Help make Firefight more fun!

We’ve been playing BE for a while now – almost finished the infiltration phase. And it’s been really awesome, I’d say the most fun & satisfying play our group has had.

But the one thing that’s been consistently less fun is the Firefights. We’ve probably done about 4-5 of them (not including ICHASHITFs), and they’ve usually ended up taking a long time and in general felt kind of boring. Part of the problem was unfamiliarity with the rules, which slowed things down, but we’re starting to get the hang of them. This helped make our last FF more fun, but it still wasn’t awesome.
A few more data points:

[li]Even when the FFs dragged, the compromises have always been pretty cool.[/li][li]Most of the PCs and major NPCs are not all that optimised Firefight, which may be part of the problem. One PC is, and he usually cleans up.[/li][li]The last FF we did had a really cool map, a ship docked to a space station, with positions like Docking Arm, Med Bay, Bridge, etc. This definitely made it more fun BUT I was a little annoyed that there wasn’t any mechanical difference between different positions. So, the whole fight took place in & around the Cargo Hold with no one ever going to any other positions. I know it’s supposed to be abstract, I completely get that the descriptions of the positions are just color, but I was sad that most of the cool positions just didn’t get used. Is our group just being lame? Or am I griping too much?[/li][/ul]

Now, I’ve asked my brother (Dave Lucas on these boards, with lots of FFs under his belt) for advice on how to make FFs more fun. His main advice was:

[li]Add as much color as possible to each volley. Don’t just roll without narrating descriptions. (The tough part here is when the FF feels like it’s taking too long, we tend to add less color, as we just want to get it over with.)[/li][li]Make sure the FF Objectives (Intents) are powerful, high stakes. And make sure they ask for something positive, if the enemy’s objective is “capture the Cotar” you can’t just have “defend the Cotar” as yours as that’s implied.[/li][/ul]

This has helped, but we need more. How do you guys add color to your FF volleys? Do you narrate stuff before the rolls or after? What have you done to make Firefight kick ass?

We’ll take any suggestions. Thanks!

My suggestions:

  1. Give out advantage dice for good color.
  2. Encourage players to push their Beliefs during the conflict, naming Objectives tied to their beliefs.
  3. Make it so that the different Locations have important effects on the game.
  4. Make it so that the characters can get items from the Locations to help them fulfill their Beliefs (i.e. medicine for a dying sister from the Med Bay; a spaceship deed from the Bridge).

What do you think?

I make lots of shooty sound effects.

Also, I find when I’m not completely cutthroat, FFs drag. When I’m merciless, they’re sharp and exciting.


Thanks for this thread guys. We’ll probably have our first FF in the next maneuver or so, and although we’re all looking forward to it, I’ve been a little concerned about the amount of time it’ll take. Granted it’ll be our first, but I want it to be exciting enough to want more of 'um! Anyway, helpful stuff here!

Hey Mike, your post makes me want to get back into Burning Empires, and play out a phase. Burning Empires was good times!

This particular point makes me curious, especially the emphasis I made on the “mechanical difference”.

From reading the book, Page 474, you can establish certain positions to give you a bonus to your disposition. You can establish other areas to give you cover. These positions will give you a mechanical difference, and it makes it very desirable to move around.

The GM marks up the map, noting positions in the battle space.Anything that could give an advantage or be an obstacle is noted with a “P."
Then, on page 475, the winner and loser of the initial contact test can add to these positions. The GM then sets up cover bonuses. It’s all there. Bonuses to disposition are marked with a number followed by a “p”, and cover is marked with a “c”.

If you write things onto the map, then make them mechanically valuable. That way you want to head into the control tower with it’s 4p (+4 to Disposition? You WANT that location), or take cover behind the sandbags with it’s 3c (try and get past a +3 ob!).

Thanks for the replies everyone.

Tarjmov, your #1 and #2 are great suggestions. I don’t think we use the advantage dice rule enough, it’s a great way to encourage additional color. #3 and #4 don’t seem doable within the rules of the game though, unless I’m misunderstanding you.

Luke, I think playing more cutthroat (especially on the GMs side) would improve our game immensely, and not just in Firefight.

Jon, in the particular FF I’m mentioning I think the problem was that most of the positions had the same position value, and only the Cargo Bay had any cover (1C). But why didn’t we make the positions more interesting? I think mostly it stems from most of the characters not being optimised for Firefight, so a 3P or 4P position becomes almost unattainable.
Nevertheless Jon, your post really brings to light that a FF can be very tactically interesting when the two sides are well matched and have enough skill to use the different actions and the positions properly.

