Dispatches from GenCon #2: Firefly Adventures - Brigands and Browncoats Preview
Assemble the crew, scrounge up some coin for supplies, get the job done, and keep flying! Firefly Brigands and Browncoats (to which I will affectionately refer to as BnB from now on) is a miniatures cooperative game where players take on the role of either Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Kaylee, or Wash from the show Firefly. First, you pick a mission or "job" to take on together then the group spends funds to acquire gear to help on that job. Once that is settled, the job takes place on a gridded tactical board not unlike a Dungeons and Dragons encounter. Our job at GenCon was to steal some cargo from a locked and well guarded shipping area.
The main difference between BnB and other games of it's ilk like Star Wars Imperial Assault or the Dungeons and Dragons adventure games is that characters begin the game in "casual" mode. The designers intelligently made the jobs not just about combat but also about stealth, verbal deception, and technical skills. Each player will have not one but two miniatures to represent their character. One miniature for "casual" and one miniature for "heroic".
At the beginning of our heist, our characters started their first turns by staking out the location casually. While acting casual, characters won't automatically draw attacks from guards on the board. In addition, some characters will be able to hack terminals (to open locked doors) or engage in conversation challenges or use abilities on guards in an attempt to talk them out of watching those doors so closely. In our game, Kaylee and Wash were able to distract some guards long enough to get into one of the rooms with a terminal where Kaylee was able to hack open the door to our ill gotten gains. Meanwhile Mal and myself as Jayne engaged in some less diplomatic thrillin heroics. As Mal got in a brawl with the thug outside another room with a terminal, I popped inside and jumped the guard by surprise. Even as some characters go heroic entering combat, your entire team does not have to go heroic. Kaylee and Wash can continue to be sneaky and act like they don't know those people causing all the commotion across the yard.
Another major aspect of the game is its initiative system for determining turn order. Every action has a cost in "moments", every time you take an action you move a token representing your character up a time tracker by the appropriate amount of moments. To determine who goes next, you move whoever is lowest on the time tracker, meaning they've used the least amount of time so far. It's a very clever system which ties into the overall job system nicely. At regular intervals of time during the mission, escalations will occur. This is stuff like reinforcements being called in, alarms going off, doors getting locked down - it's bad news for Mal and his crew. It keeps the tensions of the job high and replicates that feeling of a plan gone awry from the show in game form.
There are other ways for the encounter to escalate too. Not only did I have to try and time my takedown of the guard for when Mal had distracted the other guard watching the door, but once the enemies are downed they leave body tokens on the battlefield which if spotted by other thugs will send up the alarms. Many stealth video games over the years have used a similar mechanic, but it was the first time I saw it in a tabletop strategy game and it was a welcome addition.
Even if you weren't a fan of the shows universe (and really, why don't you like Firefly? What's wrong with you?) I believe BnB offers a unique strategy game. If you're tired of just romping around dungeons or blasting storm troopers, I think Firefly Adventures opens up a new door for the genre where non-combat mechanics are just as important if not more so than combat to completing the mission.
You can pre-order Firefly Adventures Brigands and Browncoats today, or look for it's release before the end of the year!