Letters from Sag -- Firefly at the May Getaway

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Beer & Ding Dongs
There Will Be Games

At times, the May Getaway makes for odd bedfellows.

The evenings are when the bigger, more narrative games come to the table, and Thursday night set the mood with Firefly and a couple of its expansions hitting the table.  This copy includes a single-piece board that rolls, an aftermarket purchase that combines the boards of both expansions with the original.  Space aplenty to cruise around.

At its heart, Firefly is a pick-up and deliver game where about half of the card draws are designed to make something go wrong.  If you want to play pick-up and deliver, I recommend Merchant of Venus.  If you want pick-up and screw-up, Firefly is the game for you.  As in the show, no fifteen minute stretch of time will pass without something going horribly wrong, which would be amusing enough were it not for the guy next to you getting a simple, clean ride doing something similar to what you just did, rubbing your nose in your misfortune.  Don’t get me wrong, Firefly is a bucket of fun.  But it’s like a roller coaster where the ride is the point. You don't actually go anywhere.  When things go exceptionally well, it’s a joy to play. When things go wrong, it’s frustrating, and when things go horribly wrong, it’s downright hilarious.  With any luck, most of your time will be spent in the first and third categories.

Firefly comes with about a dozen scenarios to play but after 20 sessions amongst our group we’ve come to the conclusion that the best approach is to just play for cash.  Find a job, keep flying.  One of the scenarios does just this, and the nice part is that you can adjust the length of the game by the amount of money needed to win.  We opted for a $25,000 game, which is pretty steep, but moved the finish line to $15,000 because, well, it’s Firefly.  This is a game where every third sentence begins with “My original plan was to . . .” followed by a pretty dependable turn of luck where you remind yourself that you’re on the ride for the experience, not the win.

Firefly

There's a few cards involved in the play.

Firefly is a good game and does what it is designed to do better than just about any other game out there.  It’s beautifully tied to the television show it’s based on and downplays the truly awful film that followed.  In this particular game, I quickly assembled a +10 modifier on gunfights in a game where you roll a d6 to determine results.  Sounds pretty cool, but at the time I was trying to assemble a well-rounded team.  Make all the plans you want, Firefly will give you what it wants to and you’ll do well to work with what fate deals you.

At one point I intentionally picked up a crew member with an outstanding warrant so that I could throw him to the police corvette that was camped on the planet I needed to land on.  I had other crew with warrants that I wanted to keep, so... "Hey, Bob, need a job?  Pays real well."  It did pay real well, but only for about 24 hours.  Just another day in the ‘verse, and it’s well worth your time to give this game a shot.  But fair warning – whatever your impression of the game is when you sit down at the table, Firefly will offer you something different.  It’s the most capricious lover in gaming; the one where you have no clue how the date will end or even where.  This game is as Ameritrash as it gets and it does it right.  The most up-tighty Euro-player will enjoy this walk on the wild side.

Firefly: The Game is available at major retailers and that likely won’t change for the foreseeable future, I consider this a try-before-you-buy title, as its unpredictability may not be a feature every player is looking for in a regular play.  The good news is that the base game brings plenty of fun at a very reasonable $36 at online retailers.  At that price, give it a shot – what could possibly go wrong?

There Will Be Games

John "Sagrilarus" Edwards (He/Him)
Associate Writer

John aka Sagrilarus is an old boardgame player. He has no qualifications to write on the subject, and will issue a stern denial of his articles' contents on short notice if pressed.

Articles by Sagrilarus

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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #297727 28 May 2019 09:48
After playing many times myself, I agree that the race for the money scenario is the best way to play the game.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #297731 28 May 2019 11:28

ubarose wrote: After playing many times myself, I agree that the race for the money scenario is the best way to play the game.

We usually default to the starting scenario, which I think is a download, which is enough money to "pay off your ship" with some solid contracts along the way.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #297732 28 May 2019 12:15
I always played race too after a few games. Good post.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #297733 28 May 2019 12:34
Although we recently played a scenario from one of the expansions that was a lot of fun. I can’t remember it exactly, but everyone starts with a warrant on them, and you have to do crime jobs to win. It really switched up player’s tried and true strategies and added a lot of tension, as well as fun to the game.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #297739 28 May 2019 14:33

ubarose wrote: Although we recently played a scenario from one of the expansions that was a lot of fun. I can’t remember it exactly, but everyone starts with a warrant on them, and you have to do crime jobs to win. It really switched up player’s tried and true strategies and added a lot of tension, as well as fun to the game.


I heard about this one recently and sounds interesting for just the reason you mention -- it presses you to step outside of your comfort zone, and that's very valuable in gaming. I haven't gotten the opportunity to try it.

Granted, Firefly tends to move you out of your comfort zone whether you like it or not because you need to adapt to what is available at whatever space port you stop at. In the game above I was neck-deep in gunners without even trying, in spite of looking to run a broader, more crew-heavy session. That didn't pan out, and with just four or five crew was more or less a flying arsenal that could shoot my way out of anything. Not at all what I had intended.

All that said, the one place you still have heavy control in Firefly is what jobs you choose to pick up. That scenario puts you on the wrong side of the law from the get-go, so dancing around illegal stuff isn't worth much, if anything.

I still like this game in spite of half a dozen good long plays in. But I understand that "winning" is a bit of a second priority in the game, as more of your emotional energy is burned on your current job, just trying to close the current deal so you can start looking at other things. Winning the whole game is too far down the road to capture much of your attention.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #297745 28 May 2019 16:25
I mean, the other place you have control is that by midgame you have an extreme amount of perfect information about where to buy exactly what you need if people have been sifting through decks at all since it's all open info.
engineer Al's Avatar
engineer Al replied the topic: #297747 28 May 2019 17:52
"At its heart, Firefly is a pick-up and deliver game where about half of the card draws are designed to make something go wrong."

Nailed it!

Though I would argue that there are ways to plan ahead for the tragedies yet to come. It takes time to prepare, and it is a race game (adventure game/pick-up and deliver game) so it takes some restraint to prepare properly. It's also a push-your-luck game when you are deciding how much time to put into preparations.

It's the disasters that hit you right from the start that really hurt.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #297750 28 May 2019 19:40
+1 to the play for cash (the one with the choice of when to end going to the players who have achieved the cash level, with unfinished jobs counting against you).

I play with my kids, mostly, and they tend to be fairly risk averse (although I'm trying to improve this). This means that the scenarios in which you have to pull off a string of crime jobs - which, in reality, are just like other crime jobs in the game anyway - tend to look unachievable to them. The more open world scenario, which gives them the chance to be a bit more cautious, is what they enjoy. Of course, what I do, is go nuts with trying to pull off Niska jobs as a counterpoint, so it's a tortoise and hare type deal. Glorious victory or utter ruin.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #297751 28 May 2019 20:16
No love for the scavenger hunt scenario?