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Subject: If you think Love Letter is good, you really should be playing Chronicle. rss

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Tim
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I like trick-taking games.

Wait, no. That's a lie. I kind of like them.

Well, sort of. I like the idea of trick taking games.

My wife likes them though. Loves them is probably more accurate. I suppose that's probably on-par for most of the non-gaming world. Everyone has played Bridge, Hearts, Spades, or even Euchre at some point in their life, right?

I guess what gets me about trick-taking games are the partnerships. I'm not good at them. I don't really mind losing, but I hate dragging my teammate down with me. Surely there's a trick taking game out there that's fun, light, and has just the right amount of chaos to ensure that even my sucky butt has a chance at winning a round once in a while?

Enter Chronicle. A trick-taking game from Seiji Kanai, the now-famous designer who brought us the unexpected hit filler-game of Essen Fair 2012, Love Letter.

Chronicle was originally published in 2009 by Japon Brand and later delivered to America by Z-Man Games. Chronicle is a trick-taking game with no partnerships (huzzah!). Each round one (or more) cards are revealed that determine the goal for the current hand. These range from "take the fewest blue tricks" to "take the most green tricks" with stops along the way at zaniness like, "play with both of the previous rules" (the suits have cute thematic names, but that's really not relevant).

The game is short -- like perfect length short. Each player who achieves the goal for a given hand earns themselves a "Fame Point". The game comes with some nice cardboard chits for this; no pencil or paper scorekeeping required. The first player to earn 3 Fame Points wins. If there is a tie, you can opt to play until a clear leader emerges, or all the winners can share the victory and split a hot fudge sundae on the way home or something.

There are 36 cards in the deck: 10 cards in each of 3 suits numbered 1 through 10, plus 6 wild cards. Wild cards aren't a trump suit or anything like that -- though there are two of them that essentially say "you win the trick". Wild cards are just... wild. They can be played at any time.

Oh, and there are 4 evil cards: 1 in each of the 3 suits, plus one wild. If you're caught with any of the evil cards at the end of a hand you are completely excluded from consideration for points. Just pick up your cards and pretend you weren't even there... Unless of course the current rule in play says that you earn Fame Points for having evils at the end of the round. That's a different story entirely. And of course you can always "shoot the moon", and have all 4 evil cards in your possession at the end of the hand. Then you get 2 Fame Points. Easy peasy.

So how does Chronicle play? Well, it's a trick-taking game... Deal out all the cards, and then one player leads a card and the other players must follow suit if they can (or play a Wild card). If they can't follow suit, and cannot or choose not to play a Wild card, then they discard a card of another suit face down into the trick. High card wins the trick.

Sweet. That's it. Those are the rules... except that this is a Seiji Kanai game, so every card has a special ability that is activated when the card is played into the trick. These special abilities are what set Chronicle apart from virtually every other trick-taking game I've ever played -- and make it a truly amazing game. The abilities range from allowing you to select cards out of a trick that was already won by an opponent and put them into your own won tricks (or into your hand), force opponents to pick up cards already played this trick, add a card to your won tricks from your own hand, reverse the order so that low-cards win the trick, etc etc. Chaotic? Yes! In a totally awesome way. The chaos doesn't completely derail the game into a wasteland of futility. Like any trick-taking game you can think about what's been played and what's still out there. The "3" of every suit makes the low card win. The "1" is the evil. Has the "3" been played? Will I have to take this trick? I have the green 10, but someone's got the Wild King, who wins the trick regardless. Has he been played? When tricks are won, even the face-down off-suit cards are turned face up and splayed out for all to see, so it becomes really obvious what cards are still waiting to be played. You can't blame your poor short-term memory when someone plays the blue "7" and forces you pick up your blue "10".


Photo uploaded by Y Kim

This game is awesome. Throwing off-suit cards face down doesn't activate their powers, and it allows players to ditch those nasty evil cards without you knowing they're in there. You were all set to win this trick, but I've gone and thrown an off suit card face-down. Did I just sandbag you with an evil? Probably devil. You'll find out when someone wins the trick and flips the card over.

I could go on about this game all day. Seiji's gotten a lot of attention this year with AEG's release of Love Letter, which is indeed a fun and clever game. But Chronicle is Seiji's crowning achievement in game design thus far. It is his Tigris & Euphrates. It's the game by which I will now judge all of his future designs.

I played Chronicle with my game group a few weeks ago (before BGG.CON and before I owned two copies of Love Letter -- AEG and Japon Brand editions), immediately after the game ended one of the players picked up a copy from our FLGS, and two more were seen scouring the shelves trying to find it later in the same evening. Moreover, they were not only caught up in the one-night hype, but the other two people waited for the FLGS to restock and bought the game the following week.

