Graham Rutland
United Kingdom
Leyton
LONDON
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The full review, including images, can be enjoyed at [url="http://ludimusinlondinio.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/blue-da-ba-dee-da-ba-die-a-review-of-firefly-the-game-blue-sun/"]Ludimus in Londinio[/url]

My name is Firefly: The Game, commander of the LIL team’s free time, generally well received, loyal follower of the mythos of my inspiration, Firefly. Son of a murdered TV show, father of umpteen tokens. And I will have my expansions, in this play session or the next.

Well, quite. It should be no surprise to you by now that at LIL we rather enjoy our (often lengthy) sessions of Firefly: The Game. Nor is it any great scandal both here and abroad in the gaming community at large that when it comes to a game that so lovingly and almost obsessively follows its inspiration, this is a frequent go-to example.

To potentially bring you up to speed, we scored both the base game and its first major expansion, Pirates and Bounty Hunters a respectable 4, albeit with stern redress for the lacklustre piracy elements of the latter product outweighed only by its fixing of some small issues identified in the core box and a rather splendid bounty hunting system.

Where P&BH sought to add a radical new dimension to the game, however, Blue Sun is content to simply make the Firefly experience bigger and richer. As such, it is a far more subtle addition that can, at times, go unnoticed if you’re not careful.

And that’s in spite of a very impressive 10″ x 20″ board expansion that sits neatly alongside the left edge of the game board and introduces a host of new planets and an entirely new sector of space to the game: the red-edged Rim Space, right at the very furthest reaches of the Firefly ‘verse with its very own, tough-as-nails nav deck and whose terrible secrets are only fully explored in the film Serenity. Make no mistake, Firefly now demands one heck of a lot of real estate, with the final board boasting an impressive 20″ x 40″ footprint. Let’s not forget, however, that space is also needed for the various piles of cards and the player areas. Our advice is to have a surface that’s more like 40″ x 60″ ready to go.

Still, if you do eventually find the necessary space to plonk it down, Blue Sun, needless to say, offers plenty of new adventures on this fresh frontier. Budding smugglers can volunteer their services to Lord Harrow, who, in a unique spin on the Deal mechanic, offers players with whom he is solid the ability to purchase cargo to be ferried elsewhere in the ‘verse and chips in a futher after each successful Shipping or Smuggling job. This is good news all round, since would-be cargo haulers now have yet another source of precious income (making the SS Walden ever more popular), while pirates can also look forward to slightly fatter targets to take the edge off that system’s shortcomings, should you own Pirates & Bounty Hunters.

The planet Meridian, meanwhile, offers up shiny new crew, upgrades and equipment – handy for the treacherous outer limits, and fans of Serenity will be pleased to see lots of bits and pieces from that final film have made it at last.

Mr Universe, the most curious of employers so far, doesn’t actually offer jobs per se, but is instead able to enhance extant jobs, making them more challenging yet more rewarding too. Once solid with Mr Universe, not only do players grow their hand limit from 3 to 5, but they can also Deal with him from any point in the ‘verse, enhancing further jobs with their two new hand spaces and playing a much higher stakes game that offers veteran players a welcome rise in the difficulty level whilst also slowing them down to the benefit of newer captains.

Then there’s the most visually immediate change – a swathe of three sectors in the board’s new top left corner ominously marked REAVER SPACE – and two brand new Reaver cutters to join that found in the game’s core box. This is crucial, as it addresses a long-standing concern we’ve had with the game and one that would only have been exacerbated with the extra real estate offered by this expansion: the Reavers up until now simply have not been a significant enough presence on the board.

It gets better: ten new Border Space nav cards replace older versions to reflect the tripling in number of Reaver ships, while the ships themselves leave behind a trail of tokens as they move throughout space, effectively marking their expanding territory. Any captains straying into sectors containing one or more such tokens must roll a die and exceed the number of tokens – or else have a Reaver ship immediately appear at their location.

So, for now you really do feel like the Reavers are breathing down your neck in spite of the vastly expanded play space, which is just as it should be, and GF9 should be lauded heavily for these changes to the way in which the Reavers work in the game. A similar courtesy is afforded to the Alliance Cruiser, albeit with no extra ships and a far more infrequent dropping of tokens. We wouldn’t mind seeing the Alliance forces beefed up a tad in the same way should GF9 be considering a third expansion.

