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Subject: Game Length.... looking for variants to accelerate rss

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Mark Thompson
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I love this game. However if there is one thing that prevents it from hitting the table more often, it is the length of the game. I'm mainly talking about Triad (the recommended method of play) which over 16 rounds takes me about 5 hours. I have tried using two map platters but its not quite the same. I've tried using less turns (short game) but 12 rounds is also not quite enough. Short game feels like the game is barely getting started when its just coming to an end.

I'm looking for ideas that will accelerate the start slightly, possibly getting some characters slightly closer to their goals from the get-go, or just a quicker start in general. I'd also like to play only 12 rounds to keep game duration down, and using an accelerated start means more could be accomplished in the same number of rounds. Once I've figured out the best way, I'll post in the Variants section (I'd rather not post there now due to reduced visibility).

Here are my ideas so far:

1. Somehow replace the reinforce beginning and have all (or some) characters start on the map at the beginning. Not sure if this might imbalance things too much? The other issue is that there may not be enough domes available.
2. Have each team allow two characters to start in the base. The characters could be decided before the game starts, then those two wouldn't be dismissed during reinforcement, but simply placed in their base.
3. Somehow allow some more characters to start or swap weapons from the very beginning. Again I'm thinking of a possible unbalancing issue here?
4. Increase movement of all characters by one. Not sure what impact this would have exactly, but I kind of like this idea.
5. Give each team a number of "tickets" at the start of the game, which allows one dismiss to a dome of their choice at any time (during their won turn). I'm thinking any number from 2-4.

I'd love to hear any feedback on these ideas, or any combination of them. I hope its clear what I'm trying to accomplish here.

Thanks,
Mark.



 
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David Stahler Jr.
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Why don't you try the Rush Scenario? It's designed for a faster game...
 
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Mark Thompson
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Wheelockian wrote:
Why don't you try the Rush Scenario? It's designed for a faster game...


Admittedly I have not tried Rush. I will do so at some point. However I'd still love to hear your thoughts on an accelerated start for the "main" game mode of Triad Labyrinth.
 
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Michael Mesich
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Jump scenarios start with all characters on the board.

However, I just don't think you get a satisfactory game until you play for 5 hours. I always play to time-limit and 3 hours hits right when the struggle is starting to really unfold.

Just find a player of two that loves the game and go ahead and dedicate the time.

That's my recommendation, anyway.
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Mark Thompson
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mmesich wrote:
3 hours hits right when the struggle is starting to really unfold.


That is exactly my feeling. I'm trying to drag that 3 hour mark back to the 2 hour mark, so I can play for another hour and then finish in 3.
 
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Wheelockian wrote:

1. Somehow replace the reinforce beginning and have all (or some) characters start on the map at the beginning. Not sure if this might imbalance things too much? The other issue is that there may not be enough domes available.


Anything you do to speed up the entering of the arena should still offer an advantage to higher respect characters and afford them extra turns or it removes one of the key strengths of high respect characters. (characters are balanced using a formula that weights all the various stats, so the points devoted to respect will have "lost" much of their value making them somewhat weaker compared to others without having that advantage)

Wheelockian wrote:

2. Have each team allow two characters to start in the base. The characters could be decided before the game starts, then those two wouldn't be dismissed during reinforcement, but simply placed in their base.]


I don't see this causing any major imbalance though it does remove one of the key early strategic "battles" if an enemy decides to try and rush the opposing base before anyone is there to defend.

Wheelockian wrote:

3. Somehow allow some more characters to start or swap weapons from the very beginning. Again I'm thinking of a possible unbalancing issue here?


Have actually suggested something similar to this myself and the designer pointed out that ANYTHING which accelerates the speed in which weapons come out or reach the characters who want them enormously imbalances the game by dramatically increasing both it's lethality and emphasis on combat.

A huge part of DoA's character is defined by under or anachronistically equipped characters making do with what's available and the effort it takes to get items in the hands of those who will most benefit. The moment Annie Oakley gets her firearm of choice for example the entire ground game changes. Make that easy and you risk turning the game into pure tactical wargame.

A few smaller changes I've toyed in this vein are:
- allowing characters to drop cards voluntarily
- allowing the trading and picking up of cards outside of free action
- allowing the trading of cards when an enemy is in the space if a skill check is made with the card being dropped if it fails
- allowing each team to reveal and trade between characters a single non-weapon card in the beginning of the game.

Just remember that with every change which increases card mobility you're inevitably increasing the combat focus in the game, which can be a major detriment to what makes DoA unique and enjoyable. (if you want pure tactical combat there are better game choices)

Wheelockian wrote:

4. Increase movement of all characters by one. Not sure what impact this would have exactly, but I kind of like this idea.


