Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MK Game Review; Firefly: Out in the Black


Yup, it's time for another addition to the MK Tabletop Talk Blog series! MK here. Again we will start this off with the "word from our sponsor" bit. If you read it last week kindly disregard and scan down past the contest info. If you missed it, read on! There are two great chances to win the Board Game of your choice.

MKTabletop.com is celebrating International Board Game Day on April 30th. They are doing two separate Board Game Giveaways, both are focused on their Social Media Fans/Followers.

1) Log-onto the MKTabletop.com Facebook Page and "Like" the page. Got that? Now pop on over to the MKTabletop.com web site and take a look at the Board Game selection. Find one you really like and post it on the MK Tabletop Facebook Page Timeline. Make sure to let everyone know why you picked the game!
2) Log on and find @MKTabletopTalk on Twitter. Become a follower. Again, find a game from MKTabletop.com you want and give it a tweet with the #MKTabletop! 
These are two separate chances to win! If you haven't done both, feel free to get your two chances to win in no later than the end of day April 29th. On the Afternoon of April 30th (International Board Game Day), in a traditional Tabletop fashion (AKA: rolling some dice) a winner will be chosen and announced!
OK. Back to our MK Tabletop Talk! Game Review; Firefly: Out in the Black from Toy Vault

This week I had a chance to replay another Firefly game! I know I did a review of the Firefly: Tall Card Game just a few short weeks ago, but this game holds only one thing in common with the Tall Card Game; it is based on the TV series Firefly. Aside from that this game is different in just about every way. Yes, I know, it too is a Card Game. That is why I said "just about" every way. ;)
In Firefly: Out in the Black, you get to take on the role of one of the crew members of the ship Serenity. There are aspects of this game that truly lend to the feel of the show! First and foremost, it makes use of a quickly growing (and my personal favorite) niche in the Tabletop Games Realm, the co-operative play style. Each player using their chosen character will be working together to complete jobs. The cards in the Job Deck are fashioned from jobs done on the show, so if you happen to be a fan as big as I am it will re-spark the desire to sit down and watch the show from start to unfortunate finish ...again. 
We start with the "Prospect Phase". Only the Leader acts in this phase. There is a common pool of "Credits" and "Honor" that all crew members will be sharing. Any player is free to use the pool at their own discretion. These spendable resources give you the chance to use your character specific abilities that will be needed to complete the job. Don't get too ahead of yourself! If you run out of Credits or Honor before you have completed EVERY job in the pile, you all lose. We found out pretty fast just how quickly those resources can be spent. Cards that read Prospect Phase can now be played from your hand, credits and/or honor may be spent to activate phase appropriate abilities, or you can choose to use your one-shot character game ability, again only if it reads the correct phase. I should re-iterate one-shot as in one use only during the entirety of the game.
Now the "Job Phase". There are three aspects to every job. You will be looking to hit your target goal in Fightin', Flyin' and Thinkin'. The role of Job Leader rotates around the table. Only the person in the leader role flips over the job card. The job will need a number of players ranging from one (solo) - five. Some cards get removed from the deck depending on how many players you have. No sense in pulling a job that requires five crew members if you only have four around the table! The Leader now chooses who will join them on the job. The leader must always go on the job, but may choose from any of the remaining players up to the amount of people required, to join them. Add up the crews Fightin', Flyin' and Thinkin' skills to see how close you are to meeting your goal.
This next mechanic of the game is the most common complaint from the internet community. Each character has their strong points, or specialties if you will. Players may only play cards face-up that correspond with their characters specialty skill. These cards will add a bonus to one of the three possible goals, and some create "wild" bonuses that can be added to any skill. Now the part that gets the chat forums activated ...you may not tell anyone else what card/s you are playing. Just like in the show, everyone has their secrets. You know their strengths, so it is easier to see when they are doing that for the job represented by the face up cards. However, how did you know that Jayne was going to be the one to add that big bonus to Thinkin'? Seems a bit unpredictable and unexpected, no? This one little rule has plenty of people all in a tiff. "How can you call it a co-op game and then tell me we can't plan together with open knowledge?" Simple folks. If you all win or lose, with no winner above another, it's called cooperative. It's that simple, Gorramit! I tried playing the game in an "open hand" fashion. It becomes much easier to win the game, so unless you plan on adding the alternate rules for making the game harder, just play it the way it was designed! It really does add a fun, unpredictable element to the game. If your characters special ability reads Job Phase, you can use it during this phase!
