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I really like Twilight Imperium (3rd edition), but I haven't really enjoyed my time playing it due to the long playtimes. I've played one 4-player game, two 6-player, and one 8-player game. The shortest game was the 4p - it clocked in at 6.5 hours. And that was with experienced players. I don't feel like anyone had serious Analysis Paralysis during the game but approximately one hour per full game round is just ridiculous.

One option is to play the variant where everyone starts with several systems (neighbor systems are just given to you for free). I do enjoy the early expansion part of the game, so I'm leery about trying that. Are there any other suggestions for speeding up play?

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+1. It's also really hard to find players who are willing to sit down for an 8+ hr game. – JSBձոգչ Nov 2 '10 at 19:34
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Since someone else bumped this anyway, the new correct answer a year later is: get Eclipse :) boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/72125/eclipse – Affe Feb 14 '12 at 3:58
    
Only play with people who have played before! Not posting this as an actual answer since it is a bit snarky, but if everyone has read the rules, and played a game or ten themselves beforehand, it will save you several hours! – aslum Sep 16 '15 at 18:55
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Some minor tweaks that can help:

1) Use the variant Imperial II from the expansion. Tricky juggling of the turn order to ensure you get Imperial is one cause of delay in selection. (Also, Imperial is badly designed and dull...) That variant expects the goals to be face-up - which speeds the game up; everyone can see which vps they're aiming for later on.

2) Play to 1-2 fewer vps; that'll normally save a full turn, without damaging the endgame too badly.

3) Use a fixed board instead of dealing out; then the host can set up in advance and skip the board dealing phase. (FFG publish suggestions for this at the TI site.)

4) Assign admin tasks to players - make one player in charge of the planets deck, one in charge of action cards, etc.

5) Use a tech / status tracker or other ship reference sheet to keep quick track of tech effects on your units.

6) Get in the habit of planning your builds during other people's turn, or allow 'honor builds' in which you announce a build and then the next player moves on with the game while you build. Builds need time-consuming decision making and are rarely affected by the next player's move.

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In our last game we actually did most of those. I especially liked having face-up objectives. I played a lot better due to being able to plan ahead. And I definitely liked "honor builds" too. Overall though, these tips didn't seem like they sped up the game by much. – Kristo Nov 3 '10 at 2:43
    
We use the face-up objectives (which can be done with the original Imperial as well) - and it sped up the game significantly. – Aviad Ben Dov Feb 25 '13 at 4:45
    
+1 for ship reference sheet though :) – Aviad Ben Dov Feb 25 '13 at 4:56

I think Tynam's given the main sensible suggestions that don't distort the character of the game too much. If you want to shorten it more, then I think your options are going to have to be more drastic:

  1. Remove the Status and Strategy phases! A friend of mine proposed a radical variant of TI3 where things move more fluidly and there aren't the defined rounds like there are in TI3. You can read his thought process at http://toothycat.net/wiki/wiki.pl?DaybreakDictatorship.

  2. If you don't like that idea... Well, what happened with our group is we discovered Galactic Emperor. Which scratches a lot of the same itches as TI3, but takes 2 hours rather than 6-9. It doesn't have the big tech tree or the deck of politics cards, but, well, something has to go if you're cutting a 9 hour game down to 2 hours; and Galactic Emperor plays very much like a streamlined and simplified Twilight Imperium 3. You can read my review of Galactic Emperor compared with TI3 over on BoardGameGeek.

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Sometimes we just have a "Call Time". When that time is reached the game will complete that turn we are on and the player with the most VPs wins. Not the best system perhaps, but it works for us. Sometimes we finish before the call time.

We have discussed the possibility of using a game timer (similar to chess timers - ours is a cube that can time up to six players). A system that rewards the faster players and penalizes the slower ones with VPs. The timers are only active during the times where players would "Think" - not during dice rolling battles. We have only talked about this. not yet tried. Obviously not a good idea for those who are rookies to the game.

We also usually use the preset board designs. Positions and races are assigned randomly.

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Welcome to B&CG! – Pat Ludwig Aug 3 '14 at 5:15

If you're using the Distant Suns option, you could try foregoing that as the slow-down in planet acquisition means almost anything else is going to be delayed as well.

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1, try making your fleet supply area a logistic command were it effects your max actions per game round, take away fleet limits(this is really fun, I even use poker chips under my ships as additional ship counters) 2, the biggest time consumer is peoples play style you need to force people to plan ahead during other peoples actions unless they are directly effected, time limits on player turns is a must , i use a 2 min rule except for during combat rolling 3,i always set up the board beforehand this can take 2 hrs easy, since you and your friends plan ahead to play this type of game anyway(who spontaneously decides to play twilight imperium?)preplan a balance game board ,or a random system for set up. 4, early exspation is fun but takes up 2/3rds of the game play, either asign double or triple your starting units and/or give extra planets away to the players at set up this aways cut 2 hrs of my game times or more and I like long games 5,last but not least no production limits you want to speed game play up that will cut a game in half right there. and still keep the core game in tact.

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You should look at reformatting your answer so it is easier to read. – Joe W Sep 14 '15 at 12:29

Our record is 5.5 hours for a 7 player game, 3.5 hours for a 4p game and we are convinced we can keep improving on it. But last night we spent more than 8 hours on a 6p game. I had a few ideas:

1) Don't bother including anyone who isn't actually going to be into it. If someone is going to be sitting there snoring at the pace of the game for several hours it's going to drag the whole group's energy down. People need to care enough to pay attention - if they aren't paying attention the game will take forever.

2) Attention is a limited resource. Some people like music, I personally feel that music with lyrics can be distracting if it's too loud. Minimize distractions. Coffee helps. Don't smoke pot.

3) Everyone needs to pay attention, but more than that, it helps if one or more players can actively manage the flow of the game, like "Ok, player X just went, it is now player Y's turn. You're just building in your home system? Ok, player Z, if you're just doing the same you might as well go ahead and start while player Y is still finishing." With initiative rotating the way it does in this game, sooo much time is lost in that time between turns, until finally someone says "Whose turn is it?" In an ideal world everyone would take responsibility for identifying the player who acts after them and informing them that it is now their turn, informing everyone what the secondary ability of the strategy card they just played is, etc. Too often somebody plays their strategy card (leadership, for example), and announces it, and the entire table STILL misses it somehow because so much stuff is going on in this game.

4) It really helps if people can plan their turns out ahead of time. This isn't always possible but quite often it is. Builds in particular eat up a ton of game time, if you know that your next move is just going to be a build in your home system you should really have that move ready to execute by the time it gets to your turn.

Balancing these considerations can be tough! Spending your spare time thinking about the board state and planning your next move can mean that you don't pay attention to what is going on. The more players are actively involved in managing the flow of the game and making sure everyone knows what is going on, the better it will be. If only one person is taking responsibility for this, what happens when that person also has to take some time to think about their own moves/builds/plans? Again, attention is a limited resource.

As for game rules that speed the game up,

1) The alternate strategy cards from Shattered Empire are almost a must

2) Artifacts (add more victory points)

3) A pre-set map. It takes long enough to unbox everything as it is, this should save a lot of time.

4) Don't use distant suns, or political intrigue.

I haven't played with simulated early turns but it looks pretty lame to me.

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