A Brief Case For Chronicles of Crime
Have you ever walked past a group playing a board game, and then literally doubled back to find out what it is? That's what happened with me and Chronicles of Crime, a story-driven co-operative game for 1-4 aspiring detectives. Each game takes about an hour to play, and challenges you with tracking down a criminal with no leads except for a crime scene and a brief from the police commissioner. It's up to you to search locations, question suspects, and connect the dots before they get away.
Chronicles of Crime was recently Kickstarted by Lucky Duck Games, and is designed by David Cicurel with art by Matijos Gebreselassie. Mark and I had the opportunity to play an early copy of this innovative crime solving game, and share our thoughts below!
Phoebe: We all love the puzzle of a good murder mystery. Something about slowly putting the pieces together, and the satisfying “aha” moment at the end when everything becomes clear, keeps us coming back. Well, Chronicles of Crime is like your favourite Agatha Christie novel or an episode of CSI in first person - a choose-your-own-adventure narrative where you have nothing but the evidence in front of you and a ticking clock to crack the case. Every movement, every conversation, and every action costs time, and as it runs out you start getting more desperate to find answers. Just like a detective, you need to follow the evidence and trust your intuition if you want to get to the truth.
Mark: The first thing I felt when we sat down for our session was that I was playing co-op Ace Attorney - and that’s a good thing! Wild accusations, mysterious witnesses, and bouncing clues back and forth with someone else made for an exhilarating time. I loved how cleverly the components were integrated with the app. In between the QR codes, the Virtual Reality headset, and the variety of characters and locations, I was bursting at the seams ready to scream “J'accuse!” the first moment I got!
P: The VR and app integration is definitely what drew me to the game initially. I’m a big fan of using technology in tabletop gaming to create unique experiences (see Beasts of Balance for another great example), and I loved the idea of using an app in Chronicles to create a more interactive and immersive experience. Unlike other crime-solving board games which rely on players manually looking up the results of their decisions, the world of Chronicles of Crime is intuitive to explore and wide open. All you need to do is scan a card to interact with it - a person to talk to them, a location to move there, or a piece of evidence to find out more. That freedom and ease lets you focus on what you’re really there for, trying to solve the case!
M: The app is intuitive and fun, but do you think the game could just has easily have been delivered as a full app rather than a board game? Does its nature demand physical components? For example, scanning a physical card to represent a location or a person could be just as easily achieved by touching a choice on a screen?
P: I think the heart of Chronicles would be lost in a purely digital game. You could still have the same puzzles, and the same story, but you’d lose the collaboration that makes it so satisfying to play. Even when one player is examining the crime scene using the VR headsets, everyone else is engaged trying to find the appropriate evidence cards connected with what they’re describing. As you’re working on the case, you can rearrange evidence cards to try to find patterns, or stand back and get a visual overview of everything you’ve found so far on the pinboard-style display. I don’t think an app with two to four people huddled around it could come close to replicating what it’s like to play with the physical components.
M: I wouldn’t want to play it with more than 2 people to be honest! Just like the EXIT series or 7th Continent, there’s a limit to how many people can be huddled around the same set of information before somebody’s excluded, and I think this would definitely suffer from that issue.
P: That’s true. Two felt like the perfect number to have different perspectives without being pulled in too many directions or leaving someone with nothing to do. Having said that, we do most of our board gaming with just the two of us, so this might depend on how large and chaotic you like your game nights to get!
While we were only able to try a couple of the scenarios, I’m really looking forward to seeing how Lucky Duck games develops the stories in the future. They’re working with crime-fiction authors to create the cases, and they’ve even mentioned that they’d like to open up the app to allow fans to create and submit their own! I love that they’ll be able to add more value to the game just by updating the app, either for free or for much cheaper than if they had to create new physical components as well.
M: Absolutely! The base game comes with 5 scenarios and a tutorial, which they’ve said are designed to be played in 60-90 minute sessions, but there’s already 2 expansions developed (a Noir one and a high school Archie Comics-esque one!). You’re going to get so much value out of this gorgeous looking game, especially since the diverse characters and locations lend themselves to being adapted to tell many, many stories. The art is this eye-catching combination of cartoonish and gritty, but it’s detailed and saturated. I’m really excited to see what the community-written stories produce!
Is the VR gimmicky? Sure, but it’s optional and if you’re into experimenting with board games as a form, this does something new.
P: There’s so much room for Chronicles to grow, but at the same time it’s incredibly accessible even if you don’t play many puzzle or deduction games. The tutorial does a fantastic job of teaching the interface and your possible choices, and is short enough that you can quickly jump into a more challenging case once you know the ropes. I’m so excited for the Kickstarter to be delivered so we can explore the other cases.
M: Put on a rainy soundtrack, strike up the jazz, and let out your inner noir monologues. This game is a definite recommendation for anyone who’s a crime thriller fan, or just a budding group of super sleuths.
The Chronicles of Crime pledge manager is still open now, and the game is available for pre-order on their Kickstarter page. Grab it before it hits retail, and get those sweet expansion packs as well! Also, go and take a look at Lucky Duck Games because they have some exciting projects in the pipeline, including a board game adaptation of the bestselling app Jetpack Joyride.
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