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Subject: Our 4-player sessions take quite some time rss

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Flo
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TLDR: Do you enforce time limits on the process of choosing cards each round?

Some of the players from our 4-player party are bothered by the length of our sessions, so I'm trying to figure out which part is most time-consuming. It takes us around 5 hours from the arrival of all party members to the moment where all components are back in the box. Somewhere in between we order food and eat so this will account for around 45 minutes. The setup and teardown doesn't take long in itself. The discussions around city/road event and choice of cards for the scenario do. But I think the part that contributes most to the duration of the session is the choice of cards to play each round. We are discussing the strategy in quite detail (without initiative numbers and card names) and readjusting it a few times before everyone has finally chosen their cards.

How long does this process take in your games? Do you limit the time players have to choose the cards? How well do you discuss the strategy for the round? Do you just pick your cards on your own and do whatever you like? Or maybe choose them on your own and discuss after revealing? Or are you playing like we do because you just can't help yourself and have to optimise every move?
 
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Remi Bureau
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We do strategize to some level, but I guess only in broad lines, so it takes about 1 minute to choose cards each round. Games last around 2 hours.
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jonny johnson
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Well, we're only 3 and take so long

What takes the longest:
- unpacking the game and set it up (without scenario)
- setup scenario (tiles, monster cards, monster standees, tiles and tokens,...)
- levelling up & town actions (buying new equipment, town action, choosing new skill cards, choosing perks, adjusting attack decks,...)

I think when we take simply the play time, we're busy with actually playing the scenario (plus road event) for 2-3 hours.

Everything which disturbes the play session though is highly increasing the needed time though, as everyone first has to remember what he wanted to do, did or whos turn it is.
I don't think that limiting the decission time is benefitial, as it would leed to more mistakes or even frustration that possible combos were forgotten.

I'd suggest to prepare everything for the game session up-front: talk to your friends which scenario you want to play, prepare the tiles, monsters, etc so you can easily set up the board for playing. Focus on playing and ending the scenario. When you're in the final room, you can maybe order pizza for everyone, so the food arrives, when your adventurers are arriving in Gloomhaven You can then talk about levelling up with your mates while eating, decide which scenario route to go and search for the next required tiles. When you clean up, one prepares the board for the scenario and you can go on.

Well, that's mostly how we do it ^^
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Andrea C.
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5 hours, geez.
You should really try to ban discussions over the choice of the ability cards and limit the possibility to discuss the strategy only after ability cards are revealed. We try to spend no more than 5 minutes for the cards selection phase.
With a 4 player group we manage to stay within 3 hours/session: 30 minutes setup, lvl up and events - around 2 hrs. playtime - 20 minutes rewards and
putting away stuff.
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Jeff Fricke
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Our game with 4 usually takes around 3 to 4 hours for a typical scenario. But we have a lot of kid interruptions. I'd say without the interruptions it would be like an hour less. Card picking is less than a minute usually with tense times taking a little longer. We don't discuss much except the usual of who needs heals type stuff. But that doesn't include setup. I've cut time down considerably by setting up everything before everyone arrives. We pick our next scenario after the nights game so I can have it all set up before people arrive. They just sit down and we go. Of course this won't work if you're not playing at the game owners house.
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Michael T.
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5 hours (with 4 players and counting pauses for eating cake and such) are quite normal for our group. We have at least one really AP-prone gamer and we all take our time to do things right in games, not only with Gloomhaven. This said we never lost a scenario yet (about 12 games in), although in 2 or 3 cases it was very close.

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Conor Davitt
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In our 4-player campaign, we end up taking between 2 and 3 hours (I think 2.5 was about the length of our last session, which *includes* eating lunch).

I agree with johnny that, if possible, you should set up everything needed for the upcoming scenario before anyone arrives. It may not take a huge amount of time, but if you're running these at 5 hours, every bit helps, right?

When we're playing, selecting cards doesn't really take that long. Maybe 1 to 2 minutes per round. We're familiar with what the monsters do (based on their stat cards, not really based on their ability cards - who knows what may come up with those). I think we've all fallen into the groove of knowing our strengths and weaknesses, and applying that to the current battlefield.

