Great use of the theme.
Lots of expansions planned.
A table hog.
Can run long.
Player interaction limited.
Firefly was a big hit at this summers Gencon 2013 selling out daily during the show and receiving a pretty universal thumbs up from all. Well finally its hitting our shores and so gives me an opportunity to dive into the outer and tell you what I think.
First impressions. The box for this thing is real heavy and there’s a reason, its jammed with content and all of it beautiful. There are decks and decks of cards, a big wad of money (its paper but looks stunning) a huge game board and individual player boards as well as a big mess of tokens. And of course you get four firefly models an Alliance cruiser and the dreaded Reaver ship.
All of the content and production values are top draw, I suspect the choice of the paper money will draw some groans from certain sectors but they are very colorful and neat reproductions from the show. And when you have a stash of these in front of you how can you not feel happy.
the game itself is actually pretty straight forward and is at heart a pick up and deliver game, depending on how much you loved the show is really going to be the deal breaker from this being a OK game to a must own. The big and only issue that some players will have is the length of time it takes to play and boy it can stretch on.
Once I received this I was desperate to dig in and fortunately it comes with a solo mission variant so you can do just that. The card estimates this will take you an hour but in reality my initial play-through lasted approx 2 hours. Now this does include a lot of rechecking of rules and general faffing on my part. On a simple game I’d envision each players game time being in the region of an hour, meaning your looking at 3+ hours playtime for 3 player game. I think that might be this games big deal breaker for some, what is at heart a very simple and light game it does tend to go on a bit. However if you love this show and dig the theme then what better way to go get lost on a Saturday afternoon than moseying about the verse and getting up to mischief, as we’ve played more of this game and become familiar with the mechanics we’ve found downtime has been reduced by everyone checking the card decks between turns, this really speeds things up and now find it motors on at a fair clip. Right that’s the negatives out the way, now lets dig into the game and see how it plays.
Everyone gets to choose a captain and a ship. this is pretty straight forward with all the Firefly’s being exactly the same and the captain cards giving you a mix of advantages and disadvantages. These only really become clear once you begin playing. Its a shame that there wasn’t a bit more variety in the ships but that is somewhat negated as you can upgrade them once playing.
Other than your skipper you also get a fistful of cash $3000 and some fuel and parts to rattle around your hold, and then your set.
Then its time to work out how to go about winning this Gorram thing. Included with the game are six story cards, each of these will give you a set of goals to complete in order and victory conditions, with some occasional variations in the set ups.
They are a nice idea and add some more theme and structure to the game rather than just the first to so many points.
The rule book does give one of these as best used in your first game, but in actual fact that story is a really swine and would likely end in a 12hour game and nobody wanting to play ever again. Fortunately Gale Force 9 have taken account of feedback following Gencon and released a much easier first timer out mission.
And finally you get dealt a hand of mission cards – You get to take a look at them and keep whichever ones take your fancy. These are the meat of the game as they will discern where it is your heading and what you will be doing and how much trouble you are about to get into.
As you can see they have different flavors and which you choose will have ramification’s on the rest of your game. You can take the easy route and just pick the legal ones, these will mainly involve hopping from one side of the verse to the other and ferrying cargo or passengers. Simple but not terribly lucrative you’ll just about make ends meet.
Or you can go take illegal jobs, these pay much better but the risks then start to multiply along with your earnings. For starters if your’e carrying illegal cargo or passengers you risk entanglements with the Alliance, which means its probably best sticking to the space lanes outside of their control. This unfortunately means a longer trip costing more fuel, and worse also puts you in Reaver space, and that’s never good.
Picking the Illegal missions can also effect your crew. Some missions are not only illegal but also immoral and if any of the crew you have employed don’t share your dubious views on right and wrong, well they are going to start playing up. They get disgruntled counters placed on them, get too many of these and they will jump ship, and worse the other players can bribe them to join their happy crew’s.
There are other issues that come with dodgy missions including skill checks and Misbehave Cards, but we’re get onto them in a bit. A lot of the missions have some nods to the show and add a nice thematic touch to proceedings, especially when you start excepting jobs from Niska and digging into that Misbehave deck. I like the subtle push your luck mechanic of these missions, it ties nicely into the show and can lead to some nail biting skin of the teeth moments as the Reavers and Alliance close in.
A Typical Game Turn.
Each turn you get to perform two actions from the available ones which are Fly, Buy, Deal and Work depending on where you are in the verse will have some bearing on which of these you can choose, and you can never repeat the same action during a turn.
This is one you will be doing a lot. You all start with the basic Firefly and it has two modes of travel. You can Mosey which means you move one sector a turn but you don’t run the risk of any additional problems or burn through that precious fuel. Its slow but safe.
