Firefly The Game is a thematic sandbox adventure game much like Merchants and Marauders or Xia: Legends of a Drift. Much like the other games, you are the captain of a ship and you are setting off to build your fame and fortune. However, both of the other games focus on the experience and the story of you, as an enterprising captain, making your fortunes out in the wide world/universe around you. Firefly focuses more on feeling of you and your crew barely making it and scraping by to meet your end goal.
Firefly is considerably more thematic than either Xia or Merchants. This should come as no surprise as it is based in the world of the cult classic TV series Firefly.
Where the other two simply need to evoke the feeling of a space merchant prince or a captain on the seven seas, this game needs to make you feel like you are living and breathing the same universe that was built up in the show. The first way that the game will introduce the world is by the story card.
This is the card that determines what the overarching goal for the game is and how the various players can reach it. It also displays the estimated time to play the game as well as any special rules or starting conditions that may affect the players. These sub-goals usually consist of having a certain amount of money or doing a certain amount of jobs. The final stage is almost always going to be the first to have completed all prior objectives and then get to a certain destination. Make no mistake, the player that can manage to scrape by using only the skin of their teeth will often be poised to have the quickest victory.
The Basics of Gameplay
The game at its most basic is comprised of you and your crew moving about the ‘Verse trying to eek out survival.’ You’ll start the game off by choosing a Firefly-class vessel and captain.
Each captain will have some skills, at least one profession, a special ability, and possibly one or more keywords. The three skill types are Fight, Tech, and Negotiate. Throughout the game you will make skill checks by rolling a die and adding as all symbols for the relevant skill that you have. Additionally, if you ever roll a six, you get to roll again and add it to the result! Skills, professions, and key word are used for jobs and random encounters that you face throughout the game. On your turn, you will be able to do two distinct actions from the following four: Move (across the map), Buy (more crew and inventory), Deal (to get more jobs), and Work (to complete those jobs). Jobs will be covered later so that leaves movement and getting more stuff.
There are two types of moves in Firefly. First, you can just mosey along the board, moving only one or two spaces. Second, you can full burn, which costs a fuel but lets you move the full speed of whichever engine you have equipped to your vessel. The full speed, that is, unless you run into an encounter. Every space you move at full burn will have you draw an encounter card.
While most of these just let you keep flying, sometimes the Reaver ship will start moving towards you, maybe the Alliance is coming for a visit, or maybe you run into a friendly trader out in the black.
When you Buy, you are able to outfit your ship, crew, and gear. Gear and crew will provide additional skills, keywords, professions, and special abilities for you to use on your adventure. You can hold as much gear as you want but you will have a limited amount of crew space, based on your ship. The upgrades to your ship will increase your carrying capacity, your movement, or let you dodge out of combat or pursuit. During the actual act of buying, you will be able to consider three cards, coming either from that locations discard or from the top of the deck. From those three, you will be able to buy at most two. Once you’ve done that, everything you did not choose will be put in the discard for all the players to see. Finally, you are able to stock up on fuel and spare parts. These two things will let you keep your ship in moving order and moving throughout the ‘Verse.
All The Jobs In The Verse
Jobs are really the only way that you can make money in the game. You can get them by Dealing with a variety of contacts throughout the ‘Verse.
Each contact has their own disposition to certain jobs, be they legal or illegal, cargo or passengers, moral or immoral. You acquire jobs much the same way acquiring gear and crew, when you are at the correct location, you can choose to consider three cards from the discard and put two into your hand. You are able to hold up to three jobs in your hand at a time and be actively working on three additional jobs. Once you have completed a job from a contact, you become Solid with them. While Solid, another service will be provided when dealing with that contact, things like buying or selling contraband or cheaper fuel.
Most job will have a start system, an end system, a payout, and several needs. These needs are usually a certain number of skill icons but may also be either a profession or a keyword that must be on one of you cards. To begin a job, you will need to be in the start system, have all the needs for the job, and have space for anything it needs you to carry; whether that’s parts, goods, or people. Then you take the Work action to move the job from your hand into the active jobs space. Then, all you need to is travel to the end system and spend an action to unload whatever you took on. You’ll then get paid! Some jobs will also provide a bonus if you have the correct profession aboard. This can be parts, fuel, money, or cargo. Of course, if you have crew, you’re going to need to pay them; so they’ll take a cut of the pay.
This seems straightforward enough, but there are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind! First, certain jobs, both legal and illegal, are immoral.
Conversely, certain crew members are moral. If you have a moral crew member and you complete an immoral job, that crew member will gain a disgruntled token. If a crew member ever has two of those? They are immediately discarded. If your captain ever gets two of those? All other crew members are discarded. Second, illegal jobs will have you smuggling contraband or fugitives. This will make the Alliance very interested in talking with you. If they catch you while you are carrying those, you’ll lost them all. Third, illegal jobs will require you to do another thing when you work them: Misbehave.
When this happens, you will have to draw the required number of cards from the Misbehavin’ deck and resolve them. Misbehavin’ cards will require you to make a choice between two different skill checks. One choice will have possible success or complete failure (and you will lose the job). The other will let you keep the job but you will need to attempt to Misbehave again next turn. This is when having the best crew you can manage can really come in handy, since certain choices are only available if you have certain keywords. Some keywords can even let you auto-pass the card without even needing to make the check!
Firefly thrusts you into a world where you need to struggle to get by. You’ll find yourself caught in a never ending cycle of working jobs to get money and then spending that money to outfit your ship and crew so that you can take on better paying jobs. It manages to distinguish itself from other sandbox adventure games starring ship captains by building that focus around having that crew. Additionally, instead of just building up victory points, the game gives you distinct objectives and you can see them all in advanced. While set in the same basic framework as Merchants and Marauders or Xia, this makes Firefly have a completely different feel. The ‘consider three cards, acquire two’ rule also puts an interesting spin on building out that crew. Do you take most of your cards from the discard so to prevent anything amazing from falling outside your control? Or do you choose to risk a high paying job being available to other players to go retrieve it out from under your nose?
The game’s biggest downside is that it will take a lot of time. Until you are comfortable with the rules and game play, it would be wise to add an hour onto however long the story card says that game will last. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth taking that extra hour to play! It will still be an hour filled with fun misadventures out in the black! So grab your toy dinosaurs, get your gun, and keep on flying!
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