Colin Degnan
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Maplewood
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Overview:

Legendary Encounters: Firefly is a deckbuilding game for 1-5 players. Firefly is the 3rd stand-alone game in the Encounters series (Encounters Alien and Encounters Predators as its predecessors) made by Upper Deck.

In Legendary Encounters: Firefly each player will become 1 of the 9 crew members on the ship Serenity working to complete objectives from each of the 14 Episodes in the TV series. You can play the game in Episode order, or you can mix and match Episodes as long as you choose one Episode from each of the three different difficult levels (A, B and C). You can play the game as a Campaign where you will use the same characters for all the Episodes, and at the end of the Campaign you can score the team.

If you would like to see a playthrough of this game, please check out my YouTube Channel: One Stop Co-op Shop:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJD_DyaIjZY&t=668s

Please note I playthrough episodes 6, 7 & 8, so if you are worried about spoilers I would suggest only watching the first 10 minutes of the video for how to set-up the game.

How to win:
Complete the Mandatory objectives in the 3rd Episode

How to lose:
All players defeated OR
Serenity is destroyed OR
Mandatory objectives not completed

Components/Art: 5/10

Let’s get this out of the way upfront. The art in this game is one of the worst I have seen. I feel that my 3 year old could have done the art. . . with his eyes closed!

On a serious note, the art for the avatar’s and crew deck cards and episodes cards is not terrible. The crew strikes I try not to look at the pictures as much as possible as this is the worst art I have seen in a published game.

With that out of the way, the rest of the component list is quite good. Card quality is the same as all other Legendary cards. I sleeve all my deckbuilders for obvious reasons, and Legendary is no exception. These cards are not at the quality of Mechs vs. Minions but they get the job done.

Similar to Encounters: Alien, Firefly has a player mat that comes with the game. I just LOVE this mat! Serenity in the background, the Legendary Encounters: Firefly on the left hand side looks awesome! When I play this game I prefer looking at the map more than the cards.

Theme: 9/10

This game is oozing with the Firefly theme. Your basic cards are “Shiny” and “Misbehave”! How cool is that! My wife and I are concurrently watching the Firefly series while playing the game (first time watching) and it is fantastic being able to watch the episode and then replay it with this game!

So far, I can tell the designers spent the time watching the episodes and making them come across with the cards used in the episode deck. This can be so difficult when cards are randomized, as you cannot make a linear story like the episode’s do on screen. Somehow though the when playing I feel as though I am in the Episode with Mal and Zoe trying to complete our jobs to survive.

Gameplay Mechanics: 7.75/10

Talent/Flaw
One of the new mechanics in this game is the Talent/Flaw cards. Instead of each player beginning with a player specific card like in Encounters: Alien, each player begins with a Talent card. This talent card always has an immediate effect: Draw a card. Then you can choose to activate the Talent’s effect, which for each character is a different ability. However, if your talent ability is not useful, you can simply not activate the Talent’s Activate effect, and then the Talent card will be recycled into your deck for future use.

Flaw cards will activate each Avatar’s Flaw effect (ex. Jayne’s effect is “Loyalty for Sale” Every other player draws a Crew Strike. Very fitting!). You must immediately play your Flaw on your turn, or if you draw it at any time during your action phase of your turn. You will then defeat the flaw, and NOT replace the flaw with a new card (like you get to with the Talent cards). This means not only are you negatively affecting the team in some way, you now have one less card at your disposal for that turn. Great mechanic!

Coordinate
Coordinate is nothing new to Legendary Encounters, but I still have to mention it since it is a great mechanic. Being able to play a card on your teammates turn and you draw a new card to replace it is a great way to keep people invested in the game when it is not their turn. Playing Marvel Legendary with 4+ people can be a boar as you wait FOREVER for your turn. This can still happen in this game, but if you have a couple coordinates in your hand, the game all of a sudden feels more interesting as you have to decide if you want the coordinate cards effect on your turn, or use it to help your teammates. Love the cooperative aspect of this; just wish there were more cards with this keyword!

Side Jobs
Encounters: Aliens had a Drone deck where you would add additional drone aliens to the episode deck based on the number of players. For Firefly, the designers created the Side Job cards and I love them! You will add in 0-4 Side Job cards per episode based on the number of players.
Now these side jobs will ask you to do all sorts of crazy things! Some examples are; helping to deliver a baby (Breathe, Breathe Breathe!), playing cards with your fellow crewman, or keeping Jayne in line (no easy task!). If your team can complete the Side Job, the team will earn a Talent or Credits to use between episodes.
Side Jobs can also be a hindrance to you, as you can fail them. If the Side Job card gets to the Combat zone and is not completed within the turn it appears in the combat zone it is discarded and the Fail ability takes effect.

Watching the series the Side Jobs cards just fit so well thematically for the game! As you choose random Side Jobs each game, sometimes the side jobs do not coincide with the Episode they were in, but who cares! It is just fun to think that we have to do these side jobs AS WELL as the main objective of the episode.

