What do Zombies, Dinosaurs and Leprechauns have in common? They’re trying to take over the world!

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Overview

Smash Up is a “Shufflebuilding Game.” That is, players combine two distinctly different 20 card faction decks, shuffle them together and form one formidable force to gain control over enemy Bases. Smashing up Bases is worth Victory points. The first player to score 15 Victory Points wins! Piece o’ cake right? Well, hold onto your pirate hats. Things are about to get real messy!

Set Up

Before getting to gameplay, let’s talk about what makes Smash Up super special: the Factions. The core game includes 8 Factions. Each Faction is endowed with unique traits that make them really effective in world domination. These traits translate into game effects when the cards are played.

Let’s meet the conquering hordes…

  • Aliens: These pesky invaders love to disintegrate things, and will allow you to remove cards from play. They have spiffy ray guns.
  • Dinosaurs: Big… really big. It’s all about power and stepping on things. Oh and they have weapons. They add power to your deck. Did we mention big?
  • Ninjas: Silent and deadly. They can be played and move freely in the game, providing unexpected card plays from your hand. Huh? What as that?
  • Pirates: They do love their ships and cannons. Pirates provide movement abilities and blasting other players’ minions right off the table. Kaboom!
  • Robots: Replication, multiplication, domination! Robots’ card effects allow you to play more robots, and more robots and… well, you get it. Minion domination!
  • Tricksters: Gnomes, Fairies and Goblins! Their tricky powers allow various game effects, mostly messing with your opponents’ strategy. Snicker Snicker. Poof!
  • Wizards: Magic just seems to break all the rules and this faction does! Take more actions, draw more cards, Play more minions! Moo ha ha!
  • Zombies: Um… they … just … wont… die. ‘Nuff said.

Smash Up game in play

During setup, players choose the two factions they will to use to create their deck of doom and shuffle them together. Players draw a hand of 5 cards and are ready to go.

During the game players will be attempting take over Bases; each with their own game play effects. There a number of Base cards dealt to the table at the beginning of the game equal to one more than the number of players. This is very simple math. You can handle it.

There are two types of cards that make up a players deck: Minions, and Actions. Really that’s all you need to know… let’s get to the game play!

Gameplay

Play dem Cards!
After any “Beginning of the Turn” effects occur, a player may play one Minion card and one Action card from their hand in any order or not at all.

Smash Up minion cards

Minions are played to Base cards. Each Minion card has Power. That’s the number in the upper left of the card. They also may have an effect that occurs when played.

Smash Up action cards

Actions are played then discarded, unless they have an ongoing ability. Which means it hangs around and is… ongoing. Ok, that was a bit obvious.

Check for Scoring!
After any cards are played, players see if a Base can be scored, (demolished, crushed and pulverized). If the total power of all the Minions at a Base (no matter who played them) is equal to or exceeds the Breakpoint number in the top left of the Base card, that Base scores. (and is demolished, crushed and pulverized).

Smash Up base cards
The big giant numbers on the Base card are the Victory points that are awarded when a Base scores. The player with the most Power at the Base when it scores is awarded the VP on the left of the card. The second highest Power gets the middle number of VP. And the third highest gets the right hand VPs. Once a Base is scored a new one is drawn to replace it, and the mayhem continues!

After any Bases score (or don’t) a player then draws 2 cards to end their turn.

Play continues until a player scores 15 victory points and has succeeded in taking over the world!

Components

AEG continues to impress with quality components and rich immersive artwork. The cards are sturdy. The box has an insert with many empty slots for expansions. The artwork is different for each faction, which gives each faction their own look and feel. The rulebook is as entertaining as it is informative. Hats off to Jeff Quick for one of the best rulebooks yet.

Learning Curve

With a concise rulebook and an ease of game play, the game can be taught in minutes.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {yes}
This game is perfect for a family game night. I mean come on – Dinosaurs AND Ninjas? Game play is easy enough for the younger geek, and mom and dad can join in without guilt.
Strategy Gamer {maybe}
Each deck does contain its own built in strategies and more appear when the Factions are combined. But shuffling means random, and this game may be a bit too random for the Strategy gamer.
Casual Gamer {yes}
The perfect game for casual play. Games take 30 -45 minutes, the turns are fast, it has great replayability and you don’t have to invest too much of your brain to have hours of enjoyment. Smash Up!
Avid Gamer {yes}
It’s a game you just have to try if you love games. Odds are it will satisfy some part of your Avid gamer psyche. Card combos, ruthless attacks, sneaky hand management. Uh… yah!
Power Gamer {no}
This is a light game and world domination takes around 45 minutes. Power gamers might be disappointed in the lack of hundreds of components and the 3-minute set-up time. It’s a no go.

Final Thoughts

Shuffling cards is just so gratifying. Isn’t it? Besides the obvious physical fiddly something to do with your hands while chatting about new game hotness, there’s that sound…that “frrrrrrrrup” and some deep psychological satisfaction in the knowledge that your deck – the cards you need – just might be assembling into some perfect order to bring you a decisive victory. Or will they? Better shuffle again to make sure…

Smash Up designer Paul Peterson has a great deal of experience with shuffling, having worked in R&D for Wizards of the Coast during the glory days of Magic and Pokémon. So it stands to reason that Smash Up is infused with all this shuffely goodness. But at its core, Smash Up is about combos. (not the cheese filled kind).

The idea is simple and familiar: combining two sets of cards where each is focused on one particular card effect. This has been done for years in most collectible card games and most recently in Deck-builders. The beauty of Smash Up is that all this “combo creation” is taken care of for you. The game challenges you as a player to make the right play at the right time. The card effects and their combinations have been built, play-tested, gift wrapped in cool themes and are waiting for you in the box. This makes the game accessible, and allows a player to enjoy the game experience instead of focusing on any in-game deck construction.

At first several of the factions seem overpowered and undefeatable, especially when used in combination with each other. But once players familiarize themselves with the game, the different factions and card effects, counter strategies emerge. For example: all the Factions decks in this core set have an even number of Minions and Actions in them (10/10) Except the Robots, that have 18 Minions and 2 Actions. Once you know this, you can try to affect your card play accordingly. The most powerful faction? Adding up the combined power of all the Minions in each Faction gives the Robots the lead here (with 38) but with only 2 Action cards, they become sitting… robots. Wizards have the lowest combined powered Minions (24), but have the ability to play multiple actions, making any Faction they pair with a force to be reckoned with and so on. These traits balance the Factions and their mixing very well.

Smash Up is an excellent 3 to 4 player game offering a ton of player interaction and game play choices. But with two players, the game gets a bit more predictable as some card effects are limited with the choice of only one opponent.

One important and unlikely aspect of Smash Up is its value as an entry-level game. Although the game is listed as ages 12+, the game is a perfect way to teach younger children (or new hobby gamers) the practical aspects of how card combos work. And even though the game can get a bit “mathy” as you add up the powers of the Minions, this is a real positive for younger players as well. With little overt violence and moderate graphic images, the game is great fun for families to play with children as young as 8.

There is so much more to Smash Up than meets the eye. It’s not just a light filler. It’s well-constructed, accessible, and intelligent as well as funny and just plain fun. And you get the sense it is only the beginning. As more Factions are inevitably added in (there’s space in the box!) the game will grow with a gaming community that’s willing to embrace it. Play it for the fun of it!

