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Subject: Firefly: The Game - A high level review rss

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Joel Tamburo
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Well, after playing Firefly: The Game for the twentieth time I think it is time to pen a review. I propose to take this review in a slightly different direction and instead of describing the game in depth talk a bit more about what kind of game it is. My hope is such a discussion can help players make informed choices based what types of games they enjoy.

What exactly is Firefly: The Game?

This may seem like an odd way to begin a review, but in the case of this particular game there has been some confusion. Some have identified Firefly: The Game as a “pick up and deliver” game and others as a “race” game (granted those two genres can overlap in pick up and deliver games where the winner is the first to achieve the target).

I would actually classify Firefly: The Game as a “questing” game with a “race” element in it. A questing game typically consists of the player performing quests or missions first to gain capabilities and then to fulfill whatever the overarching victory conditions may be. Typically they gain the capabilities in the form of “experience” or “equipment” or even adding more characters to their group – this is called “leveling up” in gamerspeak.

Firefly: The Game has all of these elements:

Quests/Missions: In Firefly: The Game these are Jobs that the player works on behalf of Contacts. These Jobs pay the player in Credits (game money).

Leveling Up: Players use their Credits to purchase Gear and hire Crew from Supply Planets. The effect of both is to increase the player capabilities, enabling them to tackle more difficult Jobs and Goals (more on Goals in a second).

Overarching Victory Conditions: Each time you play Firefly: The Game you select a Story Card which has a set of Goals on it. The first player to successfully complete all of the Goals either wins outright or triggers an “end game” which determines the winner.

It also does have some “race” flavor in it in that being the first player to complete all the Goals on the Story Card either wins outright or gives that player a potential end game advantage. But the majority element of the game is questing/missions.

General Flow of Play

At a high level, play consists of the player moving his ship from planet to planet, hiring Crew, buying Gear, Dealing to get Jobs and then Working on those jobs. All of these actions have random elements built into them.

Movement has the player drawing from Navigation Decks that contain adventures both good and bad. Buying is partly the luck of the draw as you “consider” a set number of cards and then can choose to buy a smaller number. Deal has a similar luck of the draw mechanism and Work requires the player in many cases to pass Skill Checks, particularly if they are Misbehaving (on Illegal jobs).

A player gets two “actions” per turn. An action can be either Move, Buy, Deal or Work as described above, and players may not repeat the same choice for both actions in their turn.

The effect of this flow of play combined with very detailed Crew, Gear and Job cards is to give play a bit of the feel of a board-based roleplaying game (a la Descent). Depending on your play preferences this may be good, bad or neutral (to me it is good). Simply put, this is not the type of game where you make exacting calculations on precise returns for exact numbers of actions and so forth. It is more “sandlot” in play.

Good Points

1) Physical quality is superb. Boards, tokens, cards et al are first rate.

2) The theme does not feel pasted on – it feels very organic to the game. The usage of places, personages and such from the source material is well done. For example, the abilities the Crew have on their cards brings out the appropriate characteristics they had in TV, movie and comics.

3) Play flows easily. For a “heavier” game the core mechanics are actually quite straightforward.

Not-so-Good Points

1) The rules use a rather conversational tone that unfortunately has led to ambiguities. When playing it is a very good idea to also have the official FAQ handy. I would note that the issue is ambiguities not outright errors, as borne out by the threads here on BGG (very few are saying outright errors as opposed to just clarifying somewhat vague points).

2) Don’t believe the play time estimates on the Story Cards. A more realistic figure is to multiply them by 1.5, meaning that the typical game length given on the cards of 2 hours is more like 3 hours.


Really any verdict comes down to what type of game you like to play. If you (like me) enjoy questing games, or like Firefly this game is a winner. If you really don’t enjoy a quest game then you may not like this game.

Ultimately it’s your choice!
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Zenjoy
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Joelist wrote:

Really any verdict comes down to what type of game you like to play. If you (like me) enjoy questing games, or like Firefly this game is a winner. If you really don’t enjoy a quest game then you may not like this game.

Ultimately it’s your choice!


Interesting perspective to be sure - approaching it like an RPG - and there are some similarities.

The biggest issue with firefly is almost no interactivity. Even with disgruntled crew, they barely leave your ship for someone else. It boils down to become a 2+ game of 5 hour long solitare.

Seriously. You could have 4 players playing this on one board, or on four seperate copies, and if all the decks were shuffled identically, the games would barely waver - with the exception everyone in their own private game would eventually win.

Even if you do play together, the issue is there is rarely anyway to stop a snowballing player in this game. If you get luck in your draw and buy, you can basically demolish any "Misbehave" card that comes your way. And frankly I don't enjoy feeling powerless to stop someone who got lucky. Games are meant to be fun, and there is very little pleasure in watching you competition succeed because they were 'luckier'.

Personally I have no love for games like Firefly who rely on their theme to carry the game's success. Like most GF9 games, they are too focused on appealing the theme of the game to the fanbase than really going the extra mile of asking "is this mechanic fun?"

Its a shame because GF9 has great ideas for new BG mechanics. They just don't polish them to their full potential.
 
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Roger BW
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Zen: I agree that "multiplayer solitaire" can be a problem when playing with the base game, but adding Pirates and Bounty Hunters and Blue Sun does mitigate this in my experience.

I'm not particularly a fan of Firefly the show, but this is still one of my enduring favourite games.
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Zenjoy
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Never got a chance for Blue Sun, but I do agree Pirates and Bounty did certainly give a nice nudge towards the interactive PvP potential.

I actually liked the show, and was ok with the BG. I've since sold it off to invest in other games.
 
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Joel Tamburo
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Actually I never had an issue with "multiplayer solitaire". Maybe it comes from playing games like "Merchant of Venus" which are "multiplayer solitaire" coupled with the fact that even before the expansions you did have some capability to interfere with other players (Reaver positioning and such).

I do agree the expansions powered up direct PvP a lot. That said, playing with all the main expansions (Blue Sun, Kalidasa and Pirates and Bounty Hunters) yields a game that is physically pretty big and has a LOT of decks of cards. And they reinforce the "questing" feel of the game even more.

The only real variant we use when playing Firefly is when we have Skill Checks where success would be automatic we instead roll a d20. A roll on the d20 of 1,2 or 3 means the checks fails anyway. If there are multiple levels of failure specified use the least harmful level of failure.
 
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