Despite only running for a single season, the TV show Firefly has spawned quite the pile of merchandise. After watching the show, I couldn’t help but wonder how great the board game would be. Then my wife came home with it! We’ve now played it quite a few times, and it’s about time I sat down and wrote a review for it.
The board game is set within the same confines as the show. If you’re a fan of Firefly, you’ll probably recognize quite a few of these places. The cast of the show also makes a return to fill out the crew members that you’ll use to play the game, or the unsavory types that you might have to deal with.
The object of each game is typically different. There are story cards that explain the goals that each player is required to fulfill in order to win. And, at least with the cards that come with the game, you need to complete these goals in order. The first player to complete all goals wins the game. Additional story cards can be found with game expansions, or you can find quite a bit of fan-made content online. Playing through new story cards keeps the game fresh rather than repetitive.
Players start with a Firefly class ship and a leader. Additional crew can be found throughout the five commerce locations around the board: Regina, Persephone, Osiris, Space Bazaar, and Silverhold. In addition, you can also purchase weapons, ship upgrades, and other useful accessories at each of these locations.
Players make take two actions on their turn, and they must be different from each other. The possible actions are: move, perform work, buy, or deal. Moving is straightforward. You may mosey one space for free, or you may perform a full burn to move a longer distance (see the next paragraph for movement details). Performing work involves starting or completing a job at a single location, performing the necessary tasks to complete a goal, or you can simply do mundane tasks to get 200 credits at any planet. Buying must be done at one of the five locations named earlier. And dealing must be done while visiting one of the five patron characters.
Movement around the board consists of moseying (moving a single space for free) or a full burn (trading a fuel token to move up to a maximum number of spaces equal to your full burn range). When performing a full burn, players draw a card from the border space (red) or Alliance Space (blue) card piles for each space that they move, following the instructions on the cards. Sometimes these cards are beneficial, letting players salvage cargo or contraband from abandoned vessels. Other times, players may run across pirates, Reavers, or Alliance ships, forcing them to stop and deal with a setback.
Buying items or hiring crew can be done wherever commerce takes place. You may look through the discard pile and consider buying up to any three cards in that pile. If you select less than three cards, you may draw the rest (up to three, including any from the discard pile) from the draw pile for that location. After seeing the three cards you’re considering buying, you may only purchase a maximum of two cards. (Make a note: consider three, buy two. This will come up again later.) In addition to cards, you may purchase fuel and parts at the same time, paying 100 credits for each fuel and 300 credits for each part.
Acquiring jobs happens when dealing with the five individuals around the board: Harken, Badger, Amnon Duul, Niska, and Patience. Players may only have a maximum of three active jobs (tasks you’ve already started) and three jobs still unstarted in your hand. A similar process takes place to when players buy items or hire crew members. You can look through the discard pile for that person and consider up to any three jobs. If you draw less than three, draw the rest up to three from the draw pile for that person. You may only keep a maximum of two jobs at a time. And if you end up with more than three jobs in your hand, you must discard down to three jobs.
Jobs may have starting skill requirements before you can even attempt them. These requirements also apply to various challenges throughout the game. There are three skills that can apply to a challenge: firepower (the red gun icon), negotiation (the green talk bubble icon), and tech skill (the blue wrench icon). Challenges typically involve rolling a die and adding a bonus equal to the number of a particular skill that your crew will have. For instance, if I need a nine or better on a firepower challenge and I roll a five on the die, I will need my crew members to have a total of at least four firepower icons to make my total score a nine to pass the challenge. Once you start a job, you may not discard it until it is completed. So, having three active jobs at one time can be risky, if you find yourself struggling to finish them off. When jobs are completed, you get your reward as shown on the job card, sometimes with a bonus if you have the right crew members or succeed at a skill test. You must then pay your crew their cut of the reward. The amount you must pay them is the value listed on the bottom of each crew member. Whatever is left is what you get to keep.
Jobs always have a starting location. Your ship must be in that location to begin the job. Some jobs involve transporting goods or passengers. Others simply involve misbehaving on behalf of one of the five patron characters. Misbehaving requires skill tests. And this is where having a variety of crew and accessories comes in handy. Some misbehaving cards give you a free pass to success if you have certain items, which they refer to as the “Ace in the Hole”. (For instance, a hacking rig, fancy duds, or transportation.) If you don’t have the item listed, you must succeed at the skill test on the card or suffer the consequences. And once you complete a job for a particular person, you’re considered “solid” with them, letting you sell excess contraband and cargo to them for credits.
There’s quite a bit going on throughout the game. And just when you think someone is going to win, they might fail a misbehaving card and have to kill their crew or run into an Alliance cruiser and get Niska’s contraband confiscated before they can complete their goal. There’s definitely strategy involved. What crew to hire. Which objects to buy. Whose jobs do you take? (Niska has stiff penalties if you fail, but big rewards if you succeed.) It comes down to taking calculated risks and a little bit of luck. And the more players you have, the crazier things get.
There’s even more to the game than I’ve described here, but this gives you the general idea of how the game is played. There are also a number of expansions to Firefly, none of which I have played, yet. But these add new game board sections to explore, new items and crew members, and new people where you can find jobs. I’m excited to get some of these expansions to see how they affect the game.
Firefly is a great game. It’s fun and interesting each time we play it. It does take up a fair amount of space, though, so make sure you have room at your table for a larger game. (5 decks for dealing, 5 decks for buying, 2 decks for moving around the board, and 1 deck for misbehaving, plus all of the tokens, money, and space for your player cards/crew/purchased items) It also takes us 2-4 hours to play, depending on the number of people and how quickly we play. So, this one isn’t a quick game. Expect to take some time to finish this one.
If you love Firefly, get this game. If you love board games with strategy, get this game. If you love games with some complexity and plenty of variety, get this game. We won’t be getting rid of this one any time soon.