Thursday, October 29, 2015

Game Review: Firefly Shiny Dice by Upper Deck

Firefly Shiny Dice by Upper Deck

In Firefly Shiny Dice, each player gets three turns controlling the crew of the Serenity. The outlaws are represented by seven brown dice (since they are Browncoats, after all) and the passengers by thee white dice. Each die face represents a different character or a piece of cargo, so rolling them all generates a random assortment often with duplicates. When rolling, the player also has to roll five black dice that represent the Foes (Niska, Saffron, and Badger).

The dice

After dice are rolled, characters are placed on a game mat (which is printed on a mouse pad, so it is very durable and flexible) in the proper locations. Some dice (River and Wash) let the player re-roll other dice, which can be helpful if the initial roll is unlucky. Then the dice are locked in place and any bonuses are applied (if there are four different outlaws, the player can remove one Foe die from the board; if there are four of one enemy, each other player loses 100 points; if there are five of one Foe, the other players get the penalty and the player's turn immediately ends).

The playing mat (probably gonna use that Wash die to re-roll one of those Jayne dice)

The active player then draws a mission card, which requires certain dice to be on the board. If they are on the board, the mission is completed and a special bonus on the card takes effect. Missions also have a key word at the bottom that add an additional effect.

Mission cards

Finally, it's time for action. If the mission was a "Shiny" mission, the player deals one damage to a Foe of their choice (i.e. one die is removed). If the mission is completed, the player gets the card bonus and can discard another Foe die from the board. Then the Foes strike. If there are any Niska dice, one crew die is moved to the KO section of the board (he killed someone!). For each Saffron die, one crew member is moved to the Cargo Hold on the board (she locked them up!). For each Badger die, one supply die is moved out of the Storage area and placed next to each Badger die (he stole them!).

Now the player decides what to do with the remaining crew members. Each character can do separate, thematic actions. Zoe deals two damage to any Foes (i.e. she lets the player remove two Foe dice of their choice). Kaylee deals one damage to any foe and moves one die from the KO pile to the Cargo Hold. Simon moves one Kaylee die from the KO pile back into the Serenity. The player tries to knock out all the Foes and complete the mission card. For each Foe completely removed, the player gets 100 points in a temporary pool. If all the foes are knocked out, the player scores any supplies in the hold and has to decide to Lay Low or Keep Flyin'.

Game in action

If the player decides to Lay Low, he keeps all his temporary victory points, puts them behind a screen, and passes the dice to the next player. If the player decides to Keep Flyin', any dice in the KO area are passed to the next player and the active player re-rolls all the remaining dice (including the five Foe dice) and does another round of possibly re-rolling, drawing a mission card, taking the Foes' damage, and using the remaining crew to knock out the Foes.

Each player gets three turns. At the end, everyone counts their victory points (supplies are worth 50 points each). Whoever has the most points wins.

The game is very thematic. Each character does something that they would on the show and their symbols on the dice match them nicely (Wash has a dinosaur, Jayne has his hat). The dice are high quality and the other components are well made. The player screens have a summary of the turns and the effects of each die face, making them a great player aid in addition to hiding how much they have scored so far.

On the other hand, the game is very complicated, and too complicated for a press-your-luck style game. The mission cards are a little confusing, especially with the mission types. If the Bushwhacked mission is not completed, the player is forced to Lay Low. If the Gorram mission is completed, the player is forced to Keep Flyin' (if they even knock out all foes). If the Escape mission is completed, the player can end their turn and take their points before knocking out Foes but they don't have to. It's a bit hard to keep everything straight. The character powers work nicely but analysis paralysis can set in when calculating an optimal move. The Keep Flyin' option happens at best two times since the active player is always losing dice, because knocking out five bad guy dice gets much harder.

The other problem is that each person plays their turn solitaire, leaving the other players nothing to do. With two players it isn't so bad but a five player game is very long. I haven't had one where we played all three rounds just because of time constraints. Also, the game has no build up between rounds, making it feel like the same thing again and again. Maybe if there were a rule that let players buy dice back from the KO pile, it might make the game more interesting. But it would also make it longer, so I don't know. The box says the game plays in thirty minutes, but that must mean per player when the players are experienced enough to remember all the minutia of the rules. I think the game is better as a solitaire experience where one player tries to get the best score he can.

Zombie Apocalypse Appropriateness: The game components are fairly compact and very sturdy, so they would be easy to carry around and would last a long time. Also, I think the game is more fun as a solitaire experience, which fits well in a zombie apocalypse. And it brings back happy memories of the TV show and movie, so there's that. Once the power is out, it's a good way to relive the show.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, thanks. Going to try this game out next weekend.