Monday, December 14, 2015

Game Review: Firefly the Board Game by Gale Force Nine

Firefly the Board Game published by Gale Force Nine

The Firefly television show was tragically canceled in the midst of its first season. It's enduring popularity is due to the overall quality of the show and the great blend of various ideas (it's a science fiction show with a storyline reminiscent of a western set after the American Civil War; American and Chinese cultures are heavily blended in this future). The show has lived on in comics, a movie, and several board games. The first Firefly boardgame (and maybe the best) is Firefly the Board Game.

The 'Verse

Players start the game with a Firefly-class ship, an engine, $3000, and a captain of their choosing (the captain deck includes Malcolm Reynolds among other minor characters from the show). A scenario is chosen (e.g. the beginning scenario has players earning enough money to pay for their ship and going to a certain planet with that money). Then they place their ships on the board and draw one mission from each of the various employers (Niska, Badger, Patience, Harken, Ammon Duul), keeping three of the mission cards. Then regular play starts as the captains recruit crew members, buy equipment and ship upgrades, work on missions, and get new missions from the employers. All the while they also need to dodge the Reavers and, if they are outlaws (they have warrants or contraband or fugitives), avoid the Alliance ship.

Captains (and the cool back of the card)

The crew members can be just about any named character from the show along with some generic Mechanics, Soldiers, Medics, Companions, etc. They cost a certain amount to recruit which is also the cut they get from the profits whenever a mission is completed. They have skills (represented by skills icons for Persuasion, Fighting, and Mechanical abilities), sometimes special abilities (like getting extra money or supplies from certain types of missions), and sometimes some flavor text, though often the special skill is related to their character.


Players can buy upgrades to their ships, which are different types of engines, more cargo space, or special equipment, like a Cry Baby that helps dodge the Alliance or a Medical Bay which gives killed crew member a chance not to die. They can also buy equipment, like weapons, tech, and even fancy duds (like Kaylee's pink dress or a shiny neck tie) to help with skills checks when completing missions.


Upgrades to your Firefly

The missions are two basic types: pick up and deliver between two planets (mostly shipping cargo or people) or performing some (usually illegal) activity at one planet. A player does the illegal activity by resolving a certain number (usually one to three) of Misbehave cards, which require the player's captain and crew to get by a skills check.  Players have to add up how many symbols of a certain type their crew and their equipment has and add that to a die role to see if they pass the check. If the number isn't high enough, dire consequences!

Various missions

Misbehave Cards (and the cool back of the card)

The game captures the feel of the show quite well. The components are high quality (even the fake cash!) and the art and photos are drawn from the show. The missions fit the character of the employers and completing them is satisfying. The big challenge with the game is the slow ramp-up. Starting with just a captain and a ship means players have to spend the first part of the game on collecting resources to complete missions or avoid hazards like the Reavers. It makes the game longer, usually over two hours. But once things get going, the game is exciting and enjoyable.

Set-up for a solo game

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE APPROPRIATENESS: The game has a lot of stuff in it, making it heavy to carry around. Also, it needs a lot of set-up space which may not be an option if you are wandering through a blasted post-apocalyptic wasteland. If you are hunkered down in a bunker or super-secure gated community, you probably will have the space and the time to enjoy this game. And there are solo missions, so you can play by yourself.

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