MicroMacro: Crime City cover

Murder Mysteries Meet Seek-and-Find in ‘MicroMacro: Crime City’

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Something’s rotten in the state of… Germany? The aptly-named Crime City is filled with wrongdoers, and it’s your job to track them down and bring them to justice.

What Is MicroMacro: Crime City?

MicroMacro: Crime City is a cooperative mystery-solving game for 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes 15 to 45 minutes to play. The first print run is already sold out at the publisher level, but the reprint (expected in January) is available for preorder now from the publisher for $29.99. You might also check your local game store, in case they have any in stock.

A couple of notes about the recommended player count and age: although the box says 1 to 4 players, this is the sort of game that any number of people can play, with the limitation that you’re all looking at a shared map and there’s only so many people who can get close enough to look at details before there are too many heads in the way—but it’s also possible for multiple groups to work on different cases simultaneously if they’re not in the same part of the map. As for the age recommendation: I did play this with my 7-year-old and the gameplay is definitely understandable enough, but the thematic content is morbid and risqué; I’ll explain a bit more in the verdict section, but this is definitely one where you should exercise some parental guidance.

MicroMacro: Crime City was designed and illustrated by Johannes Sich, Daniel Goll, and Tobias Jochinke of Hard Boiled Games; it’s published by Pegasus Spiele and Edition Spielewiese.

MicroMacro: Crime City components
MicroMacro: Crime City components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

MicroMacro: Crime City Components

Here’s what comes in the box:

  • City map
  • 120 Case cards
  • 16 Envelopes
  • Magnifying Glass (with sticker)
MicroMacro: Crime City map
My daughter with the huge city map. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Although the components aren’t very colorful, the antics of the citizens of Crime City certainly are, as you’ll discover on the map. It’s a huge fold-out map: 75cm x 110cm (about 30″ by 43″) so it takes up a good portion of my table—you might even spread it out on the floor or hang it on the wall. Every inch of it is covered in a detailed, isometric view of Crime City, filled with lots of little anthropomorphic animal people.

MicroMacro: Crime City map detail
A detail of the map, showing a group of friends playing MicroMacro. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The illustrations are in a clean style, and despite the fact that there are a lot of very similar-looking people, there are little details that set them apart. Characters are depicted in multiple places, like a comic strip, showing their movements across the city over time. (For instance, in the image above, there’s a kid on a skateboard at the very top of the image who also appears on the left edge.) The map is chock-full of things happening and fun little details, and you never know what’s going to be important to a case. The illustrations are quite small, so it definitely helps to have a bright light, and those who need reading glasses will really appreciate having the magnifying glass too.

MicroMacro: Crime City case cards
Each case has a stack of cards to work through. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Case cards include a white introduction card that outlines the case, and then a series of black cards that walk you through things to look for. Each card has an icon associated with the case so you can sort them out easily, plus a card number (and the total number of cards in the case). They’re also ranked from 1 to 5 stars, indicating the difficulty of the case.

The envelopes are a sort of wax paper envelope, and when you first open up the game, you’ll need to divvy up the cards into the various envelopes. The one downside is that they’re translucent, so you have to be careful not to flip them over or you’ll see the solution to the last card of the case. (It might have been nice to have an end card for each case that covers up the final solution.)

The magnifying glass is a plastic card-sized lens, like the sort you might use for reading. It comes with a MicroMacro sticker that you can place on one end, though we opted not to.

How to Play MicroMacro: Crime City

You can download a copy of the rulebook here. You can also play an online demo case here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to solve a crime by following the victim’s actions on the map and then tracking suspects or other clues.

MicroMacro: Crime City introductory case
The introductory case, The Top Hat, starts with finding the pub where Mr. Branca realizes his hat is missing. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Setup

Unfold the map and pick a case. Choose a case and flip over the white card and read it to all the players. This will give an overview of the case, and has an illustration (usually of the victim). The first black card will have your first specific task.

Gameplay

When you think you’ve found the solution to your task, one player should look at the back of the card to see if you’re correct. The back of the card will have a cropped portion of the map shown along with the map coordinates, and also a bit of story. If you’re correct, then the card is read aloud to all the players. Otherwise, the other players continue to look for the solution.

