So there I was, browsing through a Barnes & Noble, and the most gorram shiny thing I’ve ever seen in the ‘Verse slapped me and said hello: The Firefly board game/roleplaying hootenanny! I bought it and said to myself I WILL CALL MY FRIENDS AND LURE THEM TO MY LAIR WITH PIZZA AND BEER AND THEN FORCE THEM TO HAVE TOO MUCH DAMN FUN. I am diabolical that way.
Okay, first thing you should know up front: The box says playtime is two hours. HA! No. Maybe on a second or third try once you get used to it, but not with four people all trying to grasp the rules as they go. There’s a learning curve here, but it’s a pleasant one. Also, we were constantly distracted by the Arizona Cardinals kicking the shit out of the Indianapolis Colts. (The Cardinals haven’t been that dominant since the days of Kurt Warner, so it was a different kind of shiny for long-suffering fans like us.) My advice is to allow plenty of time for the first play-through. You should probably stock up on provisions like Guinness and cider for Snakebites and practice your Mandarin swearing, and then have fun!
Players get to captain one of four Firefly-class ships (including Serenity) and then you build your crew by burning through the ‘Verse and hiring them on at one of five different locations: Persephone, Regina, Silverhold, Osiris, and the Space Bazaar at Red Sun. As you build your crew you can also take on jobs from five different contacts: Patience, Badger, Amnon Duul, Harken (the Alliance douche) and Niska. Some jobs are legal transports and are great to begin with, but they pay less, and as you take on more crew and have to give them a cut of every job, you’ll want to move on to the jobs that are a bit more dodgy but pay much better. Pretty much anything by Niska is going to pay well, but it’s almost always illegal and often immoral and quite dangerous. FUN, in other words, for people who like to take risks.
Tip: You’ll need a pretty decent-sized playing area because the board is big and you have lots of cards and goodies to scoot around. Here’s what the initial setup looks like:
Yeah, it’s a lot. But it’s a fun lot. You get to worry about fuel and parts and gear and stashes for your contraband and fugitives and YAY IT HAS EVERYTHING FROM THE SHOW. See the player spot on the lower left? That’s me. I got the Yun Qi and I have the dinosaur on my dashboard, indicating I’m the active player. Travis the Barbarian got to play Serenity to my right, and across from us are the ships of Pilot John and Mathemancer Alan. On the left of the board you see cards representing the ports where you can buy crew, supplies and gear, and on the right you have contacts and the bank, as well as these things called MISBEHAVE cards. More on those soon.
To build a crew, you need to find a range of skills if you want to complete the game goals and win. The broad skills you need are fightin’, mechanics, and negotiation. If you have all fighters, you’ll have a tough time dealing with mechanical troubles like ship breakdowns. Without negotiation skills, some jobs pay half as well—but with them, they could potentially pay twice as well. My crew was strong on mechanics and negotiation—I got Kaylee and Inara! Mechanics are the blue wrench icon, Negotiation is represented by the Chinese kanji in the green bubble, and Fighting is the yellow pistol on a red square:
Your leader, of course, will have skills of his/her own. You get to choose your leader (yes, Malcolm is available) and each one comes with certain benefits. I picked Monty, Smuggler Extraordinaire. Every time I completed a smuggling job I got an extra $500. This next picture shows Monty and my Firefly ship board, including my cargo hold, stash, and upgrades. You also see my drive core and ship upgrade slots, and to the left you see my current active job, a DUNG RUN! I was amused by that. Nothing like traveling across the ‘Verse for a giant pile of shit and getting paid $1500 for it.
SO FUN. You’ll notice that Monty has two Fightin’ skill points, and Jesse, my pilot from the previous picture, had one. The good news is that you can upgrade your weak spots with gear. I bought a FRICKIN’ LASER at Silverhold and gave it to Jesse, who had the requisite mechanics skill to wield it, and that gave me three extra Fightin’ points:
You need those skills to pass tests that require them. You roll a single dice and add the number of skill points to your roll to see if you passed. Also, in terms of occupations, you simply must have a pilot and a mechanic, or else when you run into the Reavers (and you WILL run into them at some point) some of your crew is gonna git et. Lots of high-paying jobs and often the game-winning goals require you to “Misbehave” and pass several skill tests. If you don’t pass them, the consequences vary. Sometimes you simply botch the attempt and you can try again next turn. Sometimes a Warrant is issued for your arrest by the Alliance. Sometimes you get crew members killed! The Misbehave deck is a whole lot of tension, basically. Here’s Pilot John and Mathemancer Alan checking to see if John passes one of FOUR Misbehavin’ tests he needs to complete a $6000 job for Niska:
Here’s a hot tip: Pray you can recruit River Tam to your crew, because there are a couple of cards in the Misbehave deck you cannot get past without her. We learned this the hard way because no one in our game drew her, and since we were all misbehaving quite a bit we kept running into those cards, which in one case requires you to reshuffle the deck and maybe run into them again. Check out this one, a Reaver Raid:
See that? If you have a TRANSPORT card, you can get away with one dead crew member and botch the attempt of the job/goal you’re trying to complete. If you have a high mechanics skill, you can roll and somehow score $1000 but the attempt is STILL botched, and you might wind up getting your entire crew killed. Only River gets you past it. Without River Tam, you botch your attempt no matter what and maybe lose crew. Some situations are just insurmountable without her—she’s the ace in the hole. That’s not to say you can’t win without her—far from it!
So anyway, I was kicking a bit of ass for awhile. There are six different story cards you can play through and you have to complete the goals on your story card to win the game. We were playing The King of All Londinium story. I’d completed the first two goals and was on my way to complete the third one when Travis the Barbarian got the opportunity to sic the Reavers on me and he took it. I got one shot at completing the third goal and ran into that Misbehave card that required me to have River Tam. Then I had to evade the Reavers and wait another two turns before I could get back there and try again. I did try again—and failed again due to a different insurmountable problem—I really didn’t have everything I needed to pass some of those tests. Had to evade the Reavers once more and wait. While I was evading and waiting, Mathemancer Alan caught up, snuck in past the Reavers, and won the game before I could.
There are mechanics in the game that allow you to sic both the Alliance and Reavers on people and I think that’s awesome. In the opening of the game everybody’s doing their own individual jobs and accumulating skills, gear and cash to complete jobs. Once you start on working the goals, however, it’s freakin’ cutthroat and hilarious.
Firefly: The Game is shiny indeed. All the character cards are from the show and you’ll recognize gear like Jayne’s favorite gun, Vera, and a particularly funny bit is that you can hire either Saffron, Bridget, or Yolanda on your crew, but only one can be in play at a time. If you hire Saffron, for example, and then someone else hires Yolanda afterward, you have to remove Saffron from the game.
I’m skipping plenty of details here, of course, but in general we all found this to be a very good time. You get to decide what kind of jobs you want to take on, how illegal and immoral you want to be (if at all), and enjoy geeking out in the ‘Verse with your fellow Browncoats. Like I said, I found this at a B&N, but I’m sure you can find it at your local game store too or certainly online. Happy gaming!