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Just wanting a discussion due to recent events at a local regional tournament, but it occurred to me that I had never really thought about specific rules of thumb regarding the pace of activations/rounds/etc...

So, I broke it down like this:  my own list has six activations, but I've seen more and less, so I went with 7 for an average, per player.  Round time is 65 minutes.

If 14 activations take 2 minutes each, that leads to a 28-minute round which leads to JUST 3 rounds total overall (considering setup and between round counting/shenanigans, this is a 'barely').  This also only considers that each activation has one figure to deal with (often not the case, but I don't think it would take any of us 2 full minutes to decide where each of our troopers or weequays are going individually)...

3 rounds is not a lot, but many games at this local tourney weren't even getting to round 3.  Since this sort of thing has never really come up in the past (for me at least), I had no idea how to reason it out.  How do you tell as a judge if someone is deliberately slow-playing without sitting and staring?  And how long is just too long for an activation, regardless of the stakes?

Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that you should be moving your dudes no later than 90 seconds into your activation.  This gets you almost always into round 4 on average.  And if you're taking longer than 2 minutes consistently, you're a problem and need to speed it up...

What say you all?

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My answer to this is "it depends". At high levels where players have practiced a lot, it should be expected that during the first round you have your opening moves pretty well mapped out and should be taking less than a minute per entire unit activation. It's in the later rounds that things get more tricky. In round 2, a lot of players will have a pretty good idea of what units to attack and what objectives to try for. However, once a large melee has been joined it can be more difficult to decide what is the best allocation of resources. At the end of round 2 and moving into round 3, expect activations to start taking longer. 

I think a good rule of thumb is to call the judge if your opponent is taking way too long to make pretty obvious moves on a consistent basis. The first time or two it can be given the benefit of the doubt what is the obvious move to you is not the obvious move to your opponent, but if it happens a lot you should call a judge. Usually they will speed up their play as soon as somebody else is watching.

This whole thread will have a high likelihood of becoming contentious, so I ask that everybody respect each other's opinions and just generally be nice.

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Absolutely - you have to 'feel' it out, but I think some general rules apply to every game, even the top table late tourney games:

  • You should be shooting for a 4th round
  • If you or your opponent are consistently taking longer than 2 minutes to make a decision, you need to speed it up

That second one would be what I personally would use if I was dealing with a slow opponent.  The first time, I'd mention that we need to speed things up if we want to see a round 4.  After that one, I'd call a TO to observe, just to be safe.

Too many times, players are just passive aggressive (instead of working out issues) and they compound that by not calling on a judge early enough for the judge to effect change...

Anyway, yeah - friendly conversation here fellas...

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2 minutes ago, ThatJakeGuy said:

...I ask that everybody respect each other's opinions and just generally be nice.

Right on, let's start off with the Golden Rule, be excellent to each other.

You basically cannot identify true stalling. One has no way to see what the other is thinking/going through. The best we can do is call over a judge as politely and calmly as possible to explain your side. We need to remember in some cases there are new players, they have to start somewhere like we all did.

I love the idea of chess clocks, but it makes playing a game a bit more cumbersome. Unfortunately for now, this is just up to the TO, I think there should be a rule that games should be at the very least 3 rounds. I can't imagine many 2 round games though, can't say I've seen it personally.

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There are kind of two separate issues here: the slow player and the deliberate slow play.  I think most all players are probably opposed to deliberate stalling, but there's not much that we can do to affect that beyond calling the TO when we suspect something.  Unfortunately this is pretty much always going to lead to negative feelings on one or both sides, but it is what it is.  If somebody is going to cheat then that's on them and there's not much we can do to keep a positive play experience at that point.

A generally slow player is a different thing - it's not at all malicious - but to be honest I find this kind of annoying as well.  I mean yeah, the odd time there's going to be a situation that warrants some real thought and that's not what I'm talking about.  But if someone's taking a few minutes per move on a consistent basis, they're either taking into account way more information that I do or they're just running through the same arguments in their head over and over and over.  If it's the former, well... power to you I guess :P.  But if it's the latter, it might help to try to be conscious of this.  Say to yourself "well I'm either doing X or Y, I've already narrowed down the pros and cons, it's time to pick one".  Maybe this doesn't come naturally to AP-prone people, but it would sure help make the games you're playing more enjoyable for your opponent.

