Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday 28 October 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Chronicles of Crime: 1400

Game: Chronicles of Crime: 1400

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer: David Cicurel, Wojciech Grajkowski

Year: 2020

Chronicles of Crime had a hugely innovative first release in 2018, following a successful Kickstarter campaign. It is one of just a handful of story-driven crime-solving board games out there and really stood out from the crowd with it's use of technology. It introduced VR to our board game table for the first time, with the ability to look around crime scenes using just your smart phone and some 3D glasses, but what felt most innovative was its use of QR code technology. 

Chronicles of Crime: 1400 is the first of three standalone sequels, known as the millennium series. In the 1400 edition you'll be transported to 15th century France where crime and backstabbing are rife. A further two games in the series, 1900 and 2400 will be released next year.


If you've played the original Chronicles of Crime then you will find the gameplay strikingly similar. In brief the game is app driven with multiple scenarios for you to play through. The app will reference characters, items and places which can then be added to your table as the game progresses. Each of these cards have QR codes which can be scanned with the app in order to go to that place, talk to that person and ask them questions about people and objects. In doing so hopefully you will work out the solution to a crime and be able to answer a short quiz on what happened by scanning the correct suspects/murder weapons etc. On top of this whenever you visit a crime scene you can enter a VR view of the room in order to detect clues that can be added to your selection of things to quiz people on.

1400 has you playing as Abelard Lavel, a French knight who has long been cursed with dream visions of terrible crimes. Without fail the next day after a vision someone will come knocking at your door asking for help. These visions come in the form of dream cards, which provide you with some useful images of what happened in the crime. These can help you work out which people are involved, how they are involved, and essentially act as clues as you investigate. In addition the player board is now helpfully split between two colours, items in the orange section represent items you have in your possession or have encountered, while items in the blue section represent items that you have heard about, but have not seen yourself. This combines usefully with the new allies in this version of the game.

Instead of being able to call up the crime lab for analysis you have your family home. A location that's always available where three members of your family reside. A preacher, a spy and a merchant. Each is able to give you valuable guidance on items and people you may encounter. Perhaps even more useful is your loyal dog who is always by your side. This hound has an incredible nose, able to find where someone is hiding by following traces of scent on abandoned clothes and other items.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Chronicles of Crime was always a strange beast, as much videogame as board game. While the expansions to the original game all brought the focus back to the tabletop in various ways the Millenium Series seems to have returned to the series' roots. The gameplay is the same as before, though with a couple of ease of use tweaks. For what it's worth the dog was a very welcome edition that always felt good to use, while the dream cards sometimes felt like cheating. Sometimes it seemed like your dreams told too much of the story. While you can't complete the quiz without having the relevant items/people to scan I did find myself more or less knowing the answer and getting a little frustrated when I couldn't find the right dialogue that I needed to get someone to admit the existence of the McGuffin that I'd already seen in my dreams!
Further to this the story felt a touch more bland than the original game. Perhaps it's the historical take which made me feel distanced from the crimes, but I found the modern criminal investigation more involving. Additionally the crimes felt more shocking and integrated with each other. Call me callous, but I find it hard to relate to the death of some man 620 years ago! The case of characters is also vast, I know you need a few different people involved to keep me guessing, but some of these people seemed to merely be innocent bystanders with no worth other than gossip!

Chronicles of Crime is still a unique game experience, and makes for a great solo adventure. For a larger group you want to ensure that everyone is extremely story driven, because if you don't get drawn into the story then you will find the gameplay of "one person scans some cards for 60 minutes" a touch bland. As times has gone by playing many of these games the shine has started to wear off for us. Partially this stems from Fi being actively repulsed by story in games (she rolls her eyes at the 60 second cut-scenes of Princess Peach being kidnapped in modern Mario games). Before investing in Chronicles of Crime you should really consider what people are looking for in a game day, if you have a group that are keen to get dragged into political medieval intrigue who all love to story-tell then This Chronicles of Crime: 1400 can make for an incredible experience. Unfortunately that's not us.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Chronicles of Crime broke the mould – it was a story driven game that I was actually able to enjoy. Unfortunately, the initial expansions and now Chronicles of Crime: 1400 have not been able to hold my attention like the original game. The core mechanism and Chronicles of Crime is extremely novel and exciting and although expansions have each introduced their own new mechanisms, they’re just very minor tweaks in comparison to the amazing first impression that Chronicles of Crime made. Now that the original wow factor has worn off, Chronicles of Crime boils down to a story-driven mystery that I am really not that bothered about solving - Amy does all of the VR and most of the character scanning, unless she can't reach one of the locations and I just don't feel very engaged.

I don't think that the setting of 15th Century France particularly helps to immerse me. After playing the (very helpful) tutorial and first two scenarios, it seems that most crimes boil down to a similar outcome with a similar motive. Plus, since you'll have pretty much every location and half of the character cards on the table within the first 20 minutes of playing, the same people and places also come up frequently. The amount of stuff on the table seems a little out of control compared to previous scenarios we have enjoyed and it's really a challenge to keep track of the web of relationships and who knows what.

I appreciate that Chronicles of Crime: 1400 and the subsequent games in the Millennium series are standalone. You don't need to hold a base game indefinitely in case additional content comes along. If you're looking for a good value entry point into Chronicles of Crime, and historical settings are your thing, then this could be a good pick. If it's your first experience of Chronicles of Crime, prepare to be amazed! If you're a veteran of the system then you might find yourself a little underwhelmed unless you're all about the hard to solve, speculation filled mysteries.

You Might Like...
  • There are new mechanisms brought into the existing Chronicles of Crime framework.
  • There is a good variety of difficulty in the different scenarios in the box.
You Might Not Like...
  • Perhaps it's the setting, but the stories feel less gritty and engaging than those in the original game.
  • The number of characters and locations introduced early in each story seems very high and hard to keep track of.
  • We found ourselves with no further avenue to investigate on more than one occasion.

The Verdict
5/10 The more we have played of Chronicles of Crime, the more it has lost its initial shine. The innovative was that the game integrated technology overshadowed the rambling storylines at first, but now that the technology is familiar, you've got to be really engaged in the story and the mystery to stay engaged and we simply aren't. In this version in particular, the first two stories feel rather similar and we didn't find it engaging, whether or not we were successful. The introduction of the dog is a fun touch that makes thematic sense, but the premonitions are strangely unhelpful and don't seem to add to the game. Overall, the new elements don't reboot the game enough for us.

Chronicles of Crime: 1400 was a review copy kindly provided to us by Lucky Duck Games. It had an early release for orders at SPIEL.Digital and there will be a worldwide retail release at the beginning of November. Photos are taken from the press pack.

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