For example, maybe I see a shielded enemy on the field and I know I can do a decent piercing attack that may take it out, I'll immediately toss that out as my probable action for the upcoming round, adding the general initiative (early, late, etc). That gives everyone else a starting point to plan their actions and possibly rule out some of their cards as choices. That might let someone else realize they have a good ranged attack, so they can shift their focus to toss that out at the enemy with retaliate. They don't think it'll be enough to take it out but with it being a mid-range initiative, it leaves another player room to come in with a late initiative attack to take it out and avoid suffering that retaliation damage.

And if I'm sitting there, looking at my cards and nothing is jumping out at me as a solid plan for the coming round, I'll prompt the other players by asking if anyone has a plan in mind. Or, if I've got poison or a wound but no heals left, I can prompt the group and see if someone can help me with that in the next round.

So again, it kind of boils down to knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and having a basic idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the other players so you can coordinate quickly and efficiently. In my opinion, it shouldn't take more than 1 or 2 minutes to plan out a round, if that.
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Darren Nakamura
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We don't have a strict timer, but we all try to be mindful about not spending too much time making decisions. Usually, if three of the four of us are ready, it will hurry the last one along to just pick something. When we started playing, one game would take us about four hours. Now we're down to about three. No breaks for eating in the middle.
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Matthew Gardner
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This is tricky, because the more you coordinate and plan your turn, the more successful you will likely become - which can lead to analysis paralysis since there is a definite benefit of min-maxing every move. How do you find the difficulty of your long games? If you rarely feel challenged, a timer sounds like a great idea to finish earlier AND add more tension / difficulty. But if your games are long because you need to spend that much analysis time just to avoid failure, consider trying a timer along with -1 level to the scenario. Hopefully your group will find a sweet spot where you can play faster without feeling like you are rushing into bad moves.
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Conor Davitt
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Von Strubel wrote:
5 hours (with 4 players and counting pauses for eating cake and such)...


My life has meaning now that I realize it's missing cake breaks!
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Slawomir Stankowski
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TLDR: you can probably get to 3h + food, getting to 2h would be crazy fast

We usually finish our games in around 3h (4 player group).

Here's a few things that might save you some time:
- we decide on the next scenario while tearing down the current one
- we start the set up as soon as the first person arrives
- for the city/road events - we discuss our views briefly and then vote, in case of a tie we discuss a bit more and if no resolution is found we randomize which player decides the outcome

- we discuss our strategy broadly (i.e. I want to kill/attack this/any monster, I want to move/stay put, I want to shoot this/any monster, I'll open the door, I'll go fast, I'll go slow)
- we choose our cards during setup and after the battle goals are selected we have a few minutes to adjust our decks (usually you have main cards you always take and only 2~3 cards that can be swapped out)
- when choosing cards for the round we define broad goals for the round (kill everything/anything, target a specific enemy, move, clean up) and then everybody chooses their cards and can ask for assistance (can you move/not move here, can you soften up/kill this thing), if nobody asks any questions we each do what we planned, usually there is only 1/2 players who will need some cooperation and then the others just say "yes I'll help" or "no I can't"
- some AP is unavoidable, we try to minimise it by remembering that there is no perfect plan, and especially with slower characters the monsters will move so they should make less specific plans (instead of attacking THIS monster plan to attack A monster, instead of needing to move HERE plan that you can move a bit)

Remember that the more specific a plan is the more likely it will be interrupted. Don't make plans that depend on THAT spot being empty or THAT monster doing THIS, these plans rarely come through and use up more time than broader plans (kill closest monster, move as far as possible).

Also remember that the two cards you choose have 6 actions in total so broader plans are easier to fulfil.

Hope any of this helps
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Flo
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mgardner0 wrote:
This is tricky, because the more you coordinate and plan your turn, the more successful you will likely become - which can lead to analysis paralysis since there is a definite benefit of min-maxing every move. How do you find the difficulty of your long games? If you rarely feel challenged, a timer sounds like a great idea to finish earlier AND add more tension / difficulty. But if your games are long because you need to spend that much analysis time just to avoid failure, consider trying a timer along with -1 level to the scenario. Hopefully your group will find a sweet spot where you can play faster without feeling like you are rushing into bad moves.


We've played 6 scenarios with the 4-player party and won all of them. Some time after second or third we switched to hard. It proved to be the right difficulty for us as we've had a lot of fun, also with the tense moments where everyone thought a scenario is probably not winnable anymore.

We play mostly at someone's who's not the owner of the game so no possibility of setup beforehand.