User Reviews (36)

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2
Smash Up: Robot Faction Fan
9
34 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Smash Up is a smash hit!”

Smash Up is game that I had no knowledge of until two weeks ago. I was looking for card games or deck building games that were not collectible. I wanted a card game that had everything needed to play it in one box as I’ve grown tired of Magic the Gathering.

As I was researching different games such as Dominion, Ascension, and Nightfall, I kept seeing Smash Up come up. Finally my curiosity got the best of me, and I took a look at what Smash Up had to offer.

Let me tell you right now, after one look I new I had found what I had been looking for. Smash Up has everything I wanted. A self contained card game, prebuilt decks, very simple mechanics, a number of themes that cover a lot of interests, and short lite game play.

Now that I’ve got a few games under my belt, I’m even more excited about this game and it’s future. So let’s break it down. Everything I like about the game and few things to take into consideration.

-The Components
– 176 total cards
– Rulebook
– Box with card holding insert

The cards are very nice and durable, which is important because they will be shuffled many, many times during game play. Also, all the artwork on each card is very nicely done with a playful style that fits the game perfectly.

The rulebook is one of the best written and laid out rulebooks that I’ve ever read. It’s very clear and makes it super easy to learn how to play this game very quickly.

The box and the insert are very nicely done. AEG has done a wonderful job by giving enough space for each slot to hold a SLEEVED faction. This is very impressive to me as I’ve seen other games not take sleeves into consideration when making their boxes ( I’m looking at you Sentinels of the Multiverse ).

-The 8 factions

This is obviously the meat of the game. The 8 factions account for 160 of the cards, and they don’t disappoint. The variety of factions is fascinating. You have Aliens, Dinosaurs, Ninjas, Pirates, Robots, Tricksters, Wizards, and Zombies. Almost any gamer will be able to find a faction that they can immediately identify with no matter their age. Each faction has 10 minions and 10 actions, except for the Robots. They have 18 minions and 2 actions.

The factions all play differently and give you 28 possible deck combinations. In short, Aliens bounce stuff, Dinosaurs are powerful, Ninjas are sneaky, Pirates move from base to base, Robots flood the table, Tricksters play tricks, Wizards use a ton of actions, and Zombies keep coming back. With all the combinations you’ll have a unique playing experience each game.

-The 16 bases

The bases are how you earn your victory points to win the game. Just as the factions, you get a decent variety of bases that are themed to match the factions. You actually have 2 bases per faction so to speak, and each base, except for one, has it’s own unique ability that is in play as long as the base is in play. So not only will you find awesome combos between 2 factions, but you will find awesome combos involving the base abilities as well.

-The game play

The basic concept of the game, called Shufflebuilding, is just shuffling 2 factions together to make a 40 card deck. This is both simple and complex at the same time. This game has quite a bit more depth to it than I initially thought. Any one can sit down with Smash Up and shufflebuild, but gamers that want depth will find it in the combinations of factions and how each faction works with each other faction. Not to mention finding combos that factions have with the different base abilities. And if the base game gets a little stale, you can add another set of base game factions in. This gives players different match up options because with 2 sets of factions, 2 players could both use Ninjas as one of their factions and so on and so on.

Now the game isn’t just about shufflebuilding, you have to play your minions on a base, and when the base reaches it’s breaking point any player who has minions at that base has a chance to gain victory points. Depending on the number of players in any given game, a base could possibly award up to three players points when it breaks. If a base happens to have minions from 4 players, that means someone isn’t going to earn any points. The first player to earn 15 victory points wins the game.

In my experience games will only last 30 to 45 minutes once each player understands how to play the game. Some games could be shorter or longer depending on the number of players which can be 2, 3, or 4 players.

-Replay value

This game has tons of replay value. With the 28 shufflebuilding combinations, this game should see quite a bit of play at your table. And as stated above, you can always add a second set of base game factions to add even more match up options for your players.

-Who will like this game?

This game hits a wide variety of players and game groups. It would be a hit for Family gaming, gaming with friends, any avid gamer, and even casual gamers. This is the type of game you could take to your local game store and get a game going with any one very quickly.

-Some things to consider

While this game is a huge hit for me, it might not be for every one. Sometimes the game takes on a role of “attack the leader”, and that can upset some people. Other times a player may fall very far behind in points and become disinterested with the game in progress. If your gaming group has players that fall into these categories proceed with caution. Otherwise, I’d recommend that every gamer give this game a try. It’s a solid 9 out of 10 for me.

P.S. Be on the look out for Smash Up Awesome Level 9000. The first expansion for Smash Up due out in April that will offer 4 new factions that should really add some exciting new game play.

 
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4
Gamer - Level 3
Rated 25 Games
9
41 of 43 gamers found this helpful
“More Depth than you would think, but still greatly accessible!”

I picked this game up after eyeing it for quite some time. First was the kickstarter, then seeing it on the shelf in a semi-local comic shop for months. After stopping in recently to pick up some books for myself and my daughter, I decided what the heck… It’s only 30 bucks, right?!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
My daughter was extremely excited upon seeing the box art. I was excited to dig in and see the cards. The box felt VERY light, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting that much inside (knowing that only 20 cards per 8 factions would only amount to 160 cards plus base cards). Seemed like an awfully large box for what it was…

And yep, on opening the excitement diminished for a short moment (only for a moment). It was mostly dead space – an insert, rule booklet and 3 packages of cards. It struck me though, once all of the cards were separated, that the insert did a decent enough job of holding all of the included factions and base cards on one side, leaving room for 2 more expansions (at 4 factions each).

FIRST PLAY:
My daughter and I were first to try a game, before she went to school. Being only 7 1/2 years old, I wanted to learn it/teach it to her first, before having a full blown family game with the wife included. We decided to play until it was time to leave for her school, and see who had the most VP at that point.

I played Alien Tricksters, she chose Zombie Dinosaurs. I was able to capture the first base, really liking the combo of Aliens and Tricksters. I also delayed her from getting a base, by using Terraforming (alien action card) that switched a base she was close to scoring on, with one that would take her a bit longer (higher power on the base).

That gave me enough time to take one base for 5 points, and play an action on the new base that took away its ability. That ability would have awarded her 1VP for every 5 power she had on the base (she had the entire base, I had no minions there). That would have netted her 7 VP instead of the standard 2 VP for highest power player. At this point, it was time to quit. Very close game! Lots of strategic elements and things to watch for. Lots of screwage and trickery! I liked it a lot.

SECOND PLAY:
Now it was time to introduce the wife to it. She took Alien Tricksters, I got Ninja Dinosaurs, daughter took Wizard Robots. My wife and daughter were off to a faster start, but through smart play and some luck I was able to catch up mid-game. Score was 10, 9, 9. I was leading. Smart play like coming in SECOND place for a base scoring (for a base that awarded more points to the person with the second highest power on the base!), and playing Shinobi cards and Ninja actions that allowed me to play to a base as it was scoring, helped me come from behind. It was then between my wife and I, fighting over another contested base, to see who would nab the 5 points and take the game. I was barely able to take her out and slip in the win, before she would have played an Alien that brought her VP to 10, and caused the base to score (in her favor), netting her the 5 left.

