Hooray! The Firefly board game has finally released!
So how is it? Well I’ve played a 5 player game with someone who had picked it up at GenCon (as well as the 5th player expansion) and now that I have my own copy, I’ve played two solo games.
In general: My primary rule of game playing is that I don’t like anything which takes as long (or longer) to set up than it does to actually play (hence my general dislike of Fantasy Flight). This game… closely skirts that line. If you do a proper job putting everything back in the box neatly you can set up future matches in under a minute. But that just pushes the equivalent time to the back end, meaning clean up can take up almost as much time as the game itself. (Really, shouldn’t it be an international game law that whoever wins the game, is the one that has to put it up?) For multiple players, it can take over two hours to play a full game, while solo can be done in an hour or less.
The gameplay is very well done and a delight overall. Although the rulebook looks intimidating, it’s size is because it’s fairly thorough. This is my favorite kind of game design where the rules are an intuitive, basic framework and everything else is spelled out on the game materials themselves. The ONLY issue with such is that it makes the game more punishing for newbies and gives a pretty big advantage for veterans. For instance, there’s “skills” on each crewmember you can recruit (guns, tech & diplomacy or something, just think of them as red, blue and green). You NEED to get your blue skills as high as possible as quick as possible since when you’re flying through the Black, every “problem” card you could hit can be handled with sufficient blue. Another newbie tip: if you’re out shopping for some gear, always pick up a Sniper Rifle over any other firearm if you have the money (it is slightly more expensive). The gain you’d get from paying less is not enough to make up for not having that keyword down the road. So yeah, while the rules will tell you everything you need to know about how to play, there are quite a few unlisted rules you’ll need experience to learn.
The flavor of this game is VERY good. For example, Christiana Hendricks’ character actually shows up 3 times as a crew card, named Yolanda, Bridget or Saffron. All have the exact same stats, but if you recruit one of them, the other players have to discard their copy. Both Badger & Niska have jobs which require you screwing with the other one’s business. I like that touch and it’s a nice shout out to things that might have been had the show run longer. The Alliance monopoly money is GORGEOUS and almost worth the price of the entire game alone. I’m also pleased that in cases like with the job cards, they put info on the front and common back so that there’s very little wasted space in this game.
Do I have any complaints?
- The player interaction is still kind of thin so far. Currently there’s only 3 major ways players will butt heads: 1) Indirectly screwing over others by getting the jobs/crew/gear/etc that those others wanted. 2) Moving the Alliance Cruiser/Reaver Cutter closer to opponents. 3) Players can also trade directly with each other if their ships are in the same sector. Of course, given as I said – that resources are limited and that the other person may have to put their own trips and goals on hold to meet you, the chances of convincing someone to trade are challenging. You can also swipe crew IF the crew is disgruntled AND your ships intersect, again a long shot on both accounts. I’m hoping that future expansions (yes, there is already one planned) will introduce options to allow players to raid one another, or perhaps swoop in and steal a job from someone.
- So the rule on death is that a character suffering from it gets removed from the game all together (the rules tell you to just toss them back into the box). The only problem with this is that if you run with a large group (4-5 people) the crew can get thin, so if everyone has some bad luck, you can all find the game in an unwinnable situation where nobody can do anything. The only exception to the crew issue is that each buy location has a generic “gun hand” which is only discarded, not killed, but it only has a single gun “skill” icon. I’m hoping they put in generic tech and diplomacy eventually so the game doesn’t get dragged down by a series of bad luck.
- Sometimes you get to feeling “confined”. There are only 5 locations on the board where upgrades, crew and gear can be bought. Two of those locations are also where you can deal with someone to get a job and two more “job spots” are next door a third purchase spot. Meaning that you and your friends can practically wear a run in the board from all places you’ll be running back and forth to. So sometimes I wish there were more things to do elsewhere around the board. I mean, sure there are jobs involving those, but you’ll typically pass over them for jobs heading to the same old same old to keep your route efficient. (hmm… how like a firefly captain) Maybe if they… had a generic crew/gear deck that you could purchase from if you ever stopped at another planet?
- I know the legal reasons why they didn’t, but I’m kind of disappointed there’s no Miranda on the board and that you can’t play an end game of “get the message from Miranda and get it to Mr Universe”.
Although… you know what? It is hard for me to be too angry at some frustrations as “frustration” could very well be called the main theme of the show. So you do get the sense that the ‘Verse is against you, but it’s not to the point of “hopeless” as I’ve seen in some other challenging games. I’d almost call this a “role playing-lite” game because you really do feel like you’re running a crew in this. So if you love Firefly/Serenity and you DON’T have a general aversion to long, drawn out games, I definitely recommend picking this up. (by clicking on the below and through Amazon, please? I get just a few nickels if you do so)
(details on the games I’ve played after the ad)
Now if I can just get a SPN-Verse tie in expansion… XD
So the first game I played, with 4 other people, I was having fun just participating (wasn’t even that worried about winning) right up until I hit a snag during a job. The consequences were simple: I had to hit a skill value or else all my crew died. With all the skill I had on hand, I only needed to roll a 2 or better on a 6-sided die.
I rolled a 1.
Thankfully I was close to a buy planet so I limped there, only to see that all the crew at that location had been picked clean. I hired what I could, then tried to finish the job I was on earlier. The 2nd crew died even faster. I’m glad one of the other players ended the game shortly there after as there was nothing else for me to ever do.
Now speaking of long odds…
The solo game gives you 20 turns to try for 1 of 3 possible goals, and you get to start out with up to $1000 worth of crew. I checked. The ENTIRE Serenity crew would cost you $1600. (also, that would be 8 of them when the game only allows your ship to have 6) So for the inagural game I choose Mal as the captain (note: captains are free in both $ and crew count), Kaylee (because I love her), Wash (because HE’S STILL ALIVE!), Two-Fry (he can help on later jobs) and Saffron (hey, I already separated one married couple, figured somebody on the ship should have their wife). This time I went for the “1 of each possible job” route of victory. My last job? I picked Niska’s “screw with Badger” task.
Now I have a bit of a rep with my friends. That is, if a game has a 1-in-a-million rules question or weirdness or whatever, I WILL end up triggering it; and not always deliberately.
See, there’s a rule that if you get a crew member on board the ship disgruntled twice, they abandon you immediately when over a planet. If your captain gets disgruntled twice, EVERYONE leaves you. So I was doing that last job, when I hit the last “misbehave” card. The consequences of it got my captain (and several crew, actually) a 2nd disgruntled token. So… did they all jump ship right then or is the job finished first? Because the answer determines whether I actually won the first game or not.
Oh and the 2nd time I tried a solo game? I tried for the “get $15k” goal and my last job on that one (on my last turn, and needed to hit the goal) was Badger’s task to screw with Niska.
Yeah, so far those two fighting have always led me to profiting in the ‘Verse. I think Mal would be proud.
(btw: 2nd game I went with the
Yellow-Eyed Demon Burgess as a captain)