 

Edit:  And if you're someone who has been politely reminded about slow play by your opponent a few times (and assuming you're not doing it to intentionally stall) it might be worth a bit of introspection.  Ask yourself: if there were a chess clock, would you be able to play faster?  If the answer is yes, then why not try just... playing faster? :P

 

Edited by ManateeX

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3 minutes ago, theChony said:

I can't imagine many 2 round games though, can't say I've seen it personally.

Yeah, that's why I brought this up (because besides it happening several times to others, it almost happened to me - we started round 3 with 10 seconds to spare on the clock).  I've seen other threads talking about playing to the clock, etc.  I just wanted a few hard and fast rules of thumb to help me foresee the time stretch.

Personally, also, I tend to apologize when I'm taking a while to decide something - and I really try to read my opponent for cues of frustration, etc.  Not that those should change my decisions, but really - at this level, I don't think round 4 is too much to expect...

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I guess it's worth bringing up, too, that some of this does depend on the list.  A player running 5 activations of big rebel heroes is naturally going to play faster than someone running a big trooper swarm, and that's ok.  I'm not even worried about what round we get to so much as I am about having to sit and stare blankly at the board while someone ponders every tiny move.

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8 minutes ago, DerBaer said:

I think, a 3 round game is absolutely OK. I've had 2 round games, where my opponent was incredibly slow, but did lose anyways, so I had no big problem with it.

3 is pretty standard in my experience when you have complex lists facing each other, and 4 is generally very doable.

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Chess Timing Comparison
So, as a thought for comparison, I have played (literally) tens of thousands of games of timed chess (the overwhelming majority online blitz games, but several hundred tournament games with 30, 60, or 120 minutes to a side).

The majority of chess games are decisively settled within 30 moves, meaning that in a usual 60/each tournament, you should expect that many moves could take roughly two minutes. Openings can often be played a bit more quickly ... but even there, a good player takes some time to actively call the nuances to mind as they emerge, and to avoid getting pushed into a rhythm of fast-play and making mistakes.

So, sure, you're probably going to use an early activation to focus someone with 3P0 and move to a hidden advanced point to set up distracting later. But that spot might be different if you're staring at ERangers on Nal Hutta or ERiots on Jabba's Palace. Or, for that matter, ERiots on Nal Hutta. Even if you've faced the same list on the same map before, you'll want a moment to say, "Okay, this game the ERiots went for the maze: where do I want Han taking his EoR shot from, and who else will be moving on the other side first?"

To continue the comparison, if IA were only a chess-board game with Star Wars figures who each have slightly different moves, two squads of 6 activations and, say, 8 figures each, could take 16 minutes per player per round, if it were only a positional game like chess, where each unit has set movement and attack.

The Two Clocks
In chess, of course, you use a "chess clock." It splits the allotted game time in half, giving each player half of it. When you play, your clock runs down: when you move, you tap a button and your time pauses while your opponent's ticks down. (I suppose one interesting thought would be to bring a chess clock to an IA tournament and ask the TO if they mind you using it to track who's thinking longer. It's not a formal device, but it *would* be pretty good evidence that your opponent is the one holding things up, if they allow it)

In IA, on the other hand, there's a common clock. You have two incentives to move: actually gaining VP's with your capacity, and getting called out for stalling. Much has been made (and will continue to be, I'm sure), about how to identify and report stallers ... but I'd offer the other side of the coin: half of that time is yours: use it!

Non-Chess Layers in IA
Competitive play in IA is more than Star Wars guys on a grid board. High level play needs time for at least two other things:

The command hand. Not only do you need to stay aware of how your command cards change your capacities, but your time also includes reflecting on, anticipating, and preparing for the possible surprises your opponent's hand has. Whether you're a hunter running Clawdites and Intelligence Leak, or an Imperial whose ERiots are watching to see when an opponent takes strain as damage vs discard, or simply a list-building titan who can count to 15/15 in your head 12 ways in the time it takes Gideon to push Jedi Luke up two: winning games means time spent thinking.

The Attack Sequence. You know how many steps it takes to take a queen in chess? One. You push your piece into her square using its movement.

You know how many steps it takes to shoot Darth Vader with Han Solo? There are seven formal ones. Throw in some command card decisions, re-roll counting, Zillo Technique and Hera/Onar, and this attack might reasonably take two minutes on its own, and that's without factoring in any time spent thinking over whether to make the attack, and then if so, where to make it from so that Han has an End of Round opportunity or an On the Lam path home.

Sure, @brettpkelly can do the surge math in his head for a Fly-By EJet shooting an EQuay on Vassal. But I assume that in a formal tournament, even he is taking his time to make sure he counted right, and those are relatively easy figures.

 

Real Tournaments

Most of my games nonetheless go 3 rounds. I've played 12 formal competition games, and a handful of practices on Vassal and in person with a timer on. I think 2 games went to a fourth round, 2 were two rounds, and the remaining 8 were all 3 round games. I expect that's a reasonable distribution.

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tl;dr?

My thoughts sum up to:

There are lots of reasons for someone to take time in a competitive IA match. "Stalling" is hard to prove, even in clear cases. So don't beat 'em; join 'em. Make a list of things you want to use your time for, so you're consistently bringing your best game. Half that time is yours, after all, so use it.

Edit: One final "trick" from chess is to use your opponent's "thinking time" for your own as well. Pay attention to your own mental exertion: do you need to let your mind drift for a minute so you can come back focused, or do you play better when you stay hunkered down, and while they're holding still, you're thinking ahead to your next two or three moves?

 

The other obvious "ask" is to call a TO and say, "I can't prove slow play, but my opponent is taking time and we're clearly at a point where continuing to a 4th round will matter: can we assume that so that neither of us rushes nor stalls these last few activations of round 3?"

Edited by GottaBadFeelingAboutThis

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When I started playing the game it wasn’t crazy to cut it close when it came to getting to round 3. I can’t say I really know at worlds last year, for example, how many of my games went 4 rounds... usually by that time in the game I’ve stopped paying attention. One solid year into competitive skirmish and I can kinda “feel” when an activation is taking too long and I don’t have too much anxiety about a friendly nudge to my opponent (I have rarely felt like it was needed). I would also expect and appreciate a friendly comment from an opponent who feels I am taking too long (which hasn’t often occurred in a competitive game). In general, I expect the vast majority of games to be finished or a foregone conclusion by round 3. I think you are in for some frustration if you are counting for 4 rounds out of every game. Like I said though my focus is more on an appropriate feel to the situations at hand and less on the number of rounds played. We can all tell if someone is just a slow player by nature and hopefully adjust strategy accordingly. 

With the diversity of the meta right now there may be more of an issue coming up with this though. The stout empire trooper lists seem to really benefit from more rounds being played. Tension also exists when you know your list really well but you need some time to try and predict your opponents’ movements especially if you haven’t seen their list before. Should we expect that everyone is competent with the strategy of every list immediately upon viewing it? Keep in mind that players who spend more time studying the game and practicing can have the tendency to expect their opponent to play faster than they are comfortable with. Without a chess clock it gets complicated.

Edited by seef1033

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32 minutes ago, seef1033 said:

 Two solid years into competitive skirmish and I can kinda “feel” when an activation is taking too long and I don’t have too much anxiety about a friendly nudge to my opponent (I have rarely felt like it was needed).

Ah, the "Trust your feelings" method of clock awareness.

You've taken your first step towards a larger playstyle.

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I've said it before: if your games consistently go to time, you need to play faster.  Games should come to a natural end, with someone winning due to points.  Usually that's around round 3 or 4, depending on the lists and mission.  Time usually gets called in round 4, which is pretty fair.  Often, the game is decided by then, and it's just mopping up a few more points.

If you only are making it to round 2, then either both players are new to the game, or something's horribly wrong.

 

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A lot of good points have been made above, but I'm going to have to play devil's advocate here. It's ok if you think things through.

If your opponent plays a little bit faster than you, don't let them bully you into making a mistake. People play at different paces, and that's fine. If someone is stalling for stalling sake, sure, call over a TO, but I've never seen that happen. I've seen people agonizing in tense situations trying to figure out their best move at the end of close games. If that happens, maybe check the clock and see if it matters in regards to getting another round, and give 1 friendly nudge if needed. Otherwise, interrupting their thoughts with your words only interrupts and delays their decision making process.

This is a great community and we're accepting of players at any skill level and any playing speed.

 

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Fightwookies said:

A lot of good points have been made above, but I'm going to have to play devil's advocate here. It's ok if you think things through.

If your opponent plays a little bit faster than you, don't let them bully you into making a mistake. People play at different paces, and that's fine. If someone is stalling for stalling sake, sure, call over a TO, but I've never seen that happen. I've seen people agonizing in tense situations trying to figure out their best move at the end of close games. If that happens, maybe check the clock and see if it matters in regards to getting another round, and give 1 friendly nudge if needed. Otherwise, interrupting their thoughts with your words only interrupts and delays their decision making process.

This is a great community and we're accepting of players at any skill level and any playing speed.

 

 

 

 

Strong second. My last regionals (MN) I had a player thinking for a while on his last two activations in a round. I interrupted to say, "Sorry, but time could be a factor here." He immediately said, "Right, of course," and about five seconds later, made a decision and a move. That took us into round 4. That guy wound up winning the tournament (and the game).

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1 hour ago, Fightwookies said:

A lot of good points have been made above, but I'm going to have to play devil's advocate here. It's ok if you think things through.

If your opponent plays a little bit faster than you, don't let them bully you into making a mistake. People play at different paces, and that's fine. If someone is stalling for stalling sake, sure, call over a TO, but I've never seen that happen. I've seen people agonizing in tense situations trying to figure out their best move at the end of close games. If that happens, maybe check the clock and see if it matters in regards to getting another round, and give 1 friendly nudge if needed. Otherwise, interrupting their thoughts with your words only interrupts and delays their decision making process.

This is a great community and we're accepting of players at any skill level and any playing speed.

I'm absolutely with you that we should be accepting of players regardless, especially if they're new.  To be honest the worst I'd ever give someone would be a single gentle reminder, and it would take quite a long series of delays before I would do even that.

But analysis paralysis (AP) is a thing, and it's just as un-fun to play against in this game as it is in every other board game where decisions have to be made.  And just like in those other board games, you can sometimes tell by the situation whether someone is in "try to consider all the potential outcomes of a difficult choice" mode (ok by me) or "waver back and forth between two or three options" mode (nothing's changing, just pick one already!).

To be honest I'm probably bringing over most of my frustrations (minor as they are) from sitting through waiting for AP players in other games.  And really my post is not directed at newer players so much as at players who do know what they are doing but still take a long time.  I just think it's worth keeping in mind that the whole time you're sitting there thinking, the other person is often sitting there waiting.  And maybe that's okay with you - it doesn't make you a bad person (this is a competitive game after all) but it does make you less fun to play against :).

So if you're someone who regularly plays games that don't get to round three, maybe it's worth just "thinking about what you're thinking about" sometime.  Are you really using all of that time efficiently, considering different options?  Or are you just going around and around in your own head?

 

 

Edited by ManateeX
spelling correction

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I've had a few cases where I'll get stuck in a mental loop and keep coming back to ideas I've ruled out. In these cases I've found standing up, looking away from the board and drinking some water for about 15 - 30 seconds helps work as a bit of a mental reset. Looking at the board state then I can take a fresh assessment and I find it easier to make a timely decision. I'm not going to do this if there's only a handful of minutes on the clock though and we're about to get to another round. That's probably just going to make things worse. 

Being mentally on the ball and thinking during your opponents turn makes a big difference too. Every once in a while there's a major shift in the board state from some catastrophic dice roll or command card shenanigans (especially things like on the lam or Onar's extra protection) that make me have to reevaluate my strategy from the ground up. But that's usually only once or twice a game. 

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I've observed another effect, that is related to that matter:

In our local meta, there was a change with Jabba's Realm. Since Jabba's Realm is released, the average attack takes a little longer. All those cards, that can be played "during an attack" on all those different triggers (declare, roll, reroll, modifiers, surges), make attacks slower. Many opponents I had since then, went through each step verbally (I have nothing on declare, do you have something on declare? ...). This makes sense for not rushing the opponent and not forgetting any effects/game state mechanics. But it slows the game a bit.

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Maybe I'm slower than many would like, but my experience so far has lead me to believe that every game should be at least halfway-ish through the 3rd round. Not getting to round 3 seems crazy (and solely based on my experience). That said it's a rarity a game has ever gone to 4 rounds either, half of which are because 40 pts are gained. I usually bring a personal timer to help me keep track of time.

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