- Game Length: Each mission is between 5 and 15 minutes
- Mechanics: Where’s Waldo/Wally, Cooperative
- Release Year: 2020
- Designer: Johannes Sich
- Artist: Daniel Goll, Tobias Jochinke, Johannes Sich
As a kid, I was a big fan of Where’s Waldo. The cornucopia of colour and activity on the page encouraged me to take out every Where’s Waldo book that came to our local library. I would sit and scan the pages, feverishly searching out the striped devil, while also finding all the neat details hidden in the photo. As an adult, I have a mild obsession with the Wimmelbilder subreddit, again, loving the details and deriving joy from discovering hidden narratives in a chaotic scene.
My experience with MicroMacro: Crime City began with an app; a small section of map on a screen that allows you to zoom in and out as you pan around Crime City. A man was murdered and it’s up to you to find the crime scene. By clicking the corpse you begin a adventure through space and time, retracing the victims steps and following the evidence, clicking the clues until you you find victim’s home, the murderer, the motive, the murder weapon, and the stolen loot. As soon as I discovered that this app was a demo for a tabletop game, I quickly made my way to the local board game store to purchase it.
MicroMacro: Crime City is contained in a thin white and black box. In fact if you look closely there is even a puzzle to solve on the cover of the box. If you buy the game new you’ll need to sort two decks of case cards into individual little paper envelopes. Next, you’re instructed to apply a sticker to a little “magnifying glass” that comes with the game. Once both of those tasks has been completed you are free to unfold the massive map (75cm x 110cm) and begin unraveling the myriad of stories that have been laid out for you to explore. I specifically mention the components here because I think it’s important to know that that you need a big play area and need to sort out the crime deck before you begin to play.
This is pretty much all that comes in the box
How to Play
MicroMacro: Crime City tasks you with finding characters and stories on the large black and white map. Your first task is to find the scene of the crime for the case you’re trying to solve. You remove all the cards from the envelope and the first card will show you an image of your target and a general area where you can find them.
Once you find the scene, the cards will take you through the questions that need answering. The world that is MicroMacro: Crime City isn’t a snapshot in time where every detail on the map is happening simultaneously. Instead, it is a layering of several different stories, all happening in this one city. You follow characters that appear in different locations as they go through their day.
When a card asks you where the victim came from, you and your friends will search around the crime scene for where they were just before they met their untimely demise. Once you find their trail, you trace their day further back in time. Alternatively you may find yourself chasing the culprit as they try to escape the city. You’ll be surprised by how much detail you missed while exploring certain areas of the city for other cases. Once you think you know the answer to the question asked by the card, you can flip it over to ensure you’re correct and move on to the next card until you’ve solved all the questions for the case. In my experience, each case takes between 5 and 15 minutes.
MicroMacro: Crime City tasks you with finding characters and stories on the large black and white map. Much like Where’s Waldo?, your first task is to find the scene of the crime for the case you’re trying to solve. You remove all the cards from the envelope, and the first card will show you an image of your target and tell you the general area where you’ll be able to find them. Unlike Where’s Waldo?, where the entire challenge and fun is in finding one correct detail in a large mess of irrelevant information, you are constantly discovering new and fun details in the lives and deaths of the denizens of Crime City.
As you follow people back and forth from rooftops to alleyways, you’ll pass by interesting snippets of different stories. While those moments won’t help you in your current case, it’s exciting when they show up in later crimes and you know exactly where to look.
Most of the cases focus on small sections of the map, but every now and then the case expands throughout the city, forcing you to search the wider world for clues of where people came from or where they were going. The box says this can be played with 1 – 4 players, but I wouldn’t recommend involving more than 2 at a time. The map may be huge and during the moments when you’re searching all four corners of the city for clues, it’s fine. But if your task is to search carefully in a small area, it’s awkward having four heads all converge on a spot, arms and hands covering the spots where people want to look, noggins casting long shadows across the map. It’s also incredibly hard to see any coherent details when looking at the map upside down. To combat that, you can try and fit four people shoulder to shoulder, but the person on the west side won’t be able to see what’s happening on the east side. While the map is over 100 cm long, the details are minute. You’ll need to ensure you have very good lighting and decent eyesight and/or corrective lenses. I’ve heard of some people needing to don reading glasses for the very first time while playing.
It’s not every day that a baby gets to meet its heroes!
Be aware that this game is not as “family-friendly” as you might first believe. Although the cutesy art depicting adorable walking bunny people on the cover and the description of finding details on a large map may make draw parallels to the aforementioned Where’s Waldo? book series, which is quite popular with kids as young as 5 or 6 years old, the content of MicroMacro: Crime City may contain scenarios that are upsetting for children. The game begins with ‘innocent’ crimes, like a pair of kids using a fishing line to steal someone’s top hat; however, it quickly dives into more mature themes, such as murder, infidelity and prostitution. There are no official content warnings on any of the cases highlighting which ones may be good to play with a 12 year old, and which ones are going to make them ask awkward questions about “what’s a prostitute?”
For people looking for more of a challenge, there is an ‘advanced variant’ where the only clue you get is first one. You arrive on the scene of the crime and it’s up to you to answer all the questions and find all the details without using the rest of the cards in the deck. Personally, I enjoy being lead by the questions. The variant leaves every case feeling open ended and only ends when you feel like you’ve searched enough. I sincerely dislike the “Look around until you feel you’re done!” sandbox nature of that variant. I need structure in my play damnit! But that’s just me. Maybe you like chaos and disorder.
Overall, MicroMacro: Crime City is a excellent and unique experience that is absolutely worth your time. Solving cases by tracing characters throughout this city, all the while questioning details like “Why is that random lady punching that dude with the long nose?” brings about many bursts of laughter and joy, especially if you’re like me and really value ‘discoverability’. Let me tell you, this game is nothing but discovery. With all that said, there is virtually no replayability. Once you’ve solved all the crimes, you’re just… done. You can spend more time combing through the map, creating your own narratives and puzzles, but it really isn’t the same. You COULD replay the cases, but be honest, have you ever re-read a Where’s Waldo? book?
MicroMacro: Crime City could be a centerpiece in your home; something you hang up on a wall that draws people in when they first visit your home; a conversation starter as you walk your friends through the first few cases, and be their sherpa through the Crime City experience. Perhaps after a few years you’d forget the details of each case and returning to Crime City would be like returning to your hometown. You remember most of the broad strokes, like where the churches are or where the best fish and chips shop is, but the details are hazy. Re-discovering the cases could be fun, but I don’t think it’s worth holding onto this box for years hoping your memory fades while your eyesight stays sharp. Instead, MicroMacro: Crime City makes a great gift. Nothing is permanently changed or damaged throughout the cases so when you’re finished solving all the cases, pass it around your game group then chat about your favourite cases. Alternatively, it would be easy to sell or donate it to someone else in your community! If none of those options appeal to you, it makes for a great colouring sheet.
It’s a good day to be a duck
MicroMacro: Full House was announced recently, along with 2 more titles in the MicroMacro universe. While I won’t be keeping this map around my house for long, I am eagerly anticipating the next installment in the series. While I wait for them to hit store shelves, I’ll need to find a new pair of reading glasses.