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Setup Time vs. Play Time?

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Desprez
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Joined: 12/01/2008

I've begun the very early stages of testing a wargame.
I have found that I've vastly underestimated the time it takes to play, but this is mostly due to the time it takes to set the game up.

See, I've got a number of different units for a handfull of factions, and a large number of different scenarios that can be played. Each scenario is its own game, and each scenario only uses sub-set of the available faction units. Some scenarios use dozens of units, some only a few.

So while the actual play-time of a small scenario might only be expected to be 30 min, from opening the box to the end of the game is a lot longer. Then, even just counting the actual play time, there is the fact that experienced players might get done in 30 min, while green players might take 2 hours.

What is the conventional way to estimate the time it takes to play? What parts of the game should be included in this estimate? Should I estimate for optimal, average, or conservative values?

Possible time inclusions:
1) Deciding which scenario to play, including variants and choosing sides.
2) Organizing the particular units used in the selected scenario.
3) Setting up the starting conditions.
4) Playing the game, first actual turn to the last turn.
5) Packing everything up.

ReneWiersma
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Joined: 08/08/2008
I'd say an good estimate is

I'd say an good estimate is one that uses the average time to play + average setup time (but not packing everything up). If this can vary widely, for example with different number of players, or for different scenarios, then simply state this.

A lot of games by Queen games have a time estimate that is way too optimistic. This may be a reason for me to not buy some of their games. Thebes takes usually two hours to play, but the box says it plays in 60 minutes. This is way of the mark. Most publishers are usually a bit optimistic in their playing time estimates, but Queen Games are the worst. I guess they want to make a game seem "lighter" than it actually is.

Of course, if setting up the game takes as long as playing it, you've got a problem right there. I'd say I want to spend no more than 10 minutes setting up a game if the actual playing time of the game is one hour, 20 minutes for a two hour game, etc. Puerto Rico is a bit of a pain to set up (counting all the colonists, etc), but it's worth it because the game is so much fun. Even so, setting up PR takes 15 minutes for a 90 minute game and that's about as far as I would push it, personally.

InvisibleJon
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Perhaps include "setup guides"?

If setup for some scenarios takes too long, perhaps you should include setup guides and recommendations for packaging. That way, you can trim the amount of time it takes to set up.

Alternately, you could figure out play times for each scenario, bundling setup and play for each one. Once you have all of these, you may choose to eliminate some scenarios because they have a bad setup to play ratio, then take the average and use that for your game average. Alternately, you could report the minimum and maximum play times. If I found a game that reported play times from 30 minutes to 4 hours, I'd know that I'd found a versatile simulation game with lots of options and scenarios.

SiddGames
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Joined: 08/02/2008
Wargamers

I think you can get away with a broader range for wargames than for Euros, especially those that have scenarios (which is most of them). For example, I just looked at two of the Second World War At Sea series games I own, and the play time listed on both boxes is "30 minutes to many hours."

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