It seems like every day we see more and more app integrated board games. One of the best examples of how to integrate an app with board gaming is the Chronicles of Crime Series. Today I’m going to be looking at the latest game in this app-based boardgame series, Chronicles of Crime 1400.
In Chronicles of Crime 1400 you take on the role of a prescient knight in Paris in the year 1400. Along with your faithful dog Percival, you work through and attempt to solve five different crimes in the medieval city.
Disclosure: Lucky Duck games was awesome enough to send me a review copy of Chronicles of Crime 1400. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get in Chronicles of Crime 1400, the first game in the new Millenium Series for Chronicles of Crime?
Chronicles of Crime 1400 was designed by David Cicurel and Wojciech Grajkowski. It features some amazingly evocative artwork by Barbara Gołębiewska, Mateusz Komada, Katarzyna Kosobucka, and Mateusz Michalski. This is the first game in a new Millenium series of games that are standalone games set in different time periods using the system first introduced in Chronicles of Crime. This series was funded on Kickstarter in March 2020 where it funded on the day of launch. The retail version, which will be published by Lucky Duck Games, should be out by the end of the year.
This stand-alone Chronicles of Crime game plays one to four players with each investigation taking under two hours. The base game box includes five crimes to be solved, one of which is a shorter tutorial investigation. Each scenario is only meant to be played once, as you will know the solution, but unlike other puzzle games, such as the EXIT series of games, nothing is destroyed while playing so you could pass the game along to someone else.
For a look at what you get in the box, watch our Chronicles of Crime 1400 unboxing video on YouTube.
The game includes a surprisingly thin rulebook, which contains an excellent component list and an overview of how to use the Coded Chronicles system. The seven pages are laid out two-column style with a ton of examples and lots of artwork. This book is short and concise enough that you could probably read it out loud to the table when sitting down to play for the first time.
There is a central game board made of thick card. While I would have preferred a mounted board, all this board is really used for is laying cards out on. You aren’t pushing cubes around on it or anything like that.
The game also comes with a really nice box insert. This is plastic, with a clear plastic lid that holds everything in place even when the game is stored vertically. The spots for the cards are all wide and deep enough to hold sleeved cards, something I know many other gamers will be happy to see. Another nice touch is that the insert is covered in symbols showing you what to put where.
The rest of the box consists of various decks of cards of various sizes. There is a large home board, showing three of your family members, and a number of similarly sized double-sided location boards. These are made of thicker cardstock and the artwork on them is notably excellent.
Next, we have some Tarot-ish sized vision cards. These just have artwork on them, and it is of the same great quality as the rest of the art in this game. There is also a significant stack of standard-sized cards. These feature your trusty animal companion and a set of character cards.
Finally, there is a deck of much smaller (Hobbit-sized) item cards. There are fifteen special items and thirty-eight generic items. The generic item cards are just words, while the special items feature line art style drawings.
All of these cards feature one or more QR codes prominently on them.
In addition to what comes in the box, there is one optional component you may want to pick up and that’s a VR attachment for your mobile device. There’s an official set that comes in the Chronicles of Crime Virtual Reality Module (which also includes a case for the original game) or you can pick up something 3rd party like Google Cardboard.
How do you go about solving crimes in Chronicles of Crime 1400?
The first thing you need to do to play any Chronicles of Crime game. including Chronicles of Crime 1400, is download the Chronicles of Crime app. The app is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android and is 100% free. Note that you use the same app for all of the Chronicles of Crime games, even though 1400 is a stand-alone game.
Once you have the app, you will pick the Chronicles of Crime 1400 entry and then select which crime you want to solve. When the game is released there will be five crimes available, including one tutorial and four full investigations. It’s expected that further crimes will be released through the app as DLC in the future.
In Chronicles of Crime 1400, you are playing Abelard Lavel, a knight sworn to King Charles VI the Beloved, who lives in the city of Paris. Since you were a child you have had prophetic dreams in which you see scenes of crimes being committed or even ones yet to be committed. You learned to use this skill to solve cases no one else could and quickly earned a reputation as the person to go to when a mystery needs to be solved.
Each crime in Chronicles of Crime 1400 starts with you waking up to one or more visions. These are represented by the vision cards. These cards only feature artwork, images that will help you in your investigation.
After looking over the clues the app will tell you where you are and instruct you to put out various location boards on the table. You will also put out some people and/or items. People that you know about are placed on the mainboard, whereas people that you know where they are located are placed at a specific location board. Similarly, items you have in your possession are placed on one part of the main board while items you only know about the existence of are placed on another.
Solving the crime involves travelling to various locations and interviewing people. When interviewing people you can ask them about other people or items you know about or have. Doing this will unlock more people, items and locations. Each time you talk to someone about something five minutes of game time passes, and each time you travel to a different location twenty minutes of game time passes. Sometimes things in the game will change based on time passing. For example, people will move to different locations, they may change what they know if you interview them again or new things affecting the investigation will happen.
