Another game of American Megafauna

Today we played a four-player game of American Megafauna, again playing the basic game using third-edition rules. When Dani and I did this a week or two ago, we finished a two-player game in about three hours. Today, with four players, we called the game after about 5.5 hours. We were on turn 15 (of 25) when that happened.

I don't think we were overly hindered by learning the game; while none of us has played a lot, only one person had not played at all, and she picked it up pretty quickly. It was hard to keep track of the traits of the various species (at peak there were 11 in play), and I was not the only one having trouble reading the chits on others' mats. I think we all tended to cache the most important stuff in memory and ask questions for the rest. Dani was the only person who never asked for speculative help (which of these would win this fight?). Maybe it's a personality thing, or maybe it's that he's played more games than any of the rest of us.

The base game has four families of creatures, two mammals and two reptiles. I ended up playing a reptile (not the one I played in the other game). I was told that it was the best prospective carnivore in the game (not so great on herbivores). I ended up mostly playing a carnivore strategy, but was hindered by some populous species getting "roadrunner DNA" early on that I couldn't counter until late in the game. All of Dani's herbivores were nocturnal from early on, and it wasn't until about turn 12 that another chance at that emerged. (Nocturnal prey can only be eaten by nocturnal predators.)

I had a strong start, helped by winning the bidding on the first additional species to come into play. (Each species is token-limited; score is based on total tokens.) But then things started going worse for me as they went better for others; that is the way of worldwide evolutionary trends, I suppose. When we quit I was in a downturn; I had a plan for fixing it over the next two turns, and I think it would have worked, but I was definitely struggling. However, because I was pretty far in the lead from the early successes, people conceded to me. If the game had gone to the end it probably would have been closer; they were catching up.

I like the game, but we've got to find a way to speed it up or shorten it. 6+ hours is too long for this game. I don't think reducing the number of turns is the right answer; events in the world need a chance to play out. I have a sneaking feeling that some sort of notational or visualization approach would help speed things up, but I can't right now imagine what it would be, short of software.