Will significantly overpower the lumbering hulks whose melee threat is balanced by them being so slow. Upping a character's movement from 1 to 2, or 2 to 3 is increasing their mobility over the course of the game by 50-100%, whereas the faster characters (upping 7 to 8 for example) are only getting a much smaller incremental gain by comparison.

Wheelockian wrote:

5. Give each team a number of "tickets" at the start of the game, which allows one dismiss to a dome of their choice at any time (during their won turn). I'm thinking any number from 2-4.


This will suck almost all the value out of the equipment and special abilities that grant similar mobility bonuses by offering them to everyone.

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Adam Lucas
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I play Triad Standard in about four hours with twelve rounds of game time. A few things I've noticed:

1) The game goes a little faster when you have a couple of players on each team.

2) Plan and discuss cards and strategies with your teammates when it's not your turn. When a player is dismissed or banished then start planning what you'll do with them, because it's going to take three or so turns to get anywhere useful.

3) Draw cards from adventures and look at them later.

4) Move your characters when your teammates are moving theirs.

5) Split up 'jobs' around the table. Have the players nearest to a labryinth read the card. Have one player keep score and another remember to keep track of rounds. The players that can do the number crunches figure out Attacker Better By and Defender Better By.

6) If you think a rule is going to be up for debate down the road look it up during down time. If you have a copy of the Master Rules then have it available at the table.

7) Op-fire. Watch your opponent's moves like a hawk and start doing calculations. If you need visual representation then use some sort of markers to track where people moved.

Like any game it takes a few plays to figure out how everything works. Once you have some players that have a good grasp of the rules then the game will start to pickup in speed.
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Mark Thompson
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NuMystic wrote:
Tycalt wrote:

1. Somehow replace the reinforce beginning and have all (or some) characters start on the map at the beginning. Not sure if this might imbalance things too much? The other issue is that there may not be enough domes available.


Anything you do to speed up the entering of the arena should still offer an advantage to higher respect characters and afford them extra turns or it removes one of the key strengths of high respect characters. (characters are balanced using a formula that weights all the various stats, so the points devoted to respect will have "lost" much of their value making them somewhat weaker compared to others without having that advantage)


Agreed. Replacing reinforce completely seems unbalancing. The player that has the higher total respect already has an advantage due to being first player, so I'm now thinking about splitting the characters into two groups, half to come out first round, and half to come out second round. This would help accelerate the start and hopefully not imbalance too much.


NuMystic wrote:
Tycalt wrote:

2. Have each team allow two characters to start in the base. The characters could be decided before the game starts, then those two wouldn't be dismissed during reinforcement, but simply placed in their base.]


I don't see this causing any major imbalance though it does remove one of the key early strategic "battles" if an enemy decides to try and rush the opposing base before anyone is there to defend.


You make another excellent point here that I had not considered. Plus if one of the characters gets a special benefit from being in the base, and the other player doesn't have something similar then things get unbalanced. I think I'll drop this idea.

NuMystic wrote:
Tycalt wrote:

3. Somehow allow some more characters to start or swap weapons from the very beginning. Again I'm thinking of a possible unbalancing issue here?


Have actually suggested something similar to this myself and the designer pointed out that ANYTHING which accelerates the speed in which weapons come out or reach the characters who want them enormously imbalances the game by dramatically increasing both it's lethality and emphasis on combat.

A huge part of DoA's character is defined by under or anachronistically equipped characters making do with what's available and the effort it takes to get items in the hands of those who will most benefit. The moment Annie Oakley gets her firearm of choice for example the entire ground game changes. Make that easy and you risk turning the game into pure tactical wargame.

A few smaller changes I've toyed in this vein are:
- allowing characters to drop cards voluntarily
- allowing the trading and picking up of cards outside of free action
- allowing the trading of cards when an enemy is in the space if a skill check is made with the card being dropped if it fails
- allowing each team to reveal and trade between characters a single non-weapon card in the beginning of the game.

Just remember that with every change which increases card mobility you're inevitably increasing the combat focus in the game, which can be a major detriment to what makes DoA unique and enjoyable. (if you want pure tactical combat there are better game choices)


I remember reading Bretts response to one of your earlier posts and agreeing with what he had to say there. However I'm now determined to shorten the length of the game, so am willing to consider changes. I like some of your other ideas, particularly allowing trading of cards outside of the free action phase, e.g. during movement. I can see this speeding things up nicely but can't see any downsides. I also like the idea about revealing and trading a single non-weapon card at the beginning of the game. Good stuff.