It might be worth trying standard difficulty again and keeping card selection phases short for the next session.
 
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michele c
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I see what your problem is. I suggest you give this variant a try:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1939505/variant-draw-to...

It doesn't significantly alter the game, but it cuts down the playtime by a good chunk, especially if some of the players suffer from AP.
 
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Darren Nakamura
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Flo
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mhl7 wrote:
I see what your problem is. I suggest you give this variant a try:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1939505/variant-draw-to...

It doesn't significantly alter the game, but it cuts down the playtime by a good chunk, especially if some of the players suffer from AP.


Nice one, but I don't like the bit about having to draw cards and move figures around the board. Still takes too much time. I think I'll try this one: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/28091284#28091284
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Jay Quirk
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Our 4-player session is usually about 2 hours per game, including leveling up, buying equipment, city/road card events, etc. Unpacking and tear down is at most 1/2 an hour combined. but we shorten that up, too.

We pretty much always decide on-line before the game which scenario we will do next and if possible, the person with the game will have as much set up before the session to save time. Then the city and road cards go fast because we have generally decided as a group to:
a) be the "good guys" and take the moral/ethical option, and
b) when morally ambiguous options exist, take the risky, adventurous one.

So choosing on that front is usually pretty quick.

As for the game play, we do some strategy, but it's pretty much: I'm going to kill this guy going fast, I'm going to move here, I'm going to long rest, I'll make ice on my turn for you to use, etc. It usually flows pretty quickly. Everyone knows their general job in the party and we go to it.

We have also played a lot of RPGs together over the years. And the hours and hours of Space Alert might have also helped make better decisions quickly. There's a lot to be said for having experience working together over a long time and knowing how your teammates think and react without needing to spell it out for each other.
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michael ray
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How many scenarios in are you?

Our first 3 games took 4+ hours, but since then we're down significantly, about 2.5 hours a game.

Things that have happened to speed it up:
People learning there cards better
People learning how to focus down monsters better (ie, no longer hurting all the living bones for 2 damage each, then watching them heal, basically wasting a round)

Other thoughts: City/road event discussions shouldn't take more than a minute, if you're spending that long deciding on them, a thing you might consider, is after say, 1-2 minutes of discussion, everyone close their eyes and vote with thumbs up/down/neutral. Which ever has more wins, if it's a tie, have a general party agreement for 'evil/good' or 'smart/stupid' or some decider like that, and use that for the choice.

Thing that we've done, that aren't really 'allowed' to speed up the game:
Our craighart tends to take the longest deciding what to do, but he's also basically always going last or 2nd to last, so, if he's taking a while, we just ask if he's going before 50 initiative, and if he isn't we flip the monster cards and get the turn moving along.

It does mean he can make extra optimal choices with info he shouldn't have, but those speed the game up, and not waiting on him to decide also speeds the game up.
 
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Delith Malistar
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Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
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mhl7 wrote:
I see what your problem is. I suggest you give this variant a try:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1939505/variant-draw-to...

It doesn't significantly alter the game, but it cuts down the playtime by a good chunk, especially if some of the players suffer from AP.


Beat me to it!
 
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Alexander Steinbach
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Even after about a dozen games with 4 players, 4-5 hours sound about right. Each scenario takes more or less 3 hours once it is set up. Setup, take down and campaign stuff takes at least an hour alltogether.

The other day we failed a scenario. The replay of that same scenario took only 1.5 hours. Apparently things speed up significantly once you know what you are supposed to do.
 
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j ribs
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4-5 hours per scenario is not ok. That would be brutal. Our 4 man group is down to 1.5-2 hours.

Most of our players decide what they are going to do for the next round before the current round is even over.

We do discuss strategy in depth occasionally but usually we don't say much.

Get those numbers down!
 
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J H
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We've been doing about 3 hrs for four players. Because the game is semi-cooperative, we don't go overboard on coordinating the cards we select prior to selection. Mostly this is to avoid AP, but also because sometimes we're doing stuff that doesn't help the group, like jumping over enemies to loot a chest instead of finishing off the bandit commander. (Looking at me SW friend here!) Of course, because we are not coordinating, we have stayed on easy level for now.

My son and I also play together 2-player, and we can get scenarios done pretty quickly. We just started moving the difficulty up.

I use the top and bottom of the GH box as if they were two separate boxes, and this speeds up set-up tear-down time massively. I actually CAN fit everything back in the box with lid closed, but don't take the trouble.
 
