City of Londoners.
City of buildings that belong in a city so big they named it once, because naming a city twice is something only the crassest of people do.
I joined the police because I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to make a difference to the lives of the people I walked past on a day to day basis. I want to right wrongs, and be dependable and create order out of this chaos. I also wanted to learn how to play guitar. But that.. is another story.
All in all, I wanted to uphold the law and protect those who needed protecting and make life difficult for those who didn't. I also want to protect people from spoilers, so the pictures you'll see will be mostly from the tutorial included in the game and nothing more.
And so when the dark underbelly of the city looks up at me, I'd be staring right back at it, mobile phone in hand and QR code at the ready, to send it back to where it came from..
It's a strange opening to a review, but then Chronicles of Crime is a strange hybrid of a game, a mixture of analogue and digital, trying to take the best of both worlds and hopefully producing an alloy of fun as an end result. It's an uphill task for Lucky Duck Games, as the expected and observed reaction among experienced gamers is to sometimes cry with Luddite levels of derision and throw their shoes at any box in disgust that dares to bring the digital.
"Look, we don't mind you porting board games over to mobile formats so we can sit and contemplate our turn during our quietest moments, but we'll be damned if we're going to actively want to have tech at the table!"
Maybe that is an extreme take on the situation, but I know of those who like to keep their digital dealings separate from their cardboard loves.
Let's talk surprises to begin with. Off the bat, I don't think I've been more confused and potentially disappointed when I opened the box for Chronicles, as there's a large amount of box for a small amount of content. At first, I thought I was entering the land of over produced and over-sized, but on further investigation, it's clear that this is a base game designed to house other expansions. Lucky Duck expect you to embrace your role as a detective so much, that like T.I.M.E Stories, you'll be compelled to collect all the of the available scenarios once you've devoured what's on the table in front of you. Secondly, instead of a twenty-five page rule book, Lucky Duck Games have enclosed a simple pamphlet which pushes you into using the much promoted and lauded mobile app as soon as you can. It's almost as if they want you to 'get it over with' and put your mind at rest, and thankfully it works a treat in having you interact with it from very early doors.
Chronicles is all about solving crimes as you start your new detective career in London. You do this by visiting locations, speaking to people of interest, and gathering clues and information to help you construct a case. Once you're satisfied you have enough evidence, then you return to your base of operations at Scotland Yard and present it to your superior and they will score you based on how much you've managed to ascertain. Get it wrong and you'll potentially be arresting the wrong person, and letting a killer get away. Get it right and there's a enormous sense of satisfaction of putting together the clues, as there are often several layers to an investigation as you make your way through the miniature story.
Chronicles is closer to a Role Playing Game than a normal board game for me, where there is obviously a beginning, middle and an end to it all, but how you get to those points is completely controlled by yourself. What Lucky Duck has done, is to provide you with a framework for investigation and discussion, with more information being drip fed to you as you travel to various locations within London, investigate crime scenes and talk to those connected. You aren't particularly forced down a path, as shepherded, with enough rope given to succeed or hang yourself as you go. It's all achieved by scanning QR codes on each of the cards that you interact with. If you want to speak to a suspect, scan the card. Need some expert help? Scan the card for the Doctor or the Criminologist. Want to ask someone about some evidence you found? Scan the person and then scan the object to see what they think. It will either lead you to another path of investigation or confirm you're heading to a dead end. You start to feel like you're gathering clues and working out connections and it manages to draw you in to bring out your analytical side, without pushing it in your face. The art work is striking and very functional, to the point where those with some imagination will be able to picture how the characters are likely to act when faced with being questioned by the law. You'll be faced with a myriad of head shots without explanation. You need to use your skills to learn their stories.
Visit the crime scene and you get to view it in a hybrid 3D environment, picking out items that need investigated further, and allocating cards that represent them. For example, seeing blood on the floor in the scene might prompt you to pick the blood and organs card so you can ask some questions about it later. It's up to you what you pick out, but not every item will yield results.Your scouting time is limited and so sometimes it's better for someone to look at the scene and call out what they see, while others go through the deck of items to decide what will match. Sometimes you'll need to go back again to see if you've missed out something that can move the investigation forward. That will use up more time, and can have a huge impact on how you are marked for you final score, as well as how the situation pans out. It's an additional mechanic designed to add tension to the proceedings and in most cases it works, though sometimes you'll feel pressured to not maybe recheck items to confirm your theories, and in larger player groups it can sometimes inhibit everyone to get a chance to get their hands dirty with the app. It's finding that fine balance that will give you the best enjoyment.
It's also finding a well lit room as well. If there is one thing that caused the most frustration with Chronicles, it's the hit and miss in how the app will work in a slightly duller environment. I don't know if it was down to my phone, so I tried using the app on a tablet and there were too many times where the QR code couldn't be read unless the lights were blazing. It's an unfortunate issue as it can ruin the immersion, and therefore the atmosphere you've built up. Of course your mileage may vary, and I hope you enjoy a hassle free investigation.
My only other frustration is that sometimes if you don't scan the right place and the right item with the right person, you can sometimes hit a wall. You can end up having to go back through all of your old tracks and that in turn can eat into your time like nobody's business while you try to find that vital piece of evidence. Fortunately at the same time, it doesn't try to be too clever. There aren't the usually highly irritating twists and turns you would see in the latest 'must see' detective drama. If you uncover the right evidence for the right person, and as long as you aren't jumping to conclusions, you are likely to catch the person you are looking for.
You have to applaud Lucky Duck Games for bringing a game to the table that has accessibility to the hobby at it's heart. Chronicles reminds me very much of the after dinner Murder Mystery games that were a fad for while in the nineties. With that in mind, it's the kind of game that you could bring to the table with those who want something different to do rather than sit around and chat politics and nonsense after dinner. Unlike a lot of analogue and digital mergers, it doesn't require everyone who wants to play to have the app installed on their device. The fact it can be taught straight out the box with the need to look at a rule book for some, is very welcome indeed. There are already expansions available, and the app itself will allow for new scenarios to be introduced later on using the existing characters in the box. It's not expensive either, so you'll feel you've had value for money very quickly you've run through the game a few times. You can spend the change on buying some really bright lightbulbs..
We were provided with the copy by Lucky Duck Games
We were not paid for this article
Lucky Duck Games have not guested on the podcast