As you solve each task, you move on to the next card. 

Game End

The game ends when you get through all the tasks and solve the crime!

As an advanced alternative, you can also try solving a crime by just looking at the white starting card, and seeing how much of the story you can figure out without looking at the black cards. Then, after you think you’ve pieced together the whole crime, go back through the black task cards and see if you missed anything.

MicroMacro box cover
The box cover even has a demo crime to solve!

Why You Should Play MicroMacro: Crime City

If you’d like to try a sample case, check out the box cover image above (you can click the image to get the full resolution). Your task: figure out who murdered the burger vendor!

My kids have always enjoyed hidden picture games: Where’s Waldo? and similar books, hidden-object games on the iPad, and observation-based games like Spot It or 5-Minute Mystery where you’re trying to find certain things as quickly as you can. And our family has also played several escape room type games that involve figuring out clues or solving mysteries. So MicroMacro: Crime City is right up our alley, with its giant poster filled with crimes to figure out. I opened it up last week figuring we’d try out the intro case and see how the game worked, and we ended up playing through all 16 cases in a matter of three days.

After solving our first few cases, we decided to give the advanced rules a try: no step-by-step tasks, just the initial introduction. We’d locate the scene of the crime, and then follow the victim’s path backward in time, and then look for suspects and track them forward and backward from the crime. Sometimes these led to additional clues that we would chase down. When we felt comfortable that we’d solved the case, we would flip through the black cards in sequence to see if there were any questions that we hadn’t answered, and then work on those.

Just scanning over the map in the course of working on a case, we would find lots of fun details. Who’s that costumed guy with the wrench? Oh, look, this baby seems to be wandering around the city by himself. Is this character a suspect, or just an innocent bystander? And we found ourselves following those stories around—sometimes uncovering a crime from one of the cases, and sometimes just finding a story that wasn’t included in the official case files.

The cases vary in length: the shortest ones have 5 cards, and the longest is 11 cards. Some can be solved within a small area of the map, and others send you on a chase all over the city. There are even times where you have to use clues to figure out where to go next because the trail goes cold and you don’t see the character anywhere nearby. Or, you may have to figure out which vehicle a character is driving; there are a lot of generic cars, but there are also some with distinguishing features that you can follow around town.

About that age rating: most of the cases involve death (usually murder), and there are also references to drugs, alcohol, adultery, as well as one case that mentions a “fetish club.” Since I was the one reading the cards out loud, I tended to pass over some of these explanations when playing with my 7-year-old, but there’s no hiding the fact that people in this city were getting killed for all sorts of reasons, some of them very petty. And, even though it’s a cartoony style, there were a few instances of topless women and a guy in a long coat flashing people (seen from behind)—your kids may or may not spot all of these, but you should be aware of the possibility. My guess is that Europeans are generally a bit less prudish than Americans (the game is from a German publisher), so that may explain the age rating on the game; if this were an American TV show or movie, I’d guess it would get a PG or PG-13. That said, if you’re prepared to guide your kid through some discussions of ethics and morality, it is a lot of fun to play.

After completing all the cases, we did the three bonus questions in the rulebook—these mention some crimes but don’t give you any tasks, kind of like playing in advanced mode. (You can find the solutions on the MicroMacro website.) And if you sign up for the email newsletter, you’ll get one more short case emailed to you as well!

We had a lot of fun playing through MicroMacro: Crime City and the nice thing is that when you’re done, you can easily pass it along to somebody else to play because nothing gets used up or destroyed. I think it would be great to have a version that was a little more kid-friendly thematically, but if you like seek-and-find pictures and solving mysteries, I recommend giving this one a try. Crime City is definitely not the sort of place you want to live if you’re hoping to die peacefully of old age, but it’s fun to spend a few hours visiting (from the safety of your own home). Hopefully, you’ll experience nothing worse than having your wallet stolen, or a little bit of eyestrain.

For more about MicroMacro: Crime City, visit the official website.


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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