Will I still rave about Chronicle next year, or the year after? I don't know. Right now I'd say it's the probably best $10 I've spent on this hobby. It's all the chaos I'd expect from a Bruno Faidutti game... oh wait, in 2011 Bruno Faidutti released Dwarf King -- which sounds pretty much like the same exact game. I'm not saying Bruno was influenced by Chronicle, or that he even knew of his existence, but Bruno's been posting over on the Love Letter page, so he definitely knows who Seiji Kanai is now -- and Bruno's a legend. I'm sure he put his own spin on things. I'll probably try Dwarf King at some point. Who knows, it might be even better!

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Martin G
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Great review! Having been really impressed with Chronicle, Love Letter and R, I just ordered some more Kanai games from Japan.
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Todd Walden
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AAAAAAAnnnnnnnnd now I have a great stocking stuffer for my wife.

Thank you for the great review.
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Diz Hooper
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This is a great little game. I also highly recommend it.
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Jonathan Harrison
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tofarley wrote:
Will I still rave about Chronicle next year, or the year after? I don't know. Right now I'd say it's the probably best $10 I've spent on this hobby.

I spent $7!

Seriously, though, got this last week after somebody said basically what you said—if you like Love Letter—and have just been waiting to get a third person together to play it with my wife.

Great review, thanks!
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Tim
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qwertymartin wrote:
Great review! Having been really impressed with Chronicle, Love Letter and R, I just ordered some more Kanai games from Japan.


I also picked up R, but haven't had the chance to play it yet.
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Rich P
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Nice review but I don't see the relationship Chronicle has with Love Letter that you mention in the title. Other than the designer connection, they sound like quite different games. I don't feel Love Letter is a trick-taking game. Trick-taking games aren't my favourite, so I'm not sure Chronicle would be a good fit for me, but I do think Love Letter is good.
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Martin G
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woodnoggin wrote:
Nice review but I don't see the relationship Chronicle has with Love Letter that you mention in the title. Other than the designer connection, they sound like quite different games. I don't feel Love Letter is a trick-taking game. Trick-taking games aren't my favourite, so I'm not sure Chronicle would be a good fit for me, but I do think Love Letter is good.

I agree that they're quite different games, but what all Kanai's games have in common is cards that have numbers (and often suits) but also unique special powers. That's what gives them their wonderful half-traditional half-modern feel.
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Tim
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qwertymartin wrote:
woodnoggin wrote:
Nice review but I don't see the relationship Chronicle has with Love Letter that you mention in the title. Other than the designer connection, they sound like quite different games. I don't feel Love Letter is a trick-taking game. Trick-taking games aren't my favourite, so I'm not sure Chronicle would be a good fit for me, but I do think Love Letter is good.

I agree that they're quite different games, but what all Kanai's games have in common is cards that have numbers (and often suits) but also unique special powers. That's what gives them their wonderful half-traditional half-modern feel.


Right. I was mostly referring to Kanai's use of special abilities for every card in the game. If you have the Japon Brand version of Love Letter it's also the same artist, so you definitely get the same "vibe" playing his games. In the same way you can probably pick out a Knizia game with 70%+ accuracy after one play, I think we will soon be able to pick out Kanai's games that way too.

And I'm not a huge fan of trick taking games either. I appreciate them, and I can enjoy them, but they need to do something "different" for me to really get excited about them. Chronicle does just that.
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Jonathan C
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HuginnGreiling wrote:
tofarley wrote:
Will I still rave about Chronicle next year, or the year after? I don't know. Right now I'd say it's the probably best $10 I've spent on this hobby.

I spent $7!

Seriously, though, got this last week after somebody said basically what you said—if you like Love Letter—and have just been waiting to get a third person together to play it with my wife.

Great review, thanks!


Chronicle is certainly a great value, and a very tactical, very good, trick-taking game. Come to think of it, most of the Z-man "small box" line of games sells for between $5-$10 at OLGS, and pack a lot of card-game punch: Lords of Scotland, Onirim, Urbion, The Bottle Imp, Fairy Tale, ....
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Jeremy Olson
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Can't talk about the great ZMAN small box games and awesome Japanese game design without mentioning Parade. Chronicle is the king of controlled chaos but Parade will shock you with how much game coems out of 6 suits and 66 cards.

On topic I love Chronicle and I think it gets much better on everyone's second or third game when they have seen how things shake out a couple of times.
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Jonathan C
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alanias wrote:
Can't talk about the great ZMAN small box games and awesome Japanese game design without mentioning Parade. Chronicle is the king of controlled chaos but Parade will shock you with how much game coems out of 6 suits and 66 cards.


Agreed! I count myself lucky to have picked up the Japon brand of this about a month ago, and I hear Z-Man is thinking about a reprint...

alanias wrote:
On topic I love Chronicle and I think it gets much better on everyone's second or third game when they have seen how things shake out a couple of times.


Yes, it takes a few "a-ha!" moments...
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Jon
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qwertymartin wrote:
Great review! Having been really impressed with Chronicle, Love Letter and R, I just ordered some more Kanai games from Japan.

