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Ryan Feathers
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Hello,

I recently have been having some discussions with fellow gamers regarding the accuracy of times printed on game boxes. I will share my personal thoughts below, but for now I just wanted to put out a series of polls regarding some of the topics we discussed. I'm curious to see what the community things about this.

I searched for similar threads but didn't find anything quite like this so sorry if I missed it or if this is a common thread. I hope that we can all have a good discussion surrounding the printed playtimes on game boxes.

EDIT: Gah, you can ignore question 4 in the poll as it is covered by question 3. I thought I had it all set up correctly but made a minor mistakes. Sorry all. I would modify the poll but that doesn't seem to be allowed.

Poll: Games Boxes and Printed Playtimes
1. In general, you find that the actual time it takes to play your games is ________ compared to the printed playtime on the game box.
A lot shorter
A little shorter
Right on
A little longer
A lot longer
2. In general, how many games do you find the printed play time on the box to be accurate?
Every game (100%)
Most games (75%)
Some games (50%)
Few games (25%)
No games (0%)
3. Do you think the printed time on the box should be solely playtime, or should it aim to represent the total time that is required to play (ie, including setup, tear down, etc.
The game box is and should be only estimating time playing
The game box is and should be estimating the total time it requires to play (including setup and tear down, etc.)
The game box is only estimating time playing, but should be estimating the total time it requires to play (including setup and tear down, etc.)
The game is estimating the total time is requires to play (including setup and tear down, etc.) but should be only estimating time playing
4. Do you think the printed time on the box is solely estimating playtime, or is it estimating the total time that is required to play (including setup, tear down, etc.)
Is only estimating time spent playing
Is estimating total time required to play (including set up, tear down, etc.)
5. When playing games with muggles (people whom have not played modern board games), gateway gamers (gamers who are fairly new to the hobby) , or experienced hobbyists (gamers who are experienced with many modern games), you find that games typically play ______ compared to the printed playtime on the game box.

  A lot shorter A little shorter Right on A little longer A lot longer
Playing games with Muggles
Playing games with Gateway Gamers
Playing games with Experienced Hobbyists
6. When learning a new game or re learning an old one, how much longer do you find it takes compared to once you and your group become experienced with that game?
  Shorter About the same About 10% longer About 25% longer About 50% longer More than 50% longer
When learning a new game I find the playtime to be ______ as compared to when playing with an experienced group.
When re learning an old game I find the playtime to be ______ as compared to when playing with an experienced group.
When teaching a game I find the playtime to be _______ as compared to when playing with an experienced group.
7. Do you feel BGG should add a feature (such as a community poll for playtimes on each game's page similar to a games weight) to address the issue of inaccurate playtimes listed on game boxes?
I do not find this to be an issue, and do not think BGG should add a feature to address it
I find this to be an issue, but do not think BGG should add a feature to address it
I do not find this to be an issue, but I do think BGG should add a feature to address it
I find this to be an issue, and do think BGG should add a feature to address it
      126 answers
Poll created by Ranior



Thanks for reading and replying. Hope to see plenty discussing in the comments below--feel free to share your thoughts or ideas!
 
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Ryan Feathers
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So now for my thoughts and opinions.

I recently had some discussions regarding this with a few friends in real life and then a recent reddit post. I've had some people claim they didn't think anyone could ever play a game in it's listed time frame, when I personally find that my group almost always plays within that time frame. Further discussions led me to realize that some gamers find the times printed on boxes to be quite to extremely misleading up to the point of some suspecting that most publishers purposefully lie in order to sell more copies.

I suspect this is a fairly extreme view and not the experience of most gamers, but I am genuinely curious. I for one have never really experienced any real issues with the printed play time on game boxes being very inaccurate. For the most part I find most to all of my games to be right on or very close to the correct play times--assuming of course we were talking about an experienced group playing the game.

I came to realize that some seem to think play time should encompass times spent learning rules, setting up the game, or tear down. I personally think the box could never achieve this for all groups and so should only estimate the time spent playing the game--and then let people realize that rules questions and set up and tear down are time that will be spent in addition to that. This necessarily means that the first few games will likely take significantly longer than the printed play time, but an experienced table should generally play the game within the printed playtime. This has been my experience.

So, that is where I am at, but I am curious to see how many are similar to me (which is what I would suspect), or how many find a systemic problem with the printed play times on game boxes.
 
