Maybe it’s me. I love the idea of highly thematic games, but I am frequently disappointed at the actual implementation. If you’ve read my thoughts on Merchants & Marauders you’ll understand that I have love\hate opinion on games that favor theme over balance. Did Firefly: The Game manage to succeed where other games failed?
Firefly: The Game is another board game from the folks at Gale Force Nine. I was highly impressed by Gale Force Nine’s first game “Spartacus a game of blood and treachery” based on the popular TV series.
Here’s my ratings for the game after 3 plays:
Given this is a highly thematic game, my expectation of deep strategy is significantly lower than if I was playing a typical euro design. While certainly luck plays a part in this game, having a well-outfitted ship and diverse crew can help drastically reduce the twists and turns that inevitably happen during the game. Over the course of the 3 games I’ve played so far, there has been a large spread in finish position between the players. The game includes a variety of different scenarios that determine the victory conditions. Having played only 2 of these scenarios, it might be unfair to fully assess the strategy until I have more plays under my belt.
I love the theme. It’s not only is the theme great, it’s how well that the mechanics are built to complement the theme. If you are a fan of the Firefly TV series, you’ll find that Gale Force Nine has done an extraordinary job of incorporating elements of the show into the game. If you’re not a fan of the show, but enjoy thematic games, you likely really enjoy this game.
I found the components to be nicely designed. The graphic design is effective and the images from the TV show doing a great job adding to the theme.
The mechanics for this game really do a wonderful job supporting the theme. They are not overly complex given the wide range of options that players can take. Some other reviews have been critical of the ship movement mechanic, however I found that it does a great job of simulating the excitement of traveling through space as depicted in the series. I could quibble about the fact that a players fortune can swing pretty wildly based on cards, but that’s the nature of a highly thematic game such as this.
This game is a great blend of many things that are fun. Players get the chance to build up their ship, and find crew members that will help to complete missions. Flying around the ‘verse uses a fun mechanic that brings a level of uncertainty into the game. For each sector of space you move into, you draw a card. The card tells you what you’ve found. Usually, its just empty space, and you are allowed to continue flying. Some times its an obstacle or even an opportunity to salvage a derelict ship. This movement system is well designed, but can also be frustrating at times. During my few plays, I encountered a few situations where critical turns have been fully wasted due to a string of unlucky draws. Of course you can move at a very low speed and avoid the randomness of card drawing, but it would take you too long to travel to complete most missions efficiently.
Over the course of the game, it’s likely that the random aspects of the movement deck will balance out across players. Also, with strategic play, it maybe possible to mitigate the impact as well.
Gale Force Nine has done a fantastic job capturing the feel of the FireFly series. Players who are looking for a deep strategic game should probably look elsewhere. However, those who enjoy the series, or the space game genre, or even just thematic games should definitely give this a try. Thank you Gale Force Nine for designing a game that really captures the FireFly IP. After doing a great job on Spartacus, I was worried that they would fall short on this design, I’m happy to have been proven to be wrong.
One more thing…
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