definitely pick three players, but I don’t have a problem playing solo! I just appreciate the extra help. If you feel the same way, try a higher player count!

Strategy

  • The Vision Cards are very important, and can give you helpful clues. They often serve to give you connective tissue between things that you suspect based on conversations with other characters. You can’t scan them or interact with them beyond viewing them, but in the right context they can expand parts of the story that you didn’t know about, yet.
  • If you’re stuck, go home and talk to your family. Just like real life, maybe. Either way, your family members have certain specialties (religious / written stuff, physical items, and people of note), and you can rely on that to get some additional context. You may not be able to progress without doing so, in some cases, as they may tell you where to find certain things that you have hit a dead end on. Just remember that changing locations takes time, and your family members don’t know everything!
  • Getting close on certain pieces of evidence and clues is sufficient. The game is slightly friendly about giving you a clue when you’re close (for a slight time penalty), so as long as you’re in the ballpark you can usually find the thing you’re looking for.
  • Watch your time; you can waste time for a lot of different things. This is kind of the core crux of the Chronicles of Crime game; you have a finite amount of time, and essentially everything you do takes a chunk of time. The biggest time drainer is changing locations; as you might imagine, going from one place to another takes up a lot of time. Try to minimize that. One that can really throw you off, as well, is that scanning Clue cards uses up a little bit of time, as well. The problem isn’t the individual Clue cards; it’s the scale of scanning a bunch of them to try and find all of the evidence you need. You can drain a major chunk of time away, if you’re not careful. And the game is not particularly generous, here, as showing someone evidence that they can’t do anything with gets you no information and wastes valuable time! So try to reason out who will give you the best chance of progress with certain pieces of information, and don’t change locations as often!
  • If you’re looking for a specific person, give something of theirs to your dog. Your dog is very good at tracking things down, like, alarmingly good. You can give them a day-old coat and they’ll be able to find the person across town. It’s very convenient, especially because you’re often looking for people while doing your vision-influenced crime-solving. Make sure to utilize him!
  • Don’t forget to chase down leads if they seem relevant to the case, even if you don’t think they’re relevant to the solution! There can occasionally be bonus objectives that you need to take care of for full credit on the case, and the game is variably cagey on whether or not they’re critical. If it seems like a useful thing to help you on the case, you can (and often should) track it down. If it seems like it might have material value, also track it down. Just be careful on time! You may have to prioritize solving the case over tracking absolutely everything related down.
  • You may need to extrapolate a bit if you’re going to solve the case. Not everything is going to be 100% clear when you’re running out of time, so you may just have to … make some educated guesses. Hopefully, you’ve gotten enough information that these are theories, not just wild guesses.
  • Also remember that your time factors into your score! The faster you go, the more points you score! Points don’t really matter beyond like, helping you feel better about how you did, but it may be worth it to you if you want to have extra points.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • The Vision Cards are a nice way to help players along while providing some contextual clues, even if they limit some of the variability of the game. I’m not that concerned about the variability, all things being equal, but I imagine it’s tougher to make new scenarios if you only have the existing Vision Cards to map from. It’s nice, though, as it helps players connect important relationships or events to the plot without having the modern traceable communications from the original game.
  • I was pleasantly surprised that the loss of the modern trappings from the original game didn’t meaningfully hurt the game, mechanically. Yeah, I was actually pleasantly surprised how well it maps. The “visions” thing is a little silly, but, so is playing a game about being a detective in the 1400s. You gotta just take some things in stride. Mechanically, it’s very similar to the existing games, just with more of a religious context / bent since, that was kind of the major thing going on in the 1400s.
  • I’m always pleased with how well-made the inserts seem to be for these games. They do a very good job keeping all the cards and stuff organized; easily one of the best I’ve seen outside of a third-party solution.
  • I was really excited to see that they’re supporting community scenario creation. I imagine this has been going on for a while, but this is the first I’ve heard of it, so it goes here. I think community scenario creation tools are a great way to support a platform’s longevity, especially if you’ve got digital integration of any kind. Just kinda worth thinking about if your board game is going to have an app or some sort of app-supported play.
  • New time periods are fun! I’m probably the most excited about the Future One (2400), but if you’re into the theme of this set you’ll probably be super into this. I’m … not, as much, but I’m not generally a medieval times person (including the restaurant, unfortunately).
  • I still really like the mechanical aspects of this type of crime-solving game a lot. It does a solid job encapsulating the investigative aspects of a crime-solving game. I like having to go between locations, showing people various items to try and get clues and hints and ultimately solve the case. It has a similar feel to the escape room-style games, but the puzzles are more deduction than logic. It’s an adjacent part of my brain, so I enjoy it.
  • It seems like given that a number of items are more closely related (there were fewer types of things in the Old Times), they have added help to the game to let you know what card is a better example of the clue you found. I really appreciate this new thing! Or, at least, I don’t remember it in the previous games. There’s a bit more scaffolding and guidance. If you needed to find a letter but you instead scan the “papers” card, the game will gently tell you to scan the letter clue card instead. It’s a nice scaffold! I kind of wonder if the game lets you turn that off for added difficulty (EDITOR’S NOTE: it does not).

