Thursday, 23 April 2015

We play Firefly - the board game

Last weekend I ended up with a more empty agenda than I expected, and thought it would be an ideal moment to trot out Firefly, the board game. We had a lazy Saturday afternoon ahead of us, and I managed to summon Kelvin over to help test drive the game.

We weren't short of time for a change, so played the scenario King of All Londinium (Firefly comes with a range of different scenarios, based on Goals, which you need to complete in order to win - this makes sure the game is a bit different every time). King of All Londinium requires captains to first purchase a forged crown, then hack into a secure database to find the location of a freighter, and then steal the real crown from said freighter, replacing it with the forgery.

Firefly is a BIG game, deceptively so given the size of the box it comes in. Although the board is not in itself large, once you have all the components and card decks out on the table, yes, it is impressively sprawling. You will need to allow for some space for this one.

The game does a very good job of simulating some of the problems faced by the Firefly crew in the series. You fly around the Verse, carrying out legal and illegal jobs, shipping cargo, contraband, fugitives, and passengers from planet to planet. You recruit a crew as you go, upgrade your ship, and arm your crew with weapons and equipment to help them carry out jobs.

You need to avoid picking up warrants, as these can make life harder for you if you are intercepted by the cruiser in Alliance space. To make matters worse, there is also a Reaver cutter which hops around in the frontier areas, and if you don't have a good mechanic and pilot to help you pull a Crazy Ivan stunt, can make your life hard.

I'm not going to write a full and detailed review of the game, as this has been done better and in more depth elsewhere. Instead, I will just provide my own impressions of the game and let you make up your own mind if you want to buy it - presuming you don't own it already!

There is limited player interaction, other than the ability to poach crew (which is a rare occurrence and did not happen in our game) and make life harder for your opponents by sending the Alliance or the Reavers in their direction. I get the impression that this threat becomes less potent in the later stages of the game, as captains have better crews and equipment to aid them. However, having said that, players like my daughter who dislikes games in which you're out to get other players, particularly conflict games, loved Firefly. It was entertaining to see her being wracked by guilt when she accepted her first illegal job.
Not a pocket sized game by any means!

We played our game in five hours, but I suspect game length will change based on how many players you have and which scenario you choose. Also, we weren't that experienced, and I think in future would make sure we were better equipped to complete the goals quicker. I was lucky to have the River Tam character on my crew who helped me out of some tight spots, but also proved useless in some other crisis situations.

Luckily, it is possible for you to be finishing your turn and allow the next player to start theirs: for this purpose, the game comes with a dinosaur counter you can pass onto another player, for example if you are busy negotiating a deal on one side of the board, a player flying in Reaver space on the other side of the board is unlikely to really impact your turn. I'd encourage players to adopt this to speed things along.

I particularly liked the 'disgruntled' mechanic, which leaves moral crew members (like Shepherd Book) unhappy with captains who accept immoral missions. They eventually leave or join another crew if you don't cheer them up with some carousing at a space port. Sadly for Shepherd Book, he ended up with Sebastian's crew of heavily armed amoral mercenaries, and promptly departed the game in disgust!

The game reminds me a little in its feel of the old Games Workshop game, Rogue Trooper, which I still own. There is the same process of collecting resources, equipment, and companions and seeking to be the first to carry out the boss task at the end. In Rogue Trooper you are carrying out missions in Nu Earth, visiting people who have clues to the identity of a traitor general. Firefly has a little more depth, however, and is probably a better game for all that.

River Tam - unreliable at the best of times
We missed a few rules on the way through - for example, I think it is possible to refuel at the Alliance cruiser for $100 if you don't have any warrants out on your ship (and you're solid with the Alliance). I'm also not sure if we were managing the equipment decks properly, but will re-read that before we play again.

The game obviously has scope for expansion: the UK edition comes with the Artful Dodger expansion which allows you to play with five people (and provides a non-standard Firefly ship). I am eying the Blue Sun expansion with interest having played this game through. The board game does a great job of creating the feel of the series and the conversations going on around the table sounded like dialogue from the game, even from people like my kids who have not actually watched Firefly.

Just as the Battlestar Galactica board game does a good job of recreating the feel of the TV series, so I think Firefly does the same. It should be playable within four hours so long as you have an experienced player at the table. Don't believe the two hours printed on some of the scenario sheets: I highly doubt it, unless they are basing that on a game with a couple of players only. If you are a Firefly fan and enjoy board games, get this. It's great fun.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to playing again. There's a fascinating and fun engine underneath all the Firefly stuff and I want to explore it in more detail.