THOUGHTS:
I really loved this game. Wife loved it, kid loved it. Folks, what we have here is yet another huge hit with the family. In fact, it’s so quick to set up and get into playing the game, I think this one will see the most play time of any family games we have so far.

The thing is, there is enough strategy here in faction and card combos, timing, hand management, and base abilities, that it’s deep enough that more experienced gamers are probably going to love this as well. It doesn’t appear at first like it would be a game with such depth, but there truly is. Someone left behind early on, can really watch things and play smart and make a good comeback, most of the time. I like that.

Drafting the factions in the beginning ensures that no one is guaranteed the “Best Combo” every time you play. It also makes for a very different game each time. Bases come out randomly as well, and have varying levels of “power” needed to score them. They also have (most of them) abilities that affect scoring, players turns, moving of minions, etc. And not always, as I described above, is it best to come in FIRST place… you have to pay attention to the bases on the table!

More factions are definitely needed/wanted, and will only help the game. With a 4 player game, there is the chance that someone ends up with a faction combo that isn’t quite as strong as some others, but it’s not terribly bad. Again, more expansions will help remedy that issue. The combos are plenty, the possibilities are vast as is, and will only get better. Drafting the factions (as recommended/stated in the rules) is how I would go about this, which may turn off “power gamers” who always want to go with what they see as the strongest/best combo. You can, however, get around THIS by buying another base set, and letting people be able to choose duplicate factions. The only problem here, is designating during play which ones are yours (but this can be remedied by using different colored sleeves to differentiate).

All in all, I can’t recommend this game enough. This one knocked Legendary out of the top spot for my family (even though we still play Legendary), and I can see it being a favorite for a long, long time.

 
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7
Knight-errant
Cooperative Game Explorer
Amateur Advisor
Gamer - Level 6
9
48 of 51 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Zombie Robots? Are you serious? How does that even work?”

…Yep, I’m serious.

Smash-Up is a very interesting game that has been published by Alderac Entertainment. The theme is factions, and there are 8 to choose from with the game, with plenty of room for expansions later on. Each faction consists of 20 cards, and two factions are combined together to make a single playable deck, which can then be used to play against your opponents. A faction consists of minion cards and action cards; Minion cards have a power ranking from 1 to 7; 1 is the least powerful, while 7 is the most and is the domain of King Rex, the most powerful minion in the game. Action cards are just that; you can play one action card per turn (as well as one minion card per turn), and that action can do anything from allowing someone to play extra minions, to clearing an entire location of minions, depending on the faction that uses the action.

The object of the game is to control locations. At any time in the game there will be four locations available to control. Each location has a break point; a score total that will tell when the location can be collected for victory points. When the break point is reached (by placing minions on the location until the break point value is met or exceeded), scoring begins, and victory points are awarded based on who had the most points in minions placed on the location, who had the second-most, and who had the third-most. The person who has the first-place spot won’t necessarily get the most victory points, however; some locations have better rewards for coming in second place in the rankings. The locations will also sometimes have effects that come into play while a location is in play or when a location is scored, and these effects can have an effect on who ultimately was rewarded the most by that location. Once a certain number of victory points are reached, the game is over, and whoever has the most, wins.

The decks, however, are where the real fun of this game lies. When I first played this game, it struck me to how similar the formation of decks is with another collectible card game – Magic: The Gathering. Don’t get me wrong; Smash-Up isn’t nearly as complicated, and they actually managed to recapture the feel somewhat without oversimplifying it. Let me explain.

Each faction in Smash-Up does something, and does it particularly well.

Pirates can move from location to location, changing the amounts of minion points associated with that location and possibly stealing a first-place ranking out from under another player’s feet.

Robots can send other minions out via actions or minion effects, superceding the rule that only one minion can be played a turn; they’re very fast.

Tricksters are representative of fey folk; they excel in locking down a location and doing things to mess up other player’s plans.

Dinosaurs have very few additional effects, but they make up for it in sheer power, and can quickly bring a location to its break point, usually scoring at a significant level.

Aliens can bounce minions back to their owners hand (note, this can be done with the Alien minions as well), and can gain victory points through use of the Invader card.

Wizards excel at card draw, and can utilize actions that will give the player the ability to play more actions, meaning that they can often use cards one after the other.

Zombies can utilize cards from the discard pile, ensuring that zombie cards are never truly gone; they’re just misplaced for the time being.

Ninjas are sneaky, and can both kill minion cards, as well as substitute or sneak in minions to change the end result of a scoring round.

When two of these factions are united to make a 40 card deck, these abilities will combine. Zombie Pirates can place minions in the discard pile to a location on the card when there are no minions in hand, then move them to another location to force that location to score. Robot Tricksters can place multiple minions on a location, then play action cards to make sure that it will be more difficult for other players to put their own minions on that location. Alien Wizards can go on a rampage, using multiple actions to return other minions to their owners hands, then lay down an Invader to gain one Victory Point, then return that same Invader to their own hand to play again later on.

To get back to my original point. This game is like M:TG in that it combines two different ‘civilizations’ in order to produce a deck that works. Combining the decks gives things a flavor that makes for interesting synergy. Where this game trumps M:TG is that sometimes in M:TG, you can have problems playing cards because you don’t have the mana to use everything, and sometimes you simply don’t have enough power. In Smash-Up, you can play a card without paying a cost, and all the factions are designed to work together with ease. Every faction is worded so that any card that has affects a minion will affect any faction’s minion; negative effects are specified as opponent’s minions, which keeps things clear.

The game is simple to learn and easy to play, which is good. The game also runs fairly quickly once learned, which means that you can get in a couple of games for rematches with other players. Keeping the individual factions to 20 cards is good to make sure that you will eventually use cards from both factions in the course of the game, but I think utilizing 25 or 30 cards decks might have been better for longevity. Having 8 factions means you can either try something new for a game (there are a lot of combinations to exhaust), or you can stick with a tried and true favorite.

Personally, I find the fun of this game lies not in trying to find combinations that win you the game, but in finding logical impossibilities or combinations that just seem silly. Zombie Robots make me laugh, simply from the definition. Doesn’t something have to die before it comes back as a zombie? How can robots die? If they cease to function, can’t they simply be repaired? Note that you could have Robot Zombies, though…just need to catch a zombie and make em a cyborg zombie. So that only works one way. Wizard Dinosaurs is another interesting concept. Where can a Dinosaur find a pointy wizard’s hat that large? And how can a T-rex hold a spellbook with those tiny little hands? My advice when playing this game is to be as silly as possible and try to enjoy the game for what it is; a mashup of cliches that works out to be a pretty entertaining game.

 
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6
Went to Gen Con 2012
Gamer - Level 6
8
48 of 51 gamers found this helpful
“Time to Smash it Up!”

I just played this for the first time with my eight year old son this weekend. I opened the box, read through the rules with him, and we each picked two factions. He picked Dinosaurs and Tricksters, and I picked Zombies and Pirates. We put out the three bases and began to play.

