Firefly the Game: Surviving the Black

How to survive in the black. Don't break down. Don't run out of gas.

In my first strategy article, I showed you which contacts were good for the money and how to make the lousy ones worthwhile. Now I'll be telling you how to survive in the black. It's a solid mix of the right equipment and the right crew. In most board games, the movement is simple. You move to whatever space you can reach with your speed, then you're done. In Firefly you can do a "full burn" that lets you move quickly, but with a little risk (or reward). These Nav decks can bring along several opportunities or they can break you if you're not prepared for it.

Alliance Space

The Alliance Space Nav deck has 39 cards. 29 of them are "Keep Flying." Whenever you flip one of those, nothing happens. You get to keep moving. Four more cards allow the player to your right to move the Alliance Cruiser one space. This won't be a big deal unless you have contraband, fugitives, or wanted crew aboard your ship. If the Alliance cruiser is moved into your space, you have to pay for your warrants, all your "properly acquired" contraband is seized and your wanted crew have a chance of being captured by the Alliance.

 You can keep this from happening with one simple upgrade: the Cry Baby.

If you want to fly in peace in Alliance space, you will have to do it in two ways; You can have a perfectly legal ship and crew or you can drop the Cry Baby whenever you run into trouble. If you don't carry a Cry Baby, you'll be pretty upset how often Harken shows up with his big cruiser asking for your papers. Speaking of Harken, if you gain rep with him, you can ignore two more of the cards that would make you have to end your turn in Alliance space. Only a few more cards can stop you at this point.

There is the inevitable breakdown. The driving force between many of Firefly's plots, you will encounter these more often than you might like. There are only three breakdowns in the Alliance deck. The easiest way to solve them is to have spare parts aboard the ship. At $300 a piece, this can get costly, but it's a guarantee. There are two upgrades and one engine that make your ship immune to breakdowns. The cheapest is at $800 and can reach up to $2400 for the engine. Considering how often you will cross breakdowns, even the engine upgrade will pay off in the long game. If you're a player who likes to carry around a large crew, another option can involve having as much of the tech skill as possible aboard your ship. A die roll of 8 is the highest you will need to pass any of these breakdowns. Each point of tech skill reduces the number needed for the check. 

The last few cards in the deck pose opportunities, if you're willing to end your turn. You can find a supply convoy that will let you buy fuel, parts, and cargo. A "Family" dinner will let you spend one cargo to remove all the disgruntled tokens you may have on your crew. If you respond to a distress signal, you can make $200 and remove disgruntled tokens. The last opportunity is to stop and pick up 2 Contraband. It would be a good chance to load up, but considering that you'll be flying in Alliance space at the time, it could be a risky proposition if the Cruiser might be lurking around the corner waiting to take it back.

All in all, flying in Alliance space is pretty easy if you keep your head down. As soon as you start trying to carry the illegal stuff through Alliance space, you increase the chances you'll get stopped. Stopping without anything good makes you feel like you wasted a turn. Like I said before, having a Cry Baby on hand is the easiest way to get the fuzz off your tail.

Border Space

If you know anything from the show or movie, you'll know that flying outside of the reach of the Alliance can keep your valuable stolen goods safe, but at great risk to you and your crew. The zombie-like Reavers are flying around hoping to find some lunch.

The Border space nav deck is far more dangerous. The first indication is that there are only 18 "Keep Flying" cards. This is almost a 30 percent drop from the safe cards in the Alliance deck. The next big thing is that the Reaver cutter moves around more. A lot more. The Reavers move twice as much as the Alliance Cruiser with eight cards in the nav deck. Unlike the Cruiser, the Cutter doesn't take effect until you start your turn in the same space. Then it kills any passengers and fugitives and will likely kill some of your crew. It also keeps you from moving into its space. If you have a clever opponent, he might be able to keep you from making it to your destination or forcing you into Alliance space through the right placement of the Reavers.

There is only one guaranteed way to escape the Reavers without a casualty. You have to have a pilot and a mechanic. If you do, you can spend a fuel and move to a space nearby. If you don't, you'll have to fight them. Even if you're loaded up with Jayne and all the munitions he can carry, you'll still lose a crew on the best possible result. Reavers are not to be trifled with. Hill Folk or Gun Hands make the best sacrifice for this, if you have to. I've had a Reaver Cutter hit me on three turns in a row, because I ran out of fuel. Losing a valuable crew member hurts. Plus, when captured or killed, they never come back.

The Border Nav deck has only three breakdowns. None of them are more difficult than 8, just like the Alliance deck and, as always, a few parts can save you. There are a great many more Salvage ops in the Border deck. Most of them require a decent (6-8) tech skill. The rewards can vary from a few parts to a ship upgrade out of any discard pile. A few Salvage ops in this deck require a gun skill check instead. Ranging from 7-9, they run the risk of losing crew, but paying a decent penny in cash. The "Family Dinner" is present in the Border deck as well. The rest of the results are a trader you can buy fuel, parts, or contraband from, an easily passable card if you have a pilot or 1 fuel, and a card that lets you place the Reavers where ever you would like.

The Border Space deck can be more dangerous if you are unprepared. A pilot, mechanic, some parts and fuel will make it a pretty easy trip.

 Quick tips for travelling the 'verse:

  • Get a cry baby when flying illegal goods and fugitives through space or take a cry baby just so you can pick up contraband without worry.
  • Always keep some fuel and parts on hand. 5 fuel and 3 parts is a good number.
  • Harken rep will speed up your Alliance movement; A pilot and Mechanic will speed up your Border space movement.
  • Don't get mad at the game for slowing you down. Be prepared or take the opportunities that show up to add some cargo or contraband to sell later.
  • The Alliance cruiser may cost you contraband, fugitives, and characters with the wanted symbol.
  • The Reavers may cost you fugitives, passengers and crew.
  • Gale Force 9 just opened a shiny new page for this lovely game.

 Our favorite merc, Jayne, is wanted. You can tell from the little symbol next to his $300 pricetag. Also, from the mean scowl and the very illegal gun pointed in your face. 

 I've still got more strategy on the way. Meanwhile, check out my contacts strategy if you haven't yet here.


While I do play some of the greats like Civilization and X-com, consider me your Tabletop guru here at gameskinny. Want to know about a tabletop game? Just ask!

Published Nov. 3rd 2013

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