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I have aquired a new one-session game, and as so often I plan to facilitate a session of it at some point during a board gaming afternoon, and for planning the time (can we play a short or a long game before and still be finishing on time, etc.) I would like to know how much time to allocate for it.

What is the duration of a single game of Montsegur 1244? What makes it last longer? What might speed it up?

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My experience with the game is not much, but in both cases we were four people at the table and the game lasted around three hours. Slightly less with two of the players who already played it more than once in the past and I estimate slightly more with a complete newbie and unexperienced players (in order to fit into a time slot at the local gaming convention, we actually skipped one round of scenes if I remember correctly).

That might be mainly because experienced players usually know what they want to achieve and drive the narration home faster, with short and focused scenes.

There being a fixed number of scenes per player, the game drags proportionally longer the more players there are; it might be a little shorter if nobody has to explain the rules; and it might last half as much if you are American (my RPG community sometimes jokes about how most American games last twice the stated duration when played by us Italians.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Without experience is one thing, but the kind of player who goes to a gaming convention is going to have a leg up on the average non-gaming-convention-goer. \$\endgroup\$ – corsiKa Jun 25 '16 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Corsika ...or not, since people who explain games try to fit them into 3-hour slots. Apparently, deciding the proper number of players is a good way to try and aim for those times. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jun 25 '16 at 16:37
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I have played two sessions of Montsegur 1244. The first one, with 5 players, took a good 4:30, the second with only three players stayed well under 3:30 and included a significant break in the middle.

There are two main factors: Number of players…

The number of scenes is roughly proportional to the number of players, with some acts correcting the number of scenes towards 5 per act. This – in addition to the amount of general cross-talk going up with the number of players – makes the play time depend strongly on the number of players (but try to not reduce that number to 3: even though it's faster, it loses on the number of interactions.)

… and focus in framing scenes.

Beyond that, a large amount of the variance can be explained by the framing and playing of scenes.

In my first game, where none of us had experience, people found it hard to decide what scenes to frame and to keep scenes short; this was significantly faster after the break post-act 2, so we spend only about a third of the time on acts 3 and 4 and the epilogue and 2/3 on explanation, character choice, prologue and acts 1 and 2.

In my second game, I had brought a 3-minute sand timer to remind people of the fact that scenes should be short, but it proved to be unnecessary. A big point of the explanation here was to say “If your main character currently believes, try to frame a scene that might make her not believe; if she currently doesn't believe, what kind of scene might make her believe?” This made the tight focus of the scenes quite clear and helped decide what to frame.

I would consider a tight focus on scenes, and possibly on “show, don't tell” in the sense that scenes where the characters act are faster than scenes in which the characters talk to each other, a bigger factor on the play time than the number of players.

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