If they say that great things come in small packages, then it must be a good sign that MicroMacro: Crime City ships with an honest to goodness magnifying glass in the box. MicroMacro: Crime City combines the excitement of “finding Waldo” with the thrill of investigating unsolved crimes and bringing the perps to justice. This recent release from Pegasus Spiele and designer Johannes Sich won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award in 2021. Let’s dive in and find out just why it took home board gaming’s top prize.
In MicroMacro: Crime City players solve cases by locating clues on an intricately detailed map of a fictional city. But it’s not just buildings you’ll find on this map, no; it’s people too! The illustrators Daniel Goll, Tobias Jochinke, and Johannes Sich have captured an entire city at its best, and worst. The map is so epic in its scale and scope that it’s almost bigger than an 8 year old.
At its heart, MicroMacro: Crime City is a “find it” style puzzle, the most famous of which is the Where’s Waldo franchise. Players receive a packet of cards which pose questions to the investigators (players). The simplest of which is actually posed on the box lid itself.
As players answer each question in a case, they flip it over to confirm their hunch. If they’re correct they move on to the next question until they’ve solved the entire case. Cases range in difficulty from 1 to 5 stars; simpler cases might have 3 or 4 cards while more complex cases may have 10 or more. The cards are numbered in sequential order, and are grouped by an icon unique to each case
There’s not much more that I can tell you without spoiling the game, so let’s jump straight on to my thoughts.
Thoughts About MicroMacro: Crime City
First off, my kids and I loved this game. There were arguments about who was going to do which case, there were fights about who was going first…and sometimes the kids argued as well. 😀
As far as I’m concerned MicroMacro: Crime City was a cinch to win the Spiel des Jahres. It’s innovative, mostly family friendly (but I’ll get to that in a minute), easily translatable since the map is just illustrations, and just plain fun!
The map is large, about 3ft by 5ft (or about 0.91 x 1.52 in metric), but insanely detailed. Normally I’d put this under the positives, but unless you’ve got REALLY good lighting, or fantastic eyesight, you might have trouble with this game. Because MicroMacro: Crime City is all about the detail, you’ve really got to be able to get in close and see what’s going on. In some cases the area we needed to examine was less than an inch (2cm).
Which brings me to my second point. This game is rightly billed as a cooperative game (for 1-4) but because of the way the game is played you’d be hard pressed to get 3 people involved, much less 4. In fact even 2 people is a challenge once you’re on a solid lead. If you’re just scanning the map for clues then having a second person is an excellent addition. But once you’re zooming in to a few square inches it’s just too hard to share space. I spread the cases out among my three sons and they all seemed to think that was mostly fair.
And speaking of kids – these aren’t cases from Special Agent Oso, Kim Possible, or Inspector Gadget; there are dead people on this map…a surprising number of them in fact. I mean it is called Crime City after all. Thankfully the illustration style is simple and cartoony so there are no details, but just be aware if you’re playing with your kids.
There’re so many good things to say about MicroMacro: Crime City, but any such list would be remiss without mentioning the artwork first; it’s absolutely delightful. This city might be dangerous and crime-ridden, but it’s a joy to look at. Every square inch has some minute detail for you to notice. Why are there two people riding horses down a city street? Why is there a couple making out in the graveyard? Why is there a random hole dug on the bank of the river? And why are there so many dead bodies?!
I’ll also admit that the data nerd in me would LOVE to see the spreadsheet or database for this game. It’s clear that most of the character illustrations are reused, but how on earth did the designer and publisher keep track of all the details?
One of my favorite parts about playing MicroMacro: Crime City is that not only am I solving the case I’m currently working on, but I’m also building a mental map of the city. You might have noticed that even though the map is a printed page, many characters appear multiple times. As you can see from the burger vendor case on the box cover, we’re able to follow the man from his place of business, down the street, and on to his ultimate demise. In one case the main character traveled to nearly every area of the city before winding up at home. That means some characters will be printed on the map dozens of times. It’s worth your time to keep your eyes peeled for…oddities…as they’re almost surely going to come back to you in a future case.
Before you get overconfident, don’t start thinking that this is going to be easy. While the early cases do a good job of getting you started with a location, some of the 4 and 5 star cases require you to scan the entire city just to solve the first question. And in many cases you have to provide multiple answers to a single question. It’s hard, but rewarding work, when you finally spot your target. Some of the cases also require some deductive leaps. You’ll also quickly realize that directionality, clothing, and decoration are all critically important in this game – it’s all in the details in MicroMacro: Crime City.
One thing that’ll help you during your plays is to have a number of small markers that you can use to “bookmark” places on the board while working on individual cases; we used pennies. You’re going to be constantly moving back and forth between areas of the map and it’ll be a great time saver to place these markers when you make a discovery.
Just like when you solve an Unlock or Exit game, when you complete cases in MicroMacro you’ll genuinely be excited to finish. In the real world there are usually only a few underlying motives for the commission of a crime: greed, anger, jealousy, revenge, or pride. And coming to the end of a case in this game, you’ll realize that cartoon cities suffer from the human condition just like real cities do.
If you’re looking for an excellent family game, want a meaty puzzle to sink your teeth into, or just want to see a bunch of cartoon dead people, then MicroMacro: Crime City should be at the top of your list.
Just please don’t let me find Waldo. I’m afraid of what he might be guilty of.