A Review of MicroMacro: Crime City

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MicroMacro: Crime City is a cooperative game from Germany for 1-4 Players that recently won the Spiel Des Jahres Award for 2021! This is a lighter game for 12+. Because of it’s “award winning status”, this game has been impossible to find! I just happened to find it at my local gamestore a few weeks ago (“Oh, we just got that in stock!”), and picked it up.

 

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Where’s Waldo?

MicroMacro: Crime City is a combination of something like Where’s Waldo (see below) meets Detective: City of Angels.

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If you don’t know what Where’s Waldo is, (I believe it’s called Where’s Wally in the UK), it’s a book of intricate pictures where you are looking to find the character Waldo. See below for an example:

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Where’s Waldo is really more of an activity: “look at this picture and see if you can find something”. Luckily, MicroMacro: Crime City is more of a game. It’s s detective type game, where you are trying to notice small things (micro) in the large city (macro).

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This is very much a limited life detective game like Detective: City of Angels (or many detective games, see our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games). There are a limited number of cases in the game, so once you solve them, you are done with the game. Luckily, expansions have been announced, so if you love this game, there will be further content.

Unboxing

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There’s not a lot of components for MicroMacro: Crime City. The first thing you see when you open the box is a leaflet saying “Warning; Spoiler Alert!”. See above. Between the cards and the map itself, you don’t want to look at anything too closely for fear of ruining a later game. Notice all the different languages! The main game map itself is pretty much language independent: the cards will have to be in the language of interest.

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The rulebook is nice. See above.

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The main piece of the game: the map. It’s huge! We’ll see it folded out below. It really is a old-school map with letters along the bottom and numbers on the edge for cross-referencing locations in the city. It also has the same fold-up problem that most maps have .. “Wait, how does this fold up again?”.

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The map looks very cool all unfolded on the table!!! It’s huge!  I included a coke can to the left for a sense of scale.

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The rest of the game is in the cards.   They are all fine quality with black and white art just like the map.   There are a number of cases in the game: each case is made up of a number of cards.  You can see “The Top Hot” case, the introductory case, is 5 cards long and really easy (1 out of 5 stars), whereas the “Without a Trace” case is 10 cards long and pretty hard (4 out of 5 stars).

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The game also comes with a magnifying glass: see above. It’s cheap and plastic but it works. See below.

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“Hidden” in the game are some envelopes: I say “hidden” because in my game, the envelopes were somehow “inside” the map and I didn’t find them at first! I actually thought they were missing! I had to unfold the map and then the envelopes fell out! It was kinda weird they were stuck in there. Anyways, the idea is that you are supposed to sort the cards and put one case per envelope. “Your first case: find the envelopes!!” (It was an easy case).

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Overall, the components are nice. See above. They aren’t elaborate, but everything is very functional and readable.

Rulebook

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The rulebook is fine. It commits the cardinal sin of white text on a black background, but otherwise it’s a good rulebook. It does a great job of emphasizing key points: For example, see above: “Again: bright light is extremely important!”

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Once you learn the game, you almost never come back to the rulebook except for the list of cases.

Even after all the cases are over, the game has little easter eggs and puzzles hidden (described on the last page of the rulebook).

Good rulebook: you’ll read it once, then the game just flows and you never need it again.

Solo Play

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The game works really well solo. It is nice to see a cooperative game just work with one player (thank for you following Saunders’ Law). In fact, when you first pick up the game, it has a “mini-case” on the front of the box!

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You can get a sense of the game when you pick it the box at a game store. Here’s the thing: I don’t think you really capture the magic of this game (spoiler alert! I like it!) until you lay it out the map in front of you on the table and are engaged in the game. So, although the little puzzle on the front of the box is “neat”, it’s not really indicative of whether or not you’ll like the game. You NEED to get that map in front of you!

The solo play works fine for learning the game, but honestly, you don’t need someone to learn the game ahead of time to teach the game (one of the main reasons to learn the game solo)!    The game is really easy to learn when you pull it out.  

