Full disclosure: A review copy of MicroMacro: Crime City was provided by Pegasus Spiele. This review contains spoilers for the introductory / tutorial case.
I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m finally getting into the MicroMacro series! I’ve heard good things from all my friends like “you should really try this one” and “come to Crime City nothing bad happens here” and “don’t listen to the stories about the Masked Avenger” and I’m ready to ignore those last two ominous warnings and head off to the legendary vacation destination, Crime City! I love solving a mystery, and it seems like there’s enough murder and crime going around for everyone, so let’s see what’s going on!
In MicroMacro: Crime City, players take on the role of specialists called to Crime City to deal in an uptick of their seemingly-eponymous import. There’s murder, there’s gangs, there’s drugs, there’s some guy with a wrench, I think someone got poisoned; you want it, you’ll have it. That said, it’s Crime City, so you’ll have to look pretty closely if you want to see everything that’s going on. Use your laser-focus and your keen investigative eye and you might be able to pull off the sleuthing of the century. Will you be able to sort out the various goings-on in Crime City? Or will the city end up spitting you back out?
Effectively none. The cases all come in a stack of cards; separate them into cases and place them in the relevant envelopes:
Each case has a rating based on the level of violence / drugs / sexuality in it, so keep an eye out for those if you’re trying to screen who sees what in the case. Next up is the giant map; fold it out and go for it. There’s also a magnifying glass. Choose a case, take the top card, flip it over, read the back, and you’re ready to start!
A game of MicroMacro: Crime City is pretty simple: you have to solve the crime! Here’s how you do it.
To start, the Lead Player reads the back of the first card; that tells you some brief setup and gives you someone to look for. Then, you’ll have a question on a black card below it. To answer that question, you have to find it somewhere on the board and be able to provide the coordinates (for instance, A3 or F1). Don’t guess! You need to be able to prove it.
If your solution is correct, the Lead Player reads the back aloud and shows you the next illustration, and you move on. If you’re incorrect, the Lead Player tells you that you’re incorrect and that you need to look harder. That said, now that they know the answer, they can also give you a hint or two to kind of smooth things along.
Once you’ve completed all the cards in a case, you’ve solved it!
After you’ve gotten good at a few of the cases, you can try solving the cases without the Case Cards. The game alleges that you can solve the entire case just from the information on the first card, so good luck with that. If you solve them all, then there are more online that you can try (and now you have a cool poster!).
Player Count Differences
Generally, for MicroMacro, it’s actually pretty helpful to have a lot of people combing over the map looking for clues. I’ve even seen it work on stream! Ray from Czech Games Edition did that a while back; quite fun. In-person, you can still have a group playing in unison. The challenge for a lot of tables is that depending on the orientation, you might be looking at the map … upside-down. This is (from experience) extremely difficult, but doable. If you’ve got a long table, you can make it work, though; you just need everyone on one side. This lets you take on a pretty useful divide-and-conquer strategy and move in different directions. At two, you might get a bit lost in the details (not to mention that one player is the Lead Investigator, so they may not even be able to help you once you guess the first one). That said, I’ve quite enjoyed the game at two and three, so I wouldn’t say I have a specific preference. You may just want to rotate Lead Investigator every case, anyways. If you’ve got a large enough play space, I’d recommend trying this with a group! The game even encourages you to hang the map up as a poster once you’re done.
- Look carefully. The map has a lot of detail, which can sometimes overwhelm you as you’re looking for the thing that you’re trying to find. The magnifying glass can help expand out details, which can be pretty useful. Just try to zero in so that you can solve the crime!
- You can sometimes trace the path backwards and forwards. Sometimes you’ll need to figure out what the victim (or even the killer!) was up to before they committed the crime, so don’t forget to trace the path in both temporal directions. This can often help you solve a mystery by tracing the path of all characters involved in an interaction or meeting backwards and forwards. Where were they before they met up? What are they doing now?
- Keep an eye out for things like bus stops and subway stations! These are ways that the game tries to lose you over time. Characters will board a bus in one part of town and find themselves somewhere entirely different. Look for signs and indicators as to where they went. For subways in particular, they usually have two possible exits (depending on the line they take), so you’ll need to check both if you want to find where the character you’re tracking is now.
- Cars can sometimes have fairly distinct markings, as well, which can help. That’s one way to track cars! Just keep an eye out for cars that have similar markings designed specifically to trip you up. They’re all moving around the city, so you should be able to find them at different points in their timeline. You’ll usually want where someone entered the car and where they parked, though.
- People are usually fairly distinct, as well! The same method you use to keep an eye on cars actually works pretty well for people, too. Keep an eye on hairstyles and outfits; that might make folks easier to track.
- You’ll always need to resolve down to coordinates; so keep that in mind. Your answer needs to be specific; you can’t just guess what happened to someone and have that be sufficient to answer a question. You will ideally need exact coordinates to answer the question to the game’s satisfaction, so remember the letter / number grid on the outside of the map and use that to your advantage.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The goofy art style really does a good job making the murder and death and crime seem a bit less intense. It’s surprisingly comedic at times, despite the subject matter, which is appreciated. It’s not an entirely goofy game, but it’s a little silly and plays with its concepts in often-amusing ways. I’d call it firmly in the dark humor part of town. That said, what do you expect from Crime City?
- Pretty portable! The box isn’t the smallest, but it’s very flat. If you don’t want to take the box, you can just tuck the map and the envelopes somewhere and make that work pretty well. The box is mostly the insert to keep everything flat and organized; I think a gallon Ziploc bag would hold the game decently.