Mehs

  • It would be really nice if they supported a synchronization feature so that multiple folks could play the game remotely more easily. Especially if you’re linking this game up in some sort of XML format, having something that would allow you to quick-export that data as a QR code or even a link / passcode would be great. Ideally, what I would want is the ability to have a shared session with other players remotely, though that’s challenging. Instead, just letting us pass the session back and forth via QR code so that we can play over the internet would be swell. It’s a bummer when my co-players can’t see the VR environment or scan the QR codes. Given that remote play seems … likely for a longer while

Cons

  • Don’t really care if it’s the 1400s; use the word Romani if you need to describe certain characters. The other word is a slur! Not a good look in the slightest.
  • Also … non-white people existed in 1400s France. The overwhelming majority of characters in this game are white or present as white, and the one that doesn’t gets … slurred. That’s not a particularly great look. Hopefully the rest of the Millennium Series fixes this problem. I feel like the excuse here is going to be the time period, but still, it’s come up before.
  • I think, largely, the Chronicles of Crime games are a lot of fun mechanically, but the writing can make the games feel a bit disjointed or confusing, especially when it leans into tired cliches. The one thing you’ve gotta watch out for when you’re doing games like this is avoiding the temptation to lean into tropes. The Noir expansion for the original game ran into this problem a bit, and it has the slight problem of if you adhere too closely to the tropes, then folks that are familiar with the tropes may end up using their knowledge of tropes more than their detective skills to solve puzzles. I’ve seen the same thing happen with escape rooms before, and it happens here, as well. I think it’s partially that the writers are excited to be able to apply their system to a new thematic area, but yeah, they should try to lean into the tropes a bit less.

Overall: 7 / 10

Overall, I think Chronicles of Crime: 1400 is another solid entry in the Chronicles of Crime series! Being honest, of themes, this is probably the one I’ve been least interested in, but that’s just kind of … my thing. For better or worse, the theme is really what you gotta be invested in when you’re playing these. Mechanically, it’s very similar to existing entries in the Chronicles of Crime series, which, frankly, is pretty impressive. It’s hard to maintain consistency, and I think that they’ve managed to do that pretty well. The game still maintains a pretty nice range of difficulty, and they always add a few fun quirks to differentiate. This one’s quirks are pretty nice! I appreciate the Vision cards giving you a bit of extra future context on what you’re planning on doing, and, I mean, lots of people are hyped for games with dogs, and now it’s a dog that helps you solve crimes. What’s not to love? I was a bit concerned about some of the more … editorial choices made, given the way the game refers to one character, the distinct absence of major non-white characters, and the kind of trope-heavy construction of some of its narratives. Representation is important, even in games themed around medieval Europe, and if a game’s trying to enter the mainstream being careful and precise with how they do so can often be helpful. Beyond that, though, I consistently enjoy the Chronicles of Crime series. If you’re a big fan of the time period or the theme or you just want to solve more crimes, I’d consider checking out Chronicles of Crime: 1400! I’m looking forward to what’s next in the Millennium Series.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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