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April W
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Ranior wrote:
So now for my thoughts and opinions.

I recently had some discussions regarding this with a few friends in real life and then a recent reddit post. I've had some people claim they didn't think anyone could ever play a game in it's listed time frame, when I personally find that my group almost always plays within that time frame. Further discussions led me to realize that some gamers find the times printed on boxes to be quite to extremely misleading up to the point of some suspecting that most publishers purposefully lie in order to sell more copies.

I suspect this is a fairly extreme view and not the experience of most gamers, but I am genuinely curious. I for one have never really experienced any real issues with the printed play time on game boxes being very inaccurate. For the most part I find most to all of my games to be right on or very close to the correct play times--assuming of course we were talking about an experienced group playing the game.

I came to realize that some seem to think play time should encompass times spent learning rules, setting up the game, or tear down. I personally think the box could never achieve this for all groups and so should only estimate the time spent playing the game--and then let people realize that rules questions and set up and tear down are time that will be spent in addition to that. This necessarily means that the first few games will likely take significantly longer than the printed play time, but an experienced table should generally play the game within the printed playtime. This has been my experience.

So, that is where I am at, but I am curious to see how many are similar to me (which is what I would suspect), or how many find a systemic problem with the printed play times on game boxes.

I fully agree with your views here. Also, I have found that playtime is largely dependent on the group I play with. When my husband and I play games together the box time is nearly always accurate, but when I play with extended family, some of whom are experienced gamers, playtime can increase drastically due to AP, distracted players, excessive questioning of the rules, debates, etc., which is all very frustrated but certainly does not mean the box is inaccurate; the error is on the part of the players in such cases.
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Josh
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My experience is that actual play time is almost always longer than the reported play time.

Everything a publisher does, whether it's using a box that's much too big or under-reporting the play time, is geared toward increasing sales. I'd have to imagine that a shorter listed play time is going to make a game appear to be more approachable and thus increase its chance of getting sold.
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Ryan Feathers
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Soleia wrote:

but when I play with extended family, some of whom are experienced gamers, playtime can increase drastically due to AP, distracted players, excessive questioning of the rules, debates, etc., which is all very frustrated but certainly does not mean the box is inaccurate; the error is on the part of the players in such cases.


And I absolutely agree with you here. There are a few people in my family that when we game often have the TV on in the background which makes the game go much slower since they often aren't planning out their turns or anything and are distracted even when it is their turn! But I too agree this cannot possibly be the manufacturer's responsibility to try and account for, clearly this is a player/group issue that should be resolved if playtime was the main concern.

squash wrote:
My experience is that actual play time is almost always longer than the reported play time.

Everything a publisher does, whether it's using a box that's much too big or under-reporting the play time, is geared toward increasing sales. I'd have to imagine that a shorter listed play time is going to make a game appear to be more approachable and thus increase its chance of getting sold.


Thanks for sharing your viewpoint as well. I'm genuinely curious, when you game do you often find playing with a focused experienced group are the playtimes still always longer than the box's listed playtimes? Do you find your group generally suffers from several AP prone players?


I now somewhat wish I had included some of those options--I see the vast majority thus far think the manufacturer's job is to list a playtime that just corresponds to the actual time it takes to play the game, ignoring set up, teardown, chit chat, etc. This to me would indicate that in general most box times are probably pretty accurate--and the main issue lies with few groups playing games they are experienced with and really focusing on just playing. I could be wrong of course, but my personal experience leads me to believe every time I sit down with some dedicated gamers and play a game we all know well that we usually are slightly quicker than what the box says or right on. The times it takes longer is almost always due to socializing, reading or referencing rules, or setting up and tearing down the game.

Thanks for the replies thus far though. It does seem that the majority of users think most games are listed as slightly too short compared to what they actually experience.
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Joe Huber

Westborough
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I find that usually the time listed on the box is about right for a first play, but well too long for play with experienced players. There are exceptions - particularly on the shorter end of stated playtimes - but I'm still somewhat surprised when a game takes the time listed, with most of the groups I play with.
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Chengkai Yang
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If I pause the clock for rules disputes it works out more often than not. Multiple experienced gamers getting into a rules argument has taken longer than some games take to play.
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Mike

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it depends on how AP the people are you are playing with. Non-AP players it will be too long, even one AP player and it isn't long enough. There are a couple I have played that are way off but mostly it is more about the players than anything else.
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Andrew Taylor
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The publishers have a fairly impossible task before them when it comes to estimated play times, as there will be *massive* variance depending on who is playing.

