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Without changing "the official rules" of the game, what sorts of house rules can be imposed on player interaction to speed up game-play for games that generally encourage players to discuss options (in cooperative games) or cut deals with each other (in competitive games).

For instance, I imagine adding a rule to some board games which makes secret deals more difficult that says "once per turn, you may pass a note to someone else at the table. Otherwise you can't discuss anything in secret." To make it more interesting, one might even add a die roll:

1 <- Throw away the note
2-5 <- Successful pass
6 <- Reveal the note for everyone else at the table to see

But I imagine such a rule might backfire and slow down the game even more; especially if people start trying to come up with systems to encrypt their notes.

Although my friends would probably tell you that this is a lie and that I'm usually the worst offender, I'm not thrilled with sacrificing game-pace for the sake of over-analyzing.

EXPLANATION: This question is meant to be general, but the Game of Thrones board-game was the particular example I had in mind. I played this game with a group which had added the (IMHO awful) house rule that anyone may look at anyone else's house cards still in hand. Supposedly this rule was added to keep people from writing down which cards everyone else had played already and to minimize the advantage more experienced players have. What it did was ensure that everyone spent time analyzing all possible outcomes of each battle before the battle is even fought. Unsurprisingly, the same group had to also add a house rule that the game only lasts 5 turns rather than 10.

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It is not a house rule... you can view a players hand at any time except during combat. Discarded house cards are always visible to all players –  link64 Jun 5 at 7:10
Oh, oops. I thought that was a house-rule. In any case, I'm still interested in how to speed up the game –  dspyz Jun 5 at 9:20
Is secret discussion part of the rules of this game? –  Jefromi Jun 5 at 22:46
There is nothing explicitly forbidding it ... this is game of thrones.. backstabbing and shady deals is part of the appeal! :p –  link64 Jun 5 at 23:12
@link64 Backstabbing and shady deals are still quite possible with public discussion; it happens all the time in other games. Haven't played this so it's hard to say which way it works best, but just wondering in case completely doing away with it is possible. –  Jefromi Jun 6 at 0:38

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are various ideas that I've used in the past to help. Be warned though - ultimately long games are long, and there's only a limited amount you can do about it.

1) Use a timer

Timed negotiation phases go back to Diplomacy. They're an official rule feature of Here I Stand. Not only does the time limit help the game along, and focus players, but it actually adds an interesting layer of strategy because you can't always talk to who you want to when you want to, meaning players have to work around it.

Only a few negotiation-heavy games feature a specified negotiation phase. But it's quite easy to add one - look at the turn structure and decide where it's best put and then enforce it, and the timer, with an iron first.

2) Ban paper and mobile devices

As you've discovered one of the worst culprits for slowing down games generally are players who insist on making notes, referring to them and optimizing their strategies. Unless it's absolutely essential as part of the play that they be allowed to do it, ban the recording of anything on anything except for the officially supplied game components and enforce it with an iron fist.

3) Overlap wherever possible

There are a surprising number of games where players can actually overlap their turn structure to try and get things done faster. This isn't specific to negotiation per-se. In Titan, for instance, the meat is the movement phase. So after playing X is has finished moving and is recruiting, the next player in line can be checking their stacks, splitting and rolling for movement. Identify areas suitable for concurrent play in your game, and enforce everyone doing just that with an iron fist.

4) Play online

I never play Diplomacy in real life any more, because it takes too long. I do, however play by email. And doing so has given me a particular delight in the fact that I have to negotiate via email. You can't see the face, or the body language of the person you're negotiating with, which leads for interesting decision making. Not to mention that it's pretty thematic since early 20th century diplomats spent a lot of time writing to each other. The same is probably true of AGoT, except they probably write with iron fists.

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+1 for iron fists. –  ire_and_curses Jun 5 at 23:14

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