Full disclosure: A review copy of Chronicles of Crime: 1900 was provided by Lucky Duck Games.
It’s been a puzzley spring so far, and I’m loving it. New EXIT games, other new escape room titles, some mystery games, and now a continuation of the Chronicles of Crime series! It’s nice, especially since I’m now playing enough games regularly that I’m almost ready to start upping my per-week publish rate. I’m not promising anything yet, but hopefully I can go a bit closer to my former rate by the time that things get back up and running around here. Anyways, that is all to say that Chronicles of Crime: 1900 is here, and we should get into it and see what’s going on!
In Chronicles of Crime: 1900, it’s the far, far future (at least, relative to 1400), and you’re a distant descendant of the legendary crime-fighting Lavel family. You’ve gotten into print journalism, a noble profession that you believe with all your heart will exist until the end of time, and used the power of the papers to solve crimes and mysteries. Unfortunately, there are puzzles beyond the mysteries, so you’ll have to use your friends and your deductive mind if you want to have answers in time for the morning edition. Will you be able to crack all the cases?
Setup is sort of classically the same as it’s always been for this series. First, place the Evidence Board in the center of the table:
Next, place the Newspaper Office Location below the Evidence Board, and put Charlotte (Character 01) on it:
There are other Locations; keep them in a pile until you need them:
Similarly, keep the Character cards in a pile:
There are Special Item Cards; keep them face-down, as well:
The regular Evidence Category Cards can go face-up in a pile:
The Puzzle Cards should go face-down; don’t look at them!
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start!
Thankfully, Chronicles of Crime: 1900 plays very similarly to other games in the series, which makes this part relatively easy to write. You play as Victor Lavel, a journalist from a famous family of crime-solvers dating back to some guy in the Middle Ages. You want to get scoops, solve crimes, and preferably not die so that a descendant of yours can continue to solve crimes in 500 years maybe. But who knows?
To start a game, you’ll be given some introductory information from the scenario of your choice in the Chronicles of Crime app. You need that app. Once you have that, you’ll be able to scan characters to get more information, scan Evidence to add it to your collection, and scan Locations to travel there. Your goal? Solve this mystery before you run out of time.
Generally speaking, scanning a Location will move your character to that Location, which means that certain characters (and puzzles) may no longer be nearby, so you can’t scan them. When you introduce a new Location (either by talking to a character or it getting named in the app), you reveal that Location Board and place it in the play area. Traveling there may reveal Character Card numbers; reveal those characters and place them on the board. If you’re not sure where a Character Card goes, you can place it below the central Evidence Board until you find where that person is.
You can also Search the Scene in VR mode to gather evidence that way. When you do, you’ll use your phone and pivot it to search through the scene while calling out items that you see to another player. That player should look through the Evidence Cards to see if any categories match the items you stated, and they should place those cards on the blue part of the Evidence Board. After scanning, you can pass the phone to another player to try again or you can scan the Evidence Cards to see if you found valid evidence there. When you do, you can move the Evidence Cards to the red section, allowing you to scan them when talking to Characters to show them the evidence!
When talking to a Character, you enter Interrogation Mode. This allows you to ask them about other characters, Evidence, or even some puzzles! This may result in various outcomes, depending on if you show them something that spooks them, angers them, or even something they don’t know about. All things can help your investigation! Note that you cannot ask Characters about Locations; if you scan a Location, the game will try to move you there, instead.
Sometimes, you might come across Special Items (marked with a star and a number) or Puzzles (marked with a question mark and a number). You can use these items the same way you would evidence. If you’re stuck on a Puzzle Card and want to move forward, you can also go to your friend Charlotte at the Newspaper Office; she can help you move through a Puzzle at a slight cost of time and points.
If you think you’ve solved the mystery, head back to the Newspaper Office and tap “Solve the Case” to enter in your answers and see what your score is! You’ll need to scan cards to answer questions about the case, so make sure you’ve got everything you think you need before you try to solve it!
Player Count Differences
As with most of the Chronicles of Crime games, 1900 is largely played via committee, somewhat subject to the whims of Whoever Has The Phone. I will say that one improvement this game has made is that by adding Puzzle Cards, there’s often another thing to do in parallel with the standard going from location to location, asking questions of whoever is around. That’s good! It means that more people can pretty sustainably play without too much trouble, since you can have a dedicated puzzle person, similar to how the EXITs that have jigsaw puzzles also allow for a higher player threshold, in my opinion. That’s good! Chronicles of Crime wasn’t too bad about effective player count, but I think this really enhances that and makes the four-player end of the spectrum a lot more robust and doable. I personally have still enjoyed this at two, but I could see four being a lot more feasible with this set. To that end, I’d say I have no real preference on player count for 1900! Beyond just my standard lack of trust in myself, which prompts me to generally prefer having at least one other person around to check my work. I just sometimes jump to the wrong conclusion.
