Firefly: the Game

Firefly: The Game

From: Gale Force 9

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Over the decades, there have been a plethora of shows which failed to last more than one season. While most are quickly forgotten, a few have managed to maintain a cult following. Of these shows, none have quite inspired the fanatical devotion that Firefly has garnered. Eleven years following its untimely cancellation, an official board game has been released.

From the back of the box:
“After the War, many of the Independents who had fought and lost drifted to the edges of the system, far from Alliance control. Out here, people struggled to get by with the most basic technologies; a ship would bring you work, a gun would help you keep it. A captain’s goal was simple; find a crew, find a job, keep flying.”

My own feeling in regards to¬†Firefly could be considered somewhat mixed. The space Western motif was a huge draw, since I’m a sucker for Westerns with a weird twist (as my fandom of Deadlands will attest). Not only that, but the theme of struggling to get by and keep your ship running injected a free trader element which had been mostly restricted to literary science fiction up to that point. On the negative side, the whole Academy subplot with its conspiracy undertones struck me as being old hat, and I felt it clashed badly with the space Western side. So I guess it was inevitable that I would find the 2005 movie to be a disappointment, as it jettisoned most everything I had enjoyed about the show while emphasizing what I disliked. Having said that, the above quote gave a positive initial impression of the game by indicating that it would concentrate on the aspects which attracted me to the show in the first place.

Much like the characters from the TV show, a player’s goal is to take jobs and earn money to keep his ship running. On a player’s turn, up to two actions may be taken, so long as the same action type isn’t repeated. The four possible action types are Fly, Buy, Deal, and Work. Frequently skill checks will be required during these actions. This involves rolling a die and adding bonuses provided by the relevant Supply cards. Should the die come up a six, a second die is rolled, with the result being added to the total as well.

Of course, a ship isn’t a proper ship without a captain. There are seven different leaders from which to select. As well as providing some skill bonuses, each leader has a special ability which will either reduce the cost of purchasing certain Supply cards or provide an additional benefit from completing certain types of jobs.

Flying moves your ship around the game board and comes in two varieties. When you Mosey, your ship moves one space. While there’s no risk or expenditure of resources involved, it’ll also take forever to cover any significant distance. To make some real progress requires Full Burn. By expending one unit of Fuel, the ship may move a number of spaces up to the Range of the currently equipped drive. However, each space moved during Full Burn requires a draw from the appropriate Nav deck. This potentially provides a variety of encounters for good or for ill. Good ones usually provide an opportunity to scavenge derelicts or otherwise gain resources. Not so good ones can inflict breakdowns or even draw unwanted attention from either the Alliance or the Reavers.

Buying Supply cards is necessary to be able to complete all but the most low paying jobs. At a Supply planet, a player may take up to three cards from the appropriate deck, drawing from the top and/or selecting from the discards. Of these, up to two may be purchased. Gear and Crew cards provide skill bonuses and will often possess an additional ability (though some of the cheaper Crew cards may have a disadvantage). Among the most expensive are the Ship Upgrades, which provide a variety of ways to pimp out your vessel and improve its performance.

Dealing with Contacts at one of the Contact planets allows a player to obtain jobs to earn cash. Drawing Contact cards works the same as drawing Supply cards (draw three, keep up to two). Successfully completing a job results in becoming Solid with that Contact. In most cases this allows a player to sell scavenged cargo and contraband to the Contact at specified prices. Most Contacts will also provide some additional benefit when you have a Solid status with them.

Jobs are key to getting ahead and come in two varieties. Deliveries require that you pick up something at Point A and take it to Point B, which can be legal or illegal. Crime jobs require you to perform a task at the specified location and are always illegal. All but the lowest paying jobs require that you possess a minimum amount of certain skill bonuses and/or specific forms of Gear to complete. If these conditions cannot be met, the job cannot be taken. When a job is successfully completed, the listed amount of cash is received. At this point, each of your crew will expect to be paid an amount equal to their hiring cost. While you don’t have to pay all of them should you have some reason not to, this is a poor long-term strategy.

