Chronicles of Crime Noir and Welcome to Redview Expansions — Virtual realities

When I think back to my review for Chronicles of Crime, it was obvious at the time that the game was designed with expansion content in mind. After all, several add-on scenarios were available on day one, and, most tellingly, the box included a lot of empty space where new cards and locations might be added. Even so, that didn’t stop me from loving it in my review, nor did it stop me from listing it as the thirty-seventh best board game we’ve ever reviewed

Since then, two expansions for Chronicles of Crime have been released, with Noir coming first, and Welcome to Redview a few months later. We’ve finally got our hands on copies of each, and have been playing through the various scenarios included within for the past few nights. The two expansions are wildly different in terms of their theme and it’s a testament to the strength of the Chronicles of Crime system that such diverse settings can be achieved. 

Before reading on, I’m going to briefly mention that I’m expecting all readers to have a decent understanding of what Chronicles of Crime is and how it works. For those who don’t, I suggest you head back and read our review of the base game. If you do, then feel free to skip on because you’ll already know about all of the cool augmented reality stuff that I would otherwise have mentioned here.

Noir, as the name suggests, replicates the seedy, gritty crimes of prohibition-era Los Angeles, where beautiful young women mingle with mobsters in their attempts to make it big in the movies, whilst Average Joe’s try to earn an honest buck and often end up on the streets. Noir brings a unique feature in the form of “ability cards” that the player can scan at any time to do things like break into a location or interrogate a subject, changing the basic gameplay a fair bit.

Welcome to Redview, couldn’t be more different, with a cartoonish look and a storyline that centres on a group of teenagers battling demons at their school — Stranger Things springs immediately to mind. The party trick in Welcome to Redview comes in the form of specific character cards that come with attributes and the need to test against them. This is a clear but welcome nod to the inspiration for this episode, and again, whilst it increases complexity, it’s nothing an average gamer won’t be able to handle.

As always with narrative games, I won’t be including any spoilers in this review and the images that I have chosen to use are taken exclusively from the first scenario in each game. Where possible, I have deliberately chosen shots and angles that won’t give away any real clues or provide a meaningful insight into what the player might find in game, except for the blatantly obvious.

The first thing to say is that if you’ve already invested in the Chronicles of Crime base game and you enjoy it, then you’re more than likely going to enjoy both expansions and you may even wish to invest in both, simply to expand the amount of content available to you.

Each expansion comes with a decent number of new scenarios and took my group about two nights to complete, although I think it would be possible to blast through each game in a single sitting if you really, really wanted to.

Noir is perhaps the grittiest experience in Chronicles of Crime that I’ve found yet, with some fairly unpleasant investigations to undertake and a bit of blood, guts and coarse language. I think this is par for the subject matter, so I’m not too surprised, and it will be familiar territory to anyone who enjoys videogames like LA Noire or movies like LA Confidential, since it is those kinds of things that it relates best with.

Even so, Noir’s slightly more adult tone did intrigue me and I found some of the investigations a little harder than those in the base game. Some of this was down to the fact that the new action cards don’t spring immediately to mind during some scenes or when at certain locations, so I didn’t use them as well as I could, and might perhaps have scored higher if I had. I should mention that whilst we finished Noir in one evening, we didn’t actually pass all of the investigations, so I will certainly revisit it once I’ve forgotten some of the details.

Welcome to Redview feels like an extremely timely release, given the popularity of the Stranger Things series, and I have no doubt that the two are linked. With that said, it would have been easy for Lucky Duck Games to produce a cynical cash in that was aimed to shift boxes rather than to satisfy owners of Chronicles of Crime, but that is simply not the case, with Welcome to Redview feeling more like an homage than a cash cow.

 The introduction of a selection of named characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses is new to the series, but it works a treat here. Each player will now have an avatar — someone they can get behind and relate to, which really increases the tension during some of the scenes. The idea of character creation and dice rolling against tests is a great nod to Stranger Things, but it also belongs in this “choose your own adventure” style game, and feels right at home.

One thing that I didn’t like was the way in which Welcome to Redview’s instructions seem to indicate that all players must pass every test, which seems at loggerheads with the idea that some characters are stronger than others or smarter, etc, but then again it may be intentional since there are other ways to pass tests (such as by using energy, which represents physical, mental or spiritual exertion.)

Regardless of what I think is a relatively minor issue here, Welcome to Redview rapidly became my most enjoyable time with Chronicles of Crime. I played a good deal of the original game solo (which was brilliant) and I could easily have done so with Noir, yet it is clear from the outset that Welcome to Redview is intended to be a cooperative, interactive puzzle that rewards teamwork and which is all the more fun for it.

The scenarios, which feature demons and otherworldly goings on, are more interesting (in my opinion) but perhaps stray a little away from the actual core concept of investigating crimes, but that’s OK if you know what you’re walking into. I love some of the in game restraints as well, such as needing to be home by curfew (except when you really, really need to do something) or needing to rest to replenish energy.

With Noir and Welcome to Redview, Lucky Duck continue to keep Chronicles of Crime high in my thoughts and one of the first things I want to talk about in relation to board games. The augmented reality features remain strong, but each expansion adds more and more new features that change and enhance the experience in ways that I really enjoy — especially in Welcome to Redview.

If you can only choose one expansion and you have no preference for either theme, then for me the better one is Welcome to Redview, but if you have an interest in both themes and you have the base game, then you really can’t go far wrong by picking up both.

For those undecided on the whole idea of Chronicles of Crime, well, if my original review didn’t convince you, then the best thing I can say about these expansions is that they prove that Lucky Duck are continuing to support their product, and that there is no shortage of innovative new content for it. 

Chronicles of Crime and its Noir and Redview expansions are available now, including over on Amazon [Chronicles of Crime, Noir, Redview]. You can find out more about them on the website of Lucky Duck Games.

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