Organising a longer game is an incredible feat by itself. Take Twilight Imperium for an example: The game takes 6 hours on average. It requires four to six people who are willing to learn the rules, enjoy the game and stick by it for it’s whole duration. Same with roleplaying games. Every activity that requires concentration for a prolonged time is incredibly difficult to achieve, due to people generally being lazy bastards. At least in my area. But there is one little detail that sticks out: Everyone has to be committed to the game.
Magic the Gathering’s rules acknowledge a concept called “shortcuts”. The game itself is very, very structured, as a turn consists of at least ten phases where people can play their cards. Since going through those phases every turn is pure madness, players tend to do skip to the most important ones. Sometimes this causes confusion, especially when an opponent is planning on doing something on a specific moment which the active player glazes over, but mostly it saves time. One thing people tend to do is assess whether they can win anymore. If an opponent has six million life and you have no infinite damage comboes or ways to win the game outright, you will most likely concede and skip to the next game. In Magic, this is a common practice in our play group. But in a game that takes about five to ten minutes, it is acceptable to concede if you feel that trying to win is a waste of time. Not so in a game that takes six hours.
Twilight Imperium, a space exploration/warfare/conquest board game, is a fun game. There are lots of playing pieces, many aspects of the game are replayable and the aesthetics are nice. But one thing that bothers me is that it does not supply rules for conceding. After a player says “I’m not winning, screw this” or “my house is burning, so I need to leave”, there are no rules on what happens to the player’s stuff. Do we skip his turn? Do we collectively play as him? Or do we simply have to end the game prematurely? In a game that is as ungodly long as Twilight Imperium, I think this is a major design oversight. One that should be adressed in game design.
Every game that requires people to be present for the entire game should have rules for absent players. In Magic, a conceding player loses, all his cards are returned to his deck, all effects and spells are removed from the stack, and opponents’ permanents under his control are send to their owners’ graveyards. The surviving players can still finish the game. This teaches us that game designers should look at games from many angles and outside the box.