My first batch was:

Love Letter (everyone likes this)
Chronicle (a few plays so far that have gone well)
R (there's a ton of variants I still need to read for this).

and I just received:
Cheaty Mages!
Mai-Star
Master Merchant

Cheaty Mages is really fun and my kids like that. Master Merchant is interesting and I need to play it a few more times to get the hang of it. Haven't tried Mai-Star yet.

I got them all in one box now along with non-Kanai card games The City, Filipino Fruit Market, and No Thanks!. The Cheaty Mages money token things are decent for tracking scores in the City.
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Tim
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Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.
 
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Jeremy Olson
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tofarley wrote:
Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.


I second this, where do you find these games in general?
 
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Tim
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alanias wrote:
tofarley wrote:
Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.


I second this, where do you find these games in general?


I get a lot of import games from gamesurplus.com. Thor, the owner, is amazing, super responsive to inquiries, and has fair prices. www.boardgameprices.com is a great site for just "shopping around" it pulls in inventory from a number of sources. boardsandbits.com is good. coolstuffinc.com is great for cut-rate pricing, funagain.com has the lowest free-shipping requirement I know of, thoughthammer.com is super fast for me, because they're right up the road in Austin. Shall I go on?

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Great. Thanks a lot Tim, I really needed yet another game that I want to play.
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Jon
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tofarley wrote:
Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.


I ordered the City from Amazon.de for EUR 9,54 including shipping to America.

http://www.amazon.de/Amigo-Spiel-Freizeit-01900-City/dp/B005...
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Tim
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ravenskana wrote:
tofarley wrote:
Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.


I ordered the City from Amazon.de for EUR 9,54 including shipping to America.

http://www.amazon.de/Amigo-Spiel-Freizeit-01900-City/dp/B005...


Wow. Every time I've tried to buy a game from amazon.de it complains that it can't ship to my address, but this time the order actually went through. It was $12.84 USD with shipping, with an estimated delivery date of December 5th! Thank you so much!
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Jon
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tofarley wrote:
ravenskana wrote:
tofarley wrote:
Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.


I ordered the City from Amazon.de for EUR 9,54 including shipping to America.

http://www.amazon.de/Amigo-Spiel-Freizeit-01900-City/dp/B005...


Wow. Every time I've tried to buy a game from amazon.de it complains that it can't ship to my address, but this time the order actually went through. It was $12.84 USD with shipping, with an estimated delivery date of December 5th! Thank you so much!


Ah, my pleasure. The trick is you need to make sure you are ordering from Amazon themselves, and not a third-party vendor using Amazon, as almost all of them won't ship to America.
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Jon Day
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Ok you sold me on it

I think that its the only Kanai game that I haven't played so far.
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Brian M
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tofarley wrote:
Okay. Where did you get "The City". The only seller I can find is here in BGG and they want $50 for shipping! I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5. City is a small-box that could easily fit into an envelope.

Time Well Spent games has The City for $11.
 
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Nice review, read the rules last night and think I agree with those that said the feel of the game will differ a good bit due to a couple of things but mainly trying to win tricks in this one which is completely void in LL (but do see how the powers activating aspect feels very similar)

tofarley wrote:
I ordered my Japon Brand games direct from Japan and they only charged like $5.


Which vendor only charged $5? I found a few different ones so curious, also curious about what the price of a card game works out to.

If its this store http://japonbrand.ocnk.net/product/15
A game seems to be ~$25, and shipping for 3 games could be $50 according to the Yen conversions I am seeing (but then maybe that is the thing here since the other store front of the same store shows in Euro??)

tofarley wrote:
I'll probably try Dwarf King at some point. Who knows, it might be even better!


Not very likely at all imho, but then Bruno almost always makes games that don't sit well with me so I guess I'm biased
 
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jayjonbeach wrote:
Which vendor only charged $5? I found a few different ones so curious, also curious about what the price of a card game works out to.

If its this store http://japonbrand.ocnk.net/product/15
A game seems to be ~$25, and shipping for 3 games could be $50 according to the Yen conversions I am seeing (but then maybe that is the thing here since the other store front of the same store shows in Euro??)


and they are perennially sold out of stuff. (ok well the couple times I've tried shopping there)
 
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Houserule Jay
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aaarg_ink wrote:
jayjonbeach wrote:
Which vendor only charged $5? I found a few different ones so curious, also curious about what the price of a card game works out to.

If its this store http://japonbrand.ocnk.net/product/15
A game seems to be ~$25, and shipping for 3 games could be $50 according to the Yen conversions I am seeing (but then maybe that is the thing here since the other store front of the same store shows in Euro??)


and they are perennially sold out of stuff. (ok well the couple times I've tried shopping there)


Indeed I forgot to mention this as well, I sent the company an email about this and mentioned with the success of Chronicle and LL, they are missing out on sales for sure. No reply yet (was yesterday)
 
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