Firefly Board Game: The Best Way to Play Your Contacts
I've played several games of the new Firefly Board game and I've noticed varying responses to it. Since it's a "sandbox" game, it allows players to do whatever they want in whichever order they want. The problem with that is that the game lets players do whatever they want... including trying to take on a bank heist on the most secure planet in the 'verse at the start of the game.
Players should have more restraint than that, and I'm here to help. I'm assuming you have played a game or two and am skipping past a few of the basic rules explanations. I originally envisioned this as one strategy article, but the information just kept flowing. I'll be dividing this one up into three parts now. So much to tell young captains.
When you start the game, you are dealt a variety of jobs. You may choose to keep three of them. Each comes from one of the five contacts on the board. They vary in difficulty and pay. As you would expect, the higher the risk, the higher the reward. There are a few ways to improve your returns, though.
I will focus on the five different contacts, how they can help or hurt you and how to fly through space. The contacts pay a little more as you go up the ladder, but the difficulty escalates quickly. Harken is the lowest risk and pay, while Niska is the highest pay and the most likely to cost you a few good crew.
Harken is the easiest contact to work for. His jobs are simple, they require no misbehaving cards, they rarely leave alliance space and you get a pretty nice benefit for gaining reputation from him. The downside is that his jobs pay very little, but you can work make money from him just the same.
You have to pay each of your crew each time you complete a job or risk them getting upset and leaving abruptly. This is where Harken comes in. His jobs are easy; so easy you won't even need any crew beyond your captain. This is a viable strategy as I used Burgess (he can load a free cargo when you complete a shipping job) to further push Harken's jobs, since most of them are shipping as well.
Most Harken jobs pay from $500 to $900. If you have Burgess, you are also gaining a storage full of goods that you can sell to other contacts. This is magnified by the fact that if you have no crew, you don't have to pay them a cut, either. Pure profit. This amount could be a similar payoff to completing a $4000 Niska job but having to travel all the way across the map and then pay $1500 in crew costs, not to mention the $500 or more in parts and fuel.
HIs missions are usually short missions. As long as you don't get slowed down by a nav card, you can feasibly make the trip between the two locations in one turn. That brings me to the next advantage of gaining rep with Harken, the "Your papers are in order" benefit.
There are three cards in the Alliance space Nav deck that will stop you or force you to suffer the wrath of an Alliance warrant, which could slow you down on a later turn. Harken's benefit lets you ignore two of those cards, drastically increasing the odds that you can fly through Alliance space unhindered. Regardless of any strategy that you choose to take, I always suggest completing one mission for him before moving into border space just to speed up your Alliance space movement during other missions.
Lastly, all of his missions are legal. You have no issue running afoul of the law by working for the law. Aside from the low pay he has two other downsides. If you are ever given a warrant for any reason, you lose ALL of the reputation you have gained with him and you have to hunt down the alliance ship to pick up missions from him.
Amnon Duul ($1000-$2500)
Amnon has slightly harder missions than Harken, but he usually pays more as well and he introduces the first "carry as much as you can" missions. Most of Amnon's missions still require you to fly into Alliance space or all the way across it. Most of them are legal and Burgess would still benefit significantly from all of the shipping missions. Duul has several missions with "Aim to Misbehave" cards required, but two is the highest you will need and you can easily skip right past those jobs if you still want to keep a minimal crew.
Monty is probably the best captain for Amnon missions. He gains an extra $500 from Smuggling missions AND he has most of the skills needed for Amnon's Smuggling missions along with a few keywords that will pay out extra as well. He has several illegal jobs, but if you have a moral crew, he is the man to get missions from. He has no immoral jobs--none, zero, nada, zip, etc.
His reputation benefit doesn't seem to shine as much as the others. He allows you to load passengers and fugitives for free with no limit. The only place I can see this coming in is the few missions that require you to trek across the entire map and drop off a shipload of colonists.
If the reavers hit you somewhere along that trip, you'll be missing a whole bunch of settlers. Amnon can hook you up with more. Their last names won't match the manifest, but the 'verse doesn't seem to be too picky about who you brought on the trip as much as how many you brought. He also pays $600 for cargo sitting in your hold. This is the best rate for cargo in the game.
Patience has a solid mix in her jobs. Some crime, smuggling, and shipping are all available, meaning Monty, Burgess and Malcom are all good captains for her missions. She has a healthy mix of legal and illegal; moral and immoral. Most of her jobs require two or less "misbehave" cards, making them ideal for ships with a conservative crew. There isn't much else to say about Patience, except that she sits at the middle of the pack when it comes to risk versus reward.
Badger's jobs barely up the pay scale from the jobs Patience provides, but he does offer a bit more crime and nearly everything he asks you to do will be illegal. Malcom should enjoy Badger jobs because of all the crime keywords. He is also the best for carrying a skyhook or a 4WD Mule that each grant you and extra contraband or cargo when you complete a crime job.
His missions start a consistent need for skills and keywords among missions. Transport, Fancy Duds, Explosives and more will all become keywords you will need to start and finish his jobs. Most of the jobs up to this point only required one or two of the major skills. Badger can require three or four and potentially give you a good payoff with "Wheel & Deal" options that give you better pay the better negotiation skills you have.
In order to succeed with Badger, you will need to increase the size of your crew a little bit. The misbehave cards required are a little bit higher and you wouldn't want to lose your hand-picked crew to one of those cards. Hire a gun hand or hill folk instead! Speaking of those dangerous misbehave cards.....
Niska pays the most. Niska is also the most dangerous person to work for. Just by working a job for him, you run the risk of losing a crew member should the mission go sideways and you gain a warrant. Considering that gaining a warrant while doing a job means you lose that job, Niska just makes it that much more painful.
Nearly every one of Niska's jobs is crime, making Malcom a perfect candidate for leader on his jobs. Womack, Nandi, and Marco would all be great choices for his missions as well. Womack gains an extra $500 on immoral jobs, Marco buys explosives and firearms at half price, and Nandi recruits crew for free! All of those abilities will pay off with the much higher skill and misbehave requirements from Niska.
Nandi can have a large crew that wouldn't be affected too badly by losing a member or two. Womack should always have a shot at grabbing an immoral job from Niska. Marco can pile up the munitions needed to complete most of Niska's jobs. Niska also requires you to fly across Alliance space frequently with fugitives or contraband. You'll need to bring a cry baby or two along to make sure you don't get all your goods seized on what could have been a profitable trip.
Once you gain reputation with Niska, he pays $800 for contraband, the most of any of the contacts. This could be used to gain some quick profit and put yourself ahead of the other players. Most of the requirements to finish the game usually include a large amount of cash.
In summary, as the jobs get harder, they pay more. Don't expect to do a job for Niska right off the bat. Bring along the red shirts. You need expendable crew on nearly any mission that requires a misbehave card. Think about the multipliers. A captain like Burgess can drastically increase the value of Harken's less than impressive payouts. Having a companion, soldier or medic can usually net you a few extra bucks on most missions.
Always complete a mission for Harken. Being able to ignore the "Customs Inspection" card will save you a lot of trouble in Alliance space. Plus, his missions are incredibly easy. Build up to the more difficult jobs. Don't dive in, it won't pay off. You'll be out of money, crew and fuel if you're not careful.
Speaking of being out of fuel, my next strategy article will focus on the navigation deck and how to avoid getting slowed down.