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Cody K. Carlson
The new sideboard from Firefly: The Game: Blue Sun expansion, from Gale Force Nine, offers more worlds and contacts to deal with, but also brings new dangers as players travel through Rim Space.

Firefly: The Game, from Gale Force Nine, was one of 2013's best board games. Based on the popular Joss Whedon TV series, Firefly: The Game saw up to four players commanding Firefly cargo ships as they raced around the 'Verse doing jobs and getting paid.

Firefly: The Game did tend to feel like each player was engaged in their own solitary adventure, however, and Gale Force Nine quickly added a small expansion, Pirates & Bounty Hunters. This expansion added some much-needed conflict to the game, as players could now attack each other and steal each others' cargo and missions.

Now, Gale Force Nine has added a big-box expansion to this space adventure game. Firefly: The Game: Blue Sun, brings many new features to the game, including a board expansion that fits next to the base game board. Several new worlds are added to this board, as well as its own Nav deck, cards that must be drawn while traveling through Rim Space. Ships moving through Rim Space have a greater chance of encountering Reavers, the TV show's deadliest villains.

The expansion also features two new Reaver ship minis, bringing the total number of Reavers on the board to three, adding more danger to the game. Also, when Reavers move about the board they leave tokens behind, which may trigger the appearance of a Reaver ship in your sector. Players also have two new contacts they can deal with: Lord Harrow and Mr. Universe. Additionally, Blue Sun offers more choices for scenario setup, captains and shopping options.

Blue Sun does not radically alter the game in any way, but it does increase the stakes in important ways. The Reavers, a minor inconvenience in the base game, now become a major threat. Additionally, the new contacts offer fun new missions and new ways to make money. In short, Blue Sun is more of a good thing and fans of the base game will love this further immersion into the Firefly universe.

Firefly: The Game is recommended for ages 13 and up, and plays in about two to four hours, depending on scenario.

Knightmare Chess

Originally published in 1994, Knightmare Chess, released in the USA from Steve Jackson Games, was a number of cards that radically altered the game of chess in fun and interesting ways. Offering a slight fantasy theme and featuring beautiful artwork, the game proved so popular it spawned a sequel, Knightmare Chess 2, in 1998.

Now, Steve Jackson Games has re-released both games in a 2014 edition of Knightmare Chess featuring a total of 158 cards. Requiring a chess set to play, Knightmare chess begins with each player building a deck of cards. Each card has a point value and players can build a deck worth up to 150 points. Players then set up the chess board normally.

On a player's turn, he or she may move a piece normally, but then may play a card. Some cards allow players to play them on their opponents' turn. Some cards have a one-time effect, while some cards have a continuous play effect and alter the rules of the game.

For instance, the Holy War card allows you to swap the positions of your Knights and Bishops. The Warlord card turns your king into a warlord, allowing him to move and attack two spaces instead of just one. The Fireball card allows you to move a piece and then explode it, removing it from play but taking with it all adjacent enemy pieces. After the Doomsayer card is played, the next player to say the name of any piece on the board, except a king, loses that piece.

There are also cards that allow you to move your opponent's pieces; cards that allow you to bring back captured pieces; cards that allow you to repeat your opponent's previously played cards, and more. There are even blank cards that allow you to create your own unique abilities for the game.

Knightmare Chess is a wonderful chess variant that really increases the stakes. Unlike actual chess, where you must think three or four moves ahead, the sheer number of abilities that the cards allow you to do negate that strategy. Instead, Knightmare Chess offers a chaotic dance on the familiar chessboard, one that requires careful consideration of when to play specific cards, but also a healthy dose of improvisation. It is a whole lot of fun. Those familiar with Knightmare Chess will love this new edition, and those new to it will find an exciting new way to play.

Knightmare Chess is recommended for ages 10 and up, and plays in about two hours. Knightmare Chess requires a chess set to play.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com