Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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In the thread Why is it so hard to admit the truth about playtime? (Rant), some curiousity was expressed about how accurate the play times listed by publishers are. Thus, a poll:

Poll
Do you find that the playing times listed on games are generally too short, too long, or just right?
The playing times are usually too short - in most cases, games take more time than listed.
The playing times are sometimes too short - games more often take more time than listed rather than less.
The playing times are reasonably accurate.
The playing times aren't particularly accurate, but are as often too long as too short.
The playing times are sometimes too long - games more often take less time than listed rather than more.
The playing times are usually too long - in most cases, games take less time than listed.
      333 answers
Poll created by huber


Discussion welcome...
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Dan
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Most games targeted to me as an audience, Eurogames, Ameritrash, basically all the games that are found in a specialty store instead of a big-box retailer, take over an hour to play reasonably.

However, long playing times are not good for marketing. 45min-90min is the sweet spot for advertising, I'd say. Generally the 45min box plays in 75 minutes. The 90min box plays in 2-2.5hours. That's fine for me. In the old days they were sometimes more honest, like the old AH version of Titan lists 2-12 hours as the play time, which is obviously broad, but also accurate.

Another consideration is how familiar you are with the game play. Learning games obviously take longer, but even though I've played the game before, we often don't pull it out every week. So after 3 months of not playing, we have to "relearn".

Also the skill of the players is a consideration. Some take longer to make decisions, sometimes because they don't understand the strategy yet, and sometimes simply because they are a careful thinker.

So for playing time you would basically need to follow a formula. Something like take the number of turns in an average play, then the average turn length in an average play, with people who have played the game an average number of times, cut 15-30 minutes off that time for marketing and publish it on the box.
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In my experience, games where the listed time is accurate, within reasonable margins of error, are the exception rather than the rule.
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Pee di Moor
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Part of the inaccuracy may stem from the fact that 'the time a game takes' includes set-up and break-down time, whereas 'play time' does not.
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Walt
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They're usually too short for the first few games, but once you know the game, they're pretty accurate. They are no-new-players times.

Some games just have outliers. Dominion has games that are shorter and longer. A fast setup with no attack cards will run fast. A cursed setup with a lot of attack cards will run long.

Other games scale by number of players. If a three player game takes 90 minutes, a six player game will take 3 hours. Empire Builder Rail Games run 1/2 hour per experienced player and one hour per novice, pretty consistently.

Trading games can run long if the traders are indecisive, trying to niggle out every possible advantage, or feel (some wargamers get like this) that any trade someone will agree to must be disadvantageous and so requires more thought. I've pretty much given up on trading games because you need a lot of people in the game for good trading opportunities, so the chance is high you'll get one of these people.

Bad environments make for long games. If you're in a noisy, distracting environment, everyone is going to have trouble paying attention to the game and thinking through their moves.

Bad players can also be a problem. A friend was telling me about someone who would just stare into the distance with a glazed look when it wasn't his turn; he did nothing during down-time, so he had to restart his brain and re-analyze every move. I played--only once--with a player who would wander off after every move, and need to be chased down to make his move. A recent player was just in a yammering mood, talking about nothing, not paying attention, not listening to rules that were explained to him time after time.

Eh: excrement occurs.
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The other Euro guy
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41 people vote and nobody gives you a thumb?

Have a sympathy thumb from me
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Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Tall_Walt wrote:
They're usually too short for the first few games, but once you know the game, they're pretty accurate. They are no-new-players times.


In contrast, I find that they're usually reasonably accurate for the first few games, but once you know the game, they're too long...

Quote:
41 people vote and nobody gives you a thumb?


No worries - perhaps it's all people who know me, and are aware that it doesn't bother me in the least whether I get thumbs or not. Thanks for the kind thought, though - those are always welcome...
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Preston Fuller
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
41 people vote and nobody gives you a thumb?

Have a sympathy thumb from me


For reasons I can't explain. Polls are always lacking in thumbs.

I find that most game times are accurate if you have people who know the game well, no AP issues and no interuptions.





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Jeff Miller
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I often find "Gateway" type games to be the biggest offenders.

Especially when playing with casual gamers. There's just a lot of not paying attention, unrelated chatter, and general "I don't think I understand games so could you explain why I can't so this?" going on that the manufacturers don't take into consideration when estimating playing time. I've never had a f2f game of Ticket to Ride last under 1.5 hours let alone 45 min. I credit that to always playing with the above mentioned.

Manufacturers should consider the type of audience their game is going to played by and factor in the way those types of people play games before estimating time if they want to be close.
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Chris Weeks
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I find that the playing time listed on the box is typically a little shorter than the actual game plays; at least with my group. The first few times we play the game takes 1.5X - 2X the listed time. Once we get to know the game and everyone is comfortable playing it then the time listed is 1.1X - 1.25X. Even after multiple plays some games still take 2X but that's because a couple of people get brain locks and over strategize.
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David Fair
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Certain game types have much more egregious errors than others., in my experience:

Abstract Games: Usually about 10-20% long in their estimates.
Party Games: The most accurate estimates.
Euros: typically about right, if anything, listed time is a bit (5-10%) short
AmeriGames: Usually need to add about 25% to estimated time
18xx games: Usually need to double time estimate for the first game, 1.5x for subsequent games. There are certain players that I play with that change this to 1.0 rather than 1.5.