I think all of these things are interrelated … if Iain (the GM) were playing a bit more ruthlessly he’d probably have better FF commanders & troops available. Then we’d be more likely to use all the FF mechanics (positions, cover, and all the actions) properly. Hopefully this would make us more likely to narrate in more color a la “shooty sound effects” too.

I’m actually getting really excited about our next Firefight … keep the suggestions coming!!

Regarding the mechanics of positions, a couple more things I thought of.

One, the color of the position can certainly affect the FF mechanically through wise FoRKs. Like using Ships-systems-wise to Advance into the Med Bay, narrating that “I bring up a map on a nearby terminal that shows the way to the Med Bay”. These kinds of things a pretty cool actually. As long as you enforce the rule that any time you use a wise, you MUST narrate how you’re using it!

Two, quoting from the book:

I didn’t remember that rule, but it definitely makes the map “matter” as drawn.
I also notice that similarly, when a fireteam is in No-Man’s Land “The team may be engaged with the Close Combat action by another team, so long as there are no intervening positions.” Again, the map matters.


I believe that rule is called “the advance maneuver” and it can be blocked by suppressive fire or observe.

Colin, if you just read the description under the Advance maneuver, it’s not clear that you can’t use it to advance to any position, even one that’s all the way across the map (with say 3 intervening positions).

So I think because none of us had read the FF rules in a long time (we were just referencing them during play) we only checked the Advance action and didn’t see that “Distance in the Battle Space” section.

Now that I’ve read the FF rules more thoroughly I can see a lot of cool stuff about FF that I never noticed / forgot about. Like the special rules for individual actions to break ties in certain maneuvers, and the two things I quoted above. I can hardly wait until our next FF!

Damn, I’d missed that thar Distance in Battle Space paragraph.

#4 is an extension of #2 (a character may be less interested in the fighting then in recovering evidence against him, for instance), but #4 may already be encompassed under Objectives (#2). As for #3… here are a few examples of “interesting rooms”.

Death Trap
As a Specialist Action in Firefight, activate (or deactivate) the Death Trap by pulling a lever. On the next volley after activation, deals I B4, M B6, S B8 damage to all foes. It has a B5 skill, and uses this skill to oppose the actions of all enemies in the area it effects. If the action is already opposed, it gives 2 helping to the opposition. Every exchange after activation, it expands to every Location adjacent to those it already effects. Mark damage increases by 1 every exchange (recalculate Incidental and Superb). It takes one Specialist Action to deactivate the Death Trap. Once deactivated, it can be reactivated to aid your side.
Death Traps usually start the battle deactivated.

Door Lock

As a Specialist Action in Firefight, switch the Door Lock on (or off). The Door Lock prevents people from moving between certain location, unless the wall is battered down (which takes one Specialist action with heavy artillery, two without). Then, you can move on through, but you take a +2 OB penalty to Advance unless you clear away the rubble with one more Specialist action (Rubble provides 2D cover).

Self-Destruct Switch

As a Specialist Action in Firefight, flip the Switch.
Three exchanges later, the battlefield blows up. Unimportant characters are killed. Important characters (PC’s, FoN’s) are Maimed.

Hi Tarjmov,
I think I get the idea … burn up some hard tech using technology Traits, making the tech specifically geared towards spicing up a Firefight. Cool!

I do think your examples might need a little work … when you say “as one action” do you mean a specialist action? Also, there’s no Positioning in FF, and the concept of “adjacent” is a bit difficult. But cool stuff nonetheless.

BE-long-timers: what do you think of using a specialist action to “activate” custom technology in FF? Or would you do it another way?

I clarified my post (got rid of Positioning etc.).
The Death Trap is best used on buildings or ships, where certain rooms or Locations are adjacent to one another.

Yes, pile on the hard tech!

Well, you could put it in as a sort of Categorical Limitation, though it’s bending the rules a bit IMO. The real problem is that some of these intents are unsupportable. For instance, the Door Lock simply isn’t feasible. You could apply an Obstacle penalty to Advance maneuvers between certain locations, but you couldn’t categorically prevent movement.

The Death Trap is problematic, since it does not follow any of the rules for burning weapons (it lacks an index, class, traits, etc and in fact seems to be not so much a piece of technology as an independent fireteam…) and yet it has an IMS score and deals damage, which normally only weapons are allowed to do.

The Self-Destruct switch as a whole is also problematic, I’m not at all sure how to burn it as written. I can think of some other approaches that might work, though.

I changed the tech description to clarify matters.
The Death Trap is indeed functionally an independent fireteam. All listed Location are not so much meant to be burnt as placed by GM fiat, because they seem appropriate in the circumstances.