NuMystic wrote:
Tycalt wrote:

4. Increase movement of all characters by one. Not sure what impact this would have exactly, but I kind of like this idea.


Will significantly overpower the lumbering hulks whose melee threat is balanced by them being so slow. Upping a character's movement from 1 to 2, or 2 to 3 is increasing their mobility over the course of the game by 50-100%, whereas the faster characters (upping 7 to 8 for example) are only getting a much smaller incremental gain by comparison.


Agreed, I can't give +1 to movement. Instead what about doubling each characters very first movement of the game? 6 becomes 12, and 4 becomes 8. Slow characters are still slow(er), and fast characters are still much faster.

NuMystic wrote:
Tycalt wrote:

5. Give each team a number of "tickets" at the start of the game, which allows one dismiss to a dome of their choice at any time (during their won turn). I'm thinking any number from 2-4.


This will suck almost all the value out of the equipment and special abilities that grant similar mobility bonuses by offering them to everyone.


You're right. Forget this.

Thanks for the responses. I like some of these ideas and the discussion.
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Mark Thompson
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Svengaard wrote:
I play Triad Standard in about four hours with twelve rounds of game time. A few things I've noticed:

1) The game goes a little faster when you have a couple of players on each team.

2) Plan and discuss cards and strategies with your teammates when it's not your turn. When a player is dismissed or banished then start planning what you'll do with them, because it's going to take three or so turns to get anywhere useful.

3) Draw cards from adventures and look at them later.

4) Move your characters when your teammates are moving theirs.

5) Split up 'jobs' around the table. Have the players nearest to a labryinth read the card. Have one player keep score and another remember to keep track of rounds. The players that can do the number crunches figure out Attacker Better By and Defender Better By.

6) If you think a rule is going to be up for debate down the road look it up during down time. If you have a copy of the Master Rules then have it available at the table.

7) Op-fire. Watch your opponent's moves like a hawk and start doing calculations. If you need visual representation then use some sort of markers to track where people moved.

Like any game it takes a few plays to figure out how everything works. Once you have some players that have a good grasp of the rules then the game will start to pickup in speed.


I hear everything you are saying but the reality is I can really only play with 2 most of the time sadly. Thanks for the input though.
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Tycalt wrote:
I remember reading Bretts response to one of your earlier posts and agreeing with what he had to say there. However I'm now determined to shorten the length of the game, so am willing to consider changes.


Well there is no question that making cards less scarce seriously accelerates things.

This is entirely untested so there could be unintended consequences but one could try and counter-balance the added combat focus that comes with increasing card mobility and quantity in the system:

- Lower combat achievement points granted and increase the ones for non-combat achievements.

- Grant +1 common/secret card when granting adventure/base/lith related rewards. (injects more cards but incentivizes adventuring)

- Draw +1 of whatever cards are being awarded (Secret/Common/Elite) allowing the player to view, select, then discard the extra(s) which is reshuffled into the deck. (will cut down on lucky/unlucky draws by boosting the usefulness of cards gained without increasing their actual number)

- Rather than the double movement you proposed you could just add a selection of encounter tokens to the map which will give a serious early game kickstart. Placement rules borrowed from the training missions. (no extra cards awarded for these)

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Well, just a few notes:

First off if you have ever played DoA1, then you know that you CANNOT trade during movement, if you try this, then try to op-fire on the trading character, your brain explodes.

You can use encounters, this has an up and a down, the up: game speed will be magnified greatly, the down: setup will be increased too.

Here is an idea I thought up reading this forum: split it up into three turns of reinforcement (similar to what the OP said but instead of 2 rounds this is 3), turn one dissmiss all respect 7's, 8's, and 9's, turn two will add in the respect 4's, 5's, 6's, and in round 3 add in the rest, (0, 1, 2, 3,) but on the first turn each character can move (the turn after they enter) they gain (for this turn only) +speed equal to the amount above the minimum of that round's entering characters, Eg. On round one you have a 7, 8, and 9 enter, next turn (technically their first), the 7 would get +0 speed, the 8 would get +1 speed, and the 9 would get +2 speed that round only, etc.
The exception would be that in round three, (0, 1, 2, and 3) both 0 and 1, would get +0, and 2 would get +1 speed, three getting +2.

Lastly never underestimate dome keys, litter your map with them, my friend and I always want to use a lot of the adventure keys, but you get bogged down with how long it will take you to get to any of them, a great tip from Brett Murrell, is don't use any black dome keys, this diversifies your options and every time you draw a black on dissmissal, you get to go to any dome you want.

