Firefly: The Board Game Review
Ever since Gale Force Nine's excellent freshman board game, Spartacus, I was excited to see what they had in store for their next game. When I found out it would be based on the Firefly franchise, my excitement doubled.
I've been able to sit down and play a few games of it so far. Ever since picking up a copy at Gencon, my local gaming group had been hoping for a chance to play.
When you first open the box, it exudes quality. For the average fifty dollar price tag, you really get the feeling that you got what you paid for. Once you put all the cards, ships, and tokens out on the table, you'll wish you brought a bigger table. Only a few of my favorite games rival this kind of table space for a four player.
There are thirteen separate card decks in the game each requiring their own discard pile. Once each ship gathers a few crew and upgrades, the game will take up nearly as much space as a Twilight Imperium setup. The rules tell you to set up your ship in any space on the map you wish. While the box and rulebook are loaded with helpful hints, it doesn't let you know that you should start near a supply depot where you can buy a few upgrades and hire a few crew to help you along. Even some of the simplest jobs will need a couple crew to make success possible.
The tagline, "find a crew, find a job, keep flying," defines the game pretty well. If gives you a feel for the universe that you are playing in.
Find a Crew
First thing you should do in a game is spend your hard-earned cash hiring crew and equipment to go with them. Hint: If the crew or item has a keyword in bright green, it will be useful later. Sniper rifle, Companion, Mechanic, and Pilot are all good keywords to be looking out for. These will help you when having to encounter the difficult "Aim to Misbehave" Cards.
Get a Job
You have several contacts from the series that are willing to give you jobs. Badger's jobs usually make trouble with the others, but the pay is decent. Niska has the highest paying jobs, but they are the most dangerous, by far. You can even pick up jobs from the gorram Alliance. His jobs don't pay much, but they are legal and getting in good with the Alliance will keep you from running into unexpected "Customs Inspections."
On most of the illegal jobs in the game, you have to "misbehave to get paid." This means you must engage in some thrillin' heroics or just be bad guys. Either way, it can be tough.
Many of the challenges provide you with an auto-pass based on the keywords you have in your crew such as the companion trait. Otherwise, you will need to use your skills to pass the check.
There are three major skills in the game and they all add to your die rolls when trying to make a check. For example, you need a 6+ on the card shown below for negotiation. That's only a one in six chance on the die, but you have two negotiation skill on your crew. Adding the two skill, you only need a 4+ on the die to pass the check. Most of the cards are passable, but they vary drastically on the skills required.
Only a truly balanced crew can overcome all of these obstacles and some obstacles aren't even beatable. If the Reavers or Alliance operatives show up, your best bet is to have some transport to get the heck out of dodge. You won't be finishing the job that day, but you might live through it.
The 'verse can be a calm or scary place. Just like the show, you can fly through distant space keeping away from the Alliance or possibly run into the dangerous Reavers. If you have wanted crew or you're flying with some illegal cargo, going through Alliance space would be a daring prospect. Having a cry baby on board really helps avoid those entanglements.
You can take the slow route of moving only one board space each turn or you can do a "full burn." The full burn will get you there much faster, but you will have to flip nav cards along the way. These cards can bring the Alliance or Reavers to you or they might provide a chance to pull a bit of salvage. Any time you can afford to stop and pick up some contraband or cargo, I would do it. Once you've done a job for a contact, they will buy those goods right off you, no questions asked.
All in all, this game fits the theme. They define it as a "sandbox" game. You can do whatever jobs you like, you can hire the crew you like, or you can float around in space without any fuel if you want. It's up to you.
The objective of the game is randomly determined by a goal card. They tell you how long they expect the game to be and what goals you have to meet. Usually, it's in the form of a really big job, such as forging a really fancy crown and making a swap.
I've played the game several times and run into one problem. The game takes longer than the goal cards would suggest. I can attribute some of this to new players taking a little extra time to get used to the game, but it still seems to run long. Most of the scenarios are supposed to play in 2 hours. I have yet to see a game last less than 3 and most times we are packing up because the store is closing.
I don't necessarily see that as a negative, since the game is enjoyable. It will, however, land in the "do we have enough time to play this?" zone where Battlestar Galactica and Twilight Imperium reside.
The game is a solid Sophomore effort from Gale Force 9 and I will continue to keep an eye out for their next board game, SPOILER ALERT, Sons of Anarchy.
The product displayed in this post belongs to Gale Force 9, as it is their game. The header is a GF9 ad.