- Remember that there will ultimately be some narrative to the crime, so if you have a narrative of your own, don’t adhere too strongly to it; it may end up leading you astray. This is kind of the case for a lot of mystery-solving games, especially things like Chronicles of Crime or The Sherlock Files. There’s a clear narrative throughline within all the pieces you have, so a big chunk of your job is getting it all back together. You can make a bad judgment call and end up on the wrong narrative arc, if you’re not careful, and that can contextualize information that you get and feed into your growing confirmation bias. It’s helpful to have some personal suspicion of what the narrative of the crime may be, but also make sure you’re considering alternate narratives that may be equally valid! Otherwise, you might end up with the wrong conclusion.
- Show items to people; you may convince them to give you more information. Don’t just ask people about other people; you may not be able to get much out of them. Confronting them with evidence might cause them to either relax and trust you more or panic and tell you what you need to know! It also might do neither of those things, so make sure you’re not just acting haphazardly.
- You may also need to come back to someone later with new items acquired elsewhere; you can’t always make full progress at one location. Not everything is going to be available at the outset of your investigation. People are busy and they may come back later in the day with more information. Make sure you’re taking note of that, as you don’t want to miss someone if they said that you should check in with them later in your investigation.
- Similarly, it’s useful to recognize that some folks aren’t going to help you much more than they already have. Honestly, some people are straight-up not going to be helpful at all. Red herrings are a thing, even in mystery games. If you can’t get what you need from someone and none of your clues seem to be pushing you, either come back later or give up on that person. Sometimes someone is just going to be wildly and completely unhelpful. It’s likely best to stop bothering them quickly so that you don’t waste more of the limited time you have fussing with them.
- If you’re stuck, Charlotte can help you for a 10-point penalty or so. She’s very good at puzzles, and honestly, sometimes you just need a single push to move you forward. If you’re frustrated by the penalty, there’s always opportunities for bonus points if you can make the right things happen during your investigation. Plus, you may not even need the help! That said, finishing the case quickly will also get you points, so it may be a better use of your time to deal with Charlotte than trying to ask a ton of people about the puzzle.
- Time is your greatest asset and your worst enemy in this game. As with all the Chronicles of Crime games, it takes 5 minutes to interact with something and 20 minutes to change locations (as you have one of those Fast 1900s Horses). This may seem like a lot of time, but when you’re trying to eliminate options with 15 people across 6 locations, you start to notice that it’s the early evening very quickly. Try to keep track of your time and be careful not to waste it on frivolous (or dead-end) pursuits. You have a lot of ground you need to cover to solve any particular mystery, and you aren’t given a ton of time.
- Try to avoid guessing on puzzles; an incorrect solution may result in consequences. You don’t want to anger a character or accuse someone of a crime they didn’t commit. Plus, it’s also not super fun, ludonarratively. There are a few puzzles that you can brute force, for sure, but I’d recommend avoiding that since it also kind of breaks your immersion. You also never know when you enter a potential solution if you being wrong is going to be totally fine or if you’re going to get completely locked out of that puzzle.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- There’s now a puzzle component! You love to see it. I really like that they added puzzles to this beyond the like, mystery-solving puzzle of the game itself. It almost feels a bit like an EXIT-light game. Solving the mystery is still tough, but this is an added wrinkle that I’m very into. The puzzles are fun, as well, though I think we accidentally sequence broke one of them because we didn’t realize we were supposed to learn something that we already knew. Oh well! I really think it’s a lot of fun, and while it means that repeat players already know the answer to the puzzles, the puzzles aren’t physically destroyed or anything, so it’s also nice in that regard.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the writing; it feels a bit less trope-heavy. It seems like an improvement from other games in the Chronicles of Crime series, frankly, and that’s good! Makes me excited for what they’ll do with 2400, when that comes out.
- They’re still having a bit of fun with it, and that’s fine. There are some admittedly silly references and characters in 1900, as well, but it seems like they were out to have a bit of fun with the characters when they were making them. I’m generally supportive of that; it makes the game feel more authentic, in a way. Not necessarily authentic to the time period or the culture, but authentic to the designers, as people, making the game. That’s a different kind of authenticity, but it’s good to have that in a game, as well.
