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Subject: DesperaDOs and DesperaDON'Ts rss

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Hardboiled Gregg
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Figured this was a session worth sharing because it had some amusing moments, was very enjoyable and highlighted how flexible the game can be, given a more freeform goal. Unfortunately, it's quite a read, and I'm not sure there's a decent way to split it up. I suppose if it's too long you could just skip to the final standings and proceeding thoughts...

First, the background. A friend really wanted to play this (and who am I to refuse...) but knew he wouldn't be able to stay too long, or at least not if the game went on for 5 hours like the last one (5 players again, Niska's Holiday).

So, we needed a story card that:
- Didn't have any 'bottle-necking' or slow starts, i.e. played quicker than before, hopefully.
- If necessary, could be ended prematurely without upsetting the outcome too much.
'Respectable Persons of Business' seemed alright but 'Desperadoes' was just the ticket: a simple money-chasing goal (with that Illegal job payout boost) that bypasses Harken completely.

Unfortunately, that sort of story card also encourages everyone to kind of go and do their own thing, which means keeping track of it all can get a mite tricky, so apologies if some of this account is a little vague in parts.

But the good thing about having five players is that you can split up the game mechanics jobs fairly evenly. One does nav cards and misbehaves, another is in charge of the bank, another takes care of the tiles (fuel, contraband, disgruntled, etc.), another does the supply planets and, finally, one is in charge of contacts. OK, maybe the 'contacts guy' gets it a bit easier than everyone else, especially the 'nav card/misbehave' card guy but it's a tough game to get round a table comfortably!

In terms of house rules, we randomly select leaders and ships, with the additional caveat that since Mal is the BDH promo, he can't also have the Artful Dodger. Initially, it was 'Mal automatically gets Serenity' because...that's his ship, but we didn't bother with that on this occasion. As long as he doesn't have the Dodger, that's OK.

Die rolls then determine the first player. In order, these were:
1. S with Monty and the Bonnie Mae.
2. JB with Nandi and the Artful Dodger (wuh oh!)
3. JO with Corbin and the Yun Qi
4. G (me) with Mal (BDH) and Bonanza
5. M with Marco and Serenity (the friend who would need to leave early)

S chose to start on Persephone with JB right next to him. JO started on Ezra, presumably to get more Niska jobs, though he immediately regretted his decision. I started on Regina because obviously I was 'gonna do crime' and wanted supplies tailored towards that. Plus, I had really hoped to find Kaylee. Not only because she is very good on her own, but because she is a mechanic to Mal's pilot for when – not if – the Reavers come knocking. However, I still would've settled for Bester if I had to. (Spoiler: I never found her or Bester. Nobody did!). Finally, M started on Osiris.

In hindsight, I don't think quite everyone recalled the supply planet decks too well. Otherwise, I think only Corbin would've contemplated starting on Osiris, and Marco would have been better served by going to Silverhold.

Everyone began checking their jobs while I primed the pumps. I was only really focused on Regina, myself, but I don't think a lot of great stuff came out anywhere as no one sounded particularly thrilled. Interestingly, I was the only person with a BDH for the whole game! As for Regina, well, Two Fry and his Carbine came out in the first three cards. Those two seemed like decent purchases, despite the fact that, with BDH Mal, I probably wanted to do more misbehaving. Truth is, I had a decent Breakin' Atmo job based around fight skill so wanted them more for the 'Sniper Rifle' keyword and associated skill points. I could always keep the rifle with Mal and switch it to Two-Fry if things got tight and I needed a better chance at finishing a job over earning a little extra cash and risking failure.

Of course, all this ruminating turned out to be for naught as JO, who'd started one sector away on Ezra, saw them and decided to switch from his original plan, using his first turn to swoop in and snatch them up for himself. Never mind, I grabbed myself a Skyhook and an Onboard Chop Shop after him. Speaking of ship upgrades, M proudly showed me the ones he'd bought: a med bay (in retrospect, I don't think he ever used his medic) and the thing that allows you to ignore breakdowns. After that, I spent another couple of turns trying to find a mechanic, instead grabbing the Specialist and Bridgit to round out my skill points a little bit, before deciding I shouldn't dawdle any longer.

See, everyone else had already started working jobs and S was actually attempting a tricky but lucrative one with a fair-sized crew. Perhaps he'd grown confident after his last two victories or just hoped to get an early lead. Whatever it was, he was found wanting for 2-3 attempts. Meanwhile, everyone else got on with simpler jobs while I'd only just started a smuggling one for Patience (Aphrodite to Osiris), but had already managed a salvage op (since my Chop Shop gave me extra money and contraband).

