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Bugs Update: Recent Topics & Main Menu (11 Dec 2020)

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The Concept of Downtime

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11 Feb 2021 10:00 #319106 by Jackwraith
[Person on phone at the gaming table]: "Well, we're in...

Does downtime matter or are you missing an opportunity?

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11 Feb 2021 13:09 #319116 by WadeMonnig
Replied by WadeMonnig on topic The Concept of Downtime
I've found the "waiting to talk" people you mention are the exact same people who will pick up the phone during the two minutes of "downtime" then spent 5 minutes playing catch up when it is thier turn. (Spend 30 seconds not knowing it's thier turn, then two minutes catching up and a few thinking about what to do).
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11 Feb 2021 13:18 - 11 Feb 2021 13:19 #319117 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic The Concept of Downtime
I 100% agree with you, great column. I have some natural limits to how often my turn comes around and I can take action but in general if it's interactive you need to be paying attention. That's part of the game. Like, I've heard people say Twilight Imperium has downtime and it's like, WHAT, everything else that is happening at the board is of like deep vital importance to you in a game like that. The only games with truly useless downtime are those that aren't interactive and have incredibly long periods between your actions.

My absolute one-two punch of "I never want to play with you again" is someone who complains about downtime but has agonizing analysis paralysis on their turn, basically Wade's person above. Spend some of that fucking time analyzing your situation---that's partly what it's for!
Last edit: 11 Feb 2021 13:19 by Gary Sax.
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11 Feb 2021 13:36 #319122 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic The Concept of Downtime
Good article. I appreciate that you separate analysis paralysis from downtime, as they are very different issues that happen to share a superficial similarity in appearance. It's true that multi-player games are the most likely to feature some downtime, but this can be offset if there is a decent amount of interaction between players or some other mechanism to encourage engagement. Cooperation, negotiation, overwatch, and pvp combat are all good ways to minimize downtime and maximize engagement.

Part of it is dependent on the players. I once saw an 8-player game of Cards Against Humanity crash and burn because 4 of the 8 players kept doing stuff on their phones instead of paying attention, so the natural rapid pace of the game slowed to a crawl and then just stopped. I often like playing a long game as long as it is at least somewhat engaging. When it isn't my turn and I'm not directly involved in the proceedings, I can casually talk a bit with another player, maybe get up and stretch, or pay more attention to the background music. But there is a certain kind of player who is just frantic to cram in as many games as possible into the day, and they want to rush through everything and ultimately enjoy nothing. That's exhausting. But I'm not the AP guy, either. There is nothing more maddening than having every ounce of fun drained from a game because one selfish player is playing really slowly.
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11 Feb 2021 13:45 #319125 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic The Concept of Downtime

WadeMonnig wrote: I've found the "waiting to talk" people you mention are the exact same people who will pick up the phone during the two minutes of "downtime" then spent 5 minutes playing catch up when it is thier turn. (Spend 30 seconds not knowing it's thier turn, then two minutes catching up and a few thinking about what to do).


Right. So, don't pay attention to the game, don't interact with anyone else, but make everyone else wait because whatever was on Twitter simply had to be responded to. Save me, jeebus.

@Gary: "Downtime" in Twilight Struggle is even worse than my example of "downtime" during Pax Pamir. Everything your opponent does will directly affect your position in the game! Everything! I don't care if they're just reinforcing their position in Berlin. That's important. It also means you're paying attention to a) the game and b) your opponent.

@Shellhead: Absolutely fair point about people wanting to rush through as many games as possible. I'm annoyed by that, too. Again, games should be a social activity. You're there to enjoy the game AND enjoy the people you're playing with. If you only play two games as opposed to four but have a great time doing it, what's wrong with that?. I have a ton of stuff on my shelf that needs more daylight, too, but I'd rather enjoy my plays, rather than try to work against a clock.
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11 Feb 2021 14:05 #319126 by Msample
Replied by Msample on topic The Concept of Downtime
I am rather infamous in my gaming circles for intolerance of slow play . BUT that doesn't mean I don't play long games - far from it. As the article mentions, good games involve the players being aware of what is going on during other players turns.

That said, some games do feature mechanisms that invite poor use of players time. For instance, games that allow players do rummage thru the discard pile is a pet peeve of mine as it usually brings play to a grinding halt . Or games that feature intricate combat systems between two players. Sure in the case of the latter the other players usually have a vested interest in the outcome. But it can still bring the game to a halt.

Many games have informal ways of getting around this - for instance in HERE I STAND, we usually get to the Pope and if he and the Prot are doing religious stuff only ( common pre Schmaldic League ) we just let them do their thing and go back to the top of the turn order.

