Wednesday, 8 January 2014

24. 'Firefly: the Game' review: The Cardboard Cartographer Issue 1.

Welcome to my new feature; 'The Cardboard Cartographer.'

The Cardboard Cartographer will be an blog series focused around table top reviews.
I'll be mapping out my encounters with the world of war games, miniatures games, board game, card games and others of like.

Having played quite a few board games in my time I thought I could easily start with something from my past experience. However, I thought I'd save those for later (when I have nothing to write about :P).

So today I'll be talking about a relatively new game (new in terms of board games anyway).

FIREFLY - The [Board] Game.

For those of you who are not aware of FireFly's existence I'll fill you in.

   FireFly was a TV series first aired in 2002 written by Joss Whedon (Known for Buffy, Angel and the Avengers to name a few). It was cancelled after one season, which by and large was the biggest travesty committed by Fox entertainment. Ever. (Except for their news services... really? They try to call that trash news?).

  Firefly is what can only be described as a Space Cowboy/Western Drama.
Set in the year 2157, it follows the story of crew of Serenity; A Firefly class spaceship and their various encounters and adventures in a generally unforgiving Galaxy.
  For more information WATCH THE DAMN SHOW!! It is one of the best TV shows I have ever seen.
 If you don't have time/ have severe taste issue, you can read more about it on Wikipedia

  The Firefly board game is set in this setting.
Whilst prior knowledge of the TV series makes the whole game more engaging, it is far from necessary. The theme has only a marginal bearing on how the game is played, and therefore prior knowledge of the show will not grant one player any noticeable advantage.

So, back to the game.

  Firefly was published in 2013 by Gale Force Nine LLC in conjunction with Battlefront Miniatures ltd, and designed by Aaron Dill, John Kovaleski and Sean Sweigart. For more of this general information, check it out on Board Game Geek -

  The game is for 1 - 5 players and takes around 90mins according to the box. The reality is at least 3 hours. The game is competitive in nature, and while it is possible to interfere with other players, it is not a large part of the game (even if you try really hard to make it that way).

 The object of the game is to be the first to complete the Goals on the Story card; of which details vary.
To do this players must take turns traversing the Galaxy ( the Game board), in search of jobs; both legal and illegal, to make money to fund their escapades, thus making life easier in the long run, hire more crew to make lighter work of jobs, and buy equipment and ship upgrades.

  Ahh. Board games always sound so simple. But as always there are obstacles in the players way. These vary from the Alliance; the big bad government trying to stamp out any illegal activity within their 'safe' sections of space , The Reavers; the cannibalistic, homicidal and generally horrible folk, trying to... well... eat you, and all manner of scum and mechanical problems in-between.

 Overview done.


First Impressions.
  First thing you notice when you get this game is that is pretty big!

While this doesn't put me off playing a board game (far from it in fact!), it does make the logistics of playing it problematic.
This only gets worse the further you get in the game.

  There are 11 decks of cards (Your standard trading/ playing card size) and each deck requires its own discard pile.
Very shortly that will result in 22 piles of cards.
These cards make up your missions, crew and equipment. These; as well as your ship, need to be stored in your playing area.
Needless to say, it gets quite crowded.

  Space issues aside the production quality is very nice.
The cards are straight forward, clear and visually appealing.
The game pieces are made of good card stock and the resources are plentiful.
The in game currency is probably my favourite form of currency ever!
The board is pretty. Who says board games are dull!
The only issue I have is that the ships themselves are a bit flimsy. However, they are considerably more intricate than your standard player marker, so I guess that is the price you pay.

  As previously stated, this game is very heavily themed.
While this doesn't really effect game play in any meaningful way, it is far more enjoyable being a fan of the franchise and sci-fi. Seeing cast from the show pop up adds a bit of awe to proceedings.

To the important part - Game play.

  As with many big box games it is very easy to be put off but the rule book.

Yes, it is quite page worthy, and yes, it does really all need to be read in order to play the game efficiently.
In spite of its relatively large and badly organised rule book the game is fairly straight forward.

 A player can take 2 of a possible 4 actions per turn. These actions are (in no particular order);
 You can only take an action once per turn.

Put simply, you can either move, buy equipment/fuel/parts/crew, Deal (get a job/ interact with job giving folk) or work (do something required by your job).

 Players take it turns doing these things until someone wins.

 While that sounds repetitive, the game throws enough spanners into the works to keep this interesting.
For example; travelling short distances is much safer than travelling long distances... regardless of where you are.
If you are doing illegal business you might need to avoid the Alliance, which requires you risking Reaver territory.

Completing jobs isn't straight forward either; each job has a requirement in terms of skill, and more often than not, requires a player to complete numerous skill checks or suffer the consequences (failing the mission, losing crew members or being issued a warrant for your arrest!).

   If you are interested in learning more about the game you can download the rules here -

Personal opinion.

Now, I wouldn't be me if I didn't pick it apart a little, so...

  The game is relatively easy to be introduced to, and the mission based mechanic ensures that experienced players will not have a major upper hand over newer players. This is, and its low down time between player turns makes it a nice game for new players to jump into (assuming someone knows the rules).

   The only issue that arises in the experienced vs new area is knowing where certain crew members/equipment resides in the market.
Knowing which 'shop' provides you with the 'good' characters does give a slight advantage to the experienced player.

However, this is offset by the random nature of the market and the need to continually earn money to fuel such endeavours.

  Another point I should note is that  I often find that games with no player vs player mechanics to be quite...dull.
Co-operative games seem to lack a sense of urgency; a sense of jeopardy.

Firefly is in-between the two.

   While playing the game you exist in between co-op and competitive; you are not working together directly, but you're not directly involved in each other fortunes; except of course, by winning the game first.
    In this sense the game has managed to hold on to a sense of jeopardy; the missions can be quite dangerous depending on your crew and equipment, and the risks are ever present.
However, because you have no player vs player interference on a meaningful scale, you can easily amass the resources required to make most skill checks an automatic pass.

   Player vs player mechanics grants a game a killer edge; gaining the upper hand or a way to sabotage your opponents plans to claw back time/ advance further.

Firefly lacks this.

 So unless your opponents are rushing around trying to complete the GOAL first; in which case they'll likely fail, you can take your time. The sense of urgency, and therefore jeopardy, is lost.

  This I feel is my biggest gripe with the game. For something so intricate, it is quite casual. This can make games drag on. What is meant to take 90 mins can take between 3-5 hours.

So, overall I enjoyed the game, and I'd recommend it to fans of the franchise, and to board game players looking for something a little different. However I feel that the game could do with a little more incentive to get players to take risks sooner to get into the 'lead,' as opposed to players taking their time and tanking resources.

    So there you have it. Firefly down
If you've played Firefly, what do you think? What do you feel are the best/ worst aspects of the game.

Feel free to drop me a comment, or tweet me @DarKHaZZl3.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more reviews from The Cardboard Cartographer!


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