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Subject: Play time congruence rss

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Wesley Williams
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Hello All!

Well, we sat down this weekend to play the infamous Advanced Civ. We had 7 players, all experienced gamers, but only a few had played the game before.

I've read online and heard from those that have played this title that the game should take from 8 to 12 hours. In fact, the game's owner, who has played it several times, gave us an estimate of 8 to 9 hours.

We sat down to play it, and the hours ticked by....and ticked by...and ticked by...

At the 12 HOUR MARK (not counting rules explanation) only one player had reached the end of the early iron age. We couldn't believe we were only about two-thirds completed with the game. We all sat around, exhausted and dejected - wondering where we went wrong. Did we misplay a rule? Were we all mired in AP? The answer to the first question is "I don't think so" and the second "definitely not." We actually had a very focused game with many phases occuring with simultaneous player movement - even some players finishing their own turn (buying civ cards, moving AST) when they knew their actions would not geographically conflict with anyone else earlier in the turn order.

So, what gives? Does anyone have any idea why this game took so long for our group? Do most people put a time limit on it and consider that "played?"

Ours was a very competitive game, and the calamities' secondary effects were usually thrown to the leader for parity's sake. With that, we estimated we had about another 6-8 hours to finish. Unfortunately, we didn't want to spend our entire gaming weekend up at the cabin playing one title.

For clarity, we were playing with the western expansion map and all of the Advanced Civ trade cards/calamities. It DID SEEM that, with 7 players, the calamities came up very frequently, which slowed each player's progress down quite a bit.

We really wanted to love this game, but feel like quitters even after all of that investment of time.

Your feedback/advice is much appreciated!


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Michael Aldridge
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How long were your trading sessions each turn?
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Jefferson Krogh
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It's been 30 years since I first starting playing Civilization (before Advanced came out), so I don't remember clearly how long we needed. We needed a few plays before we could actually finish an entire game in one day, though. Playing speed improved with experience.
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Wesley Williams
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BosonMichael wrote:
How long were your trading sessions each turn?


Good question. I left that detail out. We limited trading to 3 minutes each round.
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James Lowry
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Something definitely sounds a bit off there. From what you're saying, individual turns shouldn't have been horribly long (with players trying to cut the time down), trading should have been kept short....

Maybe trade was kept too short? Were players having trouble wheeling and dealing their way into sets?

Were you calculating card bonuses correctly? Remember, they're cumulative, so buying new advance cards gets easier as time goes on.

What I'm getting at here, is the possibility that occurs to me is a depressed economy, where you're just not getting the purchasing power you should see well before the time you broke up.
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Michael Aldridge
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Rindis wrote:
Something definitely sounds a bit off there. From what you're saying, individual turns shouldn't have been horribly long (with players trying to cut the time down), trading should have been kept short....

Maybe trade was kept too short? Were players having trouble wheeling and dealing their way into sets?

Were you calculating card bonuses correctly? Remember, they're cumulative, so buying new advance cards gets easier as time goes on.

What I'm getting at here, is the possibility that occurs to me is a depressed economy, where you're just not getting the purchasing power you should see well before the time you broke up.


Exactly this. If people aren't able to cobble together sets of 6 salt or 4 bronze or 7 grain, it's difficult to get the cards necessary to advance.
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Chris Bender
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I have played many seven player games that went 12+ hours when a lot of inexperienced players are involved. As everyone gets better at the game the time spent playing will lessen, much like many games.

Advanced Civ really works well with a time limit, so next time decide how long you wish to play, and end after that time is over. Then total your scores and declare a winner.
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Wesley Williams
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Yeah, the time limit was a terrific idea in hindsight, since the game seems relatively linear with the scoring system.

One thing I realized we did wrong was shuffle ALL the played calamities in with the spent trade cards at the end of each round. It appears that the tradeable calamities should have been placed on the very bottom, not shuffled in with the returned trade cards.

I definitely felt like there were too many calamities. Perhaps, this - combined with player inexperience - was the root cause of the game length.
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Steve Bachman
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The WBCs use a 9-hour slot for AdvCiv and it usually is just about right (8-10 hours probably). At SWA Game-a-thons, we've played it in under 7 hours. In college, I played back-to-back complete 7-player games in 24 hours with 10 different players playing their 1st or 2nd games. It really varies with experience and style I think.