Unfortunately, with five-player games, there is a lot of movement between turns, so those nav card decks get exhausted pretty quickly ready for the Cruiser/Cutter cards to get shuffled in. More critically though, with the way my friends and I play, there is a very high risk that someone will land the Reavers or Alliance on you (like I said, when not if). Although I'd failed to find a mechanic, I felt safe with the Reavers on the other side of the board and the Cutter nav card still in the discard. How foolish of me. That spiteful varmint, S, managed to jump the Cutter right next to me and then got the opportunity to land it on me during JB's turn. With only JO's turn before me, I jokingly encouraged him to go out of his way to travel through Border Space and hopefully get the Reavers moved off of me. JO 'claimed' he'd 'like' to help but his job meant he was headed right into Alliance Space...which meant I was in trouble. Had I not stopped for the salvage op, I probably could've made it safely into Alliance Space and completed my first job, getting a little companion bonus, too (though the Alliance Cruiser was dangerously close, hence my willingness to 'wait' in Border Space). Instead, the Specialist and Bridgit were eaten by Reavers. S said he actually felt bad afterwards, but I reassured him we all would have done the same. Though the sequence of events seemed highly calculated...

In hindsight, I probably should've spared Bridgit by disgruntling Mal, then when the job was completed on Osiris, not have paid her and taken shore leave instead (though taking a disgruntled moral captain into a certain misbehave can trip you up too). Oh well, the dastardly series of events and those Reavers got me all discombobulated...

Funny thing is that JO, the guy who 'refused' to help me out of that predicament, wound up getting caught by the Alliance Cruiser immediately after my turn (S got to mess up someone else's game!) and lost the contraband he was smuggling, had to pay that $1k fine for his starter warrant as well as risked losing Two-Fry (but didn't). And later, after a long struggle to replace the lost contraband, he pulled the Customs Inspection nav card while carrying it out in the open...despite having free stash space. I couldn't remember the specifics of the rule/scenario, but I let him rearrange it (I don't like to kick people when they're down). But it gets better! On the next turn, he drew the Cruiser nav card, losing the contraband again.

I'm not saying it's karma exactly, but I'm sure none of that would've happened if he'd listened to my guidance...as well as not stolen my supplies in that first turn, maybe looking for a Cry Baby instead. Corbin even gets them half price! whistle

Things worked out though. I reached Osiris and Mal passed the misbehave on his own, with the Skyhook allowing him to 'take whatever's not nailed down' and get 3 contraband as well as earn a big fat payday without having to share it with a crew. Additionally, since I wasn't overly fond of my starter jobs (two of them being Immoral and with distant locations) and with a clear sideline in contraband-selling emerging, I decided to check out the discard piles of Patience and Niska. Niska's jobs weren't too good (Immoral, distances involved, needs, etc.), but as luck would have it, Patience, for whom I'd just completed the first job, was offering a decent Crime job. And since the solid rep meant I could also look through a further 3 jobs while dealing, a plan formed and I adjusted my approach slightly. A couple of good Crime jobs, and selling the Skyhook-earned contraband afterwards, should see me through, I figured.

I took a medic from Osiris and decided to head back towards Regina, since the Reavers were dangerously close to Patience, to whom I'd wanted to sell my cargo and contraband while grabbing new jobs. On the way, I performed another salvage op, grabbing some more money and nearly filling up my ship with goodies, even discarding a fuel to free up a required square. Fortunately, I had stopped right next to Patience, and by my next turn the Reavers were well clear (JB and I were given the chance to move them, and clearly we both wanted them gone), allowing me to mosey in and deal. Via that first job and the sale, I'd shot up to over $11k, in the space of a few turns, with the closest player (JB with Nandi) at around $7k. I'd had my eyes on a couple of big Crime job but felt I needed more crew before going any further (and still hoped on finding a mechanic), so returned to Regina for a couple of turns, buying up a Hacking Rig, a Gun Hand, Nandi's Gun Collection, Crow and his knife. I'd felt confident enough to face my next job with its 2 misbehaves but was aware that only 4 were left on the pile and neither the Hands of Blue or Reavers had shown up yet. Unfortunately, one appeared on my second misbehave but at least the Skyhook got me away with $100 in-hand.

Meanwhile, everyone else had covered the whole 'verse, busy working all manner of different jobs. At one point, M, who'd been playing a pretty solid game and built a considerable crew, showed me his favourite new purchase: a Fluffy Pink Dress. Intrigued, S also marvelled at M's crew and the abundance of 'violent instruments' they were carrying (up to that point, M had been the only person to visit Silverhold) which prompted a conversation a little something like this:
"My crew is full of mercenaries and other unsavoury characters," M said, explaining the necessity for guns. Lots of guns. "I have 5 horrible dudes and one female. She must be having a fun time."
"And who will be wearing the new fluffy pink dress?" I enquired.
"The captain, of course!" exclaimed M.
Yes, that is why M likes the Fluffy Pink Dress. Because dressing up hardened criminals in women's attire ain't ever not funny. A captain walks down the street wearing that, you know he's not afraid of anything. Especially when his crew, including Stitch, can most likely shoot their way through most jobs.