- The new cases are challenging, which is good, too. I always appreciated the difficulty of Chronicles of Crime, as a series. It’s probably a bit more challenging than I generally like on my own, so it means it’s perfect for two or three people to play. And I like that; I’d rather play with other people, anyways, so these being hard isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I still think The Emerald Flame was one of the most challenging escape room games I’ve ever played, and I loved it! So there’s room for difficulty, here.
- I really like the art style of the card backs and the main board. It’s very striking, to be honest. I get that that’s the style, but the bold colors really pop and make the whole game look super aesthetically pleasing. I probably like the color scheme and card backs the most out of any game in the Chronicles of Crime series, so far.
- I also appreciate that there are still optional bonus tasks you can complete for additional points. That’s just a nice thing to have, especially since it can let you afford a few hints and still get a pretty good score! It’s a nice balance.
- I am thankful for your friend at the office and her uncanny ability to solve puzzles that you can’t. A good hint system is underrated, and Charlotte is very helpful. We had a puzzle we were struggling with and she gave one precise hint that let us crack it pretty much instantly. Absolutely worth the 10-point deduction, and, I suppose, the time deduction as well.
- Both games in the Millennium Series, so far, have had something unique that distinguished them from the original Chronicles of Crime, and I like that. I think there’s always pressure in a game series to significantly innovate, and I’m glad that Chronicles of Crime is meeting that challenge and seemingly doing well. I didn’t necessarily enthusiastically love the Vision cards from 1400, but they made sense within the context of the game. I just wasn’t as huge on the theme, there. Here, the puzzles are just a very welcome addition.
- Some aspects of solving the puzzles can be gently clunky, as my instinct to scan something might result in me scanning the wrong thing. I can sometimes forget if you’re supposed to scan the puzzle or talk to someone and then show them the puzzle, and it depends on the puzzle, sometimes. This can lead to a situation where I scan something, am told that it’s not here, and then I lose precious time, which is just a bit frustrating. It would be great if the puzzles had a consistent flow or a “solve puzzle” card that you could scan that would put you in the right mode to interact with them without necessarily losing time.
- Still not a particularly diverse game. I know there’s always some speculation about the historical accuracy of mostly-white Europe, but there were definitely prominent French folks of color around the turn of the century, so barring specific demographic information to the contrary, I’m a bit skeptical of this. In fact, Brittanica cites that France “had the reputation into the early 20th century of being the European country most open to immigrants, including political refugees”, so I would expect the population of France in Chronicles of Crime: 1900 to be more reflective of this. It seems like an odd oversight, especially when this information was relatively easy to find?
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think Chronicles of Crime: 1900 is probably the strongest entry in the series so far; I’m impressed. I have problems, as usual, with the lack of diversity in the game, but I’m being told that 2400 will fix this. That’s not … really a solid reason for the lack of ethnic diversity in their portrayal of 1900 Paris, but I’ve already cited my sources and made my point, I feel. It’s a bit frustrating because I feel like this is an ongoing problem with the series, but I’m hopeful that 2400 doesn’t have the same issue. Anyways. Beyond that, I think that Chronicles of Crime has really done well, here. I wasn’t as sold on 1400, being real, because I didn’t care for the theme, but the gameplay was solid then. Here, I actually enjoy the theme and the conceit of you being a journalist, and the art style used throughout on the card backs is colorful and classy in a way that I find very appealing. If that alone was what was going on, here, I’d probably still be pleased, but 1900 also adds more puzzles to the game via explicit Puzzle Cards, making solving a mystery more like the escape room games that I love so much. I’m extremely here for that. Being real, the mystery itself is already a pretty explicit puzzle that needs to be solved, but it’s more deduction-based and less like, how do these pipes connect or what order should the numbers be entered into this secret combination. Those are both perfectly fun types of puzzles, but I do like both of them. Combining them here was a smart move! Plus, it gives players something tangible to mess around with while other people are using the phone, so I think the Puzzle Cards expand the effective player count for 1900. One last thing I appreciated is that the writing feels a bit tighter than other games in the series? They’re occasionally a bit given to tropes, and that makes the mysteries a bit transparent, but here we genuinely weren’t sure until the end who the criminal was, and that was exciting! I think that bodes well for 2400, as well. If you’re looking for another fun mystery title or you want more explicit puzzles in your Chronicles of Crime, I’d definitely recommend checking out Chronicles of Crime: 1900! I am certainly looking forward to playing it again.