We now use timers for trading (I hadn't in college), but vary the time as needed. I think the max was around 5 mins.
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Chris Shaffer
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mtgjudge wrote:
One thing I realized we did wrong was shuffle ALL the played calamities in with the spent trade cards at the end of each round. It appears that the tradeable calamities should have been placed on the very bottom, not shuffled in with the returned trade cards.


It's the opposite, in fact. The tradable calamities are shuffled in, and the non-tradable calamities are placed on the bottom of the deck.

Too many calamities would definitely lengthen the game.

Did you have players moving simultaneously when there wasn't any border conflict? How about building boats simultaneously?
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Jonas Lundqvist
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I agree. It sounds like it took way to long. With time limit on trading and simultanuous actions my experience is that an 8 player game from start to end should take roughly 10-13 hours including meal breaks.

Maybe the problem was that you all were experienced players? Some (not all) experienced tend to make every effort to optimize every single action, making sure not to make even the slightest mistake. If there is one or two such player in the party they can slow things down somewhat (the 13 hour game). If there are several/all players, that aim to optimize every action I can imagine that the game will drag out. Especially if they also do card-counting and make efforts trying to avoid the NT calamities.
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Wesley Williams
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TheCat wrote:
Did you have players moving simultaneously when there wasn't any border conflict? How about building boats simultaneously?


Yes. In fact, like I said in my earlier post - some players took their entire turn (through advancing AST) when there weren't any projected conflicts with other players that hadn't yet taken their turn.
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Wesley Williams
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jonasgrenna wrote:
Maybe the problem was that you all were experienced players? Some (not all) experienced tend to make every effort to optimize every single action, making sure not to make even the slightest mistake. If there is one or two such player in the party they can slow things down somewhat (the 13 hour game). If there are several/all players, that aim to optimize every action I can imagine that the game will drag out. Especially if they also do card-counting and make efforts trying to avoid the NT calamities.


Like I said above - there was very little analysis paralysis. We all knew we were in for a long game, so we did a good job of keeping everyone focused and the game moving right along.
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Wesley Williams
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Ward wrote:
We now use timers for trading (I hadn't in college), but vary the time as needed. I think the max was around 5 mins.


Yeah, we used a timer. 3 minutes for trading, 5 minutes for buying civ cards.
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Travis Hall
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Wesley, what I'm hearing you saying now is a lot of denial: no, we weren't slow in trading; no, we weren't slow in movement; no, we weren't slow in purchasing. Well, the time went somewhere, so if you know so well where you didn't spend the time, surely you can (by process of elimination) tell us where the time did go. If you tell us that, we may be able to help you figure out why you spend so long in these areas.

(And do try to remember that people posting to this thread are trying to help you, not just accuse your group of some failing. If we ask about what your group did for what you described to occur, it is to help prevent it happening again.)

Can you tell us how many turns you played? If you played a high number of turns and the foremost player did not progress in many of them, that will be a strong indication that you are moving lots of pieces around the board quickly without actually making progress.

That could well be an indicator that you made the trading phase too short. I can't imagine a three-minute trading phase to be particularly fun, and if you don't have time to get good deals done, you've ripped the heart out of the engine that is supposed to propel you towards the end. Perversely, you may find that lengthening your trade phases may lead to quicker games.
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Benjamin Maggi
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As one of the players of the game, (and the only one to vote not to end it after 12 hours but keep playing) I will throw a couple of my thoughts into the pot:

1. Calamity cards definitely kept kicking us right where it hurts most, knocking down player's nations. At the same time, frequently we would deal out the "bonus" punishment to the players in the lead to both slow them down and to not give it to players already bleeding badly. Balance and Pity, in a way.

2. Some players did take a lot of time to plan their actions, sometimes approaching 5-10 minutes. They didn't always have this long to plan their moves, but a few players did usually take longer then others. They may have had more moves to plan, or they may have suffered from AP, and at least one was sometimes engaged in warfare and didn't want to screw up. This can add up.

3. We did rush parts of the game, through mechanisms such as overlapping movement of players that didn't have interaction, timing mechanisms for trade and purchasing cards, etc. However, for much of the first half of the game some players didn't think through their technology purchases until after the calamities had been resolved, when in reality this was a perfect time to calculate what you were going to purchase.

4. One calamity, "Civil War," sometimes took 10-15 minutes to resolve, and since we (in reality, it was I) were shuffling the decks wrong it came up much more frequently. Especially since it was a level 4 calamity. This meant that our nations were getting torn apart more times then they should have been, and resolving it also took longer then other calamities. Oops. At one time I thought about tossing the card under the table to benefit us all!