Card games tend to have more accurate times than boardgames.
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Aaron Riggan
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When you strip away the social aspect of many games (cross-talk and the like) and everyone is focused only on playing the game, then I find most box times to be fairly accurate.
Then again, if you do all of that, you take away a lot of what makes many games fun, right?
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Occu Pant
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This is one area where I think BGG could have done a huge service to the community by asking users to not only rate a game, but provide play time based on number of players. And perhaps require data in the Session reports that could be aggregated and summarized to provide additional data points.
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Mac Mcleod
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I find game play times are accurate starting the second or third play given reasonable gamers who understand the balance between fun, play speed, and winning.

For some gamers, I wish we all had chess clocks and allocated them their share of time at the start of the game.

When they run out of time, they get 30 seconds per turn for the rest of the game.

So if it is a six hour game with four people, they get 90 minutes.

But the time on the box is usually accurate otherwise.

I'm okay with some socializing. What I'm not okay with is the person staring at the board silently for long periods of time. Worst case ever... 20 minutes for them to take their turn.


 
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Tim Benjamin
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As Aaron said above, Euros always play much longer if there is social interaction; but without social interactions much of the pleasure found in the Euro gaming experience is lost.

Wargames ALWAYS take much longer because they are very complex decision puzzles. As an example, just placing the 3 partisan units in Russian Campaign is at least as complicated/significant as an entire turn in many Euros. Playing wargames 'fast' is just counter-pushing.
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Pete Lane
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I never actually notice unless someone has serve AP or the game is listed as being 2+ hours and it ends in less than 1+...
 
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Peter Enzerink
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Other than in truly exceptional circumstances, there is no way a Talisman game can be played in 90 minutes, let alone an average of 90 minutes.
 
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whistler
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I have students who claim that they "studied for 4 hours", but when you ask for details you discover that the "4 hours" was filled with all sorts of activity involving food, music, conversation, tv, phone calls, internet, texting, etc. The start-to-finish time for studying may be 4 hours, but in some cases only 1 hour of suboptimal studying occurred, usually over several smaller noncontiguous intervals of time. Of course, I argue that students SHOULD study in small bits over time, but my point is that their claim of "4 hours" is usually off the mark by quite a bit.

Likewise, if a game is listed as requiring about 90 minutes, and it takes you longer, you should think beyond AP and consider the following:

1. How much time did you spend setting up and putting away the game?

2. How much time was spent on nongaming conversation?

3. How much time was spent on eating?

4. How much time was spent waiting on someone to return from the bathroom or smoke break or telephone call?

There is usually a LOT of time you don't account for. It is easy not to notice 30 seconds here and there. I'm not claiming that people should avoid all of these things when playing games, only that you shouldn't blame the game or publisher for the nongaming time consumption. When someone tells me that they spent 4 hours playing Agricola, I'm pretty sure that not all of that four hours was spent on the game. There may be as much as 60-90 minutes of nongaming time during that 4 hours, comprised of 1-2 minutes for each instance. These short moments can also cause tiny distractions which require unnoticed redundancies in gameplay as a remedy, further lengthening the time.

And if someone has spent that long playing Agricola, even a teaching game, I know that they weren't learning the game from Valerie Putman

Valerie Putman
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who has teaching that game down to an artform. My first game of Agricola, with teaching and 4 players, lasted around 2 hours.
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Stance Nixon
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Most wargames are realistic for the second game played. There is ALWAYS a learning curve.
Somone mentioned this before me, but it would be nice to include a teaching time. That plus the Game Play time should equal the time for a first game. I realize that the teaching time is highly vairable and depends as much on the teacher as it does on the players.
 
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Jacob Fulwiler
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Listed game times might be accurate if it does not include set up and break down and all players are experienced with the game. Throw one person who is new and the game has no chance at hitting the listed time.
 
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Andrew Watson
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Interesting poll. It reminded me of the tale of the three statisticians who went deer hunting. When a deer appeared, two of them fired. One bullet went ten feet behind the deer. The other went ten feet ahead of it.
The third statistician yelled, "We got it!"
You can probably guess which way I voted in the poll.
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Cary Tyler
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Once this poll is concluded then the follow up poll should be one that asks how much extra time should one in general add to the times listed here at BGG.
30 minutes extra, 60 minutes extra, 90 minutes extra, more than 90 minutes extra
 
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Joe Huber

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WvonBraun wrote:
Once this poll is concluded then the follow up poll should be one that asks how much extra time should one in general add to the times listed here at BGG.
30 minutes extra, 60 minutes extra, 90 minutes extra, more than 90 minutes extra


Given the results, yes, I'll run that. (I'll probably cross it with the stated lengths, so that those who believe that it varies can indicate that.)
 
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Richard Would
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For all that I love FFG they are generally way too optimistic on how quickly you can play their big box games.
 
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Occu Pant
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huber wrote:
WvonBraun wrote:
Once this poll is concluded then the follow up poll should be one that asks how much extra time should one in general add to the times listed here at BGG.
30 minutes extra, 60 minutes extra, 90 minutes extra, more than 90 minutes extra


Given the results, yes, I'll run that. (I'll probably cross it with the stated lengths, so that those who believe that it varies can indicate that.)

I think that number of players (in addition to publisher's stated duration) also has an impact. Not sure that there is any way to come up with a generic "add-on". It really does seem (to me) to be title specific.
 
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