But most down time issues are player issues, not design issues. If someone repeatedly has to ask "who's turn is it" they are the fucking problem , not the game.
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11 Feb 2021 14:14 #319128 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic The Concept of Downtime
There are definitely games that have blind spots. Riffing on your discard pile example, there were cards added in the last FFG Wiz-War expansion that let you search the deck for a creature. Well, there's only six creatures in a stack of a few hundred cards, so I took those search cards out for exactly the reason you cite: the game lurches to a halt while one person goes through the whole deck. It may mean we don't run into creatures as often as we could, but it also means that an incredibly rapid game like Wiz-War doesn't drop dead (like most opposing wizards do against me...) So, I'm all about house rules to speed play for instances like that.
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11 Feb 2021 14:32 #319131 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic The Concept of Downtime
It's true that modern game designers have often addressed potential downtime with good mechanisms. Co-op games tend to encourage discussion and teamwork. Spartacus arena combats are usually fun for the whole table due to the betting. Games that could potentially have long player turns instead break down those turns into phases, or even just actions, so that the turns are shorter and moving from player to player more quickly.
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11 Feb 2021 16:19 #319145 by jason10mm
Replied by jason10mm on topic The Concept of Downtime
Damn, i was gonna bring up runebound just based on the thread title! The movement dice thing alone was so frustrating i bought a second set so the next player could be counting out their move while the current player did their turn.

Inattentive players REALLY get me in a game like Power grid, because the math itself can be laborious in the late game so to wait for someone to get their turn and JUST THEN look at their cash and start plotting is AAAAAAHHHHHH!

I don't mind some downtime because it at the very least gives me time to plan my own moves. Though if it is really significant DT i'd rather it not involve me so i can leave and get a beer while the active player is pulling a Dr. Strange and trying out EVERY DAMNED POSSIBLE COMBINATION of moves before settling on one.

I most like the games where everyone takes an action (usually quick to resolve) and it goes round and round till everyone is out. Makes it easy to stay engaged and usually most folks have relative action point parity so no one is sitting it out for long.
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11 Feb 2021 16:22 #319146 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic The Concept of Downtime
You kids with your electric gadgets and your . . . electric gadgets. In MY day we played wargames BY MAIL and we were thankful for it! I had to wait seven weeks for David Merwine to send his letter back when he had his groin surgery and all he did was move one headquarters two hexes forward! We STILL haven't finished that game!

I think each group has its own pacing. If you have seven new Kickstarter games waiting in a pile next to you on the table there's an urgency to get through things. But if the only game that shows up is Maria and there's exactly three of you attending, you want that game to fill the evening and for everyone to have a chance to bring their best play to the session.

Heck even each evening has its own pacing. Find it, enjoy it. Quit whining.
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11 Feb 2021 16:29 #319147 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic The Concept of Downtime
I kind of get it Sag. If it's with really good friends, I could see just fucking around chatting, etc and following whatever conversational paths while playing. I think a lot of us don't have a group of close friends as gaming partners, unfortunately.

I think it would still sort of drive me crazy but I'm not sure.
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11 Feb 2021 16:42 #319149 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic The Concept of Downtime
Almost all of my regular groups have been good friends, but we're still there to play the game. And my point wasn't about people playing slowly. It was about people not taking advantage of the time they're given and instead complaining that the game was too slow or some such thing. So-called "downtime" is, in fact, ideal for the socializing that Sag is speaking of.

I never did the PBM thing because cats (e.g. there was never a place that they couldn't get to and disrupt weeks of play.) But when I was in high school, one of the history teachers was a big gamer and let us use part of his office to play longer games. We had a session of Third Reich running in there for a few months. We set up a schedule so that there'd always be at least one other person there (doing study hall or whatever, if not the professor himself) and people would just come in make their moves and leave a note for the next person: "It's your turn."
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11 Feb 2021 16:44 #319150 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic The Concept of Downtime

Sagrilarus wrote: You kids with your electric gadgets and your . . . electric gadgets. In MY day we played wargames BY MAIL and we were thankful for it! I had to wait seven weeks for David Merwine to send his letter back when he had his groin surgery and all he did was move one headquarters two hexes forward! We STILL haven't finished that game!


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11 Feb 2021 17:54 #319152 by Greg Aleknevicus
In the first edition of Carcassonne, you drew a tile as the first action of your turn. Despite this, every group I've ever played with uses the house rule that you draw a tile at the end of your turn. This lets you ponder your options while others take their turn. A simple change that drastically reduces downtime.
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11 Feb 2021 18:22 #319153 by Jexik
Replied by Jexik on topic The Concept of Downtime
This is something that I think about a lot, as I'm often worried that I am the slow player. There's an older guy in my old regular gaming group that used to add a lot of time to games, but that's more of an AP/reading tiny text on cards issue. He used to host an annual Advanced Civilization game. You could count on it taking all day with 6-7 players, but that never bothered me. That's an example of a game that does a number of things that can ostensibly be done simultaneously, and a number of things that directly impact the whole group (trading phase), as well as some things that only involve two players so you can kind of go and grab a snack or something while this is going on. There's also lots of chatter, negotiation, and opportunities to catch up with people. It's also simply long by design by requiring a certain number of turns to be played to show the passage of time. It's a different kind of experience than X games of Dominion in X/2 hours.

Twilight Imperium is a similar kind of situation, but the combat kinda drags comparatively. I'm not a big fan of "roll lots of dice with low odds of success." The last time I played, this was the time to ask the host for another drink or talk to him about his house or work or whatnot.

I really think it depends on the level of familiarity you have with the people you're playing games with. If I'd be comfortable inviting the same people to my house to do something other than game (non COVID times obviously), then I definitely don't care about the downtime. If I'm playing with relative strangers at a game club or I strictly interact with them through games, I'll be more cognizant of the time passing by.

This could be why some 2 player tournament games (X-wing, MTG, etc) have so much in-game interaction.
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