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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Firefly (The Board Game)

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Firefly at Gencon. Let's take a look, shall we?
At the top of this writing, it's #1 on "The Hotness" at BoardGameGeek, and has a rating of 7.5. It sold out at Gencon in well under an hour, but should be available from Battlefront/Gale Force 9 soon. The rules can be peeped for free on BF's website here.

I won't go too much into the rules and gameplay mechanics, since you can read the full rulebook linked above. A general overview of the game - it has a strong "multi-player" solitaire theme for it - kinda like Dominion or Catan. You are competing to accomplish goals ahead of other players, but you can't directly screw your opponents over. You do get to occasionally send the Reavers or the Alliance their way, and it's possible to steal their crew in certain circumstances, but that's about it.

This side box "art" is actually helpful info for new players that aren't familiar with the show. Also, check out that sweet chair in the background.
 The game comes with a pretty big (size-wise) 18-page rulebook, chock full of pictures from the show.

The rulebook.
 The board is a little under 3x2 feet. It's divided into Alliance space and Border space. One big thing I like about the game is the board stays relatively empty - just the player's ships, the Alliance Cruiser, and the Reaver Cutter. Everything else stays off of the board, keeping it clear and clutter-free. (There's A TON of stuff off the board, so it does take up a lot of table space!)
The clutter-free board.
 All of the ships in the base game are the same. One person gets the Serenity, and the three other players get other Firefly-class vessels. They each come with the same stats - a basic engine (Radion Accelerator MK-1 for you Browncoats), eight cargo slots, four stash slots, and six crew slots.

Note that there is a promo ship available from GTM, which has slightly altered stats.

Serenity gets to be orange.
 The game has six different missions, with one of them being designed for solo play. You randomly pick one before the game starts. Below are two of them. The first player to complete the three goals in order wins.

Solo mission on the right
You get two actions a turn - fly, deal, work, or buy.

You have two types of flying - you can "mosey along", moving just one space, or "burn", moving up to five spots. If you burn, you have to flip navigation cards each square you move and see what happens. The vast majority of them are just empty space, but you could run in to trouble (Reavers, Alliance, or mechanical failures) or riches (salvage ops come to mind!)

Some examples of nav cards from border space

Some nav cards from Alliance space
 Once the nav decks have been fully cycled through, the Alliance Cruiser and Reaver Cutter get shuffled in, and the decks get reshuffled every time they are drawn, so there is always the danger of them popping up. The Alliance Cruiser is at best a minor annoyance, stopping you for inspection regardless, and possibly a major headache if you've become an outlaw. The Reaver Cutter can potentially kill off a lot of crew unless you have a top notch crew of Pilots and Mechanics, in which case you can spend fuel to get away.

A big part of the game is hiring your crew, getting them gear, and upgrading your ship. These are done in five market hubs, which each have their own deck of upgrades available for purchase. For example, Silverhold is full of guns whereas Persephone has a bit more....class. You always get to look at up to three cards and purchase up to two. You can either draw fresh unseen cards from the deck, or rummage through the discard pile for other people's trash, or both.
The market hubs

You can purchase

  • Crew - Fill up your quarters with crew to help you get jobs done. But be careful - the more crew you hire, the more cuts you have to set aside for their pay!
  • Gear - Most crew can use one piece of gear, and a few can use more. Gear can be permanent things such as an Alliance ID Card, or one-use items such as grenades.
  • Ship Upgrades - Your Firefly has three upgrade slots. They can be things like improved engines or expanded crew quarters.

Some gear

Once you have a crew, it's time to get some work. There's five different folks you can work for - quest givers of sorts. Some of them offer mostly "legal" work (move stuff from point A to point B), while some offer...less legit...employment (stealing slaves from a competitor, stealing drugs from the sick, causing mayhem, etc)

These folks will offer you jobs
Once you complete a job, you get a payout. From the payout, you have to subtract crew costs - an awesome crew will make jobs a lot easier, but also a lot less profitable. Failing to pay the crew results in them being disgruntled and possibly leaving.
Some sample jobs
Illegal jobs usually require you to "misbehave". Misbehaving is where the major of the stat checks in the game come up. You'll have to flip 1-4 Misbehave cards, and complete the goals on them. Many of them will REQUIRE advanced crew and/or gear to complete.

On this misbehave card, you can either 1) Make an average difficulty mechanics check, 2) A pretty difficult fighting check, or 3) Skip it with a Hacking Rig
  It's all done for the money. The money pieces are actually really nice quality - not crappy like monopoly money. Good thick paper, lots of detail printed on. A small, but nice quality addition.
Mo money, mo problems.
 So, all said and done, what's the bottom line? I think it was best compared as a "Lords of Waterdeep in Space". It's a pretty average board game, and if you're not a Firefly fan, I could see it not being appealing. However, the attention they gave to quotes from the show and little details like that push this game over the top for the Browncoats out there. There's just so much flavor and theme. I'm not really even a BIG Firefly fan - I caught on to a lot of references and cool aspects, and I'm sure there's tons more than I missed.

All the major characters from the show are in the game, and tons of minor characters as well. Also, the major characters are just plain better than the others, which makes sense. I like how they characterized the characters too. For example, River can be AWESOME or USELESS - she's totally random.
The figures and sweet Firefly dice 

Things I wish were improved. Why the bloody heck can we not get box inserts that fit sleeved cards. It clearly has the space to be able to be done. Also, there's six victory path cards, with one being a solo mission. I would have liked to see eight, giving a wee bit more replayability. I'm sure more will come with expansions...but still.

These were the tables BF was giving demos on at Gencon. Me want!
All in all, I give this game an 8/10 salvage ops.

TL;DR/Cliff Notes Section
  • Plays in 3-4 hours first game, 2ish hours after that
  • Average replayability
  • Not a ton of player interaction
  • Very, very strong theme with the franchise
  • Great quality pieces

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