I’ve been regularly attending weekly D&D sessions at one of the local game shops Role & Roll (Japanese) in Akihabara. These week day sessions run for two hours from 7pm to 9pm, but they also occasionally host events on the weekend, which usually run from 12pm to 8pm, at the latest.
These Adventurers League games are sponsored by the Japanese publisher of D&D Hobby Japan (Japanese). Interestingly, only the free basic rules (Japanese) have been officially translated. This leads to a mix of Japanese and English source materials at the table, both paper and digital.
The adventures themselves are usually translated by volunteers, who often DM (run) the games. This leads to a storyline schedule that generally mirrors the US release schedule, but with a slight delay as the stories are translated. From what I’ve seen, the DM’s have both the English and Japanese available for those cases when clarification is needed. Previously released adventures, including the starter set, are also run. In terms of timing, the storylines tend to last a few months, though they will sometimes have filler storylines that last just a couple of weeks.
We just finished the current D&D storyline of Volo’s Wake last Wednesday. Next Wednesday will be a character building session and we’ll learn more about what they’re planning to run next, but it’s likely to be Storm King’s Thunder.
Announcements for game sessions are made on a message board. Players can ask questions and reserve a space, after which a staff member will confirm the reservation and the number of spaces of remaining. The weekly events are usually for two tables, six players per table, for a total of twelve players. They’ll sometimes cut one table and the number of slots to six if only a few players respond by a certain time.
My experience with the Adventurers League is limited to Japan, so I can’t really compare it to organized play in America, just home play. The players here are very cooperative and help each other, giving advice as needed. A grid map is always used for combat, with the type of grid varying from print outs, a white board, and in one rare case, 3D terrain.
In terms of game play, I’ve found that the day-long sessions tend to have a bit more role play thanks to the longer session time. The shorter weekly sessions do have some role play, but it’s usually not as overt nor involved due to the time limit. My long term gaming group tends to focus more on describing characters and their actions in detail, while the public sessions here tend to be more mechanics-driven. e.g. with a flick of his wrist, a bolt of fire erupts from his wand vs I cast fire bolt. That is not to say one style is better than the other. Both have their place and I thoroughly enjoy the Wednesday night games.