Over a decade ago, a little known TV show premiered on the FOX network called Firefly. As any fan of the show (Browncoats as they are known) can attest to, this sci-fi/western TV show was completely mismanaged by the network until it was canceled halfway through its first season. To say the show has gone on to become a cult hit would be a gross understatement. Firefly has spawned a loyal following of Browncoats that any TV show on the air now would be drooling to have.
It’s with these fans in mind that we take a look at today’s review of Firefly: The Game. Published by Gale Force Nine, the Firefly: The Game quickly sold out at its Gen Con premiere in 2013. Was this hype founded or were people suckered in by the face of Nathan Fillion on the box? A better question is if Firefly is actually a good game or simply just using the license to leech dollars from loyal Browncoats? Read on and let’s find out!
Firefly: The Game is a Pick Up and Deliver board game for 1-4 players that plays in about 2-3 hours. Firefly plays best with 3-4 players.
Choosing the pick-up and deliver mechanic for Firefly: The Game wasn’t a big stretch on Gale Force Nine’s part. After all, the show was about the adventures of a group of miscreants about a cargo transport ship. Hauling things around the ‘Verse was basically what the show was about.
In Firefly: The Game, players will each take on the role of a captain of a firefly class space ship (and yes, one player gets to pilot the Serenity) who is trying to make a buck in the transport business. During the game, players will hire crew, equip them, travel around the galaxy, and complete jobs for various contacts. Many jobs will simply require players to take cargo from point A to point B. However, the more lucrative contacts will require a player to “misbehave” and step on the other side of the law to get paid. Players will continue to venture around space, completing jobs, and earning money, until someone fulfills the game’s goal requirements (6 different scenarios are included in the game). The first player to achieve this wins.
Firefly: The Game is stacked full of bits and pieces inside its cardboard box. The game comes with a number of molded plastic Firefly ships, an alliance cruiser, and a reaver ship. All are well made and look like their TV show counter parts. In addition to that, there are quite a few different decks of cards for players to both outfit their ships and use to pick up jobs. These are both illustrated with thematic art and also use photos from the TV show and movie.
Finally the game comes with both a number of cardboard tokens and stacks of paper money. Normally I’m pretty against using paper money in games, I feel like cardboard tokens have easily eclipsed those in terms of usability and quality. But the paper money in Firefly feels both high quality and is easy to handle. It’s a huge step above the crappy Monopoly money that we have all grown accustomed to. Overall, no complaints about the components in Firefly: The Game.
How to Play:
To start the game, players choose one of the 6 mission cards to tackle in the game. After that, each player gets a firefly class ship, collects their starting cash, and chooses a captain. Each captain will have a unique ability and skills. All of the various decks of cards are then shuffled and the players are then ready to begin.
On a turn, a player may take 2 actions (no repeating actions). Options include:
• Fly – Players can move their ship around the board. Either 1 space for free or up to their ships max movement by spending fuel and drawing cards from the travel decks.
• Buy – Players can buy equipment, ship upgrades, and hire crew. If a player is at a location with a market, they can choose to first look through the discard pile, and also draw cards to consider buying. Each card has a cost to purchase/hire. The better crew will cost more (and require a bigger cut of jobs), but will be much more handy to have along.
• Deal – Deal works similar to the buy action, except instead of getting equipment and crew, you are taking on jobs. There are 5 different contacts to get jobs from and they range from legal and low paying to lucrative and highly dangerous (and illegal). Once you complete a job for a contact you are considered “solid” with them. At that point you can usually sell cargo/contraband with those contacts outside of the normal jobs.
• Work – This is where you actually work on a job. Most jobs will be self-explanatory with how to complete them. Pick up goods or passengers here, deliver them there. Some jobs will have requirements (fake ID, explosives, etc…) that players will need to procure before they can attempt the job. Most illegal jobs will require a player to “aim to misbehave”, this usually requires a set of skill checks.
Skill checks are fairly easy. There are three skills in the game, Fight, Tech, and Negotiate. To make a check, a player rolls a 6-sided die and adds their skill points (each crew member or equipment showing the matching symbol). If the player reaches the required number on the test, they pass. Easy enough, right? A player must be careful with which illegal jobs they take as some are also immoral. Some crew members are moral and if they are forced to work on an immoral job, they will become disgruntled. After a player completes a job, they get paid the amount on the job card (plus any bonuses). At this point, each crew member also gets a cut (equal to what you paid to hire them). If you want, you can thumb your nose at the crew member and not give them their cut, which will cause them to become disgruntled. A disgruntled crew member will leave you if they ever gain a second disgruntled token. A rival player can also hire out a disgruntled crew member from under you if they are in the same sector.