Play through:
For each of the first two or three rounds we were both only playing 1 card (a Minion) and then drawing two to get our 5 card hands up to 10. Once I reached 10 cards and had to start discarding I realized that if I’m going to be drawing two I better be playing two like I’m supposed to (1 action, 1 minon per turn unless there are special abilites that come into play).

Perhaps it is more because of our father/son dynamic, but we tended not to go against each other when placing minions on bases. Since there were three bases and only two of us (number of bases = number of players + 1), we didn’t “feel the need” to fight over a base. This made it fairly simple for each of us to score bases and take full points for each. I did finally get to a Zombie card that allowed me to play a Minion on each base that I did not already have a Minion on, so we did have some confrontations, but it was not until scoring the last base of the game (putting us both over 15 points) that there was any true confrontations.

We both had started playing on the Central Brain base (Base special ability “+1 to all Minions on this base”) when I scored my second to last base putting me at a tied score of 13. My minions on this base included three “First Mate” Minions whose special ability is “After this base is scored, you may move this minion to another base instead of the discard pile.” This triggered the scoring of this base as well, and gave me the advantage on the base. Final score Dad: 17 Son: 16.

Components:
The box, which is made of heavy material and will last for some time, contains 9 different decks: 1 of bases and 8 of different theamed factions. There is also 9 additional spots in the plastic tray for more decks so when the much rumored expansions are released you will have some place to put them. The slots for storing the decks are smilar to what you have in a Dominion box, only not as deep. I think that they could have fit more slots in the box (or made a smaller box) if the slots themselves were smaller, but that’s just me. There is also an glossy instruction book in the box that was written with fun in mind, so make a point of actually reading it.

Overall:
I really like this game and will definately be bringing it to game nights with my friends, as well as playing more with my son. It’s quick (listed time 45 mins, but could go faster) and easy to play and depending on the attitude of your players could get very rowdie. I recommend this for anyone who is looking to get fun, social game going at party or just a quick fun game at home.

 
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6
Canada
Gamer - Level 6
 
21 of 22 gamers found this helpful
“Smash Up and how it scales from 2-4 without an expansion”

Smash Up is perhaps one of the most misunderstood board games I have had the opportunity to play lately. I picked it up about a month ago based off a recommendation in /r/boardgames, it was pointed out to me that Smash Up is by the same designer as Guillotine which has become our go to filler for quite some time. Even after doing some research and discovering they had little to nothing in common, I was sold by the artwork/theme and stopped by my flgs to grab a copy of Smash Up the next day.

To read the full review complete with a photo assisted play through, go to http://toddsboardgames.blogspot.ca/2014/04/smash-up.html

Objective:

Your objective is to mass 15 Victory Points primarily from destroying locations but some factions have other options to gain points.

Destroying Locations?

During the game you will place Minions at locations in order to try and have majority control when the location “breaks”. Each location has a break value in the top left corner, once the combined power of every players’ minions reaches the break point, the location awards victory points based on majority control, the player with the most power gets the value on the left, the 2nd highest power total gets the value in the middle and so on.

How to play:

On your turn you will play 1 action and 1 minion in any order, provided that you do not get bonus actions or minions from those cards, you will then draw 2 cards and your turn is over.

Similarly to Guillotine all the important text is on the cards, that means when you first crack it open there is some reading but eventually the pace will pick up, although the same draw your cards at the end of the turn mechanic is present to help offset the text heavy cards.

My Thoughts:

I really like the theory behind Smash Up, bang two premade faction decks together to get some wacky combo and battle to the death for random locations. The artwork on the cards is fantastic, and I really like some of the faction choices although I feel like others are a bit too generic in the base game.

I do not like how unbalanced some of the combos are, Robots win almost every time unless the other person has a good combo to counter them (ninja gnome works great for this) you can offset this by giving Robots to the new player or by not choosing them or even by selecting factions 1 at a time.

I do not like how in a 4 player game there are no factions left over, base games usually support more than what is required to play in games like this and give you some options even at max players. Having at least 1 expansion feels mandatory but I am unsure as of now if the game is good enough to justify buying an expansion.

I also do not enjoy Smash Up because of the extreme variance in playtime. I like being able to judge how long a game is going to last, sometimes we finish a game of Smash Up in 10 minutes and think we have time to play another only for it to go past 45 minutes. This is because there is no rule to end the game if someone else happens other than hitting 15 points, if your deck runs out you simply reshuffle it so you can end up in a stalemate easily especially when all the factions are in play.

That all being said there are things I enjoy about Smash Up, the game is quite fun once everyone playing has had a chance to play 3 or 4 times and knows what to expect from some factions so they don’t have to spend every turn reading text. I do like how Smash Up implements the draw at the end of your turn that way on your turn you aren’t having to read new cards that you draw and can try to come up with a bit of a strategy. But usually by the time its your turn again what you wanted to do before isn’t an option anymore, Smash Up changes often and it is actually pretty easy to catch up and pull a win from behind unless someone is playing robots or another overpowered combination. I like how intense Smash Up feels like all these random factions are just throwing down yet it still maintains some comical theme although I think lots of that is lost in the gameplay especially when you are first being introduced. Like most games Smash Up is a ton more enjoyable if you call things by the right names, don’t just say you are going for this location or that, send your Grave Digger to the Tar Pits to dig up your Supreme Alien Overlord.

Overall I think Smash Up is a misunderstood game, people expect it to be fun, light and easy based on the artwork and theme and then don’t have any fun as they get lost in all the text. It actually doesn’t take long to get the hang of the game and you will know cards by name before long and the terminology all makes sense. Actually in my opinion the learning curve is not as stepe as a lot of people claim simply because each card tells you exactly what it does on it, there aren’t keywords to learn and remember or anything to memorize really. At the same time that does slow things down, so I would say Smash Up takes time to learn and get into but is worth the commitment as long as everyone understands what they are getting into.

How does it scale?

Two Players: I like two player Smash Up, 3 locations feels like the right number to be fighting over, you can plan a few turns ahead, it feels more strategic and is a pretty fun game to play if you want to duke it out with a friend using some funny factions. The game length varies the most in a 2 player game but similar to Guillotine there is a really fun game hidden in the two player game that is heavier in strategy than at first glance.

Three Players: Hands down my favourite way to play, 4 locations is manageable and you can still plan a turn ahead. Our three player games also seem to last roughly the same amount of time each game, the focus seems to be on scoring points rather than prohibiting other players which means that game keeps progressing towards an end. There is just the right balance of tactics, strategy and luck in a 3 player game.

Four Players: This is where the theme fits best, **** is chaotic and things could change in any direction at any given time. People seem to focus on screwing each other over a lot more which means unless someone is sneaking points in the game will drag. I do like how quickly turns move around the table in a 4 player game and I also like seeing more than 1 base score at a time but that can happen just as easily in a 3 player game. I did not like 4 player Smash Up because the turn order seems to have a lot to do with who wins, there are a few things you can do to offset this but only if you have factions that combo well together, which in a 4 player game where they don’t include any extra options and they aren’t all balanced together, this is unlikely to happen.

Who should buy Smash Up?

