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Subject: Ways to Shorten Playtime? rss

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William Raines
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South Carolina
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I haven't played the game yet (waiting on my copy ) but one complaint I've noticed in several reviews is the long playtime. My playgroup consists of four players and two of them start to lose focus and get bored if a game stretches out. So my question is are there any ways to effectively reduce the game time without effecting how fun is? Some ideas I've had (Remember I haven't played so please point out if these are horrible!) are:

-Restrict the number of mages per round
-Start with less mages
-Less "Bell Tower Cards"
-Less Rounds
-A time limit for turns

Any additional ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Scott Arnone
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godfirst82 wrote:
I haven't played the game yet (waiting on my copy ) but one complaint I've noticed in several reviews is the long playtime. My playgroup consists of four players and two of them start to lose focus and get bored if a game stretches out. So my question is are there any ways to effectively reduce the game time without effecting how fun is? Some ideas I've had (Remember I haven't played so please point out if these are horrible!) are:

-Restrict the number of mages per round
-Start with less mages
-Less "Bell Tower Cards"
-Less Rounds
-A time limit for turns

Any additional ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


You could play the Summer Break scenario, which might shorten the game. Its one round longer, but there are less Mages to place. Less Bell Tower cards would shorten things a bit, but would also result in more people getting screwed if you didn't limit Mages. Less Rounds would be "fine", but it would give you less time to puzzle things out and respond.

All of them would theoretically work, but this is definitely a very "full" game, and it doesn't feel long to me. I'd hate to shorten it, personally, just because I love all the various aspects and interactions that go on. One less round is one less chance to combo my spells, after all!
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Alison Mandible
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The "Summer Break" scenario has one fewer mage placement in total, but spread out over 6 rounds instead of 5. I suspect in terms of playtime, it would be a wash.

I've wondered about playing Summer Break but just stopping after 5 rounds. It would definitely be a lower-power game, and maybe people would feel like their plans couldn't fully come to fruition, but I think at the very least it would give people an idea whether they'd like to play the full game, with a little bit of time savings.

A time limit for turns might be tough because there's so much physical stuff that needs to be done to execute turns. Still, not a bad idea. The game still works if everybody is making snap decisions.

Fewer "Bell Tower" cards would just be sort of broken, I think. I don't recommend that.
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Alexander Griffard
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I've found that 30 minutes per player, as listed on the box, is pretty accurate. Two-player takes more like 40-45 minutes per player. AP-prone players can lengthen the game, but that's not unique to Argent. I personally don't consider a 4 player game taking 2 hours to be long, but perhaps you do.

I would be very cautious about adjusting the number of mages or rounds or bell tower cards because that could drastically alter the balance of the game. Argent has a strong engine-building element and you could easily throw a wrench into it.
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Tucker Took
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The placement phase can go long but each turn is fairly short. I think more than anything the main reason it goes long is the choices you have to make. With little knowledge of the goals, you are placed in a situation where each of you mages needs to get as much done as possible.

I think an easy way to improve the play time would be to give players more information. This could be done in many ways. The best of course is to play with experienced players. My first game was by far my longest, the more i play the better i am at making those choices. Planning is very important, but you cannot just plan 1 move ahead. I think it helps to plan out where you want all of your guys to go, with some good back-ups for when those spots are gone. That way when a spot you want is gone you can move on to a different spot you wanted with a different mage and re-plan you move with that guy on other peoples turns.

Another option might be to make sure there are more than the avg number of simple spots available. Sure the more complex tiles are fun and give great options, but the ones that just give you mana/gold/int/wis simplify things alot and allow other things to go smoother. Though i have not tried that, so that idea might just back fire as people would have increase options for making the game more complex through spells.

Lastly you could allow people to start with additional Marks. This would give each player more known good options and hopefully they could spend less time thinking about which potential goal they want to try and go for and go straight for stuff they know is good.

But i honestly dont really think during the placement we ever had too much trouble keeping people in the game. There are people i would NEVER play this game with, but as long as players try their best to plan on there peoples turns it goes very smoothly.

For me the longest sections of the game are the resolution phases, with 11 rooms and 25+ resolutions it can be a large chunk of the game. Limiting the # of players kills that alot, as 8 rooms/15 mages is much faster. Also the instant rooms are nice for doing their bit during the placement phase. Rooms with choices are by far the worst, since the mages there were likely placed a while ago and the shape of the game changes so much when these rooms resolve players can bog things down making fresh choices about the game as it is now where when they placed there they might have had a clear idea as to what they wanted. Again this might be solved partly by limiting those types of rooms, and this game does have tons of options to allow that, but again it isnt an option i think i would take personally as i find those the most fun.

Honestly Knowledge of the game i think more than anything else is what can be used to speed things up. Additional Marks could help, but making sure all your players have spent 30 minutes watching the how its played video could easily shave 45 minutes of you trying to teach it and 15 minutes per player of questions. I think the summer break is a great way to shorted and ease people into the game and would highly recommend it. i would not recommend cutting bell tower cards, or playing less rounds, or really even limiting mages as all of those things will decrease enjoyment far more than they will time. and while you may save 30Minutes, you will lose all your players. A 2 hours Epic'ly fun game may not make it to the table every time, but an 1.5 hour rushed version might turn all your players against it all together.
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Sergio Perez
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Terrell
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Familiarity with the game is going to reduce the playing time most effectively. Start with the base game, play with the A sides. Learn how the game flows and become familiar with the vault cards, supporters and, the most complex element, the spells. Because players are taking turns placing mages, downtime between turns really shouldn't be too excessive. ESPECIALLY try to get those folks who are playing the game for the first to understand the concept of the learning game. Winning the first game is just not that important, especially not when compared with the potential to diminish others' enjoyment of the game by taking too long to make a play.
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Trey Chambers
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These are all good recommendations.

