Timing and Structure in Competitive Star Wars: Legion
It can be a bit of a shock coming from a casual setting to a competitive game, there are a lot of things that change, but one of the most stressful can be the ticking of the clock and the judge constantly calling out how much time you have left. To those who are not used to it, the added pressure of a time constraint can really throw you off your game and cause you to panic and rush into make less than optimal plays in the name of undue expediency.
To get familiar with round timing lets go over the format briefly. Star Wars: Legion competitive games are played on a shared game timer of 2 hours, meaning that both players share the same pool of time and both players are responsible for the pace of the game - this has some advantages and disadvantages, namely that timing can be used and abused for a competitive edge by less sportsmanlike players (but this is pretty rare). It should also be pointed out that the 2 hour timer is for the actual game portion of legion and not any of the pre-game (unless you are slow and your time bleeds over). But let’s write it out for a better look at when the timer starts.
SW:Legion Setup Pre-Timer:
TO announces pairings and tables and players find tables
Players discuss terrain effects and cover if it is not predetermined by TO
Players determine Blue player and table sides
Players use Blue player’s scenario deck to determine mission deployment, objective, and condition
Players resolve any setup instructions on the scenario cards
Players take turns deploying units until all units are deployed
Now 2 hour round timer starts and players pick their round 1 command card
This whole process usually takes 10 minutes or less. In my several Legion conventions to date I have found that the TO generally gives about 15 minutes for this process to accommodate people who take longer to find their table or who dont have a good method of transporting their armies from table to table. It is important to remember that once you have deployed everything you should not proceed until the judge or TO has instructed you to. However if you are running a little behind it is also not a cause to worry, just proceed directly from deploying to playing the game.
Once the game has begun you have 2 hours to complete 6 rounds, which people would assume means 20 minutes per round. so lets take a look at how that game breaks down. I have stated before that I believe the average competitive lists will fall between 7 and 10 activations so lets use 10 activations for each list in this example as it is both on the extreme side and an easy number to work with.
Two Hour Game Breakdown
there are 6 turns in the game so divided equally that is 20 minutes per turn.
each turn has a planning phase in which you pick a command card, which we will say is 1 minute combined for both players (it should be quicker but we will make the math easy)
we also have to account for token clean up and resetting at the end of the round which we will say is also 1 minute for simplicity (this should also be quicker).
that leaves us with 18 minutes per turn to activate 20 units for both player or 54 seconds to activate each unit.
In the above scenario 54 seconds to activate each unit is a lot of time, but in actuality that isn’t how a real game works - some turns you will do more thinking (often referred to as “in the tank” in the competitive scene) and some turns will be much quicker due to diminished units remaining. so lets take a look at how a real game could break down.
Real World Two Hour Game Breakdown
In a competitive game you should be constantly pre-planning and evaluating, so you should have a really good idea of which command card you are playing each round. It should be more or less instant but lets say 20 seconds each turn or 2 minutes for the whole game.
Turn 1 will have a lot of unpacking of your units (moving them from the deployment zone to where they want to go) and only occasional attacking lets say just for example that half the units double move or move and token up (a quick 15 second activation each) and half the units take an attack during their activation (a normal 54 second or 1 minute activation). This would be a total of 12 minutes and 30 seconds for turn 1 which is reasonable.
Turn 2 and 3 will be the longest turns of the game. This is where the bulk of your combat happens as well as the bulk of the time you spend in the tank. lets assume that no units have been eliminated on either side and that each unit will attack this round - in addition lets assume that each player spends 2 minutes in the tank. that would give us 24 minutes for turn 2. On round 3 lets assume that one unit on each side has been eliminated (although it will probably be higher) - that would give us 22 minutes for turn 3. we have spend a total of 60.5 minutes so far or almost half our time on half our turns.
Turn 4 we can assume that each side has lost 2 to 3 units so lets just say 5 between both players. there could be a little tank time on turn 4, lets say 1 minute each, and we can safely assume that each unit will attack this round. or a turn time of 17 minutes.
Turn 5 will often see lots of units defeated but it is often when we start planning our hail marry if we need to. so lets assume that 4 units on each side are defeated but we are also going to spend 1 minute each in the tank and also that every unit is attacking this turn. this gives us a turn time of 14 minutes.
Turn 6 starts with 29 minutes remaining. we can also assume that half of each force has been defeated at this point and that each unit is attacking. That would mean that the round would take 10 minutes leaving 19 minutes to spend throughout the rest of the game or to end early and rest and recover.
I already know that a lot of people are going to say that this is an unrealistic expectation but I dont believe that is true and in my 4 conventions to date I have only had one game go over time and on average I end most games with 30 minutes to spare. so to help get up to speed lets look at some ways to speed up gameplay. But in addition to that the TO has the discretion to increase a game time by 30 minutes if they really feel its needed.
Tips and Tricks for Time Management
Memorize the cards. You should know all the stats on all of your units and ideally everything your opponent has as well. Not looking at cards cuts a ton of time from your game.
Have your tokens and dice organized and ready. you should have all the tools you need at hand and in a place that is easy to get to. as an add on to this, if your opponent is attacking start grabbing defense dice and suppression.
Think on your opponents time. if you are waiting until your opponent has finished what they are doing you are wasting too much time you could be planning ahead - as well as letting your opponent lead the game - bad on both counts.
Invest in a tray and unit card organizers. A tray to move from table to table is a huge quality of life improvement and organizers that save you from setting out your cards every game is also a big deal… remember, you dont want to be looking at those cards anyways… even if they are all cool alt art.
if you are double moving, just move the unit leader twice and then set everything into cohesion at the end of move 2. it should only take 5 or so seconds to move a unit.
It may seem daunting at first. but 60 second activations are actually a ton of time if you aren’t looking up unit stats or rules as you play. and the more you play the more you memorize, so the easiest way to speed up your games is just to play more games. If you are still having trouble with timing try playing casual games on a timer or organizing your tokens and dice more efficiently. If you know timing is something you will struggle with and you dont play enough to increase speed, and you do find yourself at a major event where time management is expected just let your opponent know that you are fresh to the game and to excuse you while you think… no one will fault you for that as long as you are doing your best - remember we are all here to have fun first.