Anyway, as time went on, and despite everyone performing fairly well, it became clear that the final contest would most likely be between myself and JB.

I had managed to clear that failed job on my second attempt, which pushed me very close to the $15k goal thanks to the same 'everything that's not nailed down' misbehave reappearing after the reshuffle, along with the bonus contraband for the Skyhook on Crime jobs (best purchase ever!). I also neglected to pay my crew since JB was the only person nearby and, obviously, everyone wanted to hold onto their money instead. Meanwhile, JB had just cleared a big job with plenty of bonuses as well as being able to sell to Niska, so just about jumped ahead in cash total and over the $15k.

We were also surprised to find that we'd been playing almost three hours, with M needing to leave very soon. I urged him to hold on since I was sure JB would declare 'last call' sometime in the next couple of turns, but JB always takes a long time on his turns...

Which was also annoying when he'd been holding a 'quick reference' sheet the entire game yet started trying to sell fuel and parts to Niska and, I think, sorting the transaction himself while M, who had been the banker was making to leave. I was busy checking my own cash total and final turn possibilities and only just managed to interrupt it but wasn't quite sure where he was with his turn. I think he was on a deal action anyway, and with that sale stopped, he opted to 'make work' instead but also declared 'last call'...which is three actions.

Still, the game was going to end through that or M leaving, and I knew the $200 wasn't going to make a huge difference. Plus, I wasn't in a position to do much, since my next big job was 2 sectors too far. All I could really do was sell the rest of my cargo and contraband.

S spent the game's very last turn wisely...hiring and firing M's disgruntled and now abandoned crew just for the hell of it...or to finally fulfil an earlier threat he'd made to M that had actually sent him flying away worried. I would've mentioned the thing about 'hiring crew without there being free space or people being let go from your own ship' but it was pointless at that time. S must have known he wasn't a contender.

With that done, the final standings that we bothered to count/that I can recall were:
1st. JB with $16,500
2nd. Me with $15,100
3rd. M with $13,600

I know only first place counts, but I like a close race, plus I think it shows that despite pursuing different paths, most of us remained very close in totals.

The whole game, I only worked 2 Patience jobs, never ran a crew of more than 4 people, drew all my supplies (bar the medic) from Regina and never ventured further across the board than Osiris. While the ultimate winner, JB, filled up the Artful Dodger, mostly stuck to Persephone (exhausting the deck in search of Simon later on), and worked all sorts of smuggling jobs. I'm not sure what M did exactly, but I think he put together a few big jobs and got by with those. He took a huge risk with a bank heist for Niska, where hacking the safe was not a safe bet, but succeeded and took $7k+ from that alone. Perhaps he spent a little too much on supplies to get a killer setup, which would have been ideal in a longer game, but not this. He had a big crew of miscreants with guns and a captain in a dress though! That has to count for something.

Sad thing is, I find there always tends to be one person who hits a bad patch, and such was the case here. I know JO lagged behind after his contraband-smuggling blunder (Cry Babies, people, buy them!), which also sent him towards Amnon Duul for a legal job just to try and stay in it. I don't think S was unlucky as much as maybe he tried to get ahead of himself too early and too often, focusing mostly on Niska jobs and stumbling on a lot of the misbehaves.

So, in conclusion. Potential lessons learned...

DesperaDOs:
- Do buy a Skyhook and a pilot. Seriously.
- Do think carefully about your starting position. I know we chose the story card 'out of turn' with regards to normal game setup rules, but it still applies (plus, do people really play that way?). You might not know what jobs or supplies are up, but you should have a sense of where you want to be. Also, keep in mind where any players with turns before you have chosen to start ...since they may steal your intended supplies!
- Do ignore Amnon Duul unless he has a very convenient job.
- Do consider Badger and Patience over Niska. Since there's that $1k bonus for Illegal jobs, they occupy that sweet spot where they can be attempted earlier and completed more easily than Niska's while still offering a decent payout.
- Do check the job discard piles often. Cutting down on travel while maximising your money-making options and staying flexible is key when the goal is so free-form.
- Do try and tailor your strategy towards your leader's strengths/bonuses a little more for this one. Every little helps.
- Do find crew and ship upgrades to earn you extra cargo and contraband (or even cash) outside of working jobs. Like with your leader, every little helps.