A few new token cards are added so that all of the game’s existing piles are kept fresh, and it’s nice to see that the core game experience continues to be refined in this way. Two new leaders are added to the roster, the shipping baron Murphy, who adds 100 bucks to any sale of cargo or contraband, and general all-around arsehole Atherton, replete with his shit-eating grin that translates into the ability to hit the ground running at the start of the game when it comes to the passage of skill tests.

As you’d expect, new story cards are also in the offing, and even here the expansions DNA of ‘improve it a tad’ runs right through. A special setup card is present allowing subtle tweaks to the start of any of the stories that have been released, and a generally rather handy setup card also features to help with laying the game out at the start.

And that’s it. We mentioned that Blue Sun is a far more subtle expansion. It develops and rebalances each of the mechanics already there whilst refusing to do anything big and loud as Pirates & Bounty Hunters tried (and only halfway succeeded) to do, but the one uncomfortable truth is that players can go the entire duration of a Firefly game and completely miss any of this expansion’s new content.

Generally, Reaver ships will find themselves skulking the new Rim Space on player whim, since in conjunction with the rather brutal Rim Space deck it is here that they stand to do the most damage, and the offerings of Meridian, Mr Universe and Lord Harrow can simply be missed entirely by virtue of not being over at that opposite edge of the board.

While Pirates & Bounty Hunters crammed more into the same space and added two wholly new systems, the content of Blue Sun, much like the game’s stories, requires active engagement and has, the extra board space and Reaver ships notwithstanding, no immediately obvious standout additions like the first expansion. For the first time there is now too much to see and do over the course of a typical game.

That, and, of course, the larger footprint of the new, expanded board is set to impinge on both your physical space and your free time, since more of both are now required to enjoy the full Firefly experience. A blitz through one of the game’s ’2 hour’ story cards as a threesome took us closer to three-and-a-half hours.

But we still think Blue Sun is just the shot in the arm Firefly needed before experimenting with any other zany mechanics. Indeed, this is the last question that Blue Sun leaves hanging on our lips: what now? Just a year on and the game has already pretty comprehensively explored most of the sole series’ mythos and now that of the Serenity film too. The GF9 website promises more, but for now, we’re not quite sure what that could mean.

Either way, Blue Sun gets one of these:

4/5

I liked:
+ Tweaks and rebalances the Firefly experience. A smart move after the uneven Pirates and Bounty Hunters;
+ Mr Universe cards are an especial boon for veteran thrillseekers;
+ 2nd and 3rd Reaver cutters, combined with the new Rim Space deck, suddenly make the board feel a lot smaller.

Watch out for:
- Game now calls for quite some patch – 40″ x 60″ is our advice;
- Entire swathes of new content can be bypassed simply by virtue of sticking to the original board;
- No wholly new, stand-out mechanics as in Pirates & Bounty Hunters.
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David McCarthy
United Kingdom
Northampton
Northamptonshire
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Thanks to the OP for his thoughts on this expansion. I have recently purchased Blue Sun and have not, to date, invested in the P&B expansion. I know that these expansions do not need to be used in conjunction with each other and, from my own point of view, I have always regarded Blue Sun as the more appealing expansion to the base game.

I would welcome a comparative assessment of these two expansions from those who happen to own and use both, if only out of curiosity to learn how each they feel these compare in their impact on the game and how it plays out.

Thanks again for this review.
 
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David Jones
United States
Wilsonville
Oregon
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CorporalRutland wrote:
Indeed, this is the last question that Blue Sun leaves hanging on our lips: what now? Just a year on and the game has already pretty comprehensively explored most of the sole series’ mythos and now that of the Serenity film too. The GF9 website promises more, but for now, we’re not quite sure what that could mean.


Well, keep in mind that the guy who sold the crew stolen uniforms from the hospital has a two second non-speaking role, yet made it into game. There is a lot of barrel scraping left to be done. Somewhere out there, there must be mission that finally requires us to use that post holer. Personally, I wont feel that the game is truly complete until I can make Bessie the cow fetus part of my crew.
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