Well, this past Tuesday night, we had the chance to break out Firefly again. This was my third Firefly experience, after my first game (detailed here) and a two player affair that my friend Tom and tried out one night. The first game was the very first for all the players, and the 2-player game was started at 10:00 at night after a long day of college football, while camped in front of the TV, so I'm not so sure that was a fair shake. I was eager to try it again, after getting some experience, and with another larger group. In fact 3 of the 4 of us were the same players as from that first play, and everyone had had the chance to get a few plays under their belt. Our 4th player was Brian, who was a rookie, but had been eager to try the game.
We hemmed an hawed a little about which scenario to play, but finally settled on "The King of All Londinium", which is the suggested starting scenario - but has also been roundly criticized for taking MUCH longer than the estimated 2 hours. (Note - Gale Force Nine has released a new "beginners story" on their website - "First Time in the Captain's Chair") The thing about "The King of All Londinium" (and the reason that it takes so long) is that it forces you to try and get the full experience of Firefly, as you have to not only earn money, but get a crew that is proficient at all the skill sets in order to succeed.
It's actually the first goal in "The King of All Londinium" that seems to take the longest time, as you not only need to build a decent crew (in particular, with the negotiation skill), but in the first goal, you need to have at least $7000 in order to succeed (you can chance it with $5000). It takes some time to build up that kind of cash, as your crew takes their cut for each successful job. Note that we all still played a bit conservatively, as no one was risking a disgruntled crew by not paying them.
Without giving a detailed overview of our actual game, I'll just cut to the chase and report that Brian won, beating me by one turn in completing the 3rd goal. Remember, Brian was the only player with absolutely no experience with the game. Randy finished 3rd, having completed the 1st goal a few turns prior the end, and Carson never completed that first goal. It took us about 3 hours. Which wasn't bad considering, the first time around, we called it at 3.5 hours, and only one person had completed the first goal.
One other issue I wanted to mention is that if you get behind in this game - there seems to be little chance to catch up. Brian and I were fortunate enough to complete the first goal at relatively the same time. Carson and Randy were not able to do so, and it quickly became apparent that they wouldn't catch us. Since this game tends to run long, that can be an issue for players if they know they're out of it, and there's still 2 hours of game to go. Perhaps that's mainly a problem with the Londinium story, though - as I mentioned, I think the first goal is the hardest. Once you get past that, it's relatively straight forward to try and optimize your crew skills for the 2nd and 3rd goals.
Ok...all that said...I still like the game, and I'd be happy to play it again. Another quote from Brian - "I was never bored". It's just that it's almost like 4 players playing solo games on the same board. Another quote, from my buddy Paul O. - I don't remember if he said this when I was describing Firefly, or we were talking about another game - he talked about it sounding like an "experience game". I think that's dead on here. You play the game to have the experience of "living" in the Firefly universe for a little while. To that end, I think a little role playing may help out - really read the flavor text on the various cards, don't just look for the skill check numbers and roll the dice.
Well, that's it for now...despite my misgivings, I'm sure I'll shell out the money for the expansion cards that are due in a month or so. Until then, keep flying....