DesperaDON'Ts:
- Don't forget to put your contraband in the stash!
- Don't forget to buy Cry Babies if you're going to be smuggling (and want to avoid the $1k penalty for that starter warrant).
- Don't travel without a pilot & mechanic, especially in a five-player game.
- Don't forget that declaring 'last call' requires a free action on that player's turn.
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Jon Snow
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Thanks for the effort and a very entertaining narrative.
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George Krubski
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Seconded.

I think you've hit on a lot of key tactics that work regardless of the game you're playing.

Right now, the winning tactic is Crime (which is only accentuated in something like DESPERADOES), so anything that maximizes that helps out.

Quote:
- Do buy a Skyhook and a pilot. Seriously.


To me, a Pilot, and Mechanic, and a Transport are the best buys in the game. I do like the Skyhook better than the mule, but both are good (although I played one game where I got shafted by getting my Skyhook first and then needing it twice before I could get a Pilot!)

Quote:
- Do think carefully about your starting position. I know we chose the story card 'out of turn' with regards to normal game setup rules, but it still applies (plus, do people really play that way?). You might not know what jobs or supplies are up, but you should have a sense of where you want to be. Also, keep in mind where any players with turns before you have chosen to start ...since they may steal your intended supplies!


Again, agreed. I think Regina is a strong starting position, but my default is Persephone (unless I have a Mechanic as Captain, in which case it's the Space Bazaar). Silverhold and Osiris are more specialized, but Regina, Persephone, and the Space Bazaar all have lots of "starting equipment," paired with a diverse cast of characters. I favor Persephone and the Space Bazaar over Regina, though, because I can also Deal while sitting and buying, so theoretically, by the time I leave, I have a solid Crew AND some solid Jobs for them to pull.

Quote:
- Do ignore Amnon Duul unless he has a very convenient job.


And THAT is why I prefer Persephone as a starting point over the Space Bazaar.

Quote:
- Do consider Badger and Patience over Niska. Since there's that $1k bonus for Illegal jobs, they occupy that sweet spot where they can be attempted earlier and completed more easily than Niska's while still offering a decent payout.


Honestly, even without the 1K bonus, I find Badger to be the best contact. His jobs don't pay quite as much as Niska, but you don't have to worry about the Pound of Flesh (and he's also often easier to get to). I've won many games, especially solo games, working exclusively for Badger.

By the way, I prefer Badger to Patience not only because his pay out is better, but, more importantly, he offers a higher ratio of Crime Jobs, with few (or no?) Immoral Jobs. With Niska, you can almost always nab a Crime Job, but there's a good chance it will be Immoral. With Patience, you never know what you're going to get (I think she has the biggest mixed bag of jobs). More than half of Badger's Jobs are Crime now, I think, so you can assume you'll draw at least one every time you Deal, if not more.

Quote:
- Do check the job discard piles often. Cutting down on travel while maximising your money-making options and staying flexible is key when the goal is so free-form.


I also applies when the goal ISN'T free-form. (Although there are a few Story Cards where in the second half, money really doesn't matter.)

Quote:
- Do try and tailor your strategy towards your leader's strengths/bonuses a little more for this one. Every little helps.
- Do find crew and ship upgrades to earn you extra cargo and contraband (or even cash) outside of working jobs. Like with your leader, every little helps.


Agreed on both these points -- although you need to be careful not to try to leverage these things too much. I've seen players (and been there myself) get so focused on maximizing their strengths than they lose. It's great that Monty offers a bonus on Smuggling Jobs, but that doesn't mean he should pursue ONLY Smuggling Jobs!

Quote:
DesperaDON'Ts:
- Don't forget to put your contraband in the stash!
- Don't forget to buy Cry Babies if you're going to be smuggling (and want to avoid the $1k penalty for that starter warrant).


Regardless of the game I'm playing, I like to have a Cry Baby -- or two! There was one game that I won only because I happened to have two Cry Babies during the final push.

Quote:
- Don't travel without a pilot & mechanic, especially in a five-player game.


And that brings us right back to the top: Pilot, Mechanic, Transport. Don't leave home without 'em.


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Hardboiled Gregg
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Yeah, I think a large amount of those dos and don'ts can apply to most games but figured I'd highlight everything I felt applicable here.

I should add that I don't think JB did (m)any Crime jobs, but just did well enough out of Nandi's ability and pulled off enough smuggling jobs to make his method work.

I would've started at Persephone, since if anything, it has a decent mix of stuff (and a lot of mechanics I could've done with, especially for salvage ops and the like) as well as Badger. However, with two people already there, I didn't fancy my chances...and I was feeling lucky with Regina.

Turns out I was quite fortunate in a few ways, with the Chop Shop and Skyhook, but not so much on the mechanic front... soblue
 
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George Krubski
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Yeah, two other players is too much competition.

I've burned many turns on Regina myself. So many, in fact, that I want Kevin Smith to direct something called "Chasing Kaylee."
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