Or you can go for Full Burn when you perform one of these you can travel the maximum range of sectors of your engine. This will burn one fuel but more importantly as you move into each fresh sector you need to draw a Nav Card, there are two decks of these, one for Alliance space and one for Border Regions. now some will just let you carry on but others will have less pleasant results.
Some require a skill check. These will be specific to either an engineering skill or shooting, each character has a specialization in one of these and you need to roll a dice and beat whatever that skills level is. Fail and it could mean you losing your stash of illegal goods, the ship breaking down maybe picking up a warrant or worse crew members being killed.
Others will give the player beside you the option to move the Alliance or Reaver ships. And you can be pretty certain that they are not going to put them anywhere near theirs. You get one of those landing on you and you are in a world of pain.
Pretty self explanatory, but yeah you can browse the best the galaxy’s malls have to offer and pick up some crew or maybe a shiny new weapon. Spread about the verse are planets that offer this opportunity, fly to one and you can pick up 3 cards and chose to buy up to 2 of them. Any you don’t go to a face up discard pile that any other player can purchase from when they get there. You can also purchase fuel and parts whilst stopped at these places.
There are also various ship upgrades to increase your cargo space, or engines. Before you start some of the bigger missions you are going to want to stock up on some of these goodies.
This is where you pick up those juicy missions. Fly to one of the planets or space stations that are home to one of the contacts and you can draw 3 cards and pick to keep up to 2 of these missions. As with the buy cards anything you discard is freely available for the other players to pick up when they pass through.
This is where everything comes together. To start a contract you need to meet the specifics of missions. Some require you to have either equipment or skills among your crew to complete. Most of these come in two parts the pick up and then when you reach your destination the drop off. Others can be robberies or even highly immoral assaults.
Before you can start you need to assemble what crew and equipment you will be sending on the missions. Some won’t go if the mission is morally dubious, this is important because if you are going to be pulling Misbehave cards from that deck to complete a mission you are going to want a good mix of skills and goodies.
Taking the above mission as an example you would have to play 3 misbehave cards and complete them before you would move onto the Cover Your Tracks skill check. To be fair this is a pretty hardcore mission but look at that payday.
As we’ve touched on it here and above I’ll cover off the misbehaving cards. These hold a chunk of the theme for this game many call back to events during the series. These work as wild cards testing even the most experienced crew and should not be taken lightly, attempting a few of these in a run will sort the boys from the men.
Like the flight cards these often come with choices you can choose option 1 or option 2 if they have a requirement like the explosives one’s above and the explosive cupboard is bare then I’m afraid you are taking door No.2. Fail on that and you take the repercussions. Anything from picking up warrants that lose you standing with the contractors and make you a target for the alliance to killing your crew. Some of them give you an out if you have a specific crew member in your team (but only if they are on the mission). Botch the mission and you are done this turn and have to start afresh next.
And that is all the main mechanics of the game. Then its a case of trying to outrun the Reavers and the Alliance and cash in those big pay days. The fun comes from all the little details and thematic touches.
I love that you can run the risk of taking illegal jobs through Alliance space only to have a run of ghastly flight cards that cripple your ship or lose your precious cargo, its straight out of the show. The other option is of course the border space and then the even worse situation of running afoul of a Reaver attack, that will leave you in a pretty poor way.
Another touch that I hope will be expanded upon in an update is how you can side with Harken and the Alliance, becoming a whipping boy for them. But there is a card in the Alliance space deck that allows you to drop the cruiser on a friends ship really ruining their day. It all depends if you want to be a toady and sell out to the Gorram Alliance, but its nice that its here.
The morals of your crew again is a simple but effective mechanic, the most hilarious moment in one of my games was when Mal (my captain, of course) became so disgruntled by a bad run of luck that he fired his entire crew.
Whether these will be similar or add whole new sectors to the already very large board is unclear. I’d personally like to see some more goodies from the movie and as of yet The Blue Sun have been absent from this release, they were very interesting characters from the show.
And I’m sure we will be seeing more story cards, possibly some co-op options, more Solo maybe the possibility’s are quite huge.
There is already a 5th player update that came out with Game Trade magazine #162 but that is now hard to find and stupidly overpriced on ebay. Hopefully this will be available in one of these updates because the ship that came in that set “The Artful Dodger” was a different spec to the Firefly’s in the base game. And more variety here will no doubt be welcome once players get well versed with this games tactics.
I’d like to see more player interaction, there is some trading and snatching of crew already here. But the chance to really stuff over an opponent or pirate from them seems like too cool an opportunity to miss. And perhaps with some tweaks to the rule set and maybe the addition of more story cards we’re see more of this stuff.
For me this is a keeper, I loved the show and this ticks all the boxes. With the expansions already coming and more announced I think this is one i’ll be coming back to as often as I can.