Published on June 16th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich7
How to Survive a Really Long Game
As you probably heard, a couple AtBG authors (myself included) had to interrupt board gaming and article writing to pack up everything and move to a new apartment and neighborhood last month. Luckily, we at Across The Board Games know that the best send off party should always include an entire weekend filled to the brim with gaming.
For our epic celebration we needed an epic game so we brought out the longest game we could think of from the vault: Civilization from 1981. Half of the participants had never played Civ before and I hadn’t played a game over 2 hours since participating in Through the Ages and Samurai a couple years ago. We had a great time playing Civ despite ending the game early at the halfway mark… after 5 hours.
Playing a really long game takes time, patience and most importantly an understanding of what a player is signing up for. I have five tips to help you through organizing and participating in those really really long games.
1. Know the Players:
Playing games with strangers in public settings is a fantastic way to meet new friends and fellow gamers. Across The Board Games was created because of the support from our friends- all of whom met at a friendly local game store. The problem with grabbing strangers for a game like Civ or Through the Ages is that not all players like those type of games. Longer games are polarizing to someone new to playing games in public because they require a substantial amount of time, competitiveness and skill.
Bringing a stranger to a Civ game is like playing Monopoly with younger family members: it always ends with someone dropping out, or crying or someone cackling over all their money and properties. Picking players who are invested in playing a long game will help prevent table flips or souring friendships.
2. Know the Game Expectations:
It is always courteous to let players know what exactly they are signing up for when it comes to games longer than two hours. Not everyone can handle it or they may just not want to play such a lengthy or mentally consuming game.
I remember one of the first times I went to an open game night, a very excited player asked if I wanted to play Samurai. I said that I’d be happy to play but I was a beginner and hadn’t played a game more complicated than Smallworld. This should have been a red flag, but we all sat down for set up and seven hours later, we had a winner which wasn’t nearly as satisfying compared to the game finally coming to an end.
As the organizer, you need to make sure players are aware of the time commitment and especially if there are new players at the table, make sure you have enough time to teach the game to new players. Well-informed players are not as likely to be angry or resentful and will have a more enjoyable time.
3. Start with Something Small:
I game with a group of players who like to play small games before something heavy like Civ. These small games are the equivalent to warm ups before a race: it serves to stretch your gaming “muscles” and prepares your mind for the more complicated strategy of a long game. Before Civ we played Keyflower (which is a straightforward resource management and trading Euro-style game) but the game you choose can be whatever you want. It could be Battle Wizards, a deckbuilder or a cooperative game which are all very different from a 4x or competitive war game.
Some might like a shorter game that is similar in theme. Choosing a warm up game is all about preference but isn’t too critical. Sometimes playing a game that is 1 hour or less can “weed out” players that aren’t interested in continuing with longer gameplay. I haven’t seen that myself but bowing out before a game starts would be better than in the middle of play.
4. Take Breaks:
You have the game and the players so that’s all that you need for a weekend of gaming, right? Well yes, but you and your players are people and will need food, water and frequent bathroom breaks during the game. Just like preparing for any party or house guest planning ahead of time will help make a comfortable gaming environment. Some gamers have timers or set turns where players take breaks together. Taking breaks should be a group effort to prevent miscommunication or frustration while waiting for other players.
Breaks also will help you with strategy- while eating a sandwich you can rethink your strategies or plan the next push. Depending on the players, some encourage talking about alliances or strategy without cheating or revealing hidden cards.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Stop the Game:
This is by far the most controversial tip in this article and not all authors and gamers agree with it. Having talked to many war game and long-game fans, stopping the game early is deemed very rude and unsportsmanlike. Calling the game usually comes from the player who is losing or not having a good time.
In this Civ game that we had played, after 5 hours a couple of us, myself included, had lost all territory because of famine and gained an obscene amount of territory that was too much to control based on a poor card draw. The effects from random rolls or cards in long games like Civ can be all the more devastating after 3 hours of progress and careful planning.
In the end, it is still a game and I don’t jeopardize friendships in order to finish a game that while fun in general, for me is painful to continue with. Ultimately, stopping a game early is a call on all participating players. For us, we were fine with stopping Civ early to play another game.