After a player has finished their 2 actions, the next player takes their turn. Play continues in this manner until one player has achieved the scenario’s goal and wins.
Firefly: The Game isn’t the first board game based on a TV show we’ve reviewed here on Board Game Quest. A while ago we took a look at the Battlestar Galactica board game (spoiler alert: it’s phenomenal) and were able to state that you don’t have to be a fan of the show to love the board game. Does Firefly fall into the same mold? I’d say yes, but not as strongly.
Don’t get me wrong, Firefly is a great game, but part of my enjoyment of it comes from my love of the TV show. The game’s cards are full of artwork and quotes from the show that helps turn this simple pick up and deliver game into a trip down memory lane. It’s these kinds of small touches that will help any Browncoat love this game.
But on the same token, Firefly: The Game is far from a cheap, licensed tie in. While, yes, the Firefly license defiantly helps sell this game, overall Firefly is a well-designed game that’s also a lot of fun. And for me, that’s a sigh of relief. Nothing is worse than getting a game based on a subject matter you enjoy and finding out it’s nothing but a shallow box of cards with no game play to speak of (World War Z I’m looking at you).
The game mechanics in Firefly are actually pretty sound. Each of the captain cards has their own unique abilities which will help you tailor your game strategy. Some are really good at delivering cargo and others are great in a fight. As you progress through the game, the kinds of upgrades and equipment you find will also change how you play. If you up the speed of your ship, you might start doing a lot of cargo runs to make a quick buck. However if you load up with mercenaries and guns, you’ll most likely be misbehaving for Niska. It’s this flexibility that can make Firefly such a fun game. There are usually many different paths to victory.
And that’s one of the things I really enjoy about Firefly, the sandbox nature of it. Sure there is an overarching goal to the game, but players are free to get there anyway they want. I love that I can just fly around the ‘Verse and do what jobs I want and for who I want. Some goals are just as simple as “make a lot of money” while others have a few steps to them. There is a lot of flexibility here to play the kind of game you want too.
That’s not to say Firefly isn’t without its flaws. For one, the player interaction in Firefly is somewhat minimal. Other than moving the Alliance Cruiser or the Reaver towards a fellow player, Firefly is more of a race than a battle. Players will, for the most part, be zipping around the skies doing their own jobs and ignoring the other transport ships. Sure, occasionally you might get lucky and be able to steal away a good crew member from another player, but those will be rare occasions. For those interested, the recently released Pirates and Bounty Hunters expansion is supposed to add in a bit more player interaction.
For the most part though, the low amount of player interaction in Firefly doesn’t bother me too much. Firefly feels like a race to earn the big bucks and as the end game nears, you’ll get an idea of who’s in the lead. Once you know who your real rivals are, you can keep an eye on what they are doing. While I may not be able to stop you from completing your job, I can sure has heck try and finish mine first. And maybe I’ll nudge the Reaver ship your way while I’m at it.
Firefly: The Game can almost be called a love letter to the Browncoat. The game is incredibly thematic (nominated for our 2013 Thematic game award), easy to learn, and a must play for any fan of the show. I think people who either haven’t seen or just don’t like Firefly aren’t going to be as excited about this game as Browncoats will be. That said, Firefly: The Game is still a solid board game and worth a play. While the Pick Up and Delivery game genre is nothing new, Firefly does a great job of implementing it in a way that rewards fans of the show.
I should warn you though that the playing time on the scenario cards are fairly optimistic. We rarely, if ever, finish a game in less than two hours. Some have even come closer to three. The good news is that Firefly rarely feels like it’s taking that long. You will have so much fun zipping around the ‘verse, misbehaving, and upgrading your ship that the time will pass by quickly. If you are a fan of Firefly or Serenity, this game is a must buy. For others, it’s definitely a try before you buy game.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $37
Final Score: 4 Stars – A highly thematic game that will have you enjoying your time in the ‘verse.
• Minimal player interaction
• Reliance on luck will be a turn off for some.