Friday, April 19, 2024

Chronicles Of Crime 1900: Techie Twists Improve Tired Tropes

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The modern escape room is one of the most popular ways for people to get together and have a little fun solving puzzles. Or, if you’re like me, it was a fun way to help your friends solve puzzles while poking at dollar store skeletons and getting frightened by sudden noises. Since we haven’t exactly been able to go out recently, different board games have stepped in to try to pick up the slack. Titles like Thames & Kosmos’s Exit series and The op’s Coded Chronicles system have come into their own significantly this year, but after a certain point it gets a little exhausting. There are only so many ciphers and word jumbles you can solve these games all start to ooze together.

What’s the solution for this? I don’t know. But Lucky Duck Games has presented a valid option with their Chronicles of Crime series that integrates a mobile app and even VR into tabletop crime solving. They sent me a copy of their newest iteration, Chronicles of Crime: 1900, the second part of the Millenium Series of sequels to the original Chronicles of Crime game, and it comes after a game set in 1400 and before an upcoming game set in 2400. All three are stand-alone and have some similar plot threads. so let’s see if apps, as so many weird tech people have tried to tell me, can save the day.

What’s In The Box

Chronicles of Crime 1900 box art
The box depicts the player character, Victor Lavel, a young ambitious journalist working for a major newspaper.

Not a lot! One of the benefits/drawbacks of a heavily digital board game is that there are fewer physical components. This makes it cheaper to make and buy, which is good! But it also makes a very nice sized box feel a little disappointing because it is so light. Thirty dollars isn’t an insane price point, but it’s $10 more than a game of Exit which has a bit more packed into a much smaller box.

What IS included is rather nice, however. The game is set during the Belle Époque era of French history, meaning lots of men with silly moustaches, women in large hats, and beautiful architecture in which to set the lurid crimes and murders you’ll be investigating.

Playing With An App?

Chronicles of Crime evidence
Evidence cards have QR codes as well, making piecing things together much easier.

So, the concept of app integration with board games is controversial. For one, it kind of limits the amount of players to who has a good smart phone. It’s also a little more fiddly. I’m not a hater on board games that use apps, and I think that Chronicles of Crime integrates it well into gameplay. Similar to what Thames & Kosmos is doing with their Adventure games, the Chronicles of Crime app adds sound effects and immersive notes to help the story move. It is, however, required for this game because scanning QR codes is the only way to piece together clues for the crimes.The puzzles that you solve (which are fairly standard for games like this) are done out of app and are more collaborative, but to get there you have to piece together the evidence and talk to your acquaintances.

The Verdict?

The easy comparison for games like this is that it’s an escape room in a box, but this one really isn’t. We’re a few years in to the escape room craze, and this genre is starting to feel a little creaky. There’s some innovation here and there, but there’s a lot of times where a designer or publisher is just slapping on different skins to the same old same old. What Chronicles of Crime does is less try to be an escape room and more try to be a point-and-click adventure game…and it’s kind of great. There’s a lot of putting X and Y together and then X and Z and then X and B and just seeing what different combinations lead to. You really feel like you’re solving a mystery and piecing together evidence in a creative way. There’s some good variety in the different mysteries (four as of this writing) and different levels of difficulty. The immersion provided by the app in tandem with the lovely artwork are just a cherry on top.

My main complaint with the game is with the multiplayer aspect, which is kind of the downside of app integration. Rather than feeling like a collaborative experience, the limitation of the app to one phone/tablet means that one person kind of acts as a “Sherlock” with the other players acting as “Watsons.” You can collab on puzzles and obviously bounce ideas off of each other, but since everything is done on the phone with the scanner…it kind of just becomes a solo mystery game with a phone a friend option. Now, if you want to play this SOLO I can’t recommend it highly enough! But for a party game…I’d make sure you know what you’re getting into first.

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You can order Chronicles of Crime: 1900, as well as other games in the series, from the Lucky Duck Games store as well as on Amazon.

Thanks to Lucky Duck Games for the images and copy used in this review.

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