Topic of two sessions to get to climax?
We actually could have reached the climax in week one after two hours of disjointed play by newbees. The decision was made to press-on and see the sites. Satrap spent Karma on reducing Climax Threat. Perhaps a wise choice for newbees. After that rush of let's see if there's a gadzooka in next system (could be), and system travel gets old (and it will), the reaching of climax will be more important.
Bottom line, one to two hours of preliminary systems to find your path. Spending resources, added after the first playtest session will also reduce the time sink. In contrast, I've seen Cutlass go anywhere from ten minutes to three hours (both extremes being rare and an hour being norm).
I am happy with the languid pace compared to our other systems.
Topic of Climax going four hours (two Weds sessions, predicted)
No, hardly the norm. Climax should be just one long battle or a small puzzle set, an hour tops. I wrote a mammoth one to test the system. You may or may not recall the Era Ten Cutlass Event Style climax in space station where after three weeks of play we still had not finished the mystery. Blame Sarge Tony for not being able to run a subway line. Part of the benefit of a game like S&R Group is the fact the Ref gets plenty of bang for the buck. A few hours of planning will generate a month's play. It is a tighter game than Fantasy Delvers, but that system is a murder's march into the unknown.
Here's the THEME (Desired)
Look at the Climax Threat and Quest Goal Cards; you like what you see, press to climax. If you think you can reduce a Threat or add a Goal, linger in encounters. The danger (if any) are being dragged into sidebar systems by the Kraken (NPCs). Or running Quick Challenges to put an intruder back in a box. (Quick Challenges and System Tests change for ease in session three.)
Otherwise your analysis helps. I like the whimsy of Era Ten and have always made it a game of irony, not warfare. That is not to everyone's expectation, but I enjoy gallows humor and absurdist play. TOO MANY TO COUNT is a nice change. Almost want it to imply the laziness of TOO MANY TO WORTH A COUNT, but that's an odd concept. I also enjoy the idea that a Satrap turns a ship with TOO MANY TO COUNT to DEPLETED. WTF did you do! What did you do? Bad Cruz, NO, bad dog.
As for the other thoughts, I will ponder.