My two cents:

Use only 10 voters (deal out two fewer), and play only four rounds.

The less time to puzzle things out might be offset in that there is less to "puzzle out".

If that's not short enough, lower the initial mage count to 4 and reduce the number of total rooms by one or two.

Now, the game is not balanced around any of these changes so strange things might happen, but it should be functional at least.

Also note, the length, as with most games, is very group dependent. In general, new players and AP players add about 30 minutes each. Fast players and veteran players usually only add about 20 minutes. Game time can be very swift with the right group, or might stretch out to the 3 hour mark with a high player count of new or AP-prone players.

I think some reviewers have made it seem longer than it actually is.

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Tucker Took
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Way longer! My last game was around an hour, hour and a half at most.
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Altropos
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What if at the start of the game after marking your opening voter you dealt one of the unused and unseen voters to each player? You could call it a voter in your pocket if you like, a vote you couldn't lose. And since everyone has one, they cancel each other out. But, it does let you know one voter not on the board that you can ignore.
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R. Eric Reuss
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A few organic ways to keep playtime shorter (some already mentioned):
* Use rooms with straightforward rewards.
* Use rooms such that there are a relatively low number of "Research" actions available. (Not none, but not scads of them either.) Spells are an awesome part of the game, but also one of the things that can push the length up, both because they give players many more options / counter-options to consider each turn, and because they tend to increase the number of actions each player will take in a round.
* Do NOT play with the department of Technomancy (from the expansion), as it allows loads of fast research (great fun once you know the game, but can add length)

I could also see playing only 4 rounds, but either flipping one or two of the voters face-up at the start of the game, or giving everyone two free marks instead of one at game start (since there'll be less time to gather information). It'll mean less time to get spell/vault engines going, but those engines can also cost time, so. If you do this, ignore the "low # of Research spaces" comment above; the shorter game length ought to make that unnecessary.
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Dan Helland
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HyperionHuxley wrote:
I've found that 30 minutes per player, as listed on the box, is pretty accurate.


Yep.

I play with kids, and the round structure is extremely conducive to split sessions. We take a break after round 2 or 3, finish the next day without missing a beat.
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Marc Bennett
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Shampoo4you wrote:


I think some reviewers have made it seem longer than it actually is.



this is very true. I was expecting a much longer game our first playthrough.

AP prone players will find plenty of things to paralyze about, so if that represents your group you may have issues.

I think the best time saver is how the players mentally parse their turns. by the end of the game you get tons of options of what you can do, but its best to ignore that and decide what you need to do.

for example I will parse my turn like this.

ok I need mana
I have no spells that give mana, 1 supporter, 1 vault card, and 2 rooms.

that right there, narrows down my choice of actions considerably. if the spot in the room I want isn't available I may revisit spells or use a red mage, etc.
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R. Eric Reuss
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Tried a 4-round variant this evening. Three players: experienced (me), played-once, and new player. Each player started off with:
+2 additional gold
+2 additional Mana
+2 additional Influence (plus the resulting Merit Badge)
+1 additional Mark

It worked fine. Less opportunity to flog engines, but spells, items and supporters all saw good use by all players, despite an unusually low-conflict game. (Loads of defense came up early, and only one Sorcery mage was drafted.) All players could use 2 Merit Badges on turn 4, and I think everyone had 4 marks by turn 2-3. I won 6-3-3, taking most Influence, most Supporters, and 4 of the 5 voters I knew about by the end of turn 3... though the first 8 voters split 5-3-0, making it look like it'd be a strong runoff between two of us.

I think things would also have worked with 4 mages per player (like Trey suggested as a further speedup), though 2xPlanar / 2xMysticism could be pretty nasty tempo-wise on turns 2-4, esp. if two players do it.
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R. Eric Reuss
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Did the 4-round variant again. Worked acceptably, though not as well as last time - two minor problems:

1. The Student Council rep's starting free Merit Badge wasn't quite as good on turn 1. ("I have 1, everyone else has 0" is better than "I have 2, everyone else has 1" due to less competition.)

2. The setup was short on Marks - outside of the Council Chamber, there was only the "Secret Supporter + Mark" space (which requires a Merit Badge), and the shorter game meant there was less time for Vault cards / Supporters / Spells which grant Marks to come out and have an effect. Counts weren't catastrophically low - in a 3p game, we ended with 3, 4-5, and 6-7 Marks respectively - but it was a little tight.

Neither made things not-work or un-fun, but I'll keep them in mind for future short games.

One of the folks really wanted one more round to make use of all the stuff they'd gotten. But if we'd played a full game, we'd have blown over our time-limit by the length of Turn #5. It worked really well for teaching the game, though.
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