Firefly: Kalidasa Expansion – A Written Review



While I felt the base game of Firefly was a fine offering that didn’t quite get over the hump to wow me, I had a little voice in the back of my skull whispering lustful comments about expansion content. The design was clearly framed with additions in mind and the mechanisms included are ripe for extension.  Kalidasa is perhaps the last in a long line of new Firefly content and it’s no surprise that it comes across as extremely refined and full of purpose.

Variety is key in adventure games because much of the excitement is derived from experiencing the unknown. By adding a huge side board, tons of mission content, new scenarios, and even new mechanisms, Kalidasa seriously ups the variety.  The extended board in and of itself is not a huge boon, more so in how it is employed.  New jobs mixed into contacts from the base game will have you hopping across the outer rim and swapping tales of Beaumonde and Djinn’s Bane.

The new jobs themselves inject a greater deal of chaos and vitality into the base game structure by offering some serious payouts for greater adversity. I’m also a huge fan of the new Bonus Drop off mechanism which allows you to complete an optional third step during a run.  This is effective in that it mixes up your typical risk/reward analysis and has you reacting on the fly just a bit more often.  Keeping you on your toes and unsure of the best approach is the lifeblood of the adventure title.




The concept of the nested dice roll also appears on some of these new jobs, forcing players to make a successful roll and then randomizing an outcome. This tree of branching results is noteworthy because it elevates the tension even amidst success.  It also packs extra weight to the relatively simple typical decision process and will cause you to perhaps reassess the odds and take greater care in following through.

The new AI controlled Operative Corvette is also a flavorful injection of mayhem that can bite you when you least expect it. It moves via the inclusion of new Nav cards mixed into all decks and will seize all non-stashed fugitives and force the discard of one wanted crew.  The hard-knock emphasis on law is pounded home with the new Alliance Alert tokens which can pop up around the Verse and mean bad news for the not-so-law abiding citizens out there.  Moving into an alert sector triggers an opportunity for an Alliance ship to come crashing down on your position to seize your outlaw duds.

Including additional Nav cards for the base game travel decks is fantastic. Travel is much more risky and dangerous, which gives a stronger sense of what we see in the Firefly television series.  It keeps you back on your heels and makes the Mosey action just slightly more enticing.  Wild swings and crazy events are what bolster a strong overriding narrative and it’s great to see this philosophy included here.



The Verse is huge


Kalidasa also offers new setup cards that can be mixed with different stories to alter the starting situation. It provides an interesting change of events to everyone’s footing by mixing up starting jobs or assets.  Again, more variety and unique situations means more opportunity for surprise and excitement.  This isn’t earth shattering but it’s an element I’d want to use in most of my plays to vary it up.

And let’s talk about those new Story cards. “The Well’s Run Dry” seeks to rectify my complaint about the base game regarding the huge influx of money ships experience in stark contrast to what see in the Firefly IP.  Mal and company finally have it hard and have to contend with a limited amount of liquid cash in the Verse.

“The Scavenger’s Verse” is even more noteworthy as being one of the most fantastic inclusions I’ve seen thus far in this game series.  This Story features an objective set that is loosely defined via poem and is intended “For Experienced, Friendly Folk”.  Some may have a problem with such loose structure but this is the type of creative risk taking in design that I eat up.  With the appropriate group I’d be tempted to put all of the rest of the Story cards back in the box and only use this one every single play.

Overall this new expansion is a whole lot of quality. Excitement and chaos is packed into the open spaces in the design and everything feels much more lively and energetic.  Firefly is anything but mundane and this expansion is a large leap in achieving a greater dynamic sense of adventure.

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Ding & Dent Episode 5 – Sandy Petersen Interview and Big Box Games

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This episode’s big discussion was about Premium Games. These are the multi-$100 boardgames that have found a thriving home on Kickstarter. We interviewed Sandy Petersen, designer of Cthulhu Wars and talked about them. He’s basically one of the originators of this style of game so it was neat to hear his perspective and explain (not necessarily defend) where these games fit in the gaming landscape. And of course, we talked about what we’ve been up to lately including Champions of Midgard and BattleBin

Games Discussed: Fireteam Zero, Champions of Midgard, Blood Rage, Hyperborea, Cthulhu Wars, Chaos in the Old World.






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The Game Pit: Episode 54 – Essen 2015 – The Good, The Bad and The Surprising

Game Pit Logo - December 2013 (Y&G Dice)After working their way through the Essen Spiel halls and the playing as many of the Essen 2015 releases as they could get their dirty mitts on, Ronan and Sean come to a decision on what the feel was the best and worst of this years Spiel.
In the episode each of the boys choose their Top 3, Biggest Disappointment and Biggest Surprise.
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Mafia de Cuba: Revolucion Expansion – A Written Review



Most social deduction games benefit completely from expansions. With larger strategy games extension content can sometimes bloat the experience and ruin the purity, but with games like Mafia de Cuba it’s all about additional variety and spicing up the metagame.  The Revolucion expansion succeeds mightily because it seamlessly integrates into the original without skewing its identity.

Physically this is of course on par with the gorgeous components in the base game. We have lavish poker chips in a nifty little box that slides apart like an old-school smokes container.  The attention to detail in all parts of the package is exceptional and the product connects with your emotions immediately.

Mafia de Cuba is all about sussing out the truth while facing a hornet’s nest of uncertainty spread by your fellow gangsters. Revolucion ups the ante by adding a touch of complication and more advanced play, a feature regulars will appreciate immensely.

The Revolutionaries are my favorite new inclusion as an alternate to the Agents in the base game. Similar to their peers, they act as Werewolf Tanner-esque traitors that want to be called out as hoodlums.  If accused of thievery, these two brothers in arms win together along with the thief who stole the least amount of diamonds.  While the rules sphere is not very different from the Agents themselves, this results in absolutely crazy play with a whole new dimension to the game – more on that later.

The Diamond Lover is a sly individual that wants to be chosen by the Godfather. If she is called out as a Thief she immediately wins along with the player who currently has the most diamonds.  This will either be the Thief who stole the lion’s share or the Godfather if he’s nailed a majority of Thieves.  This shift in dynamics is equally bananas.



The unusual suspects.


Shifting gears, let’s talk about the bright-green fake diamond. A Street Urchin or Thief may take this new form of loot in addition to whatever other diamonds they may have filched into their pocket.  If called out by the big boss they reveal the fake diamond first.  The Godfather will need to call them out again if he’s feeling confident, but if he nails the Urchin it of course can cost him the game.  A not-so-subtle additional layer of intrigue is provided by one new little component.

This expansion is all about the mind games. The crooked Lawyer will join whoever suits his interests and the Traitor/Minion combination act as a trap for the Godfather.  If the Godfather makes a mistake which would bring about the victory for the Thieves, the Traitor immediately replaces him with his Minion becoming the equivalent of a Traitor’s Henchman.  That is as dramatic and swingy as it comes.

Subterfuge and vindictive social jousting win the day. Revolucion gets there by dynamically assigning mired teams to the various participants at the table.  In the base game the lines were relatively clear with the Godfather/Henchman versus the Thieves and a little bit of tomfoolery mixed in via the Agents.

Here you have Diamond Lovers posing as Thieves and then switching it up mid game and posing as Diamond Lovers if the Godfather recovers a substantial amount of the Diamonds, because of this you have Thieves and Revolutionaries pretending to be Diamond Lovers. Additionally there’s Thieves making temporary alliances with players who they think provide them alternate victory conditions – taking a single diamond and trying to help the Revolutionaries get accused is totally legit, and the whole thing is absolutely crazy.

What is really confounding is that the table talk takes a more aggressive and sideways slant than the base game as the rabbit hole gets deeper. Once the implications of these new roles starts to become clear, you quickly realize how difficult it may have been for some groups to assimilate these additions if they were included in the base game of Mafia de Cuba.  Pulling these out into a separate expansion was undoubtedly the correct move.

Because of this increase in complexity there is a larger risk in the game going pear-shaped as players stumble about remembering what their roles do and who they win with. That is a tradeoff I make 10 times out of 10 for the jacked up depth this expansion provides.  The nuanced social situations and head nods across the table as you try to make subtle secret handshakes is unbelievably intriguing.

This is a fantastic expansion every Mafia de Cuba gangster will want. It increases tension and dramatic flair while extending the metagame a hundred fold.  It’s the type of expansion that melds perfectly with your ongoing experience, evolving as you play and blossoming as time wanes.

