To Andy and Herakiller:
Have either one of you ever played a freestyle speed game before, particularly with escalating cards?
If one such game were to last 20 rounds, I can guarantee you that at least 16 of those rounds would have at least 3 minutes, likely 4 minutes, burned off by 3/4's of the people sitting there and waiting for everyone else. I swear that most 4 player sequential games with active people in them go as fast as any freestyle game.
I think you two are the first people I've ever seen who've said that 5 minutes is a minimum. Absolutely everyone I've ever played with who's made a comment one way or the other have said that 5 minutes is an absurdly long time.
Any time I've ever seen someone actually need 5 minutes to take their turn, it's because they've eliminated someone and are continuing with their turn, which has already been dealt with by adding 2 1/2 minutes to the clock whenever someone is eliminated.
I don't know what the best way to fix the problem is, but it really, really needs to get fixed. It's insanely boring sitting there for 4 minutes out of any given round, waiting for the round to start.
The only three solutions that I've come up with myself are:
1) Variable clock settings (though I would agree a 1 minute clock would be pushing it, 2 minutes would do fine in most cases)
2) Installing a button for everyone to press if they're intending to sit there, and then have the clock drop to 1 minute after everyone pushes it. A 15 second warning would probably be good if such a thing were installed.
3) Dropping the clock to 1 minute if nobody does anything within 30 seconds.
I think the variable clock settings is the best option though. I would also think that 5 minutes for the first round would be best as well, so that no one misses a turn.
I don't know if there's any better solutions, but something's really gotta be done about the 5 minute turns. Most of the turns, by far, just drag out endlessly.