Casual Gamers: I would only buy Smash Up if your game pool to choose from is small, there is a lot of replay value in Smash Up and you will need to play more than the average game to really get into it. The learning curve is slower than most games I would recommend to a casual gamer, but the rules are not challenging and the theme should appeal to a wide variety of people. The playing time and setup / cleanup time are also very casual friendly and take almost no time.

Gamer Gamers: I think there are a lot of things appealing about Smash Up although I think it may be a little too random for the typical serious gamer. It can also be frustrating to be unable to get your plan / strategy rolling and that happens quite a bit in Smash Up. Keeping that in mind there is a ton of room for backstabbing and elaborate combos / turns, avid gamers will have a much easier time learning how to play and should be able to pick it up after 1 play and Smash Up is a good game to have around if your friends want to start moving into harder games.

 
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4
Gamer - Level 4
10
37 of 40 gamers found this helpful
“Smash Up, you won me over.”

When I first heard about Smash Up, I thought,
ONE: The concept of just putting cards down to break a base sounded too simplistic.
TWO: Zombies, Aliens, Pirates, Dinosaurs, Ninjas, Robots.. haven’t we had enough of how “NERD COOL” these things are in pop culture?
THREE: Deck Shuffling?

So here’s the quick breakdown of Smash Up. There are 8 faction decks, Zombies, Aliens, Pirates, Dinosaurs, Ninjas, Robots, Wizards and Tricksters. Each Person takes two factions decks which contains 20 cards each and shuffles them together. They draw five cards. Bases are dealt face up according to the number of players plus one. You may play one action and one minion on your turn. When the total number of minions’ power on a base equals the base’s breaking point number, the base is scored with the person having the highest power total on the base getting the amount of victory points for the first place position (the far left number) and so on for the second and third place. The first player to reach 15 points is the winner.

So, the Pros: As much as I hate to say it, it is kinda cool to have a deck full of Zombies and Dinosaurs. The art is spectacular. Even some of the card names are clever. The game is fast and super easy to learn, which makes teaching it even easier. With the eight factions with multiple combinations of decks, the replay value is quite high. I have played this a bunch of times and still have not used a couple of factions.

Now the Cons: I still feel like the base breaking thing is short on reasoning. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does. Maybe I just think that there could be some great explanation for why these factions are coming together and why the bases are breaking. The other thing that most people, including myself, have a problem with is the issue of balance. Some faction combinations are just too much stronger than others. I’ve played a game with Zombie Aliens and just mopped the floor with my opponents. I did just purchase the expansion, Smash Up: Awesome Level 9,000, but have only played it once, so I’m not quite certain if the new factions have fixed things just quite yet, but I can say that with the 4 new factions, if you are playing a four player game, the last person is less likely to get a faction they REALLY don’t want.

All in all, this game is fast, fun, and easy to play. I really do love when games prove to me that they are better than I think and not worse *cough* zombie fluxx *cough*.

 
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1
 
27 of 29 gamers found this helpful
“Get ready for a "Smashing" good time!”

Righto. So where to begin with this cool little game….. First and most importantly, its super easy to get into. With so many board games out there that can confuse the living daylights out of people new to the hobby. Smashup shines like a polished gem. The rules are basic. You pick 2 factions (this ranges from Pirates , Ninjas , Robots , Dinosaurs , Zombies & many more). After making your selection you take your two decks of cards and you mush them together to create the deck you will be playing with. These cards consist of two types. Minions and Actions.

Minion cards are well… Minions. Each minion has a power value and ability that can give you a strategic edge in the game. Minions range from weak to powerful and can have an impact on how you play the game.
Action cards give you a wide range of abilities that can make or break your game strategy.

The main objective of the game is to destroy bases (all of them themed to coincide with the playable factions that are available in the base game). These bases range from Ninja dojo’s to graveyards and have certain interesting properties about them. What I like most about the “base” concept is that each one has a set point value.

Why a point value you ask? Simple. The point value needs to be matched by minions that are placed on the base. So let’s say you have 4 players all vying for the top spot on a certain base in play. The base has a “pop / burst” value of 20. So everyone joins in on the feeding frenzy and before you know it you have a more than 20 points. Pop goes the base. When this happens there are 3 spots on the podium that awards players with points for 1st , 2nd and 3rd place. The more minions you contributed towards the bases destruction the better your chance is of getting first place. Once the score is tallied up the victory points get handed out.

And so it goes. Pop as many bases as you can with your trusty minions and in no time you will have 15 Victory Points. When you hit this number first you win the game! Simple eh :)

For me Smashup is a fun & entertaining little game with a surprising layer of complexity. Its a must have for any board gaming enthusiast!

 
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7
Legend of the Five Rings Fan
Intermediate Reviewer
Strategist
Paladin
8
32 of 35 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A childhood garden of mayhem”

“Who’d win? A T-Rex or a ninja?” If you’ve ever had silly conversations like this as a child — or an adult — Smash Up might be the game for you. A very simple concept which allows for thousands of variations on play, Smash Up is a “shufflebuilding” game for 2-4 players.

Setup is as simple as it comes: the game has eight factions mostly representing some of geekdom’s “beloved” groups: Aliens, Dinosaurs, Ninjas, Pirates, Robots, Tricksters, Wizards, and Zombies. Each has a schtick which they are better at in the game; for example, Zombies specialize in recursion (coming back from the dead) while Pirates specialize in movement (sailing the Seven Seas). Each faction’s deck has 20 cards, usually 10 Minions and 10 Actions. (Robots break this rule of thumb with 18 Minions and 2 Actions, but many of their Minions have coming-into-play effects that work like Actions.)

At the start of the game, each player drafts a chosen faction, then reverses the draft order to select a second faction: first to select is also last to select, and so forth. Players shuffle the two decks together to make a deck of 40 cards, and can begin play. Thus “Smash Up”: every time you play the game, you will have two different factions “smashed” together to hopefully make something both effective and fun.

The goal of the game is for players to “smash” Base cards by piling Minions on with a total strength greater than the Base’s breakpoint. Based on who had the most strength in Minions there at the end, there are Victory Point rewards for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Once a player reaches 15 Victory Points or more, the game is over. Each player’s turn consists of playing a Minion card and/or an Action card, resolving their effects, checking for base breaking, then drawing two cards and passing to the next player. Some combinations of card effects can allow for cascading base breakage, and a very few effects allow for surprise moves on other players’ turns. The Base cards each have effects of their own, some that apply while Minions are played there, some that give effects to the winner, etc.

Strategy in the game involves having an idea of your opponents are capable of, correctly reading board position, and convincing opponents to gang up on each other instead of you. The trappings of the game allow for a great deal of fun, and it is both simple to learn and complex in its interactions. I personally have successfully taught the game to both drunken adults and easily distractable children (not at the same time), and everyone has had a grand time playing it. There’s nothing in the game that has overly frightening or violent content — the art is well done and unobjectionable, and game play is abstract enough that even “destroying” Minions isn’t a personal thing.

The game does have its limitations — without more surprise moves possible, the game is more about preventing yourself from setting up your opponents for victory. The eight factions allow for 28 deck combinations, and it is clear that certain factions are more powerful than others within the base set. Wizards’ card draw, Tricksters’ discard tech, and Zombies’ recursion are very strong. To prevent players from always gravitating towards the same factions, it may be preferable to occasionally doing random allocation instead of draft.