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Adam Wickham
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Granted we are only 3 quests deep so far but our 4 player group usually takes about 3 or so hours per quest. That is including the road and city events. NOT including the setup of the game and take down.

For us the choosing of the cards to play I would say does take the longest out of everything but it is so much fun discussing strategy so it really doesnt bother any of us.

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Tom
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We don't enforce any time limit, but we might if things don't speed up soon. I'm in two groups, and one group takes almost twice as long per scenario compared to the other. Party composition is a factor; with no tank, we have to spend a lot more time thinking about how to avoid damage (or what card to lose when the scoundrel takes too many hits). But player skill and experience is the biggest factor; we're held up almost every round by the 2 less experienced gamers taking FOREVER to choose their actions. That group also takes more time to talk strategy, and yet also struggles much harder. The more experienced group I play with has gotten to a point where we usually just plop down our cards and say "ready" and breeze through it.

The thing is, I don't think you'll ever be able to cut down on the time unless all players are fairly capable. Each person should have a strong grasp of their own mechanics and what each party member is capable of. I don't have to know exactly what my friend's Brute is doing, I just have to trust that he can survive being the focus of every monster in the room when my Mindthief turns invisible (and if not, I'll instead stun an enemy and try to draw the focus of another). Similarly, the Brute needs to trust that his teammates will be applying conditions, killing enemies, and healing him so he can survive a room that would otherwise end him. If even one player is under-performing in their role, it's going to necessitate a lot more discussion.


I'm hoping it will become less of an issue as the players get used to the system and learn what to expect from each other and monsters so that they don't have to ask "Where is your summon going to be next turn?" every damn time. I don't think enforcing a time limit will help struggling players be faster though; they'll just make worse decisions and struggle even more. I'd instead try solutions that focus on learning the game, like temporarily lowering the difficulty, or playing through one scenario without discussing strategy between turns. In my case, "no smoking pot until you play faster" is a rule I'd like to implement.

If anyone has more ideas, I'd love to hear more thoughts on teaching struggling players without obnoxiously telling them how to play their characters.
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Dan Baker
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Our group (four players) usually runs just over 2 hours per scenario, but sometimes longer. The first couple scenarios after three of us retired at once were quite a bit slower, for instance. It takes a little bit to settle into understanding what your teammates are capable of (and, for that matter, what you’re capable of with a new character), but once you do you can usually guess what’s coming without too much strategy discussion. As the Cragheart, for instance, hearing as little as “I’m poisoning that guy” from the Tinkerer meant that I was acting after her (unless using my absolute fastest card) and had Earth available to work with.

It’s unusual for us to take more than a minute or two to pick cards once we know the characters - and half the time when it’s that long it’s because the monsters all drew “shuffle” cards and I’m so busy doing that that I forget to pick my cards. The other turns where it seems to take a long time to decide are when we’re getting ready to open a door and have no idea what’s coming (we use one of the scenario viewer apps so we’re going in blind).

It sounds like you’re discussing a large number of options each turn. Ask for heals if you need them (or ask if anyone needs a heal if you are considering that as one of your options), ask for an element if you need it, then make a decision as to your own actions and adjust only if there’s a conflict with teammates (two of you trying to stun the same guy and don’t have the range to hit anyone else, or you need to be in the same space for your attacks, etc.) or if there’s an obvious flaw in the plan like “if we all back off, the other guy is taking way too many hits, so someone else has to stay up here and draw fire”. You don’t need perfect coordination, even at +1 difficulty; as long as everyone is doing something useful and no one is getting swarmed, you’re probably fine.

One thing that may help: If you go early in the round, start thinking about what your likely options for the next round are right away when you’re done. They may change if a teammate draws an ill-timed NULL or pulls a surprise kill with an x2, but most of the time you’ve gotten a head start and will have your basic plan ready by the time the round is done. This doesn’t work as well for the person handling the monster bookkeeping, so make sure you give that duty to someone who isn’t prone to analysis paralysis.
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Ryan H
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I've found that not discussing or planning too much with each other is really key. We not only play much faster, but weirdly enough we seem to play *better* when everyone is playing selfishly rather than trying to plan out some perfectly coordinated attack.

Also, IMO, do stuff like eating before/after scenarios. When you're in the middle of a scenario keep that flow going.
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