A Browncoat’s Wet Dream
Gearing up to write this reminded me of 2 things:
First, I haven’t rewatched Firefly this past year (shame on me), only finding time to reread the comics. Sadly, I didn’t play any of the Firefly games I own, either.
Second, it dawned on me that Disney now owns the rights to Firefly and its surrounding universe… Which could very well be a double-edged sword with Disney’s tendency to pander to a younger audience than Firefly is known to cater to, but we’ll have to see about that later as we’re here to talk about something else...
Recent years have been witness to a highly enjoyable resurgence of the Firefly IP (which I’m going to fawn over in another article because I could go on for weeks about it…), with anything from comics to toys, board, card, and roleplaying games being stamped with Joss Whedon’s original IP and shuffled out the production line of companies such as Margaret Weis Productions or indeed the publishers of the game at hand, Gale Force Nine, to much acclaim, both critical as well as that of the wider audience.
Last September, I placed down my first actual preorder for a boardgame (I don’t exactly count Kickstarter as a preorder), and it just made it over here on a rainy Wednesday afternoon that gave me no time to play the game, but just enough to read through the rules and rummage through the components. What follows is a short review of what came with the preorder, liberally brought on by me fanboying at the thought of now having official Firefly miniatures to use in my RPG sessions!
Unlike the first big-box Firefly boardgame, aptly titled Firefly - The Game (FTG), which dealt with navigating the deep black to find a crew, find a job, keep flyin’, and hopefully prosper from it within the confines of each scenario, Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats (against my better judgement, I’m using FABB for this, because it is.) zooms in on the whole thing, with Mal and the crew of the Serenity front and center, in 28mm miniature form, and ready to take on specific planetside tasks which see them stealthily creeping towards an objective or guns-blazing it out for the gold and the glory.
This is a cooperative skirmish-level game, which means there’s a small number of minis to push around, and you’re actively playing against a set AI behaviour to win big or go home. It looks like there’s plenty of variety in the core box itself to keep you engaged for hours, which we’ll most certainly try out ourselves and then come back with a fresh, deeper outlook on things, and a review of how the game carries itself.
The first thing that is striking with FABB is (and this may seem like a minor point) that GF9 have stacked the game box with smaller cardboard “boxes” depicting buildings you use to pepper the maps on which your adventures take place.
This is a great move, and the reason for it is twofold:
One, it works wonders towards keeping everything organised and not sliding around, without the need for you to throw out the damned cardboard insert (are you taking notes, FFG?) and come up with a proper storage solution other than ziploc bags.
And two, it is a cheap, fast, and highly exciting way to add more content to a game, especially when the bottom of the box doubles as a large hangar-type building!
The cards, counters, paper money, and dice are more or less the same quality FTG boasted as well, and that’s a good thing as everything in that box did its job with no fuss, clearly depicting everything you needed to see, and splicing in some fun thematic elements which I’ll tackle when I talk about the artwork.
I was pleased to see that the dice in particular felt solid and sported better colour choices than the drab, oddly semi-transparent-looking ones in FTG, especially since I’m always up for a solid pair of dice. Or twelve.
The cards themselves are linen-finished but seem slightly thinner than what this type of core usually goes by, and the counters, hero boards and map tiles look sturdy enough and well-made with no misaligned edges or weird bleeds in the colouring.
A bit of warping was found on the map pieces themselves, as well as the map-lining initiative trackers, with the latter looking a little flimsy at first glance. Nothing a ton and a half or two of books can’t fix overnight.
I thought I was going to have a look at the miniatures, silently nod to myself that they’re good enough for boardgame quality, and then be done with them, but boy, was I wrong!
Everything from the poses (maybe aside from twinkle-toe Jayne), the likenesses, body types, to the slightly tapered base edges and the details on the minis (down to the very creases of their jackets) is amazingly done, well above what most similar games offer in this price bracket. There’s also little to no cleanup required when it comes to mould lines which is always a plus when it comes to this slightly taller end of the 28mm scale.
