Legendary Encounters: Firefly Review - We Can't Die Because We Are So Very Pretty!

Have no place I can be, since I found Serenity. But you can't take the sky from me! Oh man, love that series, it just had so much potential to go the distance with great characters, great setting, great soundtrack and great visuals. And of course Kaylee, who being honest guys, she's the ultimate dream girlfriend you want right? Intelligent, practical, pretty even when covered in engine grease, loves gadgets and tech and has an adorable rating of 100 cute fluffy kittens. I lost count of how many times I shouted at Simon (in a fun way) for being an idiot when flirting with her. . . . . siiiiiiigh. . . .  Wow I'm getting sidetracked, where was I?

Ah yes, board games. Now this isn't the first game to use the license, there have been several minor fray's, but the biggest release was the original Firefly: The Game. Now whereas it did a great job of representing the theme, it was just far too long and fiddly given it was essentially a luck fest throughout. I personally only liked playing it if we flipped the table at the 90 minute mark to see who won, though friends have suggested giving everyone random starting crew and gear at the start to shorten it, which actually sounds like a good plan, will have to try that next time.

Now the Legendary series did a great job with Marvel and you know I adore Alien to bits (Predator was good too) so I was confident on the announcement that a Firefly version would do well, but as always, representing theme in a deck builder is incredibly difficult and Alien set the bar really, really high, so can Firefly match that?  




Designer: Ben Cichoski, Daniel Mandel
Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment
Age: 14+
Players: 1-5
Time: 60-90 minutes
RRP: £54.99


I Aim To Misbehave!


As is the norm with the Legendary series there is an element of card sorting before you begin, though it is easier than in previous iterations and shouldn't suck up too much of your free time to get it done. But seriously Upper Deck would it kill you guys to pre-sort them, it can't be that hard to print them in the right order can it? Also still you have to make do with dull dividers and I highly recommend checking on BGG to see if users have uploaded their own custom ones, they are infinitely better - make sure you have a printer, laminator and trimmer handy though.

The playmat is the typical Neoprene style we see these days rolled up in the middle and as you would expect the box is way too big for what you get in the game even if you sleeve the cards. This makes us hopeful for expansions though other than the Serenity movie I'm not entirely sure how else you could expand this with such a limited universe to pull from. My copy had folded paper inside though to keep the cards from all falling down.

No extra tokens or bits required, just the cards, dividers and playmat as is the norm, however let's address the big problem here........



Pain is Scary!


Not half as scary as the artwork. Yes, this is the biggest elephant in the room I've seen in a long time and the main factor that every potential buyer is bringing up when asking about Legendary Firefly. And yeah, it's only right that they should. Because half the artwork in this game is atrocious. I mean "really" bad!

Now not everything is horrible. You'll be pleased to know that the play mat actually looks gorgeous with a backdrop of space and Serenity. And for the most part the Avatars are pretty decent as well. Some fare better than others, but overall they're good to look at. In fact I swear they photoshopped Zoe straight out of the series she looks that good.

But the rest of the crew cards are very hit and miss, going beyond the realms of cartoony. The strikes in particular actually make me feel sick looking at them. Some don't even make sense. The "Shot" wound is the maximum -5 health modifier you can take and yet you can barely even tell the character is shot. When you eventually spot the bullet you see it looks more like a grazed flesh wound, how's that -5? Go look at the Alien version, the guy has a Xenomorph jaw in his forehead, that's deserving of a -5 and the picture looks really cool also, this is just such a downgrade (on a side note, I do find it amusing and I admit thematically questionnable when you heal that -5 strike in Alien as if it were a papercut).


When I Kill You, You'll Be Awake, You'll Be Facing Me And You'll Be Armed!



Now the biggest challenge as I mentioned was the theme. It's a deck builder and as such it sticks this huge barrier in the way of theme being represented. Alien managed it with flying colours and Firefly is no exception. Each episode brings in different cards all taken from the series itself with objectives thematically tied as well (I love the side jobs especially). One minute you're collecting salvage while evading the Alliance, the next you're stealing the Lassiter gun by sticking it in the trash, the next you're assaulting Niska's home base. All 14 episodes are faithfully displayed and even though you have to follow an A/B/C style rule of constructing the Episode deck, there's a lot of variation in game setups out of the box.  