Still, games run fairly quickly, and this is a great beer-and-pretzels uproarious good time, or a Childhood Revisited fun night with the family. Smash Up is fun in a distilled form, a competitive, no-holds-barred free-for-all that never takes itself too seriously.

NOTE: Although two expansions to the game have been released as of the time of this review, the review is written to only account for the base game. I will review the expansions separately and discuss them both as standalone sets and in the context of the base game.

Pros:
Very easy to learn and set up
Good for different audiences, including children
Relatively short games (30-45 minutes)
Decent amount of game variance
Entertainment value of factions, art, and text

Cons:
Very little surprise factor possible (two factions out of eight: Pirates and Ninjas)
Faction schtick imbalance

 
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4
Vanguards - Summoner Wars
Amateur Reviewer
7
16 of 17 gamers found this helpful
“Smash Up is a blast for the whole family”

With its quick gameplay and easy to learn system Smash Up is a fun game for any group. The concept is fairly straight forward, choose 2 out of the 8 starter factions in the starter box to be your deck. Reveal a certain amount of base cards depending on how many players you have. Then everyone plays cards on the revealed bases in an attempt to break the base and score points. The first player to 15 points wins.

The big draw about the game is the faction combinations. With the base sets 8, and each additonal expansions 4 you can have a grand total of 20 factions. With all of these possible factions the combinations become nearly endless. Even if you stick with the base game deck combinations often make for interesting and sometimes comical interactions(See Wizard Dinosaurs). However some of these combinations seem to be completely unbalanced(See Robot Zombies).

For all of its upsides Smash Up is not without its share of problems. Its a card based game that comes in a boardgame box and although there are some slots for the faction decks the holders do not really do a great job of keeping the decks from getting shuffled around. If you have the 3 expansions you will not be able to fit the 12 additional expansion factions in the base game box and will be left carrying around the additional boxes. In addition to this minor inconvenience is the seemingly loose phrasing used with some of the rules. This game was not really built for the power gamer type and without some simple house rules can become a bit silly.

Overall this game is a great grab if you are looking for a casual game.

Pros-
-Easy to learn
-Nice art
-Lots of combinations and replay value

Cons-
-Packaging could have been better
-Not for the power gamer
-Some unbalanced faction combos
-May need some house rules to navigate some of the ambiguous wording.

 
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5
USA
Book Lover
Video Game Fan
7
36 of 40 gamers found this helpful
“Fun but Flawed”

Overview
Smash Up is a card game for 2-4 players in which each player attempts to take over the world. This is done by taking two of the eight available faction decks and shuffling them together. Each faction is radically different from the others, so the resulting deck is a thematic “smash up” that serves as the game’s hook. Players then use these decks to try to capture locations, each of which is worth a different number of victory points. The first player to 15 VP wins.

Setup
The rule book is very straight forward and pretty short, so it shouldn’t take much time to get through. It even makes some attempts at humor. Whether those are successful attempts or not will vary from person to person, though. From there, it’s just a matter of taking each faction’s deck out of the plastic wrap, choosing two factions, and shuffling things up (each player’s deck and the deck of locations).

I’ve played two different variations for faction selection. In both, we rolled a die, and the winner chose first, followed by each other player in descending order of die roll. In one system, the faction decks were faceup and the player actively chose two factions that would play together well, and in the other they were all facedown, so it was more random since no one knew what was in the stacks they were choosing. Your mileage may vary, but I found both to be about equal. The first can lead to the final player being stuck with two factions that go together horribly, while the second can put anyone in that position.

Gameplay
Gameplay in Smash Up is very simple. Each turn, a player may play up to one minion card from their hand on a location (or “Base” as the game calls them) and up to one action. Neither playing a minion or action is mandatory. The only way to play more than one of either is for an action or minion ability to tell you to do so. For instance, Wizards are often able to play additional actions on a turn and Robots frequently let you play more than one Robot minion per turn.

Once any minions and actions have been played, each base is “checked for scoring.” To do this, the number in the top left corner of all minions at a base (not just your own) are added up. If that number exceeds the base’s “Breakpoint” (i.e. the number in the top left corner of the base card), you begin to score the base. Whoever has the most minion power at a base gets the number of victory points on the left, the person in second gets the middle amount, and the person with the least gets the far right. These generally start with the highest amount on the left and descend to the right, though some give more points to the third place player than second place. All of this becomes important when planning where to play your minions and if to use any abilities that trigger when scoring begins, such as being able to sneak in additional minions or move an opponent’s minion to a different base.

Finally, after any bases have been scored, the player draws two cards and ends the turn. Play continues like this until a player accumulates 15 victory points and wins.

Learning Curve
There is very, very little learning curve involved with this game. It really is as simple as it sounds, and it’s a great game to play with non-gaming friends or as a family with relatively young children (most kids should be able to handle the rules by age 8 or 10). It also makes it a less daunting task to teach the game to others.

Components
The cards are a good thickness and the coating is nice and glossy without feeling slick. The art is also quite good and really gives each faction a unique identity. The fact that each faction also has a unique card frame that matches the thematic feel of the faction also helps this aspect. One of the best aspects of the game components is the inclusion of a tray that holds each deck and has slots ready to go for the factions in the expansions. Everything can be kept in one box without having to resort to any sort of alternative storage or homebrew modifications to the packaging.

Overall Judgment/TL;DR Takeaway
I really wanted to love Smash Up, but instead I just like it. It’s certainly a great premise, and in theory it’s fantastic, but problems come in with the actual “smashing up” of the factions. Some factions, like the Ninjas, work very well with most other factions, as they can sneak additional units into play and other stealthy actions. Others, like the Robots, are more concerned with their own faction than anyone else. Like the Ninjas, you can sneak additional units into play and even pump your units, but they generally have to be other Robots. While these two factions work well together, it’s mainly because Ninjas work so well with other factions that it makes up for Robots’ lack of interactivity. Now, if you paired Robots with Dinosaurs, you’d have lots of brute force, but brute force only gets you so far in this game, so you’d probably find yourself falling behind. Then there are factions like the Tricksters that don’t work particularly well or poorly with other factions, but are so reactive, requiring other players to have done certain things, that you can end up with dead cards in your hand for turns at a time, which isn’t fun.

Sometimes the game works beautifully, and when it does, it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, sometimes the main theme behind the game (smashing together two different factions) holds the game back if the factions don’t really seem to care about the other faction. For all the talk of combo effects, there are some combinations that just don’t work like that. Sometimes you get two great tastes that taste great together, but other times you’ll get factions that go together about as well as chocolate pudding and tuna salad. Even the most fun-loving, laid back person would have a hard time making that enjoyable. If you’re willing to accept the risk of a frustrating mess in a generally enjoyable game, there are good times to be had with Smash Up. If you’re not sure, though, I’d recommend playing it a few times before settling on a purchase.

 
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1
 
41 of 46 gamers found this helpful
“Smash it up!”

One of my delights at the convention was AEG’s Smash Up. Although at first I thought it would probably be shallow (considering all the topical humor), I soon found out that it was actually quite enjoyable. Thanks to John Goodenough for demoing it to me (which convinced me to get my own copy).