Next up is the "Aftermath Phase". Looking at the face-up cards, and folks skills might make you think you are doing well. So let's change that! Now the Leader must draw one "Gorramit" card. This card is that one thing that goes wrong no matter how much planning you have put into a job. This could raise the target goals, remove bonus cards from the table, or even make the appearance of the Alliance eminent. Whatever the card brings, you now have to deal with it. Lucky for you, there are three random boosts about to be drawn from the Serenity deck! The Serenity Cards have brown numbers in the lower corner and these are what you will be looking at right now. Three cards drawn, one for each skill. Add the brown number in the corner to your total, reveal all hidden cards, add whatever wild bonuses you have in play where ever you see fit and if your ability reads Aftermath Phase, you can use it now should you choose. This is when you really find out if you actually complete the job, and if so, how well you did. 
Each job has four possible completion levels from "Stunk that Job Up" to "Lookin' Shiny!". If you didn't meet any of the goals, you will suffer some serious repercussions. You might even come face to face with the alliance... On the Job Card, there is a chart that covers the bottom half of the card. This will tell you how well you truly do, as well as give you the results of the job, from what you get payed to how much you owe. Now don't get too excited. This is also where you could possibly meet the Alliance.
If you stunk the job up too bad, the Alliance will come in and make your life even more miserable than if all you had to worry about was going back to tell your contact you failed.
I only encountered a couple of these in our play-through session and every single one of them was serious game changing results in a big, negative way. 
The very first one took half of our Credits and Honor pool. The second added some major penalties to the next job we had to do making it that much harder to succeed. There is not a card in this deck I would like to flip during any given situation in this game. So it makes even more sense that if you get to the bottom of your Alliance Card pile, you lose. As if you needed another way to fail. But hey, life isn't all sunshine and daisies. Especially if you are out floating in the black. Again, a good way to give the game the same feel as the show!
 The Final step is called the "Cool-down Phase". Once you finish figuring out how that last job went you step back and take stock of the Tabletop. If you still have Credits, Honor and Alliance Cards on the table, you can keep flyin'. If all of this is true, and you have no jobs left to do on the table ...you all win! There is a scale that will tell you if you scrape by, do alright, or pull it off all Shiny-like, but let's be honest: a win is a win!

I actually really like this one. One of the biggest draws for me is how the game seems to be designed to mimic the flow and overall feel of the show. From pairing up for a job making what you are sure are the best decisions, through the chaos of trying to get the job done with everything going wrong all the time right to the end where your fear of the looming Alliance is a real and present danger to your cause. If you are not a fan (like that could happen) or are not familiar with the show (how dare you!) have no worries! The overall game play, while odd, has its own unique way of guiding you through an experience like no other. Without knowing the specific references on the cards, there is enough present in the game to keep you in the loop, if not incite some further investigation into this, what was it called? Verse? Prepare to find a new addiction. ;)

So even if you remove the Firefly theme from Out in the Black, I would still call it a very fun addition to the any Tabletop collection. Admittedly, I am a sucker for just about any co-op Tabletop Game, but if you have not had the chance to play Firefly: Out in the Black, check it out! This game receives my highest rating yet, Four Stars!
What games would you like us to review? Let us know! We are happy to review (almost) any game you want to know more about. Like what you read here? We would appreciate the share. ;)

Until next time ...Game On! -MK