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Honestly, I didn’t think I would like this game because:

  1. I usually don’t like games where you have to find hidden pictures (my least favorite part of the Unlock game series: they always have some hidden pictures: See Unlock! Star Wars Review and Unlock Epic Adventures).
  2. I’ve found games like this (like Robit Riddle, Crusoe Crew, and Baker Street Irregulars and games with a story) significantly better with more people. 

I am totally surprised I liked this game solo.  It was fun, it was simple, it was engaging. I played the first three cases in quick succession and had a blast.

Gameplay

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The game is straightforward: you look for elements on the map, while trying to answer questions on the case cards.

The little guy on the front is the “person of interest” you will be looking for on the map. The game starts when you flip that card and read the case. SPOILER ALERT: skip to the end of the next section if you don’t want to see anything else and want to be completely surprised by the rest the of game. I am just showing a little bit of the first case so you can get a sense of the game.

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So, you start looking on the map in the east part of the city. Below is “some part” of the city.

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You get a sense of what the city looks like zoomed in.

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As the game gets harder, you will be using coins to make “places of interest”.

In general, the game is about finding the people/places of interest (maybe marking them using coins), using a little bit of deduction, and trying to answer some of the questions on the cards. And that’s it!

It’s Where’s Waldo with a story/mystery!

Player Count

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The game says 1-4 Players. And it works great at all player counts. The reason the game “tops out” at 4 is because you can’t fit around the table at more than 4!

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You can see a 2-Player game “taking over the table”, but it works!

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Above is 3 Players (I am behind the camera so you can’t see me), and you can see we are already starting to get a little cramped!

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We figured that 4 Players is the absolutely maximum that can play: the fun in the game is crowding around the map and looking for stuff. If you can’t fit around the table, you aren’t playing, and you aren’t having fun! 2-3 Players are probably the best player count, but solo works fine as does 4 Players.

There’s only one magnifying glass in the game, which makes it a limited resource. Although it wasn’t a problem for my group having only one magnifying glass, other groups might “fight” over it. Easy solution: you can use your phones.

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Thoughts

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I did not think I’d like this game as much as I did! I mean, we’re just looking at a map, right? The art was cute so it was fun to look at, but more importantly, it was precise. The little expressions on the little people’s faces were easy to see! At first, I though the black and white art was “lame”, but I came to appreciate it was easier to see things. Compare that to the colored art of a Where’s Waldo:

The color, while beautiful in the above picture, is more distracting. The visual clarity of black and white was the right choice for this game.

Even though this game has a limited life, there are quite a few cases:

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So, with 16 cases, this game can last quite a while!

Ages

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Oh, one more thought: the reason this game is 12+ for ages is some of the content is experienced differently. I am from the USA and have a very good friend from Italy. She once remarked “Americans have no problem with violence, but problems with nudity. Europeans have no problem with nudity, but problems with violence”. And I think she was right. One of the first few mysteries in the game has some “cartoon nudity” (very very mild), but it might be something that would cause alarms for some. The violence in this game is also quite mild. But people die. So, I think the 12+ rating is a realization that young kids will really want to play this game, and probably would be able to, but their parents might have trouble with the mild violence or very mild nudity.

The best solution here is simple: play the game before your kids and make sure you are comfortable with it.

Conclusion

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MicroMacro: Crime City was a fantastic cooperative experience. It’s also a great solo experience. I did not expect to like this game as much as I did! The combination of Where’s Waldo with a mystery story detective game was a great combination that works better than it has any right to. Even the limited nature of the game helps you savor your plays! I wished the game worked with more people, but physical limitations make this really a 1-4 player game. And be careful with kids: they will really want to play this cartoony game, but there is some content some people might find questionable for a younger crowd. Caveat Emptor.

My friend Teresa said “I was still thinking about MicroMacro the next day. I want to play again!” That pretty much sums up the experience I had. MicroMacro: Crime City is a great game that deserved to win the Spiel Des Jahres for 2021. Be on the lookout for more expansions!

One thought on “A Review of MicroMacro: Crime City

  1. Ah come on! What’s wrong with white text on a black background? 🙂 Seriously, I’d love to try it. Seems like a good coop experience.

    Like

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