I’ve never made a secret of Firefly being one of the main inspirations of my Black Ocean universe. And when it comes to themed board games, there are few they hew as close to the feel of their source material as Firefly: the board game.
In the television series, Captain Mal has a mantra: “Find a job, find a crew, keep flying.” This, in essence, also describes the gameplay of the tabletop edition.
You begin as one of several potential ship captains (including Malcolm Reynolds) with your own Firefly-class ship (including Serenity) and a stipend of fuel, spare parts, and money, none of which will last you long if you don’t find work. There is a game board depicting a scattering of close-knit stars and the habitable worlds orbiting them. Some are home to major cities where you’ll shop for gear, hire crew, and inquire about potential work.
The work ain’t the easy sort. Neither is it, by and large, the legal sort.
Through the course of a game, you’re shooting for one of several pre-selected endgame objectives. Most are pulling off a particularly hard job or series of jobs, reaching a milestone of cash on hand, or similar. But along the way, you need to assemble a crew capable of putting off the arduous, lucrative jobs that’ll put you ahead of the competition.
…and that’s the weakness of Firefly as a board game.
The theming is wonderful. The artwork and writing capture the spirit and draw liberally from the canon of the series. But Firefly, the series, wasn’t about competition. It was, in a way, a variant of survival horror on an interplanetary scale. Sinister forces ranging from the Alliance to Reavers nipped at their heels (both reflected in game mechanics), but there was never a pressure to outperform other crews.
Interactions between players are somewhat limited, as a result. Firefly-class ships aren’t even armed, and the base game didn’t try to shoehorn in a PVP function. You can hire away disgruntled crew from opponents and snipe gear they might need, but these aren’t situations that come up much, especially if you’re playing 2-player. Mostly, it’s a mutual fishbowl race to complete your own objectives and take care of your own crew.
But it’s still a hoot!
If do you crave the more cutthroat PVP action at your game nights, there is a “Pirates and Bounty Hunters” expansion, upping the danger of signing on crew members with “warrants” (including both Tams). However, as I value harmony in my household, I don’t own this one.
But the best part? Make sure to read the flavor text on the cards, not keeping a laser focus on the mechanics. It’s not that deep of a strategic experience so much as a triumph of preparation and guts over the forces of “not paying us.” But the in-game consequences of donning Kaley’s frilly pink dress or Jayne’s hat are priceless.
It’s definitely an event of a game, with most scenarios running 2-3 hours, and taking up a sports field’s worth of tablespace. But if you’ve exhausted your catalog of quick-play games and are looking for a deeper one, Firefly is well worth the effort.
Sound like your idea of a fun evening?