I hope these help and make sense (I am tired as I type this, so this might not make any sense).
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DuelistofAges wrote:
First off if you have ever played DoA1, then you know that you CANNOT trade during movement, if you try this, then try to op-fire on the trading character, your brain explodes.


Hasn't posed any problems for us Josh.

In the very rare instance of an op-fire conflict we just ruled that the op-fire happens first. If the character was killed or captured before getting to the trade spot obviously the trade doesn't take place.

It's a consideration, but not a particularly complicated one.

As for the other points…

- Dropping encounter tokens on the board during set up only takes a minute or two so I don't see that as a drawback given how much faster it will ratchet things up in-game. That said I must admit I've never been a big fan of them. At most I'd consider adding 3-5 per side, but certainly nothing like filling the board in the training missions.

- Clever suggestion with the game opening reinforcement phases. Bit fiddly but I can definitely see it helping the OP achieve their goal.

- Excellent point about ample dome keys, and a fanastic tip you shared from Brett! I will absolutely be adding that black dome key idea to my games. Thanks!
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Michael Mesich
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I think the DoA rules were that trade still occurred, you were just to assume that the newly dead character heroically crawled the rest of the way in order to hand off the item.

I'm pretty sure that's how it worked.

But really, Distance deployment seems the answer here. That'll probably shave close to an hour off the game compared to standard deployment.
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Mark Thompson
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DuelistofAges wrote:
a great tip from Brett Murrell, is don't use any black dome keys, this diversifies your options and every time you draw a black on dissmissal, you get to go to any dome you want.


This is awesome!! I will definitely be doing this. Had not thought of it before and it will help a great deal with mobility. I'm also not so keen on the encounters, but they would help get items faster. I may experiment. Interesting idea about speed boost during reinforcement but like Numystic said a little fiddly. May try this later.

Personally what I'll do next time I play is:
1) Allow swapping of items during any part of a players turn, not just during free action.
2) Swap one non-weapon card from one character to another at the beginning of the game. If don't have any, allowed to redraw all cards.
3) Each character gets double movement on their first movement only.
4) No Black dome keys to be added to map.
5) Reinforce all characters in on the first two turns. Half, then half. Highest respect still gets the bonus of being first player.

Thanks to all taking part in this thread. There are some good ideas here that I'll play around with and report back.
 
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Just want to point out that you're borrowing many of the things that will dramatically increase the combat focus without any of the measures that will counter-balance that.

I strongly recommend tweaking the achievement point allotments and/or some of the other suggestions that will incentivize a focus on non-combat achievements.

Good luck! Will look forward to hearing how it goes.
 
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David Stahler Jr.
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I know you said two platters didn't appeal to you, but I've played two platters with two labyrinths and six characters per side and have a great time. Would prefer to play your standard Triad, but it makes for a relatively speedy game (a lot less to keep track of when you only have two players) without throwing off the inherent balance.
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mmesich wrote:
Jump scenarios start with all characters on the board.

However, I just don't think you get a satisfactory game until you play for 5 hours. I always play to time-limit and 3 hours hits right when the struggle is starting to really unfold.

Just find a player of two that loves the game and go ahead and dedicate the time.

That's my recommendation, anyway.


These are my own thoughts. For me, this game is really all about the narrative, which can really only be satisfactorily developed the way this game has built into its design.

It's not unlike the challenge of converting a novel into a movie. You always lose something in the transition. This is because a novel provides a richer narrative for establishing characters' motives, thoughts, and emotions. A novel can delve into more side stories and background that really flesh out the main narrative.

In reverse, there are certain things that a movie can do that a novel cannot. Movies can provide rich visuals, and they can augment the action with effective use of background music.

Now, novels can -- and have -- been successfully ported to film. But this happens when the main concepts of the novel are taken and re-expressed to take advantage of the other medium. So if you do a direct scaling down of Duel of Ages into a shorter time frame, you'll need to play to the strengths that shorter games provide over the longer, more epic games. One possibility to consider: a more focused scenario-based approach. You would need to limit the eligible methods of collecting victory points in order to focus the action, and you'd have to limit the roster of figures appropriate to the scenario. One might create a variety of scenarios, such as having one for capture the flag, another where one assaults the base while the other defends, etc.

Edit: If there's one area this game falters in the narrative department, it would be in the end game. This game's end game has been compared to a sporting event, but the narrative structure this game creates flows much differently than the way it flows in a sporting competition. That's why the game either feels like it ends just when the action gets going, or it feels like it ends after the action settles with the winner already effectively established.
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davidlhsl wrote:
mmesich wrote:
Jump scenarios start with all characters on the board.

