Designer: Johannes Sich
Publisher: Edition Spielwiese (First Edition)
Few games break the mold like MicroMacro: Crime City and in recent memory, I can think of only a handful of games that do so, with the most recent being The Mind. The Mind is unique in that no other game shared a similar mechanic and when it came out, many people were surprised and delighted. Of course, detractors of The Mind often argue that the game is not really a game, but more an activity. The same group of folks would like make the same argument for MicroMacro. While I do disagree passionately about The Mind “not being a game”, I think I do agree that MicroMacro is more a shared activity amongst a group of open-minded individuals. Anyhow, it really matters not whether you consider MicroMacro a game because what’s important at the end of the session is whether you think the game is fun. Which it is for us.
Of course the first thing everyone will compare MicroMacro: Crime City (MMCC) with is Where’s Waldo/Wally, a series of interactive books where the objective is to find Wally or Waldo among a sea of people. I find it funny that the book is popular even though the objectives sound a little silly, to be honest. I think the true appeal of the book comes from its low-barrier for interactivity. You can crowd around the book with your child or family to try and find the creepy striped-shirt kid and once you do find him, you get a small amount of satisfaction and you move on. I recently did a few of these books with my kid and as far as I know, there is no continuity in the objectives. Each page features the same goal and there isn’t any narrative or story to go along between each page. You find Wally in Egypt and then you try to find Wally in Finland. No one has any idea why he appears in two continents and why he loves crowds. I think cleverly, MMCC takes this idea to the next level and tries to market the concept to the gaming crowd, perhaps intentionally targeting the more mature audience with the theme.
We have gone through the first 3-4 scenarios which are relatively straightforward and is meant to showcase the mechanism. Players hunt for clues found scattered across a large cityscape filled with all sorts of buildings, objects and people. Lots and lots of people. The drawings are reasonably detailed so that you can identify between one character and the next. The cityscape looks chaotic for sure with lots of things coming and going. For each case, players will open up individual packets filled with cards and try to solve a crime by answering specific questions. This is mostly done by searching for the event or person in question and then following a time-lapse sequence of events depicted by the drawings on the map, which ultimately reveals the bigger narrative. Think of this as a series of panels in a comic book, except that you need to hunt for those panels on the map to understand how the story develops. In a way, the map incorporates temporal information for players to decipher and since there are many cases to solve, you will see all these different characters doing shady things as go from case to case. Most of the time, you probably won’t know who they are or what they are up to until you reach that particular case. This is unique, fun and totally elevates the Where’s Waldo concept (ok, ok, Wally for those of you not from the US).
While MMCC is billed as a cooperative game, this isn’t like your standard cooperative game. You don’t each share a bit of the information or each hold a piece of the puzzle that then needs to be assembled. Not really. Rather, everyone is in on the action all at once, hunting for clues and tracing the character or characters around the map. This is why I think this is less of a game and more of an activity. Don’t get me wrong, this is a totally fun activity. You just want to know how the case develops and you surely get a kick for doing so. I would say that if you enjoy the EXIT games or the UNLOCK series or any of the escape room activities, then there is a greater chance you will like MMCC. Otherwise, I think you might want to do the demo version online to see if this greases your wheel. It may not be for everyone.
I don’t know how MMCC will conclude but I think it might be relatively short. It seems possible to do this in one gigantic session but then again, I haven’t yet tried any of the 5 star cases. However, for us, the game will likely take a few more years (see below, Kid’s Corner).
There really isn’t much else for me to write about the game. Oh yeah, the map is fragile. I’d imagine you might want to be very careful with it as this is a game that you play and sell almost as soon as you are done. I do not see any replay value at all. There really isn’t anything much you can do about the paper map. I would love to see some color on the map, but realize that it would probably ramp up the cost. The game also technically supports an infinite amount of players, but I think it starts to get crowded after two. So honestly, this is more a couples game. The game eventually won the Spiel das Jahres and I do think deservedly so. It is different and the jury likes to award SdJ to unique and creative designs. So, go get a copy and try it out, or better yet, wait for your friend to invite you over or sell you a copy once they are done.
Initial impression: Good; Average (for families with younger kids)
7 years 3 months: I got this game because my then 6 year had a lot of fun with the online demo. I came in knowing some of the themes are a little too mature for a 7 year old, but my kid was insistent and I thought cartoonish violence may brush over her much like zombies in Kidz Zombies. We tried the first few scenarios which seem quite mild on the spectrum of things and she thoroughly enjoyed the activity, as did I. She was also pretty good at spotting the clues and tracing the narrative. However, she had a nightmare that evening and was filled with anxiety. My bad. Apparently, her dreams involved being followed by shadowy figures and being hunted down by criminals. So we are going to take a step back and put the game aside for a while. It maybe she will grow up or out of it soon enough, but I think the topics remain too mature and too much for my kid to handle. So let the buyer beware. Funny enough the next day she wanted to play again, yet she was worried about the violence. It interesting to see her struggle with this conflict of interest. This may sound like bad parenting on our part, but I don’t think she is totally immune to violence. Or at least the concept is not entirely foreign to her. We have slowly…and carefully talked about violence and the real world. I don’t believe in completely protecting a child from reality. But even then, I don’t want her to worry just because of a game.
This is the saddest part of Micromacro: Crime City. The game is geared for kids as much as it is for adults. I mean the whole “Where’s Waldo/Wally” concept is right up a kid’s alley. This is just too bad, and in some ways perhaps, slightly short-sighted from the publisher’s standpoint. I know the topic is more appealing for adults but I am sure some thing can be done for the younger market as well. An opportunity lost perhaps? Come on Mr. Sich, let’s design a game that will also work for kids.