RogerBW's Blog

Firefly Pirates and Bounty Hunters: first look 09 May 2014

My hopes for the Pirates and Bounty Hunters expansion to Firefly were that it would increase interaction between players and make runaway victories more difficult. My copy arrived yesterday. At first glance, how does it do?

There are several new elements, which interact with each other.

The Showdown

This is a mechanism for ship vs ship (or even ship vs individual) conflicts, which can be triggered in various ways. The attacker and defender each choose one of the three skills, and each make a normal skill roll including Gear; the defender wins ties. The specific card that invoked the Showdown will give results for success or failure.

Piracy Jobs

All the new Jobs are Piracy, which involve attacking your fellow players and taking their stuff; there are five for each Contact deck, but they're identical within each deck. As with other Jobs, this isn't freelance: different job cards will give different classes of target (any ship, any outlaw ship, etc.). A Piracy Job is Immoral if and only if the Leader on the target ship is Moral.

Resolving the Job takes a Boarding test (Tech or Negotiate, target 6), followed by a Showdown, with different results for specific Jobs. Generally, if you lose, you'll probably lose crew; if you succeed, you'll take a certain amount of the target's "goods" (Cargo, Contraband, Fuel and Parts: everything in the hold except Passengers and Fugitives) and be paid per item; but goods in the Stash are safe. In other cases, you can take a Job from the target player. Those goods you steal don't have to be taken anywhere; just having deprived your opponent of them is enough for you to get paid. (So you can then sell them to a contact, or use them to complete other Jobs.)

Bounties

There's a new deck of Bounty cards, one card per Wanted Crew in the game. At any time, there are three face up; they're replaced when Crew are turned in or killed, or when the Alliance Cruiser card comes up.

They work a bit like a new sort of Job: you need to apprehend the target (from a supply planet, from a rival's crew, or even from among your own crew), then transport them to a nominated location and hand them over. Other ships can try to board you to steal your prisoner, and may even choose to set the prisoner free (in which case they can join the rescuer's crew for zero cost).

Cortex Alerts pay out on a whole class of fugitives (Bandits, Enforcers, Scrappers) rather than just one target: but there's only a single payday for a single player, as once the bounty is collected (for one or more fugitives) a new bounty card is turned up.

New ships

Two new ships are included in the set, each of which takes a relatively extreme position rather than the general-purpose Firefly. While the setup procedures are unchanged, I think it would be friendly to let people who had particular preferences get a chance at the new ships, just as when I'm playing the standard game I mention the option of the Artful Dodger before ship selection starts in case anyone particularly wants it.

S. S. Walden

The Walden is a salvage ship. It has fifteen cargo capacity and no stash. Its drive core is fixed at range 4, but no extra fuel is needed for the Heavy Load found on some shipping jobs.

It has one special attribute: any Piracy jobs also count as Salvage Ops. That doesn't have any effect in itself, but several existing crew cards get bonus items when they conduct Salvage Ops.

A player with this ship could start the game as a legitimate trader taking heavy loads, and there's plenty of room for fuel and spare parts; ideally you'd want to take several Jobs at once (though note that you're still limited to three active Jobs). Once skills are up a bit, it's definitely going to be time for some piracy.

Interceptor

This is the opposite of the Walden, something like a more extreme version of the Artful Dodger from the original promo pack. Just four cargo, no stash, and only four crew and two upgrade slots, but a range 8 drive with no fuel needed for full burn (though range drops by one with each upgrade).

Clearly this is a ship for a highly-skilled Crew and plenty of Gear, preferably with a Mechanic to avoid the need to carry parts; Crime Jobs and bounty hunting will be most profitable, but without being able to do as many of the easy cargo-hauling jobs to build up wealth reserves the player will have to be careful in how starting cash is spent.

New Leaders

Jubal has the Pilot keyword. His skills are 1-1-1, but he gets +2 Fight when attacking in a Showdown, and can carry two Gear. Clearly someone to take if you're planning on lots of Showdowns.

Sash has 2 Negotiate, 1 Tech, a built-in Hacking Rig and a bonus $500 for each Piracy job completed (stolen from the target). He'll make a good pirate.

New equipment

The new kit mostly ties in with the new game mechanics: the Electronic Defense Suite means rivals can't use tech for boarding tests (and lets you get away from Reavers more easily), while Mag-Grappler Launchers add three Tech for Boarding and boost Salvage Ops.

New characters

Some characters have the Fed keyword, meaning that a warrant is issued to the rival when they lose a showdown. One Lawman can summon the Alliance Cruiser to his sector as a Fly action; that should be effective at discouraging piracy!

Lawman is a new character type keyword. Lawmen don't need to be paid, but don't do illegal jobs; when they turn in a fugitive they get paid a bounty bonus.

New Story cards

Of the three new Story cards, one is the jailbreak: each captain has a friend held prisoner on the Command Cruiser, who needs to be broken out. The hardest part of this is probably the Fight 10 test to do the breakout; getting to two other planets and paying $5,000 should be relatively easy for a crew which can do that.

The other two are focused on player-vs-player gaming, with different scoring mechanisms, and both start with all Piracy jobs face-up. One awards a goal for every Piracy, Crime or Smuggling job, and each time a Bounty is delivered; the other gives each player a Haven (a designated planet in border space), which has to be supplied with contraband, cargo or parts. Both of these are likely to lead to longer games than usual.

Destination markers

Numbered Destination tokens, the other side of the Haven markers, can be used to indicate the sequence of planets which need to be visited in a story. There are no particular rules for this, but it would, informally, allow the existing stories to be changed around for a longer or shorter game.

Overall

The new mechanisms for interfering with players rely on Showdowns, and therefore having at least one skill substantially better than their highest skill, though some characters complicate matters. This isn't a reliable method for underdogs to come from behind, though it offers some high-risk options, which I think is fair; one doesn't want to make gains meaningless. There is plenty more player interaction, and I think that this set will make a welcome addition to the game. (I can certainly see players trading prisoners at a discount.)

For solo play, I'd just ignore this expansion completely: any card with the crossed-rifles symbol doesn't exist, and gets re-drawn. (Though the Walden might still be playable in the solo game.)

I think it's probably worth encouraging leading players not to pick on the underdogs, since while it's not completely safe for the leaders this could quickly render the game non-fun for players who aren't winning.

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