Though illegal jobs generally pay better, they also involve drawing and resolving one or more cards from the Misbehave deck. These introduce a variety of complications that crop up during the job. Each card provides 2-3 options that will require either a skill check or the possession of a Supply card. Depending on the results of the choice, there are one of three possible outcomes. Proceed allows you to draw the next Misbehave card or continue/complete the job if it’s the last card you need to resolve. Botch results in the job ending, though you can make another attempt on your next turn. If a Warrant is issued, the job ends in total failure. The Contact card goes to the discard pile and you lose any Solid status you may have with the Contact from whom you obtained the job. While the individual Misbehave cards may look easy to resolve, it can be a tricky matter to successfully do two or more in a row. Therefore jobs requiring multiple draws from the Misbehave deck should only be attempted if you have a large, well-rounded crew backing you up.

From the rulebook:
“Sometimes there aren’t any thrilling heroics to be found and you may need to muck out some stables or bus tables at the local joint.”

Keeping your crew happy is important if you don’t want them abandoning you at an inopportune moment. Certain actions taken can result in Crew becoming Disgruntled. The most common way to Disgruntle a Crew is to not pay them at the end of a job. Should a Crew who is already Disgruntled become Disgruntled again, the card goes to the appropriate discard pile. Though there are many ways to regruntle Crew, the most certain method is to go on shore leave at a Supply planet at the cost of $100 per Crew card you possess (regardless of how many actually are Disgruntled).

If this was all that the game had, it could easily get monotonous. This is where Story cards come in. At the beginning of the game, a Story is selected. This provides an overarching caper to accomplish as you try to keep your ship running. A Story will have one or more Goals to complete. Of all the stories which come with the game, I find the ones with multiple Goals preferable. The single Goal cards essentially boil down to, “Be the first to make X amount of cash.” Multiple Goal Stories give you something to accomplish besides raking in money. The rulebook recommends King of All Londinium as a good introductory story. I personally disagree, as I found the first Goal frustratingly difficult. Harken’s Folly struck me as more suitable for first-timers. There’s also a single player option where your goal is to meet one of three possible criteria within twenty turns.

Opportunities for in-game player interaction are somewhat minimal. If two ships are in the same space, they can trade Supply cards as desired. This is also an opportunity to hire away any Disgruntled crew the other player may have. Otherwise, players just go about their business without interfering with one another. This tendency towards multi-player solitaire can be a turn-off for some gamers.

In conclusion, the Story cards are a major saving grace, as the overall solid game mechanics could otherwise devolve into a cycle of tedium without some overarching purpose. While the lack of player interaction can be seen as a minus, the upcoming Pirates & Bounty Hunters expansion promises to provide options in that regard.

Rating: 14

Product Summary

Firefly: The Game

From: Gale Force 9

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Sean Sweigart and Aaron Dill

Design Direction by: John Kovaleski

Cover Art by: Type Name(s)

Graphic Design by: Gale Force Nine Studio

Game Components Included: Game board, Rulebook, 125 Supply cards, 125 Contact cards, 80 Nav cards, 40 Misbehave cards, 7 Leader cards, 4 Starting Drive Core cards, 4 Ship cards, 150 Money bills, 6 Story cards, 1 Alliance/Reaver Contact card, 40 Cargo/Contraband tokens, 28 Passenger/Fugitive tokens, 20 Part tokens, 44 Fuel tokens, 20 Disgruntled tokens, 13 Warrant/Goal tokens, 1 Dinosaur token, 2 dice, 4 Firefly models, 1 Alliance Cruiser model, 1 Reaver Cutter model

Retail Price: $50.00

Number of Players: 1-4

Player Ages: 13+

Play Time: 1 hour Solitaire, 2 hours Multiplayer

Website: http://www.fireflythegame.com/

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck