Family Game Review: Brigands and Browncoats

It’s Family Game Review time again! This is where my kids and I play a game that none of us have played before, then we each independently write something about it. Along with me, you’ll hear the thoughts of Connor (22), and Rhiannon (14). This week, we played Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats by Gale Force Nine. We were all set to be big damn heroes!

Scott

We are big fans of Firefly in our house, so I have been eager to give this one a go for a while. The first thing I noticed in the box was that all the smaller boxes inside which represented the small buildings on the table were also great places to keep the components. And then I noticed that the main box itself was also a building that could be used on the table! 

There are a lot of small components to punch out, so we made sure we go those ito baggies when we tidied up, and it was fun tetrising the buildings back into the box (I found it pretty easy, but I was also the best in the family at carpentry in Puzzle Pirates).
Set up was a bit of a challenge, as the scenarios, “Jobs”, had small diagrams on them. With the double-sided boards, it took a while to figure out what was what and where it went.

Initial set up of Brigands and Browncoats.
Here’s the set up! The chits are the bad guys waiting to be alerted. In the corner is the Mule. After we make contact we need to get back there to end the job.

  Once we got going though, we quite enjoyed it. It was easy to get into the feel and character of the game (probably more so since we had the Firefly soundtrack on in the background).

  There are two versions of every character, a “casual” and “heroic” version. There are several actions each character is capable of, which differ depending on whether they are in casual or heroic mode. For example, characters tend to move faster in heroic mode and they need to be in heroic mode to do a combat action. Except Jayne. I was quite amused to find that Jayne can do a “brawl” action in casual mode. Being in heroic mode has a drawback, however. The bad guys will move toward and attack any character in heroic mode they can see, or the closest one if they don’t actually have line of sight. So it doesn’t always pay off to run around in heroic mode fighting everyone. Sometimes you need to get to an objective real casual-like to avoid being interrupted by thugs. But you can’t casually complete the job, as many of the objectives require you to heroically complete a challenge. So you either need to be prepared for some fighting, or cleverly distract the thugs, or not alert them in the first place.

Brigands and Browncoats- Zoe beats up a guy.
Zoe (in green, because she’s in “heroic” mode now) beats up a thug in one building, causing another to become alerted and head toward her position. Kaylee heads for a broken terminal to fix it.

  Each job has a time limit, which is given in “moments”. Every action a character does costs a certain number of moments. When a character performs an action, their marker is moved up the moment track the number of spaces corresponding to the action. The character that goes next is the one that is furthest back on the track. This leads to some neat strategy and planning, as sometimes you will need your characters to go in a certain order, or at least before a bad guy so that they can get out of sight, make an attack, or hide a body (yes, you can do that). Wash has an ability that allows him to use an action to move another character back one moment, and anyone can “wait” as an action, meaning they do nothing, but move their marker up as many moments as they like.

  The job we played had us looking for our contact to make a delivery. Every bad guy on the board was potentially our contact. Any one of them that we approached and did a successful negotiation challenge with wasn’t the contact, and their objective marker was discarded. Any bad guy who was alerted also wasn’t the contact and had their objective marker discarded. The final one to have an objective marker was the contact, and we needed to deliver to them the cargo. We had some fun cinematic moments in our game, with Zoë luring thugs into a building to beat them up, while Mal approached some others to talk with them. While Wash and Kaylee attempted a secondary objective of fixing some town equipment (which also allowed us to remove objective tokens), Jayne, our best fighter, also did some “negotiation” (with his fists). Unfortunately, there were some bad rolls, and the fight wasn’t going well for him. With Mal calmly chatting to get information in the next room, Jayne was getting beaten up. He ended up winning the fight in the end, though.

Brigands and Browncoats - Mall fights The Butcher
Mal decides whether to use an action to get closer to shoot the thug once, or stay still and shoot him twice, but with lower chance of hitting him. But he’d better hit him, because this thug is called “The Butcher”, and does extra damage in a brawl.

  We played a single job, but you can play a “story”, in which you play 3 jobs with the goal of earning 10,000 space bucks (or credits, or whatever, I can’t remember). Anyone who gets taken out during a job must miss the next one, but any loot you find can be carried over from one job to the next. Also, you can use your reward money between jobs to buy equipment to help you on your next job. 

  Each job has modifiers to the reward as well. For instance, in the mission we played, we’d lose $200 for every thug we took out (bodies on the map at the end of the game) because we were supposed to be keeping it quiet.

  There are 4 jobs in the game, but more are available at the Gale Force Nine website. But even playing the same one again will provide a different experience, as the challenges you must complete are provided by a deck of cards, and you probably won’t get the same one twice.

Brigand and Browncoats - negotiating for the end of the game
Now there’s a body in the street and Jayne and Mal have gone back to being casual. Mal negotiates with the contact to take the cargo. Notice time tracker at the bottom – we were close to running out of time!

  I really enjoyed this once we got going and figured out how it worked, and look forward to playing it again. I would very much like to set aside an entire afternoon/evening to run a story. I was disappointed that not every character was represented in the game, as Simon, River, Inara, and Shepherd Book weren’t in there, but they are available as expansions. Since the jobs require 5 characters, having the extras will allow players to customize their team based on what skills are required for a specific job.    

  Oh, and the figures are really cool as well. I know I already have a lot of painting to do, but I would love to paint the figures in the game!  

Connor

A reasonably fun game with some interesting concepts and physical design, but not without some shortcomings. The figures are very cool, and the buildings being made out of boxes looks very nice, but they slide around quite easily and are hard to get into or see past if you’re sitting down. The first scenario had quite harsh penalties for failing tests, which you need to do quite a number of, and the target numbers are quite tough. Fortunately I was pretty lucky on my rolls that it didn’t matter much, but if other scenarios have such harsh penalties it might become frustrating. Overall I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’d need to see more scenarios to be sure.

Rhiannon

It was fun when we were playing it but setting it up and reading the rules was a hassle. The rules didn’t make sense at times and setting up took a lot of work. I also didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to kill people. Fun game but hard to learn and set up.

The ending

Note that there is a revised rulebook to make it easier to get playing. You can see and download it here.

And that was Brigands and Browncoats! I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since we played it, and am hoping that we get it back on the table again soon. And just because this isn’t linked earlier: You’re welcome.