Putting forward a new mechanic that AEG calls “Shufflebuilding”, each player chooses two factions and shuffles them together to create one 40 card deck of Minions and Events. Play consists of playing 1 minion and 1 event on a base card until ALL cards there add up to the stability or higher. The base is then broken, and players score points based on their individual power ranks.

The fun and strategy comes in the matchups. Each faction has a sort of “theme” that it does well. Zombies, for example, are good at bringing minions out of the discard pile. Robots are good at launching massive hordes of minions. And dinosaurs are just plain massive. No matter which two factions you choose, you can be sure to find new combos all the time in the struggle for victory.

Where Smash Up lacks complexity, it makes it up with fun and interesting choices.

 
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5
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
Eminent Domain Fan
9
20 of 22 gamers found this helpful
“Smash Up is a Smash Hit!”

Smash Up is freaking fantastic. There, that’s it, that’s my review. Okay, but no, really, I was reserved about it at first and was very pleasantly surprised. Smash Up is a game built around combing any two of different 20-card faction decks to try and take over bases and score the most victory points. What lies beyond its simple rules and presentation is a whole lot of strategy and variety that has kept me up into the wee hours of the morning.

Set up is easy. Depending on the number of players, place Base cards down. Each Base card has a number in the top left that indicates at what point value it will ‘break’ and then be scored for victory points. Each base also has a unique ability that will affect what a player can do at that base and in some cases how points will be scored.

Each player gets two faction decks consisting of Minion and Action cards (the base game comes with eight factions) and shuffles them together. Minions are played on Bases and have the Power value which is what is used to break a Base. For example, a Base card with a breakpoint value of 12 will need Minion cards on it with a combined Power value of at least 12 in order to break the base and then score it. Most Minions will also have another ability, and, like Action cards, these are pretty self-explanatory. Some abilities are used once, when a Minion or Action is played, or are ongoing and apply whenever the appropriate conditions are met.

Now, a little more explanation on scoring a Base. Besides a breakpoint value, each Base has three victory point values. When a Base is scored, the player whose Minions have the highest combined Power value win first place on that Base and get the corresponding amount of points. Second and third place get points according to their respective place as well. The Base is then discarded and replaced with a new card from the Base deck. The first player to get to 15 victory points wins the game.

Now, the best part about Smash Up is trying out different combinations of factions. How will the Wizards work with the Dinosaurs? What about combining Zombies with Robots? Each faction has a distinct personality to it and way of being played and, well, smashing them together to see what happens is fun as ****. While you do end up getting certain favourites and some combinations could end up a bit overpowered, there’s always an incentive to try a different pairing of decks. Ninjas in particular are hard to use and I want to play more to see if I can get the hang of them.

While being chaotic is certainly part of its charm, it can be off-putting to some folks though. Although it’s a simple set-up, with more than two players there can start to be a lot to keep track of in terms of where your Minions are, what ongoing abilities might be in play, and how many points all these Bases have left before breaking. Half the game is spent just calculating points.

As well, 15 victory points just makes the game end way too fast and doesn’t let folks get a good feel for how their combined factions function together. My group’s had to institute a house rule of 25 points to make a session of Smash Up truly satisfying.

Those are relatively small flaws though, and the biggest factor going against the game is its….meme-yness. Luckily it’s mainly contained to its marketing and rulebook, and the gameplay goes above and beyond it making it easy to forget about, but man this is 2014. It’s important to think about how your game’s humor, especially in the age of the internet with memes coming and going in mere days, will become quickly outdated and embarrassing.

But anyway, Smash Up is a contender for one of my favourite card games. The eight factions contained in the base set is more than plenty to experiment with for a while, but I highly recommend looking into the two expansions, Awesome Level 9000 and The Obligatory Cthulhu Expansion, which offer eight more factions and victory point tokens to help keep track of things.

 
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6
US Army Service
I play green
7
14 of 15 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“The ShuffleBuilding Game you need.”

Overview
Smash Up is a card game for 2-4 players taking around an hour to play.
It is released by AEG in 2012 and is still in print.
Also covering the expansions a bit in this as well.

Components
-Nice Sturdy Box with lots of space in it for the factions (won’t support card sleeves)
-Faction decks (20 cards each)
-Counters
-Location Cards
-Artwork is fantastic and fits the theme they are going for.

These are all really nice. I do recommend getting the Big Geeky Box once that is released as the base set box just lacks the rooms for all the factions that have been released with the Expansions. Plus the Big Geeky Box comes with factions as well and will support card sleeves in it.

Gameplay

Players are competing to be the first to 15 Victory Points. They do so by competing over various ‘bases’ that are out to capture, and they capture those by playing minions onto them. Each minion has a power rating, and when the added power of all minions on a base beats its’ ‘breakpoint’ they well..break, and points are awarded to 1st/2nd/3rd place.

Each turn, a player gets to play 1 minion and 1 action from their hand. Each card has an ability, and it’s good management of these abilities that can lead a player to victory.

Its a very easy game to explain to people and the interesting stuff comes in the form of the combos you can play with your cards.

Pros
-Good Quality Components
-Plays in about an hour, so can use it as a filler game or main game of the session by playing a few times over.
-Some Interesting Combos.
-Base Set was designed with expansions in mind, so has room to store them pretty decently.

Cons
-With the player limit of 4, makes it hard to get out with larger groups when you got the 5-6 people showing up.
-Some people just take forever making up their minds on what to play either too many options or they are not reading the text. So pays to keep on reminding people to read the text on their cards
when its not their turn.
-Some people refuse to take and try other factions at all, so some house ruling can help this out.

Conclusion/Thoughts
Smash Up is a great game to play. I wish I got more chances to play it, but I normally sit out since on average I get five people showing up to my weekly open game night I host at my place. It changes when a bit with some of my other groups, but those are dedicated to RPGs and Wargames. Sometimes they like to shake things up and try something else for a session or two.

I recommend this game for pretty much anyone. A hardcore gamer will have fun trying to figure out the optimal combinations and a casual gamer will just have fun with the ridiculous premise of the game.

 
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9
United Kingdom
Advanced Reviewer
Crab Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
7
25 of 28 gamers found this helpful
“Meme Melee Mash Up!”

Alien Ninja versus Dinosaur Tricksters versus Pirate Wizards versus Robot Zombies or Alien Dinosaurs versus Ninja Pirates versus Robot Wizards versus Trickster Zombies or Alien Wizards versus Zombie Tricksters versus Robot Pirates versus Dinosaur Ninjas or… Take an Internet meme like Pirates versus Ninja versus Robots versus Monkeys and whisk into a stiff froth and what you have is Smash Up: The Shufflebuilding Game of Total Awesomeness!, a card game published by Alderac Entertainment Group. Best known for its Legend of the Five Rings CCG and Legend of the Five Rings RPG, Alderac Entertainment Group has within the last three years expanded rapidly into the design and publication of board and card games. Smash Up, which was the 2013 UK Games Expo Awards Best General Card Game Winner, is a light card game, designed for play by two to four players, aged twelve and up, in which different factions team up and battle for control of the world!