- I appreciate that it comes with a bunch of envelopes to mildly obfuscate the cases. It’s not that they prevent you from seeing everything; they’re just translucent enough that you can’t really read the words without trying to. It prevents accidental spoilers, which I appreciate. I really enjoy following the narrative of these games, so I prefer to remain unspoiled where I can.
- There’s a good variety and range of cases. Some are pretty compact, some take you all over the city; some require you to track subways, others you can figure out on foot; there are a lot of different types of cases that you can uncover over the course of the sixteen included, and I enjoyed the range.
- The difficulty ramp is also pretty gentle! I could imagine showing this to most people. The last couple cases are pretty challenging (but not, say, unbelievably so), and the first case is so simple that I can show it as part of my photography for this review and not feel too bad about that. It’s got a very smooth ramp upwards in difficulty and complexity, so you can kind of just play until you feel like it’s getting too challenging (and you need to sleep, like we did) or until you run out of cases. Both work!
- The core schtick is just … fun. It’s very “Where’s Waldo, but Crime?”. I think a lot of folks in my demographic grew up on Where’s Waldo (or Where’s Wally, I guess?), so having a board game version that we can play cooperatively with some more challenging mechanics can be pretty fun.
- Each case can play super quickly. We started being able to pretty much fly through cases as we got a feel for the type and structure of them (and we started to recognize landmarks around the map). I think the fastest one we did was about five minutes? You can definitely binge the entire box in an evening, if you feel up for it, though I preferred breaking it up into two separate blocks of mystery-solving.
- It’s pretty fun to see the vestiges of previous cases while solving the next one. It just makes the city feel more alive and crimey, I suppose. It’s fun to explore and see what you’re missing and what new stuff you can uncover. For the older cases, it’s just fun to see someone that you recognize, even if they’re about to die or just have an exceptionally bad day.
- The whole temporal nature of the game takes some getting used to, but it’s nifty. Everything is happening at once, and it takes some time to wrap your head around, granted, but it’s very fun once you get the sense of how things work. You can trace a character’s path both in the past and future and find out what they did and what they’re planning to do. You can see pathways where characters they interacted with in the past sneak off and do something that ends up negatively impacting the character down the line. It’s fun to see how all of that works and overlaps and intersects.
- The map is gigantic, which is cool, but it may overwhelm your game table, depending on how large it is. It did not fit on my photography table at all, and barely fits on my dining room table, which is pretty funny. I can’t really play it on the floor (I’m too old for that), but that’s a potential option. It’s a genuinely enormous map.
- Some of the questions that require multiple answers, like “What did the suspect do all day?” are kind of annoying. It’s mostly annoying because you don’t know how many answers you need to complete the question. Like one of those multiple correct questions from school, unfortunately. Just having a number to help move things along would help (though there’s also no real penalty to being wrong). Just mildly frustrating.
- The size of everything on the map is extremely small. You need that magnifying glass for some things, and I imagine that players may struggle with playing the game based on eyesight. Just something to keep in mind.
- If you’re playing with younger players or folks who are sensitive to violent scenarios, you may want to take a closer look at the ratings system for the cases or stick to the less-intense ones. Just always good to check before you dive into the game! Not all of the scenarios are kid-friendly. I’d say they range from G to PG to PG-13; nothing R-rated, though, so don’t worry about it too much.
- Not much to be done about it, but all players really need to sit on the same side of the table; trying to play the game upside-down doesn’t really work. This is a very low-grade problem, but it affects some of my games with more players. Just try to have everyone on the same side (or find someone who’s really good at reading things upside-down, I suppose). Part of it is because, as I mentioned, things are very small on the map, so it makes it tough to have to try and mentally flip the scene over.
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, I had a blast with MicroMacro: Crime City! It’s a nice new-feeling way to solve crimes and mysteries, and I think the game’s approach to time (every moment happening simultaneously across the city so you can follow the trail) is a really interesting way to translate a bustling city into a paper format. Plus, like they say in the rulebook, makes for a fun map to hang on the wall once you’re done, if you have the wall space for it. My house has this weird stucco (rentals, am I right?), so, not going to try my luck there. But in the meantime, there’s a lot to do in MicroMacro: Crime City! Sixteen unique cases feels like a solid amount, even for folks who can pretty aggressively seek out the clues to solve every mystery. It’s even fun to watch other folks solve them when you know the answer (you can just be the Lead Investigator and read the cards), or you can go online to find additional mysteries as you need. You will want kind of a long table if you’re playing with more than two or three folks, just so that everyone can view it from the front rather than having to read things upside down, but having more players lets you divide and conquer, which is really helpful. You can even delight yourself by finding some old iterations of puzzles you’ve previously solved (or puzzles you’re … yet to solve???). It’s a busy map that’s great for fans of things like Where’s Waldo or spot-the-difference puzzles, which would lead most people to think that this would be great for kids. It’s not, really, but that’s more because of thematic concerns. There’s a fair bit of drugs and violence behind the game’s cutesy exterior, but ultimately you’re likely the best judge of what your game group can handle. Thankfully, they added ratings to the game so that you can get a sense of the content before you play the case, as well. Knowledge is power and so on. That said, MicroMacro has really exploded onto the scene with two full games and a third on the way, and I can certainly see why; it’s a ton of fun. If you’re looking to solve some mysteries, you like looking through some complex maps, or you just want to see some crimes, I’d definitely recommend checking out MicroMacro: Crime City! I thought it was excellent.
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