One small gripe which may be made here is that most bad guy minis are cast with a very low profile, meaning their hands are laid around their bodies so that their postures “feel” very flat in a literal sense. This is probably done to have them fit the mould properly.
The resin preorder set also offers up some nice pieces, although there’s a fair bit of (expected) cleanup required here (which is going to be really fiddly when it comes to Thinker Mal), but nothing too major. Elbow grease and hot water will do away easily with all of this.
My personal favourite is the prisoner, with the opposite end of quality spectrum being the vault which is showing some mould slip. This makes for some hard lines on one of its sides which I’ll have to deal with extra carefully later on…
This is a highly subjective area in any game, but I was very apprehensive about the rumors this was coming out when I first heard about it, mainly because one of the other Firefly games that came out, i.e. the Legendary deckbuilder, seriously dropped the ball in that department (in my opinion) and came up with some really weird stylistic choices for its art.
My Firefly FLUXX had better depictions than that dumpster fire…
So I was happy to see that everything was just fine here, with the artists going for a true-to-life cartoon take on our belovedly motley gang of space misfits. This is able to capture both the grit as well as the tongue-in-cheek aspects of the universe we all know and love.
Everything from iconography to logos is instantly recognisable, partly because most of the items here look like what we were treated to in FTG: the sad face and Firefly-class icon appear on the dice, everything is laid out in crisp colour and sharp detail, and there isn’t an overwhelming amount of counters and pieces to get lost in.
The “corpse” markers for the baddies are a nice touch as too few games of this kind deal with the issues posed by players leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.
Many of the items depicted on cards are straight up cartoonified prop photos with instantly recognisable fan-favourites like Vera rendered in crystal-clear detail. A special mention to the timeline tracker which makes each map come together and offers up a little more eye-candy once the character counters are set down.
Here’s my main gripe with this game so far…
You’d think GF9 have a proper in-house editing/proofreading team to go through their books, and I don’t really remember this being a problem last time around, but this leaves something to be desired...
Some of the concepts are laid out in a somewhat fuzzy manner or the simplicity of it all is sometimes lost in the general layout and continuous writing of options as opposed to listing, there are typos (that tend to sneak into rulebooks), and there are some egregious editing oversights that have also made their way into this.
While this doesn’t make it unreadable, I’m sure it’ll pose a drawback to people who are just jumping into the genre. Not so much because this is too difficult to get into, but more because it just stops you dead in your tracks and has you reassess what in gorram is going on in front of you.
Other than that, there are some fairly neat concepts here, and a “thematic” way of describing things, both in humour and iconography (at least the one we were used to in FTG) as well as dialect.
A moment-based length to scenarios which makes things unfurl in overall action count rather than turns and allows you to do some fun things with chaining activations thanks to the initiative tracker that has each character and enemy move in turn order based on the time they take to perform their actions stands out as the main shtick.
Enough tactics and luck stuck into it all seem to at least try to offer up a little something for every player type to enjoy.
The idea of having player characters in a stealth/action mode during a game is also another great thematic choice as well as a fun concept to toy around with (including specific miniatures for each state) so I’m especially looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the long run.
Right out of the box, Firefly Adventures hits you with a genuine feel of the cult favourite show, and bangs out plenty of recognisable queues from it, blended with small twists and variations on existing formulas to seem like it can pack a helluva punch once people get the ball rolling and make sense of the drawbacks that the rulebook may pose.
Between the thought of this already having a couple expansions announced and something like Star Wars Imperial Assault (which is more or less a Descent clone) has had next to nothing new to add to the genre and still got it made on sheer force of IP alone, I’m hoping we’ll be able to play and review this one and keep getting new takes on regular mechanisms in it for a long time to come.
Check back for some play-by-play action as well as our final thoughts on it once we’re able to sink our teeth into it.
And stay shiny!