Smash Up consists of eight factions – Aliens, Dinosaurs, Ninjas, Pirates, Robots, Tricksters, Wizards, and Zombies, each represented by a twenty-card deck. A ninth deck, containing sixteen cards, consists of the Bases, such as the ‘Temple of Goju’ or ‘Evans City Cemetery’, which the factions will battle over. To win, each player must take control of a pairing of two of these factions, usually randomly determined, which might be Robot Tricksters or Pirate Zombies, and use it to take control of these Bases. Score enough points from these Bases – fifteen Victory Points is enough – and a player will win.

Each faction consists of Action and Minion cards, the latter valued between one and seven Power, but at the heart of the game are the special abilities particular to each faction. Aliens zap the minions of rival players back into their hands; Dinosaurs, many with lasers for eyes, get to stomp on Bases with their big Power and scare other factions when it is not their turn; Ninjas sneak onto Bases just at the right time when you least expect it; and Pirates can set sail easily from one Base to another. Robots bring out lots of tiny little microbots that quickly stack and power each other up; Tricksters – fae such as gnomes, gremlins, and leprechauns play seemingly random ruses that protect their Minions or have consequences on attacking players; Wizards cast spells that let them play extra Action cards; and Zombies never die, but end up in the player’s discard pile to swarm back out again. Playing one faction might be easy enough, but mastering Smash Up means getting to grips with how one faction interacts with another, because the abilities of one faction will usually affect the other faction in a pairing.

The game starts with each player taking two faction decks and shuffling these together. This is the ‘shufflebuilding’ of the game’s title and it is how a player forms his deck for the game. Then a number of Bases are laid out, equal to the number of players plus one. Each Base has a Breakpoint, ranging from sixteen to twenty-five. When the total value of Minions on the Base played by everyone equals or succeeds this Breakpoint, the Base is smashed and Victory Points are scored. Each Base awards points to the player with the highest total value in Minions on the Base, and then to the players with the second and third highest totals. As soon as a Base is scored in this fashion, a new one is added to fight over. Each Base has a special ability of its own. For example, ‘The Central Brain’ grants everyone Minion a +1 bonus to its Power when played on the Base, whilst the ‘Rhodes Plaza Mall’ awards one Victory Point to each player for every Minion he has on the Base when it scores.

Each turn a player can play two cards – an Action card and a Minion card, though he does not have to play either. Played onto a Base, a Minion has a set of instructions that trigger as soon as it is played. Usually this means getting to add another Minion to a Base or sending a rival Minion away, but the exact effect varies from one faction to another, and this essentially is Smash Up. Play is very simple, but things get somewhat complex when it comes to working out how the cards interact with each other and how they continue to affect the game from turn to another. This requires keeping track of the text on the card, and that can slow game play down, as can having to add up the total value of the Minions on a Base at the end of almost every turn, though neither really impedes play. Indeed, the text on the cards actually adds a little tactical substance to the game.

Physically, Smash Up is an attractive game. The cards are very nicely illustrated and the rules are clear and simple. The language used in the rules is sometimes annoyingly, if not patronisingly, informal and should never got past the editor. The inclusion of a scoring track would have been a useful addition.

A recent trend in game design has been the ‘deck building’ game, a type of card game in which a player builds and manipulates his own deck of cards in order to create the optimum deck and so win the game. Alderac Entertainment Group has published several of these, including Nightfall and Thunderstone, but Smash Up cuts to the chase – one ‘shufflebuild’ of two twenty-card decks and a player is ready to go and finds himself playing a simple, but strongly themed beat ‘em up card game that adds a little complexity and a surprising tactical substance when working how the cards interact. Smash Up: The Shufflebuilding Game of Total Awesomeness! is light and fun, attractive and varied with innumerable combinations to try out and see who gets to Smash Up the world!

 
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“Zombie Aliens for the win!”

Smash Up

Released in 2012 by AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) Smash up is a 2-4 player ‘Shufflebuilding’ game featuring a host of stereotypically geeky factions from aliens and robots to the often conflicted ninjas and pirates.
The artwork on the box, which itself feels nice and sturdy with a vinyl-esque finish to it, is really good. Featuring an all out brawl between the contained factions and a very comic book styled title banner. This caught my eye the first time I saw it.
The rule book bears the same image as well as the games sub title ‘The Shufflebuilding game of total Awesomeness!’ and the rules are some of the most concise, simple and well written I’ve come across yet! They get the rules across with none of the usual messing around and unnecessary fluff that others are bogged down with. Some games, don’t misunderstand me here, benefit greatly from all of the added blurb that the writers put in but it isn’t always implemented in the best way, and this can make a slightly complex game into a sodding mystery when you have to sift a rule books pages for the one little box of text you need and find it hidden on a page that, at first glance, contains nothing important or related to gameplay. As I said, with Smash Up there is none of this, the rules are straight forward and uncomplicated and most of what you need to know is written on the cards themselves!
Inside the box was a treat too. The inside has a compartmentalized plastic insert, allowing you to keep your different factions separated when not in play and with enough spaces to accommodate future expansions, the first of which is out already.

The cards are very nice. Not the best I’ve held but better than the average for sure. They shuffle very well, in fact out of the box they are probably the best shuffling cards to date (and considering the main theme of the game is ‘shufflebuilding’ this is a good thing!), and the artwork and finish is really good.

The cards are divided up into eight different 20 card faction decks and one 16 card Base deck.
The factions are Pirates, Ninjas, Aliens, Zombies, Wizards, Tricksters, Dinosaurs and Robots. Each one has different strengths and abilities and is divided into Minions and Action cards. Minions are used to score points and the actions are pretty self explanatory really, they let you do stuff!
At the start of a game the players chose two of these faction decks and ‘shuffle’ them together to form one deck, this is the ‘Shufflebuilding’ element. This creates the chances for many combinations and many random conflicts.

Based purely on the look and feel of the contents, and the rule book, I would give Smash Up 9/10 so far. Really well made, good looking and fun, and that’s before the first game!

Gameplay

Awesome Sauce!
This game is so simple to play and so fun! Each turn players get to play one Minion and one Action card, or just one of either. Some cards allow you to play extra minions or actions and even return cards from the discard pile (which for the Zombie faction is one of the main points!) and play said cards onto the base cards, of which there are one per player +1 (so a three player game there are four bases).

Each base card has a ‘threshold number’ printed on it and when the total strength of the minions currently on it exceeds this threshold the base is destroyed and points are awarded to the players in order of their total strength there i.e. the player with the greatest strength will usually get the most points and the second and third less and less. Each base also has an effect which is triggered when destroyed, such as allowing the winner to place one of the minions back into his/her hand instead of the discard pile (as this is what happens to any minions when a base is destroyed) or allowing the runner up to keep a minion there when the next base replaces the defeated one!

The game is a race to 15 points and this relatively low figure makes the game keep a great pace and stops the game from dragging at all! There is a mechanic that whenever one of the players 40 card decks runs out the discard pile is simply shuffled and restarted but in the games we have had so far, the game is usually well over by this point.

Smash Up is a brilliant, frantic, fast and funny game with the right balance of tactics, timing and last minute backstabbing to steal the high points. I stand by the 9/10 and would recommend this as an essential for any gaming group as an ideal quick game for any audience and skill level. Pick it up if you can, you’ll love it!

 

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