5. Because advancement along the track requires certain objectives including card purchases (which eventually have benefits stack and reduce the cost of further purchases) I don't think the end of the game would have required 6-8 hours. I suspect in less than 2 it would have ended itself. We shall never know, however...
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Wesley Williams
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In response to Travis's post, if I were forced to choose a cause for the length of the game, I would say that the calamity shuffling DEFINITELY lengthened the game, as they were coming up more frequently than intended, and as Ben said, we would always try and kick the leader somehow in resolving them.

I don't think the shortened trading was a liability. I think it prodded people to get thigns done and not be passive. Also, what I noticed is that personally, I was looking for X, and people either had it and would trade it, or not. And that was something I could easily ascertain very early in the trading phase. My opinion is that the latter part of the trading phases was mostly people passing calamities back and forth, with no marked improvement to their hand.

I agree with everything Ben posted except the projected time remaining in the game. I think our group, being experienced wargamers, was so focused on the "kick the leader" syndrome, that when a leader was illuminated from the pack, a de facto trade embargo took place, essentially crippling their progress until they were eclipsed by a new player. Maybe we played it too cutthroat? But I gotta tell ya that no one around that table was going to sit there and play for 12 hours and let some other schmuck take a victory! Heh. Does everyone else play so adversarily?

That being said, I think the last 3 AST squares would have taken us at least another 6-8 turns to complete.

In hindsight, maybe it was the calamity shuffling error. I remember saying repeatedly during the game, "are we sure that we have enough trade cards to calamities?" My thought was that the owner inadvertantly left some out (or did not remove calamities as part of the merging of the decks to play the Advanced version.

Thanks to everyone for their continued insight. I'd like to give this another play sometime. Although, I would like to play the "base" game (no western expansion, no Advanced set), and put a time limit on it and see how we make out.

EDITS: typos
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Steve Bachman
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mtgjudge wrote:
I think our group, being experienced wargamers, was so focused on the "kick the leader" syndrome, that when a leader was illuminated from the pack, a de facto trade embargo took place, essentially crippling their progress until they were eclipsed by a new player. Maybe we played it too cutthroat? But I gotta tell ya that no one around that table was going to sit there and play for 12 hours and let some other schmuck take a victory! Heh. Does everyone else play so adversarily?

That could have been part of the issue, as a wargamer approach to AdvCiv is often counterproductive. The fastest games will be where most of the civs are prospering, injecting many goods into the economy. By constantly beating down the leaders, you're slowing them down as well as yourself as well as the game as a whole.

mtgjudge wrote:
I'd like to give this another play sometime. Although, I would like to play the "base" game (no western expansion, no Advanced set), and put a time limit on it and see how we make out.

I haven't played Civ since I bought AdvCiv in 1991, but I recall it being a MUCH longer game. I wouldn't mind playing it again as I miss the much less forgiving nature of it, but I wouldn't go into it expecting it to be a faster game by nature.
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Chris Shaffer
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mtgjudge wrote:
Also, what I noticed is that personally, I was looking for X, and people either had it and would trade it, or not. And that was something I could easily ascertain very early in the trading phase.


It sounds like your group doesn't negotiate three way trades - while not enforceable, they can be very effective at concentrating sets.

In its most simplistic form:

Player A has salt, needs grain
Player B has grain, needs oil
Player C has oil, needs salt

If player A can trade salt for oil, she can then trade oil for grain.

Of course, this can be more complicated and can happen over the course of several turns - if I know you are collecting oil, I might trade for it this turn to then trade it to you next turn.

Short trading rounds make this kind of thing less likely to happen, slowing the game.
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Benjamin Maggi
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It is true that we rarely did 3-way trades, but in part that was also because it increased the chances of a calamity being passed. There were several (at least a 6) trading rounds when I had no calamities and though I wanted something I knew that if I traded I would get one. Especially since once 2 people traded and then one magically seemed more inclined to trade, you just KNEW that he had one to unload. With multiple trades and 3-way trades, the chances of something bad getting passed to you increased. Like STDs. No one trusted anyone, and usually with good reason.

At least that was my take on it.
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Benjamin Maggi wrote:
It is true that we rarely did 3-way trades, but in part that was also because it increased the chances of a calamity being passed. There were several (at least a 6) trading rounds when I had no calamities and though I wanted something I knew that if I traded I would get one. Especially since once 2 people traded and then one magically seemed more inclined to trade, you just KNEW that he had one to unload. With multiple trades and 3-way trades, the chances of something bad getting passed to you increased. Like STDs. No one trusted anyone, and usually with good reason.

