This isn't a review of Microscope I will not get into all of the mechanics it's in play test. It's more of a play report and discussion of the fun we had. Even if you haven't done any role playing Microscope is a fun game. This is a game of world building and defining the importance of an event in a greater context.
You could use this game to play out an alternate History of Egypt where space aliens rule as Gods. And follow the actives of human rebels that push these false gods back through the Stargate. At great scene in that game maybe, "Who betrayed Ra the king of the Gods?"
This game isn't played out in chronological order. You place bits of History on your turn. these bits may be Periods very large chunks of time, Events specific things that happen during Periods, Scenes are the smallest nuggets of history. They show us exactly what happened at a particular place and time, answering a specific Question we have about the history. Each of these bits of History follow some kind of theme.
Now on to our game of our game was a movie it may have been called "The Bell legacy" or "When the Stars are Right". Our game started with contact being made with being from the Cthulhu Mythos and ended with the stars are right. Both of which are not really good things.
My first bit of History was the event that Alexander Graham Bell was the one that contacted the Mythos beings while trying to speak to the dead. Some how in my mind I had the idea that Bell did experiments trying to talk to the dead. Latter Niels Bohr channeling Nyarlathotep publishes an abridged version of these notes. I meant to have more about Copenhagen interpretation, answering what do these geometries mean, but things got crazy.. As in we revised an earlier event, that showed us how Niels first came into contact with Nyarlathotep. He attended a blackmass lead by Aleister Crowley. Also in attendance was a young Adolf Hitler who was still a painter and Winston Church Hill.
Soon after Hitler was baned as a character, no one really wanted him in the story. But first his psychic powered brain was extracted, and stopped bullets only to be then squished. I know that's a gamer war story. It doesn't make all that much sense. However getting back to the Game system Microscope seems to generate narratives which lean themselves to gamer war stories. I will forever remember Sam playing Adolf Hitler asking Winston Church Hill if he should grow a mustache, cause the ladies like them. Or when Aleister Crowley covered in the ashes of Winston Church Hill signed away the freedoms of humanity to unify the world.. Or when Washington DC was blown up, resulting in peace for the solar system.
We had five players at our game. Several of us had read the rules. Five players felt like a lot. I want to try this game with four and see what happens. Everyone was played the focus player that is lens once. With five players we couldn't always find five characters to play in each scene. So not everyone was all that active in every scene. Often three players would be the leading characters. In retrospect more of us should have taken the roles of classes of characters. Cultist minions.
We had plenty of Tone Debt, this may have been the case of us not knowing the rules. But we felt that Tone Debt was often stuck on Events we didn't feel needed exploring. Next time we play we will push Tone Debt up to the Period it takes place in. So that it can be used anytime in the Period.
Scenes could use some kind of ritual phrases like in Polaris, and The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries. Something to push resolution of questions, so I can say yes do more of that, or no I have a better solution. We loved how characters were baned and chosen. It often resulted in the player that make the scene having to play one of the required characters.
Legacies and the Baned and Included list reminded us of Covenant's Conventions and Motifs. I felt that Microscope could use some strengthening here. Like how Committee's uses it's map to push reincorporation.
Our game did the feature of being playing in Cthulhu Mythos, and was partly historical so we had a lot of note worthy people and their descendants in our game. I don't know how that affected our game or pushed it to new highs.