RogerBW's Blog

Firefly Blue Sun: unboxing and first look 30 September 2014

My copy of the Blue Sun expansion to Firefly arrived yesterday. What's inside?

Unboxing

Wayland Games is increasingly becoming my deep-discounter of choice for new American imports, because they seem to get stuff into their warehouse and shipped out to customers before anyone else. Retail shipping from the USA has got horribly expensive of late, UK customs have a very low threshold for dutiable value, and if they decide to charge duty on something there's a further extortionate rate from the Post Office for collecting and passing on the money. I've basically given up ordering anything except books from the USA now.

The usual eco-friendly padding.

Box back. (You can see box front images on BGG or wherever.)

On top, the counter sheet. The small markers are for Reaver Alerts; I'll come back to them. On the other side, Alliance Alerts. Add to this some more Disgruntled markers, even more Goals and Warrants, and another set of Haven/Destination markers as found in Pirates and Bounty Hunters (which now means that one can play a game with both Havens and Destinations, I suppose, but I suspect they're mostly here so that P&BH isn't required to play with this expansion).

The new extension board is 10" × 20", so adds about 1/3 to the width of the main board. It includes a little bit of Border Space to be added onto the left side of the existing map, but is mostly Rim Space (which includes Reaver Space). Underneath the board are new story (and setup) cards, two more reaver cutters, and lots of normal-sized cards.

Yes, two more reaver cutters.

Those cards include more Jobs for the standard Contacts, two new Leaders, a Rim Space navigation deck, a Meridian supply deck, two new Contact decks, and some replacement cards for the Border Space deck.

The full board is now 40" × 20". My big table can handle it. (This photograph was not taken on my big table.) Can yours?

The components in more detail

Rim Space navigation deck

If players are feeling at all competitive, expect lots of Reaver activity. Also plenty of breakdowns, many of them needing Parts rather than just a Mechanic, and less salvage than in Border Space.

Border Space navigation changes

Ten of the original Border Space cards (bottom) are replaced with new ones (top). Reavers on the Hunt allows the Cutters to be moved into Rim as well as Border space. Reavers Dead Ahead, two of which replace two original Reavers on the Hunt, bring a Cutter right next to a player. Reaver Bait! works as before (note that it's still "any Border sector", not "any Border or Rim sector") but the wording is changed to specify "a Reaver ship" rather than "the Reaver Cutter"; Reaver Cutter similarly changes the wording.

New Reaver rules

Well, for a start there are now three Cutters. They all start surrounding Miranda. It's now allowable to Mosey into a sector with a Reaver in it (though not to Full Burn or Evade there).

Alert Tokens

Every time a Reaver leaves a sector, it leaves behind a Reaver Alert token. The Alliance Cruiser doesn't normally generate Alliance Alert tokens, but scenarios change this.

When you move into a sector with a token, roll a die, and if you get the number of tokens or below a Cutter or Cruiser immediately appears in your sector. (Alerts are resolved before Nav Cards.) Once the Alert's been resolved, the tokens go away (except for the three printed on the board round Miranda).

New Contacts and Jobs

Lord Harrow is a shipping magnate. His jobs are predominantly Illegal, all taking the form of Shipping or Smuggling. Once you're Solid with him, he will sell you cargo, but more importantly you get paid an extra $500 each time you complete a Shipping or Smuggling Job. (This should help to swing the balance that some players have found of Crime being the only reliable way to riches.)

Mr Universe offers Big Damn Challenges. These go into your hand like other Jobs, but you attach them to other Jobs when you start working the latter. (Illegal Challenges only go onto Illegal Jobs, and similarly for Legal ones.) They add an additional constraint, such as an extra Test, an extra Misbehave or two, or a limit on the number of Crew you can use, in return for extra money when you complete the Job. As with normal Jobs, you can't discard a Challenge once you've accepted it. Once you're Solid with Mr. Universe, your job hand size goes up to five, and you can Deal with him from anywhere.

There are also five new job cards for each of the existing five Contacts, each of which will require you to travel to the new board section.

Set Up Cards

Green-backed Set Up Cards sit alongside Story Cards to allow for a richer or poorer starting game. The example given is "for Solo Play & Experienced Players", providing various small tweaks to make the game harder.

Story Cards

The three new story cards are all nominally 2-3 hour games, two out of three recommended for experienced players. Patience's War has three triple-misbehave goals and in the best case you'll lose three crew on the way to victory. The Great Recession trims each Contact deck to a number of cards equal to the number of players, and ends the game when four of them have run out. Any Port in a Storm gives each player a Haven in Alliance space, but gives out a Warrant any time an Illegal job is completed; the goal is to get back to your haven with $12,000.