Inevitable Cards
Another new mechanic is the Inevitable cards. Unlike Encounters: Aliens the Episodes of Firefly have a break between them (more on that below). When the Inevitable card shows up in the Verse you no longer draw new cards from the Episode deck. Instead this Inevitable card pushes all other cards through the Verse and into the combat zone (even Stationary ones) and gives a definitive end to the Episode. You can actually finish an episode without completing the objectives because of these cards.

Credits
After each Episode and before you begin the next Episode you have a chance to take a breather and either heal crew members, upgrade/fix Serenity, or draw additional cards. You do this by using the Credits you have earned during the last Episode. You cannot carry over these Credits to be used after the next Episode, but since there is so much you can do with these Credits I never have a problem using them all!

Serenity
I love that the designers understood just how important Serenity is to the story of Firefly. Instead of using the ship as a simple card, they made Serenity another “Character” in the game by having upgrade abilities (can be purchased in-between episodes) as well as her own strike deck! Also Ship enemies do not strike the crew members, but instead strikes the ship! Thematically this fits so well in this game and the mechanic of ship strikes, and upgrades works like a charm. During the Episode you can use recruit points to fix the ship, or you can repair the ship between Episodes.

Avatars
Each Avatar has their own Talent and Flaw effect. Pretty cool but we saw something similar with the Encounters: Alien game through the character specific card in your deck. What I thought was the coolest is about how you use all 9 Avatars in each game! That is right, even in a 2 player game, all 9 characters are used! How is that you say?
You will pick 5 main Avatars for the game regardless of the amount of players. Of those 5 main characters, each player will randomly choose one Active Avatar. You will then use the character decks for the 4 Avatar’s not picked as a main character to fill the Crew Deck. I love how this makes me feel that every character is used in each game in one way or the other.

Certain cards in the Crew Deck or the Episode Deck will have effects that will take place if certain characters are a main character. This would include all 5 main characters chosen, not just the Active Avatars that the players choose to use during the game.

If Only. . .

Basic Cards
I have this gripe with most cooperative deckbuilders. If you think of a game of Marvel Legendary, you have tons of ways to defeat those pesky basic cards from your deck. Or in Xenoshyft: Onslaught cards are automatically upgraded in your deck during the game. This allows for stronger (and I think more fun) turns later in the game. Encounters: Firefly has about 4-5 cards in total that allow you to defeat basic cards from your deck (and most of them you need a specific main character to activate the effect!). This means that when you get to that final episode and you are scrapping for 7 attack, those 4 basic cards you drew are useless! Gah!

Now I know this is making the game harder which is good. But I would prefer that the designers would create harder enemies, but provide more ways to make a strong engine in your deck that is not cluttered with basic cards. I think this makes for a more enjoyable experience instead of people cursing at the all the basic cards they drew.

Crew Deck
You only have 5 cards to recruit from (and the Browncoats), which is fine, but if I am focusing on one type of card to make my deck stronger and there are none of those card types out, the only way I can get cards that work in my deck is by buying cards that do not work in my deck. I do not like this mechanic as it does not promote strategic use of your recruit points. Instead I feel many times I am just buying cards to get new ones out. But this then clogs up my deck with cards that do not synergize well with each other.
I wish there was some mechanic that would allow you to cycle a card from the available Crew deck. Maybe having a rule that allows something like “Pay 3 recruit to replace a card in the Crew Line.” This would make the use of recruit more strategic, and less, just buying stuff to get more stuff available.

Campaign
When I saw the Campaign I got so excited! I love games where I can string multiple plays together, and the game gets harder as you play but you also get stronger. Well this Campaign is not like that. Instead only the ship and Character strikes carry over. Each episode you have to pull out all your purchased cards and start over from scratch. . . . Also, you have to keep the same characters through all 5 games.
I would have preferred something where you could keep your deck, but all cards in the Verse get plus 2 ATK. And when the Crew Deck runs out you can pull from the unused Avatar decks.

Also – I think you should be able to switch Characters once per the Campaign. Or maybe if your Character dies, you have to pick another Character and defeat an X amount of cards from your deck. Just some ideas. Still I am glad they thought up the Campaign style and I hope they do this for any future Encounters games!

Setup/Takedown:
Since I have kids and do most of my gaming in the evening after they are asleep, the time it takes to set up/take down a game is important to me as I want to play the game, not spend my night setting up a game!  Anyways, I have timed myself the last 5 games for set up and take down and the averages are as follows:

Setup: 9 minutes 43 seconds

Takedown: 10 minutes 30 seconds

This is with all decks sorted in the box and labels for where each deck should go. Not bad for a deckbuilder!

Play Again Factor: 8.5/10

As of now I think I have played 15 times and I have not even gotten to the end of the game yet! Tons of replayability as there are nine Avatars you can use, and 9 crew decks you can use. Love it, and will not get tired of this anytime soon! After playing though the episodes in order, I can start pairing different episodes as well!

