Updated: Dec 26, 2019
Lucky Duck Games have developed something of a speciality in porting established video games into very playable board games. With Chronicles of Crime, they have gone in a different direction. This is a crime solving game in the tradition of the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games published by Asmodee, Space Cowboys and Ystari. As in the Consulting Detective games, Chronicles of Crime has you visiting locations, questioning witnesses and searching out clues. Instead of searching through directories and pamphlets, however, this new game seamlessly integrates the board game with a free app you run on your smartphone. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you don’t need to have an internet connection or to burn through any data on your mobile phone contract in order to play the game.
The main interface with the app is through using your phone’s camera to scan the QR codes on the game’s cards and on the various London locations that you visit as part of your investigation. You gradually collect evidence and clues by questioning the witnesses you meet and by referring your findings to the various specialists on whose expertise you can draw (a doctor, a forensic scientist, a criminologist and a hacker). This all works surprisingly well and, once you get into the swing of it, it proves a much smoother process than other similarly themed detective games.
The character cards are assigned different roles in the different scenarios you play – both those supplied and the additional ones that can be bought through the app or in subsequent add-on expansions. This repurposing adds greatly to the novelty of approaching each new scenario. We’ve tried to avoid any spoilers in our Board’s Eye View 360º shot but the repurposing between scenarios means we've probably been unnecessarily over cautious. As you place out locations, characters and clues on the board, your table begins to take on the appearance of one of those clue charts that are an almost ubiquitous feature on the wall of most modern TV crime dramas.
And it’s the feel of being the central character in a TV police procedural that is key to the appeal of Chronicles of Crime. The game plays very well as a solitaire but if you play it co-operatively with two or more you’ll find the team arguing and debating the clues, deciding together what needs to be followed, how and with whom. You’ll also notice that the app imposes some time pressure: you need to focus and you’ll need to prioritise.
Though it’s the QR code scanning that drives the board game’s interface with the app, the app also provides players with an opportunity to visually search for clues. By attaching ‘VR glasses’ to your smartphone, you can view the crime scene and other locations in a primitive version of VR (virtual reality), albeit that this is more akin to the images generated by Viewmaster-style stereoscopic viewers. Some members of our review team felt the visual inspection for clues worked at least as well without the ‘VR glasses’: viewed as a single screen image, the images work like 360º photos, much like the experience of viewing a Board’s Eye View photo on our Facebook page.
Chronicles of Crime is designed by David Cicurel, with art by Matijos Gebreselassie, Mateusz Komada and Katarzyna Kosobucka. However you play it (solitaire or co-operatively; with or without ‘VR glasses’), you’ll find this strongly themed game an intensely immersive experience. We suspect that this form of integration of board game and app could prove to be the Next Big Thing.