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Warfighter Expansion #9: The Footlocker



If Warfighter the card game is a huge monumental force of a design, then the Footlocker is the physical manifestation of that empowerment. This is an enormously tall and deep package that cuts out enough open space for about six more waves – eight waves into Warfighter the game will be all about endurance as we struggle to outfit our soldiers with the hundreds of equipment and skill options.  And by god, this box will hold it all.

Seriously though, this entire package is impressive. The box itself is linen finish with excellent artwork and reminds me of the sturdiness and feel of a Fantasy Flight Box.  While DVG games tend to contain solid boxes that no one would complain about, this is certainly the Rolls Royce of their lineup.  I’m impressed by the thought in organization found inside as the three rows for cards are of appropriate width to even hold sleeved little suckers.  It also has the best dividers I’ve ever seen as these large plastic beauties feature graphics from the game and easily standout to help you setup as quickly as possible.

For early adopters there are a number of inclusions here that will bring your game into alignment with current developments. Many weapon cards have been updated with keywords such as “Rifle” and “SMG” which were not present in the first printing, and you’re given a slew of updated versions here.  Additionally locations now feature an enormous extra-large size of loadout allotment for really big games, so all of the updated location cards are included.  The first edition rulebook which unfairly drew a lot of flak has been given an overhaul and tossed into the footlocker as well.

Every board game enthusiast has been hit with the early adopter plague and found their copy of a game quickly relegated to inferior status and it was extremely nice to see DVG take care in supporting their customers here.

There are two huge reasons to pick up this expansion beyond the updated material and visually impactful box. The first is the stunning new mounted board that acts as a replacement for the paper mat found in the base game.  The base game version is not a horrible inclusion but there are a couple of deficiencies that don’t aid in the flow of play.  The orientation of location cards sideways along with inefficient use of space made many gamers toss it out or keep it in the box.




This new mounted board is just what the doctor ordered as it’s both gorgeous and highly functional. The use of space is quite economical and everything seems to fit with a great deal of room afforded to the large number of militants that will be swarming your brothers in arms.  I can’t imagine anyone choosing to play without it as the feature is just too damn good to pass up.

The second selling point is the most fantastic inclusion in this release and it’s one I haven’t seen discussed much. In addition to the re-printed rulebook there’s this sleek little unassuming manual called the Scenario book.  You’ll quickly set this to aside when pawing through the cards and running your fingers across the linen box, but that solid pamphlet is what you will come back to again and again.

This manual features a large number of both standalone and campaign missions. Yes “Operations” feature narratively linked missions that form a greater whole.  Beyond this genius is the sheer fact that with just a few short paragraphs a mission can seriously alter the feel of core setup.  These missions require no new components and make use of existing structure, merely adding a special rule or two to add nuance and vary gameplay.

One of my first post-Footlocker outings was taking on the drug cartel in South American jungle. This mission featured me running a special op with a Stinger surface-to-air missile and taking down a drug runner plane after it had already taken off.  By simply extending the length afforded by the end objective and tweaking some of the vehicle’s stats it had a different atmosphere and impact from your typical play.  When I escaped a group of ambushers and narrowly nailed the airborne target as it was cutting through the air, I couldn’t help but smile and release my firm grip on the edge of my seat.

Among these new missions you will also run into the new rules for fighting at night. Along with a selection of new equipment, you’re thrown against hostile forces that you can’t clearly target.  There’s this ingenious mechanism where enemies remain face down and have strong stats until you can properly identify them, in which case they are flipped over to reveal the actual threat.  This adds drama and intrigue in an organic and thematic way that the mechanics fully support.  I can’t stress how excellent this little addition is to the Warfighter experience.

With a large storage expansion such as this it’s usually a mixed bag. Most of the time it’s an easy pass as you’d rather throw money into actual gameplay content and meaningful additions.  The Footlocker manages to both be an excellent practical solution as well as packing in a great deal of unique gameplay.  As a whole this is a fantastic extension of an already exceptional product line that first blew me away in 2014.  Warfighter remains one of my favorite narrative card-driven experiences and it won’t be leaving my collection anytime soon.  Although I may need to upgrade to a sturdier shelf to house this gorgeous beast.


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