Microscope is a board role-playing game written and created by Ben Robbins for Lame Mage Production. The title, which was nominated for numerous awards and won the "Most Innovative New Product" and "Gaming Genious Awards" in 2011, looks like a highly atypical role-playing game. Despite being an extremely easy game to learn, which requires no preparation whatsoever and has no middle number, it falls into the niche role-playing game.
What is Microscope about?
Playing Microscope means giving up everything we know about role-playing for a moment. Tear up the cards, put the dice away, forget the builds and don't think about fighting strategies. At this point, make everyone sit at the table and take pen and paper, because you will need it. Microscope perhaps reaches the heart of the role-playing game, the one perfectly explained by the phrase "Playing role-playing means creating a story together", because that's what the players will find themselves doing.
Microscope will allow you to tell the story of something, you will determine the theme, as long as you want. By choosing a topic to play on, which for example could be "From founding to the fall of Atlantis," players will build a timeline of events throughout the session.
Let's start by announcing that there will not be a master sitting at the table, because there is no need to have one. The game continues and stops until the players decide otherwise. Once the theme of the session has been identified, players transform the chosen theme into a beginning and an end. To do this they must understand that the game is temporally divided into periods, events and scenes. A period includes several events, of course, and an event can consist of multiple scenes. At the beginning of the game there are two periods, in this case "The foundation of Atlantis" and "The fall of Atlantis". At this point a player is chosen and he will choose the "Lens" of the turn. The "Lens" is nothing but a theme to be addressed. All players, one by one, will have to add a period or event or scene that has to do with that "Lens". In our case, we think that the "Lens" is technology, this means that a complete turn of players must be focused on technology. Once everyone has played, the "Lens" scrolls to the next player and so on.
God does not play dice with the universe
There are no dice to use in this game. Players interact with each other mainly in two ways: asking questions and playing scenes. Asking is the best way to interact with other players. If a person, during his shift, chooses to insert an event, a period or other that is not clear to you in something, it is more than legitimate to ask. This could give rise to questions to play perhaps in a scene or on which to place the "Lens" in the future. Playing a scene instead faces the role-playing game a little more classic. Each scene starts with a question, for example "How did the fifth king of Atlantis react to the news of his son's death?", And each player plays a character from that particular story. The scene stops when the question is answered, in the opinion of the table. There is therefore talk of narrating your character's thoughts and actions without rolling a dice or anything else, simply by speaking. There are very few limitations, simply because at the end of the scene you will abandon the character you are playing.
Strengths of Microscope
Ease of understanding is one of the game's biggest selling points. Based on the inclusion in the timeline of periods or events, everyone can easily understand how to play. The game requires no preparation, so there is no need for zero or other sessions. You can decide the theme at the moment, talk about what you would like or not and launch yourself. Players have immense power over the story they shape but can't agree, can't take turns and can't shut up. When it's up to us, we have to invent something, even jumping back and forth in time. The only rule to follow is that of non-contradiction with events already in the timeline. This leads all players to participate in the same way, as no one can prevail over the other, and to bloom new and surprising ideas.
Why play Microscope?
I recommend playing this game if you want to explore particular themes, such as the birth and fall of civilizations, or wars or the fate of a family that would rarely find space in other games. You can play it if you don't have a master and even if you have players who usually remain in the shadow of the party, simply collaborating without ever taking the initiative. It is a game that has its own solidity, despite the few simple rules.