Weight and Player Type: Light, Everyone

I have played this game with my father-in-law who is NOT a gamer, but loves Firefly and he had no issue picking the game up. Yes the idea of adding cards to your discard (amazing how nongamers do not get this mechanic!) was a bit foreign and took a while to sink-in, he was able to contribute to the game and had fun doing it. The strategy in the game is pretty straightforward which allows nongamers to quickly jump in and play. Just watch out if you have a head strong gamer playing they may quarterback the game a bit (who the nongamer should attack, which cards to recruit etc.). That is true with any of these Encounter games though, so nothing new there.

Final Thoughts: 7.5/10

This game is a MUST for Firefly fans. If you can get past the art (which can be difficult for some people) you will find a game with very solid mechanics, strong theme, and a game that both gamers and nongamers alike can enjoy and contribute. If you are not a Firefly fan (I had never seen the shows before playing this game) I would suggest watching the Episodes and then playing the game as you will get a TON more out of the game. Lastly, if you are simply into deckbuilders and enjoy a light but difficult cooperative gaming experience, look no further that Legendary Encounters: Firefly!
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Trevor S.
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Several of your criticisms are spot-on with what I experienced. While in other Legendary games, having only five available cards to choose from (plus the generic 3-star cards, of course) was not always ideal, I have never felt as limited as I do in this version. Part of that might be the fact that this game is very limited in letting you remove your starting cards. I have had several games where I have no chance simply because the available cards to purchase just aren't helpful. I cannot recall this ever being a big problem when I play the other versions.

Overall, I was disappointed with this one, which is sad, since I was hyped as hell. I have worn out the sleeves on my Aliens game, so it's not like I don't like the system!
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Colin Degnan
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Maplewood
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Trevor - I think the biggest reason we see this issue in this game versus in a game like Aliens is due to some of the Crew Cards abilities will only work if certain other characters are "main" characters. A Card like Crazy Ivan is absolutely worth 5 cost when Kaylee is a main character as you can cancel a ship strike out of turn! But if she is not, well then it is just a plain 3 attack with no ability.

I obviously cannot speak for the designers, but to me it feels like the intention here was to make the game experience unique with each playthrough. However for me, all it did is clog up the Bridge with cards that have no effect but cost a lot of recruit to buy. I really dislike buying cards just to get new ones out because you lose synergy in your deck which is what deckbuilding is all about (in my opinion of course!).
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Patrick Freer
United Kingdom
Connecticut
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Colin - I agree with pretty much everything, a well expressed review. Interested in how many players you normally play with?

We found that with two or three players the barracks gets really badly clogged and would love a way to clean it, but with four or five players this has never been an issue at all.

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Colin Degnan
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Maplewood
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Weir_Doe wrote:
Colin - I agree with pretty much everything, a well expressed review. Interested in how many players you normally play with?

We found that with two or three players the barracks gets really badly clogged and would love a way to clean it, but with four or five players this has never been an issue at all.



Hi Patrick - This is a good point! Normally I try and point this out so people understand my perspective. I have played mostly 1-2 players, with about 4 plays with 3 players. No 4+ though and that can be a very different experience. Good to know the Bridge and Crew Deck is not an issue once you have 4+ players since the Bridge is updated significantly between your turns. Does the game feel long with that many? I generally do not play deckbuilders with 4 or more due to the length of time between turns.

Colin
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Mel Mundell
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Idaho
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For the barracks to have more play ability and not get stagnant, my wife and I came up with a rule where each player can discard one of the barracks cards and replace it with a new card from the barracks deck on their turn. So you have to have a barracks discard pile. It makes it nice if you have all cards you can't afford or crappy selections. If the barracks deck empties you just re-shuffle the discard and start new. We got this idea from another deck-building game. I think it helps a lot to avoid a clogged barracks.
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Colin Degnan
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mlmundell wrote:
For the barracks to have more play ability and not get stagnant, my wife and I came up with a rule where each player can discard one of the barracks cards and replace it with a new card from the barracks deck on their turn. So you have to have a barracks discard pile. It makes it nice if you have all cards you can't afford or crappy selections. If the barracks deck empties you just re-shuffle the discard and start new. We got this idea from another deck-building game. I think it helps a lot to avoid a clogged barracks.


A quick way to solve an annoying issue. I can see this working well, however some may think this will make the game "easier" as you are essentially providing yourself with a 6 card barracks. I might throw in the rule that if the barracks runs out you do not reshuffle the barracks deck. This way you have to decide if it is worth discarding from the barracks as you will never get the card back.

Thanks for the idea!
 
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Rob Hayward
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Our problem with a 4 player game was the bridge filling up with characters nobody could afford. I would suggest that at the end of your turn (before redrawing) then if you have not bought a a character then you may discard the highest value character in the bridge for a cost of 3.
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Colin Degnan
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Rob - I really like that, thanks for the idea! You don't find this makes it too easy right?

 
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