Lucky Duck Games have developed something of a speciality in the past in porting established video games into very playable board games. As we commented in our review of the original Chronicles of Crime three years ago, they have moved in a slightly different direction with this series of games. The Chronicles of Crime series are crime-solving games 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, Lucky Duck's games seamlessly integrate 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.
In 1900, as in the other Chronicles of Crime games, 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 locations that you visit as part of your investigation. You gradually collect evidence and clues by questioning the witnesses you meet (scanning the QR codes on their cards). In this game, you are working not as a policeman but as a journalist during the Belle Époque in Paris. The notion of the investigative reporter in 1900 may be a trifle anachronistic but if you go with the flow, it all makes for an intriguing escape-room style puzzler as you assemble clues to try to solve the crimes, but with interactions that are subtly different to the responses you'd get from police questioning. The app is well designed and, once you get into the swing of it, it proves a much smoother process than other crime-solving detective games. To avoid spoilers, we've shown only the start of the tutorial case but there are four other cases to solve. And tho' 1900 is an entirely standalone game, the intention is that it will form a 'millennium series' story arc along with the medieval setting 1400 and the upcoming futuristic cyberpunk 2400. Throughout 1900, you'll be going back and forth to your newspaper office where Charlotte (a constant character in all the 1900 scenarios) can offer you help and advice. She'll always tell you for free whether or not you've collected all the clues you need to solve the part of the puzzle at each location but if you get stuck and ask for hints on using the clues you'll lose points for calling on the extra help. There's a sense of urgency too because you are effectively playing in real time, in that the longer you take the lower your points score.
As with the original Chronicles of Crime, you'll place clues onto a board, which will ultimately take on something of the appearance of one of those clue charts that feature on the wall of most TV crime dramas. The new element to 1900, not seen in previous Chronicles of Crime games, is that clue cards in this game form distinct puzzles that have to be solved: puzzles within a puzzle. 1900 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 which characters. But beware that ticking clock... 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. You view the locations you visit by moving your phone around, much as the 360º photos work when viewed on the Board’s Eye View Facebook page. If you add the optional ‘VR glasses’ to your smartphone, tho', you have the option of examining the locations in a primitive version of virtual reality, albeit that this is more akin to the images generated by Viewmaster-style stereoscopic viewers than the immersive experience of using an Oculus Quest. Chronicles of Crime: 1900 is designed by David Cicurel and Wojciech Garjkowski, with evocative art by Matijos Gebreselassie, Karolina Jedrzejak, Mateusz Komada, Katarzyna Kosobucka and Aleksandra Wojtas. However you play it (solitaire or fully co-operatively; with or without ‘VR glasses’), you’ll find this an engrossing and atmospheric puzzle game. We can't wait to see how it ties in with the other games in this millennium series.