Photos by Meagan Malone
I just got Firefly: The Game as a Christmas present, and it was probably the one I was most excited about. I’d been looking forward to the release since I found out about it, and when I discovered that it was going to be out in time for the holidays, I knew exactly what I was going to ask for.
I was so excited when I opened the box to get going, and after having played it I have to say, my excitement was rewarded. Read on for the details.
Each player is the captain of their own Firefly class transport ship, and your job is simple: “Find a crew. Find a job. Keep flying.” At the start of the game, you collectively choose a story card which will determine what the game goals are. You win by being the first person to complete all of the goals on the card.
The second issue is that the setup guide is not very well-written. The graphic accompanying the step-by-step instructions is pretty helpful in determining where each deck is supposed to go (there are several decks of cards, all of which need to be visible and accessible), and in figuring out which deck is which, since they aren’t as clearly labeled as they could be.
The guide itself just doesn’t have enough information. For instance, it says that if you are playing with three or more people, you need to remove two cards from their respective decks and put them in the discard pile, but it doesn’t say what to do if you are playing with fewer than three players. Fortunately, there were three of us playing so we didn’t have to worry about it. This time, anyway.
From there the guide goes pretty smoothly… at least for someone who understands the game. It takes you through the steps of setting up the figures on the board, picking who goes first, selecting a ship and leader, etc. but what is difficult about the remainder of the guide isn’t what it does say, but what it leaves out. It asked players to place their Firefly figures on the map without first giving players information on what the map locations mean. It would have been simple to include a small paragraph about what each type of location has to offer, or at least to mention what page that information can be found on.
This problem persists through the rest of the setup guide, which doesn’t even include or reference how to take a turn. Ultimately, it took us nearly an hour to set everything up and get going because we had to keep flipping back and forth in the rulebook to try to find the answers to basic questions which we needed in order to start.
However, after playing the game I can say with confidence that it would be much, much easier the second time around. I also recommend reading the rulebook in full before starting the game. I didn’t do this, and I would probably have saved myself a lot of grief if I had.
For instance, there is no section that specifically lays out what you can and cannot do on your turn. That would be the most important section, save possibly the setup guide, and it doesn’t appear in full anywhere in the rulebook. We had to do quite a bit of reading to figure out exactly what we could do during a turn, and as we played we kept discovering new things that we didn’t know we could/couldn’t do before.
There were also a couple of sections that weren’t entirely complete. Some pretty vital information was left implied in a couple of areas, and a game rulebook should never leave anything implied. For instance, there is a mechanic where you can become ‘Solid’ with some of the game NPCs, and this will grant you certain special rules. However, it was unclear whether you could be Solid with multiple NPCs at the same time or not. Based on some other gameplay mechanics, we determined that you could, but it was never stated explicitly. There were a few other areas with similar problems, and we essentially had to make our best guess as to what we were intended to do.
Again, I do think that some of this could be mitigated by reading the book in its entirety before attempting to play. Don’t let the drawbacks here keep you from trying the game, as its worth working through the initial questions.
Your crew, upgrades, and gear also help you navigate the ‘Verse, which is full of dangers waiting beyond every planet. An Alliance Cruiser patrols Alliance space, searching for vessels carrying fugitives or contraband, and a Reaver Cutter stalks the border planets, lying in wait for the next unfortunate ship to cross its path. In addition, you run the risk of your ship breaking down, pirates stealing your cargo, or disgruntled crew trying to mutiny.
You are mostly working on your own to try to accomplish your goals. Your interactions with other players are limited to trading when in the same sector, hiring crew members that are no longer happy working for your competition, and, if you are feeling vindictive, forcing an encounter between your friends and the enemy ships.
Most of the story goals require a good deal of money to complete. You earn money by completing jobs, but for every job you do you need to buy fuel to get there, parts in case your ship breaks down, and crew and gear to help accomplish it. It’s a careful balance between having enough bonuses to complete a job, and spending so much money on Supply Planets that you can’t afford the goal anymore.
One of the most interesting aspects of gameplay was the Misbehave deck. Many of the jobs you’re given are Illegal, and they require you to Misbehave. To do this, you draw a card from the Misbehave deck and attempt to complete one of the checks on the card. It gives you multiple options in case you aren’t proficient in a certain skill or don’t have an item that one of the options requires. There is even the option of ‘Acing’ the card, if you have a certain piece of gear, crew member, or profession. Depending on your job or goal, you may have to successfully settle up to five Misbehave cards in a row.
These cards are fun because they are a risk, in a number of ways. For one, when you accept an Illegal job the risk is higher because you might get caught by the Alliance and have all of your contraband and fugitives confiscated. There is also the risk that your illegal activity will cause the Alliance to put a warrant out on you. This causes you to immediately fail the Misbehave card, lose the job you are attempting to complete, and owe the Alliance money. However, the reward can be well worth the risk.
There is a lot more nuance to this game that is both fun and pretty impressive mechanics-wise. Any deficiency in the rulebook is more than made up for with really solid gameplay. This game is definitely a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.
The materials are all quite good quality, especially considering the price of the game. It comes with little plastic Firefly models, as well as a plastic Reaver Cutter and Alliance Cruiser to move around the board. Even the game money is made of reasonably thick paper, so it is less likely to fold and tear than typical Monopoly-style money. Everything feels sturdy and doesn’t seem likely to fall apart anytime soon, so unless you lose any of the tiny parts (there are several), you’ll be able to play this game well into the future.
I quite like the game board, which is a slightly incomplete map of the ‘Verse. It wouldn’t be far-reaching to assume that the map is a bit incomplete because they are planning on releasing expansions. In fact, the first expansion is already out, and the second is underway (though both appear to be map-free). Hey, I’m not complaining.
The different story card options and the plentiful job offerings give the game a lot of replay value, but there aren't very many story cards to choose from. I imagine fans will make their own sets of goals to complete if you ever find yourself growing tired of those included in the game, and future expansions could easily add more.
The game only supports play with up to four people, and it would be pretty difficult to get around that. Playing with teams would be difficult and take far longer than necessary, and there isn’t a way to make another crew without making things pretty complicated. If you come up with a way to play with more than four people, leave it in the comments! Otherwise, it’s probably not worth toting to a party.
Play this game if you like Firefly, and/or if you are a fan of involved board games.