All of this is handled mechanically through the Chronicles of Crime app. To travel to a location you scan its QR code. Once there you can initiate an interview by scanning a person at that location. Once you have scanned a person you can ask them about items and other people by scanning those QR codes. After each scan, you read what the app says, with it often instructing you to put out new cards and telling you where to place them.
In addition to this, you will also have the ability to scan some crime scenes. Chronicles of Crime uses VR for this part of the game. One player will take the device you are using the app on and will be given forty seconds to look around the scene. This can be done in full VR 3D if you have the proper glasses for it, or in partial 3D by moving the device around you, or in 2D by clicking and swiping around in the app. As the one player investigates the scene they will call out what they see to the other players who will look for matching clue cards. These clue cards are vague, listing things like Melee Weapon, Devotional Objects, or Jewelry.
After searching a scene you have the option to let another player also search but doing so takes more in-game time. After you are satisfied with your search you then scan all of the objects you’ve found that you think are important to your investigation. You will be instructed to place any actual clues onto the board, which can then later be scanned as part of an interview.
The game continues with you moving about, talking to people, and unlocking clues until you think you have solved the crime. Then you have you return home and choose to solve the crime. At this point, the app will ask you a number of questions about the case which you answer by scanning various cards. For example, you may be asked: “Who killed X?” and in reply, you would scan the card for the killer, or you could be asked “Where was Y hidden?” and to answer you would scan that location.
Once you are done entering your answers you will be given a final score. After seeing your score you have the option of reading through the full solution to see if there was anything you missed.
Chronicles of Crime 1400 is a uniquely immersive experience:
Before I get to my final thoughts on Chronicles of Crime 1400, I do need to point out that I have not played the original Chronicles of Crime board game. 1400 is my first experience with this game franchise and its unique app-based gameplay. I will admit that after playing 1400 I am now tempted to go back and check out the original.
Right from opening the box, I was very impressed by the production quality of Chronicles of Crime 1400. The rules are excellent and great at teaching the game, featuring a lot of examples and plenty of shots of the actual game components. The box insert is one of the best I’ve ever seen for a card-based game. The cards themselves feature some of the nicest artwork I’ve seen in any board game and are great for evoking the mood of the game setting.
As for the app-based investigation system which is the heart of Chronicles of Crime, I think it’s brilliant. This is such a unique and engaging way to create a mystery. You really get the feel of having to talk to the right people about the right thing and note exactly what they are saying. It’s all about catching lies and subtle clues and presenting evidence at just the right time.
I also really liked the way the game system handled how information was presented and tracked. The way items you had in hand went somewhere different from items you only know about and how you had to know the location of a person and travel there before you could talk to them. The game even evoked a feeling of frustration when you would waste time travelling from one place to another only to find out that you were following a bad lead.
Overall this system leads to a rather immersive experience except for one very notable exception, it’s all handed by an app. Using such a modern piece of technology when playing a game set in 1400 is just somewhat incongruous. Added to that are the common issues that come up when trying to scan anything; getting the right angle, bad lighting, and sometimes, if you aren’t careful, scanning the wrong thing. All of this firmly takes you out of the moment.
As for the crimes themselves, at this point, we have played through the first two scenarios, both of which were engaging and interesting. They were filled with a mix of solid leads, red hearings, side plots, backstabbing and conspiracy. They each required a significant amount of investing and neither had us guessing the answer right off the bat. I particularly liked how things would change as time progressed. How people would move locations, further crimes could be committed, and talking to someone about the same thing at a later date when you had more information made a difference.
While using an app may take you out of the story a bit, I don’t think this kind of investigative game could be done any other way. I think this is a much better, though less evergreen, way of presenting a branching investigation than a bunch of which-way style books. So I’m willing to forgive the loss of verisimilitude for the ability to be able to quickly and smoothly move around and interview people about a number of different items.
Overall I’m very impressed by Chronicles of Crime 1400, both with the physical components and more importantly the gameplay. This was a totally unique crime investigation experience for me and my family and we’ve all greatly enjoyed our plays of this game so far. I think the Chronicles of Crime system is brilliant. I can’t wait to finish off the other investigations in this box and I am looking forward to other games in the Millenium series. Even though modern crime investigation isn’t my thing, I’m now even somewhat curious to check out the original game.
If you dig the crime investigation genre at all you need to check out this series. I don’t think anyone who’s a fan of mysteries will be disappointed. Even if investigative gaming isn’t really your thing, like me, you may want to check this one out, as this is the most fun I’ve personally had with any of these styles of games. If you have no interest in solving crimes and prefer games where you focus on scoring more points than your opponents, the Chronicles of Crime series is probably not for you (and well, you probably aren’t even reading this review).
Have you played many crime investigation style games? I haven’t played many myself as I’m not a big fan of the genre, but I did really enjoy Chronicles of Crime 1400. I would love to hear about other investigation style games I should check out. Let me know about your favourite in the comments.