However, I just don't think you get a satisfactory game until you play for 5 hours. I always play to time-limit and 3 hours hits right when the struggle is starting to really unfold.

Just find a player of two that loves the game and go ahead and dedicate the time.

That's my recommendation, anyway.


These are my own thoughts. For me, this game is really all about the narrative, which can really only be satisfactorily developed the way this game has built into its design.

It's not unlike the challenge of converting a novel into a movie. You always lose something in the transition. This is because a novel provides a richer narrative for establishing characters' motives, thoughts, and emotions. A novel can delve into more side stories and background that really flesh out the main narrative.

In reverse, there are certain things that a movie can do that a novel cannot. Movies can provide rich visuals, and they can augment the action with effective use of background music.

Now, novels can -- and have -- been successfully ported to film. But this happens when the main concepts of the novel are taken and re-expressed to take advantage of the other medium. So if you do a direct scaling down of Duel of Ages into a shorter time frame, you'll need to play to the strengths that shorter games provide over the longer, more epic games. One possibility to consider: a more focused scenario-based approach. You would need to limit the eligible methods of collecting victory points in order to focus the action, and you'd have to limit the roster of figures appropriate to the scenario. One might create a variety of scenarios, such as having one for capture the flag, another where one assaults the base while the other defends, etc.

Edit: If there's one area this game falters in the narrative department, it would be in the end game. This game's end game has been compared to a sporting event, but the narrative structure this game creates flows much differently than the way it flows in a sporting competition. That's why the game either feels like it ends just when the action gets going, or it feels like it ends after the action settles with the winner already effectively established.


Based on my limited number of plays, I would agree with your final point. Though the journey is so fun, the lack of a satisfying ending doesn't seem to bother me much.
 
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Wheelockian wrote:
I know you said two platters didn't appeal to you, but I've played two platters with two labyrinths and six characters per side and have a great time. Would prefer to play your standard Triad, but it makes for a relatively speedy game (a lot less to keep track of when you only have two players) without throwing off the inherent balance.


I need to and will try a two platter map again.
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davidlhsl wrote:
Edit: If there's one area this game falters in the narrative department, it would be in the end game. This game's end game has been compared to a sporting event, but the narrative structure this game creates flows much differently than the way it flows in a sporting competition. That's why the game either feels like it ends just when the action gets going, or it feels like it ends after the action settles with the winner already effectively established.


I agree with your main points. Also that is an interesting observation about the end game. If I have the time to dedicate to it (5 hours in Triad) I generally end up with a satisfying conclusion, so there must be a sweet spot in the middle.
 
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DuelistofAges wrote:
You can use encounters, this has an up and a down, the up: game speed will be magnified greatly, the down: setup will be increased too.


We've "juiced" a couple of our games, seeding each of the Dome Keys with two Encounter chips. While they do introduce early opportunities to gain cards, they also delay the forward progress for characters who stop for them instead of maximizing the mileage of their first move.

It does, however, introduce the distinct possibility of a character having a delicious OpFire kill as early as Turn 2 in a Reinforcement game. devil
 
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Reading this thread is eye-opening. If Robinson Crusoe is a hair too long for me, should I just avoid DoA II? Is there any chance of fitting it in on a weeknight that starts at 7 and truly ends at 10 or 10:30?
 
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Adhere to the "time limit" option in the set-up rules.

If the game starts exactly at 7:00 p.m.*, make it clear that whatever turn you all are on when the timer goes off at 10 will be the final turn of the game.

(I've done this, but it's not as easy as it sounds. Usually, things are just getting interesting when the buzzer buzzes. Each time we've employed it, we then voted unanimously to play "just one more turn" after the timer had gone off.)

* Allow ample time for set-up prior to the actual start of the game, as that can really drag out when players are unfamiliar with it, or are prone to AP in every aspect of their game play.
 
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Jonathan there's no doubt the game shines with another hour or two to play but I've done many demos at cons within a strictly enforced 3 hour time slot and that included teaching complete newcomers.

I've had players catch up at future events to say they enjoyed it enough even with the abridged format to go on to purchase their own copy.

Incorporating even a few of the ideas above will likely enhance that experience further, though you may still hanker for more once you've experienced a full 4+ hour game.
 
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grandslam wrote:
Is there any chance of fitting it in on a weeknight that starts at 7 and truly ends at 10 or 10:30?


My group generally plays twelve round games, Triad with Labyrinths. With twelve games under our belts, we consistently come in at under three hours, from Box Open to Box Closed. (The first few games were, of course, longer.)
 
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