A group of new boardgamers who has never played a particular game before are *obviously* going to take considerably longer than a group of experienced boardgamers who have played the game several times. There is no way they could put a time on the side that would reflect both.
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Josh
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Ranior wrote:

squash wrote:
My experience is that actual play time is almost always longer than the reported play time.

Everything a publisher does, whether it's using a box that's much too big or under-reporting the play time, is geared toward increasing sales. I'd have to imagine that a shorter listed play time is going to make a game appear to be more approachable and thus increase its chance of getting sold.


Thanks for sharing your viewpoint as well. I'm genuinely curious, when you game do you often find playing with a focused experienced group are the playtimes still always longer than the box's listed playtimes? Do you find your group generally suffers from several AP prone players?


After I typed my initial response, I started thinking about why play times might differ greatly between even experienced groups of gamers. Besides the obvious AP issue, I think it goes as deep as why we actually play games to begin with. For myself and the few friends that I still game with regularly, we play games because we want to have a fun time creating a shared narrative within a social setting. So we don't mind chatting and laughing and generally taking our time with the whole experience. I suspect that this differs from the average "serious" board game hobbyist, who might be more interested in the mental challenge, getting to the end result, and generally playing as many games as possible.

But that's just one gamer's viewpoint!
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Eric Disney
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I basically ALWAYS go over the playtime, and I know for me personally it is because I am almost ALWAYS learning, relearning, or teaching the game. It is rare that I get to play a game that I and the other players are already very familiar with the rules to the point that I don't need the rule book.

With that said, I think the playtime they put on games is usually the playtime for when everyone knows the game very well, does not need any rule clarifications, and can confidently make the majority of their decisions.

I do have a small problem with this only because by the point you are familiar enough with the game to play it within the recommended time, does that recommended time even matter anymore? By that point you already know about how long the game takes and you aren't going to be looking at the recommended time to figure out if the game is too long or not.

Usually when you are looking at game times it is because you and your group are looking at games they are not all as familiar with and attempting to find a game that will work within their time frame. But that means there is going to be a lot of time explaining, asking questions, looking up rules, deciding on strategy, etc. that go along with people being unfamiliar with a game.

For recommended game times to be truly useful, I feel like it needs to reflect how long it will take for a new group or at least one that still needs occasional rule checks and to teach some of the players. This way if people are say, looking at my collection for a game that fits our time, the time will reflect how long it will truly take for me to get out the game, teach them the game, answer rule questions, etc etc.

Basically if we are already familiar with the game, who cares what the box says, we all already know about how long the game takes.

P.S. I also notice the largest difference between groups that are more logically inclined and have played games (not necessarily board games) before. They generally jump right into understanding the rules, or can guess how something works for themselves, only confirming with me that they are understanding it correctly.
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Ryan Feathers
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squash wrote:


After I typed my initial response, I started thinking about why play times might differ greatly between even experienced groups of gamers. Besides the obvious AP issue, I think it goes as deep as why we actually play games to begin with. For myself and the few friends that I still game with regularly, we play games because we want to have a fun time creating a shared narrative within a social setting. So we don't mind chatting and laughing and generally taking our time with the whole experience. I suspect that this differs from the average "serious" board game hobbyist, who might be more interested in the mental challenge, getting to the end result, and generally playing as many games as possible.

But that's just one gamer's viewpoint!


Still, sharing viewpoints here is quite interesting to me. It sounds like to me you are fine with the printed play times being a bit off though and you aren't that worried or concerned about how long a game takes as long as you are having fun.

I will admit though I mostly play games for the mental challenge and trying to best my own score and improve at a game. So I agree that my gaming style facilitates quicker play times in general.

draxx01 wrote:
If I pause the clock for rules disputes it works out more often than not. Multiple experienced gamers getting into a rules argument has taken longer than some games take to play.


That is an interesting idea--I sort of want to time a few of my games now and just see how close they are. In general I'm pretty sure they are about on, but I honestly haven't really ever tested.


Finally, I do think Malicah brings up some really interesting points--who should that printed playtime on the box be aimed at? Cause after the first few games I know how long something takes so I don't really care anymore. So perhaps should it try to show the playtime for those first few games where people are getting used to the rules and game mechanics and gamers just need to know with repeated plays that time will go down?