At least that was my take on it.


Then that might have contributed to the problem. Sometimes, it is worth taking a calamity like Superstition in order to exponentially increase your trade card value. If nobody trusts anyone, you're all stuck having to discard stuff of value each turn with nothing to show for it.
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Benjamin Maggi
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That may be true. There were at least two times in the game where I pulled a low-level tradable calamity and just moved it to the back of my hand to keep instead of dealing it out. For me, it was just easier to eat it and take one for the team then try and trade.

As to three way trades, what did frequently happen- which may have negated any benefit that 3-way trades would have provided was this (I am randomly thinking of goods here, and not saying that my examples are in any way economically equal):

Me: "I am looking for DYE or TIMBER. Does anyone have any DYE or TIMBER?"
Everyone else: no response.
Me: "I have extra OIL and RESIN. Looking for DYE or TIMBER. Anyone?"
Everyone else: still no response.
Me: I then decide that whatever I need isn't out there yet, and I will try again next turn. If after several people traded with each other someone then asked me "hey, what were you looking for again" I knew that 90% of the time it was because they were looking to unload some calamity on me.

Sure, I was willing to take the risk of a calamity for something good in return (especially since cards, once bought, are cannot be lost) but by asking at the onset for what I wanted and receiving no one saying "hey, I got that" I knew that either: (1) no one had it or was willing to trade it evenly for something I had, or (2) someone else was collecting it. There was enough of a lull between each person's opening demands that it wasn't as if I was being talked-over by someone else. If someone later wanted to trade it to me it was because: (1) they "suddenly" found some, which usually means the value of the good didn't exceed the value of the calamity they wanted to off-load, or (2) they were more interested if what I had to offer them. In the case of #2, if they had what I wanted and vice versa, I instead found it smarter to wait until the beginning of the next round's trading and initiate the deal then.

But it did all come back to that stupid Level 4 "Civil War" card. It was brutal, as it not only chopped you down but gave someone else a boost at the same time. Had we played it right I think trading would have occured more, and progress quicker.
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James Lowry
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You've got to trade. Take the calamities if you have to, hand them out as you can, but you've got to trade.

And don't forget you can only be the primary victim of two calamities a turn. So if you're the unlucky sot stuck with two non-tradable calamities, you might as well go for broke. Or heck, just collect everybody else's....

And if someone says they have Grain, and you're collecting Grain... talk to him. Maybe you can talk him out of a pair, if you've got something good enough. Or vice versa. Often, you'll both be sitting on 2-3 cards, and they don't have anything good enough for you to want to break your set while giving him a great set, but sometimes you can leverage a good deal. "Here's two Grain for a Resin and Gems."

Something like Dye? There's only three of those in the set. If you have two, get the third. If you have one, get a second if you can, but if someone else wants it, just pry a good return out of him for it. Two people attempting to hold onto Dye at the same time is just silly.
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With all experienced players, I've played 7-player games in about 8 hours max. My first game was five players and that probably lasted about 6 hours. And my group uses 5-6 minutes for trading sessions. A common newbie mistake is to be paranoid about the calamities. Let them come, and deal with them as best you can, but focus on your set collection first! Buy the advances to protect you from calamities when possible.

Also, don't build your first cities too early. Get as many tokens on the board as you can first. That will keep up your growth rate.

Also remember that at the start of the game, the top [number of players] cards of each deck are supposed to be calamity-free. And the non-tradable ones always go on the very bottom.

And don't forget the mercy of the gods - if you get more than two calamities in your hand, you discard all but two of them randomly without effect. This can make for a useful action once in a while: if you get dealt a hand with a lot of calamities, you can announce that you're collecting calamities. Let other players trade you good stuff for your cheap stuff, with the benefit of them dumping their calamities on you. For example, you might be able to trade away a Timber and two Iron for two Silver and Barbarian Hordes.
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Declining to trade for fear of calamities will really slow down the game a lot. Take the calamities, it's not that hard to recover from them, and the profits of good sets far outweigh the damage of all but the worst. It won't happen every round, but most of the time, the calamities should be traded multiple times - I sometimes trade away a calamity, which is then traded to another player, which is then traded back to me -- and that makes me happy! I profit from the better set collection.

If you say "I have oil and resin, looking for dye or timber" and nobody answers, the next thing you should be saying is "I have dye, timber, oil, and resin. Can anyone work with me on this?" Maybe it turns out that someone will trade you a pair of oil...
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