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Can you combine attack and influence to defeat Badger's minions (and Badger himself?), or must you use all of one or the other?
I've been playing it that you can't combine and am completely stuck on this one. Seems to me you have to get lucky and reveal Harrow and Atherton nearly immediately. You can't defeat Atherton until he wounds a character. I believe if Mal is a main character he immediately enters the combat zone, which is nice. But to impress Harrow you're still going to go through a couple rounds. I've tried all manner of combinations for this one, and it's just brutal.
As far as I can tell, it's one or the other. The card mentions this alternate method is "instead of spending attack."
I agree, this is especially brutal. The most unfair part about it is you aren't actually allowed to use those recruit-providing cards, but rather you have to discard them from hand. You can't use the abilities on the card to get more recruit (no bonuses from Kaylee's Unstoppably Cheerful) or to draw more cards (Inara's Client Selection can help you find a recruit card, but you can't actually use the recruit from Client Selection to fight Badger's Gang).
It's like game is punishing the players for not having at least one player who specializes in all-recruit or all-attack cards to deal with these guys.
Like you, I've only beaten this episode by scanning a lot and hoping to find the key objective cards quickly because the enemies are almost too tough to beat. Maybe that's the point of this episode? ^^
New South Wales
You also can't use Recruit points Coordinated your way.
And yes, I agree, it's all or nothing.
The first time we played we got this wrong and combined attack and influence. However I agree with your reading that this is not correct, and the second time we played we used one or the other. This is quite a difficult episode, especially if you get to it too early, we tried to make the previous episode last as long as possible to get some more expensive cards.
We played with Inara, which got us some really expensive cards early, we also had Simon, so we absorbed quite a lot of strikes waiting for Inara to kill the minions. Atherton was the final card in the deck, so we had to face the inevitable the maximum number of times before we could defeat him.
Impressing Harrow isn't too bad, especially once you know to save a couple of talents until you have scanned him. We found there were plenty of events in this episode to give talents.