Time is always a factor on our game nights. The store we play at closes at 9, so you’ve got to choose accordingly. There’s nothing worse than having a good, close game going on only to have to cut it short because the staff wants to actually go home. Some games offer up shorter variants, or can be scaled accordingly to time and number of players. You’ve got options, and we can usually find a good fit. But what happened last night was one game that probably suffered from us shortening it too much, and another that suffered from us speeding through it trying to fit it in under time.
I last played Xia: Legends of a Drift System back in March and liked it okay. It didn’t reinvent the 4X wheel, but it was an enjoyable if not particularly revolutionary game. But I was in the mood to give it another go, and we decided to do a shorter game to make sure we could finish. And I ended up winning in about ninety minutes. Some of that had to do with luck; some of the missions I had to complete ended up being in systems that were very close to each other, as well as some trading opportunities where I could buy stuff not very far away from where I had to sell it. So it didn’t take me long to grab the points I needed. I never even upgraded my ship until my final turn, when buying a new ship gave me the final point I needed to win. A different set-up, a different draw of the cards, and it would have ended differently. But if anything, Xia feels more to me like a game that needs to luxuriate in the upper limits of its play time, so you have to time to explore, to tweak your ship, to work the trade routes, to actually have the experience the game offers. The kind of time we just don’t have on a weeknight.
We had about forty-five minutes left, which my friends figured was enough time to squeeze in a game of Roll for the Galaxy. I wasn’t so sure; it had been a while since I’d played it and knew I’d need a turn or two to get up to speed. And as it turns out, I really needed that time, because I started off playing completely incorrectly and got totally thrown off for a couple of turns. I got my bearings though, and the game was moving along pretty well, but some games just aren’t meant to be rushed. We ended up having to stop at 8:58 with the game not even halfway done. Part of it was adjusting to the additions from the new Ambition expansion; if you’re trying to hurry through something, adding new wrinkles never helps. It also didn’t give me much of a chance to appreciate what the expansion brought to the table — two new types of dice and objectives that can add wild dice or points depending on how you use them — but it seems like a solid addition from what I saw.
I don’t want to give the impression it wasn’t a fun evening, but I can’t help but feel the two games got a little shortchanged by the time restraints. We have a game day coming up on Saturday, and both of these are prime candidates for the expanded window we’ll have. It might seem like madness to want and sit a board game for more than two hours, but sometimes, that’s all part of the charm, losing yourself in the mechanics of a well-designed game. That;s not something you want to rush through.