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Firefly: Tall Card» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Tall Card: A Few Plays with some Fellow Firefly Fans rss

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Dave C
Canada
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On a recent trip to my FLGS, I happened to notice the box for Tall Card. I picked it up, glanced at the back, and after confirming that this game was what I thought it was, promptly walked to the cash and paid for it.

The past weekend, I gathered with some fellow browncoats for a [Anti-]Unification Day shindig. Lacking an Alliance-friendly bar in which to have a quiet drink, we gathered for a potluck at my place, enjoying some good dogs, boa, apple cider, mudders’ milk, and other fare. After watching two episodes of Firefly, a few of us broke out Tall Card and gave it a try.

Rules:
Tall Card is relatively straight-forward, and plays similar to poker. Everyone starts with the [arbitrary] sum of 100 “credits”, and pays 5 to the pot during the ante step. Each player is dealt a hand of 5 cards, possession of the Tall Card is determined, and a betting round begins. After betting, players have a option to discard cards in exchange for new ones, and then there’s another round of betting before players reveal their hands. Betting of course follows the familiar check/raise/fold options that you’re used to from poker.
The rules specific to the Tall Card here provide an interesting twist, since possessing the Tall Card confers both advantages and disadvantages. There were times when I desperately wanted to claim the Tall Card, but found someone else getting it before me, and other times when, like Simon Tam, I was forced to claim the tall card and felt it around my neck like a weight.
The rule-book itself is well-written, and pretty clear, and it also contains helpful examples throughout that I found quite useful. The final page of the rulebook contains a ranked listing of the various possible hands (with written examples), which, especially when supplemented with the full-colour players’ aid showing the ranked listing of the various hands, proved to be very helpful.
The only thing “lacking” here are some specific rules that would be more obvious to poker players/watchers. For instance, I don’t recall the rules covering what happens if a players runs out of “money” during a hand, which actually did come up during my game. The poker “fans” at the table knew to divide the pot, but we ended up not bothering since we were just playing for fun anyway and it was easier. Granted, I’m not necessarily convinced that bloating the rule book with rules such as these would be overly helpful, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if this is a short-coming.
Perhaps the biggest item lacking would be rules for the fan-made version of the game. Obviously, there may be legal reasons why these can’t be included in the box, but a little hint as to where these rules can be found would be shiny.

Components:
The game comes with effectively 3 full decks of cards: 1 deck of cards for the standard game, 1 deck of cards to enable you to play a fan-made version of the game, and 1 deck of round tall cards with enough cards for both the standard and fan-made games. The cards are pretty standard in terms of quality, but I’m definitely a fan of the art-work. The standard deck consists of 2x the numbers 1 through 9 in each of the three suits, and 4 dragons in each of three colours, for 66 cards total. The Tall Cards are a nice thick cardboard, which makes them stand out nicely from the deck of playing cards.
In addition to the rule-book, there’s also the separate hand-ranking aide that I mentioned above, which again was quite helpful. My only complaint here is that some of the hands shown could have been more helpful: For instance, the coloured picture for “4 Pretty Sisters” (i.e. 4 of a kind) shows all 4 cards having the same suit, which is not actually a requirement for that hand. As a result, there were a few times where it looked like a certain hand was more difficult to obtain than it actually was. A quick check of the hand-ranking in the final page of the rulebook cleared up this confusion, but it result in the players’ aide being slightly less helpful.
The game does not come with any form of chips/money, so you’ll have to supply your own. I prepared ahead of time and supplied little scraps of paper with various chores written on them (along with a monetary value), since that seemed much more authentic, but any form of poker chips/game money would do.

Theme:
There’s relatively few lines of dialogue and little screen time from which to base this game, but the designers here seem to have done a good job. While certainly helped by my paper-scraps-of-chores as chips, and then fact that everyone present was a Firefly fan, it definitely felt like we were playing the game depicted on the show. The artwork on the cards themselves was also helpful in this regard, matching the east-west-mix of the ‘Verse in general.

Gameplay:
As you can guess, the game plays much like poker. Interestingly, however, we actually found that the best players at our table of 7 people were actually those least familiar with poker. Because of the difference in deck make-up, those of us familiar with various poker hands found that our rough mental calculations (such as the chances of getting a flush) were always off, which ended up giving the advantage to the newer players. While this would obviously dissipate with repeated plays, it at least removes a barrier to entry if you’re simply picking up the game for fun.
One other thing that will likely dissipate with repeated plays is the amount of time we spent consulting the hand rankings (player aide and last page of the rule book). With 3 different suits and 3 colours of dragon, there are a lot of different possibilities and variations. Most games, we effectively had a break in gameplay before each betting round while we passed around the ranking and tried to figure out what we had.

The Verdict:
Overall, we had a fun time playing and quite enjoyed it, and I’ll definitely be pulling this out again when I need a filler game (such as after a round of Firely: The Game), or at my next shindig. We didn’t play with actual chores (or money) on the line, and so the game was pretty light and fun, though there’s no reason you couldn’t up the stakes by having a small buy-in if you wanted a slightly more “serious”, poker-like experience. For the Firefly fans out there, this is definitely a fun little game that will give a chance to recreate some moments from the show. And while I doubt we’ll be seeing a “Tall Card Edition” of the World Poker Tour any time soon, the Tall Card mechanic adds a nice twist that can’t be ignored, so if you can get past having a different deck and hand possibilities, there’s a solid hand-betting game underneath the Firefly exterior.

You want that in captain dummy-talk? If you’re a Firefly fan who’s even remotely enjoyed the odd card game, then you won’t regret picking up a copy of this.
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Bob
United States
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Thanks for the review Dave! thumbsup
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Charles-David
Canada
Mascouche
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Thanks man. Great review.

I've had the game for a while now (got it as a Christmas present last year),
but for someone not too familiar with poker I found the rules a bit hard to understand.

I've looked everywhere for a tutorial or a game session, but also... could not find one.

Right now it sits on a shelf looking really cool with all my other Firefly stuff.

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Matt Percy
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Toronto
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Do you usually write big reviews for the games we play? Why is this the first one I have seen?
 
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Dave C
Canada
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Madmatt7 wrote:
Do you usually write big reviews for the games we play? Why is this the first one I have seen?

No Matt, I don't normally write [big] reviews, since most of the games we play are usually already well-reviewed. But I decided to post a review for this game since there weren't any, and it ended up being a little longer.

metabulis wrote:
I've had the game for a while now (got it as a Christmas present last year), but for someone not too familiar with poker I found the rules a bit hard to understand.

I've looked everywhere for a tutorial or a game session, but also... could not find one.

I hadn't thought about this... I wonder if a helpful starting point wouldn't be to find a [short] poker tutorial and go from there, since a lot of the base concepts are the same.
 
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Toy Vault Inc.
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Nice review, I'm glad you enjoyed the game. The player aid, as you pointed out has a mistake, the Heavy Boat(Full House) is wrong. In the next printing it will be corrected.

Thanks,
Ed
 
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