Being able to control one of the crew is always good fun and it's a nice decision to make before you even begin because whoever you don't pick as a main character, you're using their cards in the Crew deck. Each Avatar has a unique talent ability and flaw penalty of when those cards are used that fit their character. Naturally Kaylee was my Avatar for my first game and as expected I excelled at keeping Serenity in good repair.

But it doesn't stop there. If you're a fan of the show and remember what happens in each episode, you'll spot all sorts of really cool thematic tid bits here and there that prove that the designers must have been fans of the show and it puts a big smile on your face whenever they crop up, especially on your first run-through. Here's a few examples (SPOILER ALERT):

(1) When Patience shows up in Serenity Part II, Zoe draws a Crew Strike immediately as she got hit by a shotgun to the chest when she betrays them.

(2) Most of the cards in Jaynestown hate on Jayne whether by over-riding the target rules or drawing flaws because that whole episode essentially rags on Jayne.

(3) If playing a game straight after, failing to stop Yolanda in the Trash episode results in the player using Mal having to begin the next game naked (as in no cards in hand, you filthy people!)

Little thoughts like this go a long way to show that the effort was put into the design of these cards.



Curse Your Sudden, But Inevitable Betrayal! 



OK, firstly, that Wash scene with the dinosaur toys is probably my favourite part, cracks me up! But let's talk about the difficulty curve. One classic common trait of the Legendary games is that the more players you have, the more you're asking for the game to beat you senseless. Firefly follows this up to a point, but has a nice little additional rule that with 4/5 players you get 1/2 extra prepatory rounds to buy cards where the Episode deck doesn't do anything. Doesn't sound like much, but it makes a big difference to how well you start off. It's not a faultless method though so just be aware that more players will mean a harder game, but not impossibly hard as I have won with 4 recently. But as always with deckbuilders, 3 is your ultimate sweet spot and it works very well in solo mode as well.

One aspect that helps is that now you get a breathing space in between episodes, which you didn't in the Alien version. As each episode ends whether by failure or success, players get a chance to collectively spend credits earned from objectives or side jobs on healing, repairing Serentity and even buying ship upgrades to give you boosts in later episodes. Think of it as what goes on in the downtime to next week's show that you can't wait for!



Verdict


The right balance of theme and length and adding co-operative play to the mix makes this a solid title for Firefly licensed games. Playing through episodes with all the tie-ins to the show results in one of the most thematic deck builders you will ever play. On top of that, completing side jobs, using the characters as Avatars and having to mix damage between your Avatar and Serenity works nicely to make this unique in the Legendary Encounters lineup.

It's not without some minor flaws like the lack of keyword abilities, but of course the biggest problem is the artwork, which despite being inconsistent in style is pretty consistent in how bad it is. The Avatars and the playmat are the best visual parts, which thankfully are the main things I'm staring at, but you're going to have to decide for yourself if you're willing to put up with the rest of it.

With all the games out that are using the Firefly license, this is definitely my choice pick of them all. It's not quite up to the level of Alien, which still remains my favourite, and I fear that expansion prospects might be limited unless they go for the Serenity movie but it's a worthy runner up of the three currently on sale and a must-buy if you're a fan of the license and enjoy a good deck builder. Now I just need to hurry and move into my new house so I can put the Blu-ray series back on. . .


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE LEGENDARY FIREFLY IF:


You love the original TV show - you're literally playing through each episode.


You enjoyed the other Legendary games especially the Encounters versions.


You want a deck builder that incorporates a strong theme.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE LEGENDARY FIREFLY IF:


You can't look past the artwork - 90% of it is atrocious and it's just something to deal with.


You're regularly playing with 4-5 players, I still think its sweet spot is 1-3.


You've never seen the show. Nothing will make sense thematically if that's the case.


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