Or do we just stick with the current system where many players just have to know to add 50% or so to the time when learning a game for the first time?

Overall lots of interesting thoughts here. I will agree that whenever someone is looking over my collection trying to find a game to play I sometimes have to turn them down since when a box says 60 minutes, the first game will probably take me 90 by the time I teach rules and play a game. It's particularly problematic when playing with those gamers that aren't very experienced. I personally can pick up rules very quickly but that's through a combination of lots of experience with a variety of games and a general intuition and logic that can deduce how things are supposed to work. Many players new to the hobby don't have the background of say a worker placement game, so it takes a lot longer to teach those type of games since they don't have the framework to begin with.

Which all goes back to the point that manufacturers really do have an impossible task with trying to list an estimated playtime on the box.
 
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Crispin Moakler
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I have two viewpoints here.

Firstly as someone who is designing a game I realised recently that I was viewing a lower game time as a positive thing, therefore I am inclined to post a minimal value. I hope to be honest, but I have to add that in a competitive field I am strongly inclined to honest competitivity by which I mean posting a playtime based on comparable games. (i.e. competitors take 120 mins. in actuality but claim 90 therefore I claim 90).

My other view is based on a recent games convention where I found that actual gamers played their games in the specified time or less. Is this an honest time?
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Christian K
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As much as I would like very accurate game times, I think companies print game times for people that know the game fairly well(testers) because that is all they can do. Real life gaming involves socialization, AP, bathroom breaks and other types of dicking around mid game, which can add on a lot of time.
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Brandon Tibbetts
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I think it's fair for publishers to advertise expected play times for near-ideal scenarios, similarly to how cars are rated for fuel efficiency.

So, assume the advertised playtime means experienced gamers, highly familiar with the game, none of whom are AP-prone, and that the game proceeds start to finish with minimal interruptions (phone calls, side conversations, people not at the table when it is their turn, food at the table, etc). For anything beyond this ideal scenario, adjust your expected playtime accordingly.
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Ryan Feathers
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CDiablo wrote:
As much as I would like very accurate game times, I think companies print game times for people that know the game fairly well(testers) because that is all they can do. Real life gaming involves socialization, AP, bathroom breaks and other types of dicking around mid game, which can add on a lot of time.



schmanthony wrote:
I think it's fair for publishers to advertise expected play times for near-ideal scenarios, similarly to how cars are rated for fuel efficiency.

So, assume the advertised playtime means experienced gamers, highly familiar with the game, none of whom are AP-prone, and that the game proceeds start to finish with minimal interruptions (phone calls, side conversations, people not at the table when it is their turn, food at the table, etc). For anything beyond this ideal scenario, adjust your expected playtime accordingly.


I agree with the two of you. I actually really like the analogy to fuel efficiency.

At this point with almost 100 respondents, I am enjoying looking at the results in the poll as well. Nothing earth shattering, although it does slightly surprise me to see the percentage of gamers who find their games consistently take a little longer than the printed time on the box. I would have assumed it was a bit closer to right on which has mostly been my experience, so I'm glad to really get a bit of a sampling here.

Still, it seems the vast majority agree that the game box should only be estimating the time spent actually playing, and in that regard I truly think most games do a great job. If people tried to time their games and remove all the minutes spent on chit chat, AP, or bathroom breaks, I'd have to think most would find the times pretty accurate. And as most here have pointed out, how could anyone possibly try to estimate that time into time printed on the box?

 
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Brandon Tibbetts
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The results make me wonder if it might be worth putting something like this on your box:

Estimated play time: 90 minutes*

*Add 10-20 minutes for each of the following that your session will include:

- Complete Instructions
- Frequent chit-chat
- Frequent bathroom breaks
- Pizza delivery
- Noobs
- "That guy"
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Ian Tavener
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I think the playtime estimate is accurate for one particularly small demographic: when playing only with avid players of the particular game in question, where all players are completely fluent in the rules. For example, playing in Android: Netrunner tournaments, I would find just about every game I played to finish in under an hour (estimated 45 minute playtime on box).

I can't recall the last time I looked at the play time written on the box and had this become a factor in my decision to play/buy. Learning new games at the cafe though, I might consider what the play time says, but they have a handy sticker coding system to tell you what you're getting yourself into before you grab the game from the shelf.
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