Meridian Credit Exchange

With the Blue Sun expansion active, you can give credits to other players at any time, rather than having to be in the same sector.

Leaders

There are two new Leaders. Atherton has permanent Fancy Duds and Fake ID, but can never hire a Companion. The alliterative Murphy is a Moral Medic and Mechanic, and gets extra Cash when selling Cargo or Contraband to a Contact.

Meridian Supply Deck

This is a fairly mixed bunch. There's one Wanted crewman (the Middleman) without a Bounty card. Notable ship upgrades include Reaver-Flage (may enter a sector occupied by a Reaver even at non-Mosey speeds) and Hull-Mounted Flak Gun (discard to ignore a Reaver encounter, basically a Reaver version of the Cry Baby).

Thoughts

This looks distinctly interesting. The Reavers are clearly a much bigger threat than before, and everyone's going to be at risk from them, even the richest and best-equipped of players — which may help to stop them from being runaway winners. Less well-equipped ships will need to be more careful than ever to do legal jobs and stay out of dangerous places.

I suspect an early job for Lord Harrow may substantially help the legitimate merchant player. I want to try this.

There doesn't seem to be a great deal of interaction with Pirates & Bounty Hunters: that expansion was mostly about inter-player activity, while this is more about making the environment more dangerous. If you only have budget for one big expansion, P&BH should come before this one.

And yes, it does all still fit into the main game box (the UK edition, not the smaller American one). But I did have to discard the inlays to get it there.

Rulebook download is here.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 05:33pm on 30 September 2014

    If you fit it all into the main game box, what do you do with the box this expansion came with? I'm not sure I could bring myself to throw it away,

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 05:37pm on 30 September 2014

    I haven't thrown it away (nor have I chucked the box for Pirates and Bounty Hunters), but I don't have a use for them right now. I may eventually get rid of them, but for now I just barely have space to keep them. If GF9 continues to bring out expansions, I'm sure that at some point I'll have to go to a second box to contain everything, as I have with Flash Point.

  3. Posted by Jonathan Rowe at 04:47pm on 06 October 2014

    I'm a fan of the game but this expansion delights and infuriates me in equal measures.

    I love the new board. The Rim Space Nav Deck has some quirky features, some of which are beneficial. Lord Harrow works well and his long haul Jobs and Solid Rep bonuses are a definite boost for "boring" Captains like Burgess. The anti-Reaver Gear you cab now buy (along with the Electronic Defence Upgrade from, I think, Pirates & Bounty Hunters) means you can be safe from cannibals without wasting time looking for that Pilot/Mechanic combo.

    The triple Reaver threat works really well. I don't find Reaver attacks increasing, but the Reavers are much more in-your-face and turn into obstacles to sneak past or be chased by, which feels thematically right.

    The Meridian Supply Deck has some fantastic Gear (notably the Operative's Sword which can be discarded to gain an Ace for any Misbehave, making an alternative to River Tam). Cortland's ability to Bribe any Negotiate Test combines with Sheydra's power to make a Negotiate Test out of any Combat... You can buy your way out of any fight with those two. Sheydra and the Lovebot redress the game's shortage of "Companion" tags. The Deck's a bit slim, though.

    Shortchanged is how I felt looking at the Story and Setup Cards. Just the five? Two Setup Cards and one of them the default setup? I can see that coloured cards with art, plastic ships and thick card tokens push up costs, but there's no real limit for these faintly laminated sheets. GF9 could have included 10 or 15 rather than 5. The only real limit us imagination and that's what's missing. The new Stories are either repetitive slogs or sandbox scenarios. Shame - especially with a price tag as steep as this for a light box that, as you say, tips its contents into the original box without overflowing.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 04:57pm on 06 October 2014

    Hi, Jonathan, and welcome to the blog!

    As far as gameplay goes this looks like an improvement to me, in some cases (being able to Mosey into a Reaver-occupied sector) like a v1.1 of the rules that weren't quite ready for the main box, but I do see your point; having just the one new setup feels to me as though GF9 had a big-card-shaped space in the production schedule and were wondering what to put there. At this point I would definitely be interested in a small-box supplement containing lots of variant Story and Setup cards. (Though I see that there are quite a few fan-made ones on BGG, which I really ought to download and evaluate some time.)

    My attitude to the Reavers is because of one of my big frustrations with the base game, the relative lack of interaction. When I was teaching it, I made a point of explaining that the Cutter and Cruiser are the main ways you have to affect other players, and I still mention it now even with the P+BH alternatives -- because they're the only things you can still use even if you're in a lousy position, without making your own situation even worse. So expanding the possibilities there is very welcome.

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