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I'd say the layout how you describe it is actually no different than a standard forum. The only thing we offer is being able to see the full first post in a thread while browsing the full list of topics in any given forum. You still have to click into each thread to see the replies.
That said about replies, we currently do not paginate them (like 10 or 20 replies per page)...does anyone actually need that anymore? As for chronological order, ours is too. Clicking into a thread on a standard forum goes to the first post. You'd have to click the link/tiny icon to jump to the newest, which is something we can look into adding. We may also explore styling new posts (since discussions are threaded) so you can scroll through and quickly see what has been added.
As for the idea that some threads have more content in the replies, it's again no different than a standard forum where you'd have to click into the discussion to see any of it. Don't let that misperception hold you back from participating!