Games that speed UP!
Bern Harkins
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Buffalo
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We expect out first few plays of a game to take longer; it's a basic gaming fact of life.

But some games have very steep learning curves, and for those, game length plummets over time.

Some groups simply don't have the time to grow quick at a game; others don't have the inclination.

Either way, some real honeys are failing to hit the table when a few more plays could cut the drag, and give you a reasonable game length.

Here are some examples of games that are markedly faster once everyone has a few sessions under their belt.
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1. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:247] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Bern Harkins
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There is a monster that lurks on your shelf. It watches you with a multitude of cold, unsympathetic eyes. It sings to you at night of strange fever dreams and heroic exploits. It waits.

Your friends won't play it 'cuz it is waaay too long.

Now, my group has played a LOT of Arkham Horror... over a hundred and fifty games. We are almost always done in two and a half hours, with setup and breakdown. (This last is where a lot of time is saved; everyone knows what tasks they perform at either end of the game, and dispatches them with great efficiency.)

Also, we do not wait around for the Ancient One to awaken. This makes for a longer, and sometimes boring, game. Always going for gates (or almost always) will cut forty-five minutes off your play time.

Sure, we had our four and five hour games, but those are far behind us. Now that the rulebook stays in the box nine games of ten, and players can weigh their options in short order, the game cranks along nicely, spinning its baroque tales of madness.

So worth it.
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2. Board Game: Island Dice [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:11194]
Bern Harkins
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This little sweetheart has quickly become one of our favorites. This list was inspired by a conversation we had on it's unusual, uneven porgression in speed.

Island Dice is not a long game to begin with, but all of our first games went over an hour; the 30+ minutes promised on the box seemed like a pipe dream.

As I taught people the game, I would see the same progression; Sloooow moves as new players try to wrap their heads around the boggling complexity of the Option Dice Pool.

Then, a few turns in, familiarity grows and players realize the pool is not so complex after all; they speed up.

THEN they start to realize how much their choices impact the game's ecosystem and economy, and the relative wisdom of awakening supernatural beings... and they slooow riiight dooown.

A very few games later, they have come back up to speed, and start to familiarize themselves with the numerous strategies available... native rush, gem centered, spread out for catclysm or reinforce villages... and the game starts getting shorter, as people find new ways to outmaneuver their opponents and pressure them early. More directed strategies lead to the game finishing in many fewer turns.

Now, I tell people it's an hour and a half for your first game, and thirty minutes from there on in.
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3. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:22]
Bern Harkins
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A true brain-burner by Vlaada Chvatil, this is a glorious game. You start as an ultra-powerful warrior and magic user, and then you get MUCH more powerful.

Mr. Chvatil took time to make his combat system extremely detailed, kicking out every corner of the design space to exploit opportunites for more and more differing opponents. It takes a while to learn it.

Then there's movement... this is based on deck building, and it takes three or four games before you really learn to work it effectively.

This game takes work; early games are often four or five hours for the short scenarios. But after awhile... you can put the rulebook down for ten or twenty minutes at a time, and know who won a combat at a glance.

It never gets short... but you can achieve three hours for a full scenario, and two for a short one.

The drawback is that you have to stay familiar with the game. We pull it out about once a year, and then we play three weeks in a row, the first just to blow the cobwebs off our skill sets.
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4. Board Game: 51st State [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:995] [Average Rating:6.87 Unranked]
Bern Harkins
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(This entry refers to the original game; I have not had a chance to play the new version.)

With some games, it doesn't matter how thoroughly you explain the rules; the concepts are too different, the iconography too complex, the rules unintuitive enough that things are going to stall while you re-explain every turn or two.

The best of these games, however, become clear with a single play; performing the actions of the game results in understanding those actions, and while your first game may run DOUBLE the usual time, the second can be close to normal. And much more fun.
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5. Board Game: Impulse [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1198]
Bern Harkins
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Sometimes, the learning curve is less than one game.

Impulse is an hour long 4-X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate). It provides a satisfying galactic empire building experience in a brief time frame.

But Mr. Chudyk does love his multi-use cards... and that makes getting into the game like trying to push your fist through a wall.

So, a one hour game with a 38 pg. rules booklet... but the design is really clever and meant to be learned. If someone at the table knows the rules, the other players will be up to speed in a small number of turns.
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6. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:47]
Bern Harkins
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Icons.

Icons and icons and icons. robotninjaarrrh

Once you learn them, this game is a snap. And fairly entertaining.

If you don't learn them, this game is too long for what it offers.snore
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7. Board Game: Duel of Ages II [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:1042]
Bern Harkins
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This massive, cinematic, history-mash of a game can be played to a time limit, or to a set number of turns.

What is interesting is how the game focuses down as the end nears.

Players are moving across a map to earn Achiement Points in a variety of ways. In the last few turns, characters who have finished their current missions may not be close enough to any adventure possibilites to reach them before the end.

So in a typical twelve turn game with eight characters on a side, only three or four characters may be doing anything the last few turns. The game may last 150 minutes, but the last three turns take ten.
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8. Board Game: Firefly: The Game [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:279]
Bern Harkins
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There's two main reasons early games of Firefly drag on...

Number one: The movement system is thematic and enjoyable, but it involves flipping over a card for every space entered.

The cards are mostly of a few types, but on the first game, you're still going to want to read them all. (Or have them read... it is more efficient to have someone who is not taking their turn flip your Nav cards for you.)

"Oh, it says you can give up one cargo to throw a nice dinner for your crew, and remove all disgruntled markers!"

"Hmm, I'd like to, but I need that cargo for my mission..."

That same exchange between experienced players goes...

"Dinner."

"Pass".

Number two: The first video review of this game I watched had a warning, that it was easy to just have fun running your ship around the map and forget to try to win.

The second video had a similar admonishment.

Well, thought I, I would never do that... especially now that I am twice forewarned.

Far, far into my first game, I suddenly realized I was just flying around... and had forgotten to try to win!

I cursed, and when I explained why, two other players called out, "Oh, crap!"

Both these problems go away on their own in your first few plays. Now if I had a table big enough to fit it...
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9. Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:170]
Bern Harkins
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And here's one where nothing specific drags you down... but familiarity leads to quicker decision making.

I can remeber discussing whether or not we wanted to play to twenty points; "It's already nine, and that'll put us close to one o'clock."

We now play routinely to twenty, but we do it in two and a half hours.
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10. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:214] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
Russ Williams
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Many complicated wargames are this way. ASL seems a classic typical example. Many scenarios are playable in under a couple hours... but two newbies learning the game will typically take much longer than that, needing many rule lookups.
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