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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
With a concise rulebook and an ease of game play, the game can be taught in minutes.
Who would enjoy this game?
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!
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