Friday, November 1, 2013


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.

What I really wanted to talk about is my impression of the game after 3 plays now.  I love the Firefly universe as much as the next geek.  I want to love this board game.  But I don't.  I like it - quite a bit.  But I don't love it - I don't think it's worthy of the hype it's been getting - although I feel like there are some more criticisms creeping out there.  So, what are the issues for me?  The biggest one is player interaction - there is very little.  Yes, you can potentially send the Alliance or Reavers after other players, but you need to be a little lucky to do that - that typically only happens when someone is moving through space and flips a card that allows the player next to them to move the Alliance/Reavers.  And then the moving person already has to be only one space away for anything to happen.  For other interaction - you can potentially trade with someone in the same space, or steal their disgruntled crews.  We never had that happen - disgruntled crew was rare, and besides everyone was just trying to complete their jobs rather than spy out what was happening on other players ships.  Brian said it best after the game - "I had little idea what anyone else was doing during the game." I almost wish - and I've had vague notions of trying to home-rule something like this - that multiple ships could be working the same job, and there was some kind of race to see who completed it first.  However, I would also want some way to try and hinder the the other players trying to work the same job as you - perhaps some way to force a misbehaving card on them?  Hmm...

Then there's the luck factor.  This turns up mostly during the travel, as you flip the Alliance and Reaver decks.  Poor Carson in our game got hammered by this - having the Reavers pop into his space on several occasions.  I probably would have won the game if Zoe hadn't been snatched from my crew by the Alliance, forcing me to find a replacement for her.  In fact, we had a run of bad luck where it seemed the Alliance was finding anyone with a warrant.  Randy must have tried for 4 turns to complete that first goal before he was able to, just due to the cards that popped up - the misbehave cards can be easy or difficult, and there's no good way to build your crew to handle them - they could require any of the skills.

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....

No comments:

Post a Comment